Friday, May 3, 2013

Spring Showers bring...soaked gardeners

Welcome to the glory of spring and the promise of summer! We are reapidly approaching that point in the year when the grass demands mowing, the birds are out there singing like crazy and the soil is warm enough to support your summer crops. The rain is regular, the nights are cool and the mosquito population isn’t quite up and running. In short it’s one of the best times of the year to be a gardener. The test gardens themselves are rapidly evolving into something of a state of unmatched beauty as the dormant plants for the most part are awakened and going about business. Much has been done but even more remains to be done and that brings us to another episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market.

Before I start into the details of our first test of the year, I’d like to share some pictures from the gardens that I thought you might enjoy.
Yellow German Bearded Iris  (Iris germanica)in all it's glory, these guys are so bright, you can see them from across the property.

Exploding ourward in a ball of blooms is the inflorescence of the herb Chives or Allium schoenoprasum.

Even the blackberries are in the springtime act as they are coated in blooms, The bloom also reveals that blackberries are in the rose family

As you may have heard the first experiment of the 2013 year was a growth comparison between various soil mixtures to see what if any effect the use of Bio-char would have on a basic crop. In the case of our test we used four Radicchio plants of similar size, and created four different soil mixes one of which was spiked with a set amount of bio-char. Photos were taken at three-day intervals to visually chart the subject plant’s growth and at the end of the study the plants were each measured for width and height. Notes regarding observations on soil moisture retention, and overall vigor and color were also kept just for the sake of later review. I might add the Radicchio plants selected were of a dark red variety for the express purpose of determining health and nutrient deficiency.
03-22-2013 - A motley bunch they are, but then again for Bonnie plants which are notoriously under-developed not too bad.

03-28-2013 - The end of their first week and all is well


04-08-2013 - From this point on most of the test plants get over their exposure caused coloration and start shifting back to green.

04-14-2013 - This was about when I realized the soil mixture seemed to be trying out every other day you can see the odd downward pucker in all the plants.

04-20-2013 - I goofed a bit on this one, you can see my boot in the picture.

04-26-2013 - The last day of the trial. It is clear the compost soils beat the pants off the coco fiber soil.
As a side note not a single one of these plants was given fertilizer, just rainwater from the rain barrel nearby. It's a funny thought but these photos also show a sort of time-lapse display of the weeds growing below, and it's funny to see whats down there. How many can you Identify?

In case you were wondering, in the picture from left to right the plants had the following soil mixtures; Coir fiber soil mix, straight compost, Compost with worm castings added, and Compost with worm castings and bio-char. It is also clear through the alternating sequence of pictures that the compost, castings and bio-char plant developed faster and was larger. Now obviously this was just a test to see the relative effectiveness of such a treatment, but at least in a laboratory setting bio char seems to clearly do something. In fact as far as leaf greens are concerned if I could get a hold of enough of the bio char to do a planting row test using winter crops I’d gladly do so. In short I do think the Bio-char is useful; there is also evidence to suggest its introduction alone has a clear and visible effect on plants.

I might add as an afterthought once the trial was over the radicchio plants were repotted into bowl planters so they could grow on and hopefully make a good salad item later. They currently reside on the front porch and the root development in all the compost plants was noticeably better then that of the plant in the coir fiber mix. The bio-char plant however had only marginally better root growth as compared to the other compost types which suggests that bio char may make additional nutrients available in amounts that encourage steady growth. Stay tuned for our next trial which is the creation of a anti-erosion berm.

Just as a note to all you readers out there, I will have a table at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market this weekend. The Market is located on 325 Franklin Street, and will be open on Saturday between the hours of 9am to 1pm. As with the last two weeks I’ll be present and teamed up with the Sustainable neighbors, so you can come on by the sustainability booth and get some cool info and ask any garden questions you might have. As promised here is the plant list of what will be available for sale at the booth.

Cucumbers & Melons: Kiwano (2x), Armenian Cucumber (1x), Poona Kheera Cucumber (1x).
Leaf Greens: Red-Leaf Amaranth (3x), Turkish Rocket (4x).
Herbs: Blue African Basil (2x), Siam Basil (2x).
Ornamentals: Castor Bean “Red Weed” (3x)
Fruit: Strawberry (1x).
Tomatoes: Heirloom Cherry Mix (5), San Marzano (6x), Gold Rush Currant (1x), Red Currant (1x), Red & Yellow Currant Mix (1x), Sweet Pea Currant (1x), Mexican Midget (1x), Solar Fire (1x), Underground Rail Road (1x).
Eggplant: Nyakati (2x), Early Black Egg (1x), Turkish Italian Orange (2x), Louisiana Long Green (2x).
Potatoes: Dark Caribe (5x), Carola (5x)

As you can see we’ve got some good stuff coming to the table this weekend but in the following weeks as things mature out on the growing Plot more will become available. Also, I might add that copies of the book Southward Skies will be available at the booth also.

That last brings a close to our first post in the month of May. I hope to see you all at the market and barring that stay tuned here to find out the results of our field tests and other cool stuff. Thank you for reading and as always keep ‘em growin!

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