Monday, April 8, 2013

April Showers and whatnot!

Welcome back to another episode of lost in the farmers market! Despite the gaps in our update schedule we have a good first episode of April for you here and it starts with two cool images from the field. As some of you know half of gardening is finding those odd things that make your garden go from rank and file to masterpiece. Some of these interesting facets of nature though are what comes before the plant emerges.

The wonders of nature can be as complex as a fully grown plant or as simple as these seeds. The Asian Winged Bean has quite interesting bronze and brown colored seeds.

Most people don’t think that calla lilies have any place in the garden, these black calla lilies sure are one of the incredible symbols of spring.

The second item is this guy. I bet some of you out there never thought that you could grow Calla Lilies in this climate as a perennial but you can. This gardener has done so and as you can see this variety is exotic and striking. But beyond the plants is the use of statuary and metalwork in the garden. For many metalwork in the garden means odd statues or fences but for this gardener she has a statue with a interesting sentiment.

I spotted this in a client’s garden just this week and thought it’s hard to argue with that!

Plants and statuary aside there is this bad news from capitol hill. It seems The president assigned the Farmer Assurance Act which in reality should be called the “Mega Corporate GMO force-feeding act” for it’s clear effect on the landscape of the GMO battle. The original article that came to my attention is here at this address below.

I can say this is not a good sign but more so it means we need to be a bit more vigilant about our purchasing and materials. Political maneuvers aside I would like to talk about something that is kind of related, and that is grain. I’ve gotten a few questions about how much area someone might need to grow a crop of a specific grain. After digging through university websites and various growers associations around the United States I’ve finally got an answer for all of you urban farmers out there who want to give it a go.

Corn - For the home owner this average is about 35 lbs per 100 square feet roughly. From that final estimate you can ascertain what a ten square foot plot (3.5 pounds?)might yield if managed well.

Barley - Barley was an easy one; literally it takes 100 square feet to produce 10 pounds of barley grain on average. This space-efficiency means that the average gardener in a 10 square foot garden could be producing a pound that could be stored for winter.

Rice – Rice is a conundrum, we think it requires standing water and yet this is really part of the traditional cultural care to reduce the competition as most weeds cant grow in the standing water. Cultural practices aside you could likely produce a pound of rice with aggressive fertilization practices in a 15 square foot area if you mimic the flooded fields. If you skip on the flooded field effect then you may be able to produce a pound of rice in about ten square feet. For note unlike with dried beans sold at the grocery store, rice sold at the store will not likely sprout as it’s been hulled already.

Wheat – Remember wheat grows best when soil pH is more towards the alkaline side, and then within certain limits of weather. For backyard use a 100 square foot plot might produce about 5-6 pounds of grain. Scaled down, that means a more manageable 10 square foot plot might produce about a little over a half pound of grain in theory. I might add this is calculated for modern wheat varieties, Kamut and the older heritage varieties might have better results.

I hope the grain information helped, all of the numbers are reverse-calculations from numbers on the acre level. Admittedly I’ve never tried to grow grain in the test gardens mostly due to a lack of interest but this doesn’t mean you should not. At the very least corn is very easy to grow and non-GMO varieties are easy enough to get.

Bud break for flowers of a Rabbiteye blueberry.

Initial budbreak is still quite pretty but the later stages are no less attractive.

Final flower emergence on rabbit eye blueberries confirms that they are indeed a member of the Ericaceae group or in english the heath family.
I wanted to include this timed photo of flower emergence on the stand of blueberries at the test gardens. It is normal for rabbiteye blueberries to have emerged by now and they do add a unique color and dorm to the gardens. As noted in an earlier post my blueberries never quite went dormant and seem to have just flatly resumed growing. As far as fruiting plants go, thankfully blueberries are very tolerant and inexpensive for a gardener of any skill level to use. The down side is you need at least two or three to ensure pollination. On the other hand the bumblebees and honey bees love the flowers of the rabbiteye blueberries so, they can be part of your early spring plan for providing food to pollinators. But in other sectors the last of the cabbage family crops are rolling in and this week we pulled this record haul of reg giant mustard.

Total weight, 6lbs, 1 ounce. the longest leaf int he batch measured at 16" the heaviest leaf was approximately two ounces due to it's unusually thick stem.

Not bad really, in fact despite my earlier thoughts, I may yet pull another harvest from the mustard crop before the summer crops go in the ground. Even so by sheer bulk the mustard yet again by length of harvest period and sheer volume even when proportioned to match the other cold seasonal crops still out produced everything. Red Giant is a keeper for next year, and I hear through Marsha Howe that it even did incredibly well on the bridge. But of course this is not the only plant available in the gardens for eating.

Paris Market Carrots at their sweetest and ready for harvest. I can either grow them on at this point or pull them at this size.
This is a Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus ), it's a edible relative of the Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus). 
The Cardoon above has taken a few years to get to that size and it's finally turning into something substantial. The cardoon itself is considered the wild originator of the artichoke and it's spiny inflorescence can be eaten the same way if treated with care. Personally  I don't know if I'll let it bloom or make some wild artichoke dip, we will have to see how that works out even so it's quite a interesting foliage plant. Now speaking of things related to edibles I thought it would be cool to show some of you out there what flowering ginger looks like.

Flowering Ginger in 1/2 gallon pots.

For note Flowering ginger as far as I know is not edible, but it's sweetly scented flowers are gorgeous and it self-propagates rather well. The plants pictured above will be part of BL2's annual plant sale so yes you can get some of your own rather soon. Also they are perennial from zone 7 southward so these guys are your ready replacement for Canna.  As a final note for this double-wise episode, I have the latest find in a garden center that has been added to the collection.

Opuntia cylindrica cristata - "Emerald Idol Prickly Pear"
As the caption notes this is a member of the prickly pear family, and it's clearly also a monstrose form cactus. Now, typically the cylindrica group of the opuntia family has a very specific look; essentially a overall cylindrical stem with occasional branches and some have pseudo-leaves. A monstrose form like this tends to result from a  mutation of a growing tip where the 'stem' or pads don't elongate normally creating a bizzare form like what you see. The 'cristata' part of the name notes that this plant forms a crest of sorts. I picked this one up because it reminded me of the other monstrose cactus I already have but I know that opuntia tends to grow much faster so it makes for a greater demonstration of cactus care. In the long term expect periodic comparison photos of this cactus. for note upon getting this one home I repotted it into that pot you see with plenty of root room. Opuntia grow really fast when fertilized so I expect this one to be owning that pot soon.

This wraps up a double-episode of Lost in the farmer's Market but don't worry, tune in next time to see some more garden mayhem and a peek at the BL2 production lines as well as a little bit about soil testing. As always folks Keep 'em Growing!

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