Thursday, June 27, 2013

Despite some Bad news, The show goes on!

Welcome back to another Episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market, your weekly guide to sustainable property management techniques and general plant geek mayhem. This weeks episode will unfortunately feature few if any images and I cannot say that the following episodes will be any different, as we open this episode with some bad news. Some time in the late afternoon on Friday of last week the BL2 HQ, often referred to here as ‘The Clark Ranch’ was broken into and ransacked. We lost our camera and a few other things but comparatively we lucked out as far as Burglaries go. Now this means that unfortunately this block may be using existing stock images on fine or no images at all as we cannot take pictures to show off projects or things seen in the field. We will of course to continue with the quality literary works but, sadly the images of garden geek action no can do. With this in mind, we bring you now to this week’s topic and ask that you bear with us while we make due during the current situation.

Today I’d like to talk about the effect of rain and weather on your watering schedule. I think most gardeners have been at that point where they look outside and see it’s raining a bit perhaps from a pop-up thundershower and breathe a sigh of relief that they don’t have to water the crops for at least another day.  But you have to wonder what it is after a brief rain that makes your plants go from wilting drama queens to examples of excellent gardening care in such a short time. The answer is simple enough, no not soil moisture but sheer humidity. You would be surprise how little a plant, even a cutting of one wilts if the humidity is very high. Part of this is because the plant is losing less moisture then its outside surfaces are taking in. This complete state of wetness also reduces the ambient temperature somewhat lessening heat stress for long enough to get past the days apex heat in theory.  So basically what you see is a natural response to the plant not suffering as much from heat and moisture loss.  It’s a win-win for everybody you do less work and your plants look great for a while. The down side is that a brief shower is no real match for a drenching rain or you actually going out and watering so often the effect is temporary and has the nasty side-effect of stirring up the mosquitoes. 

Thunderstorms play a different role in comparison to rain showers because they often deliver a comparatively greater amount of rain over a short period of time. This extra precipitation can be the cause of flash flood warnings and sometimes severe soil erosion. But thunderstorms do just one very important thing, they ionize atmosphere wherever they are, and by doing so draw atmospheric nitrogen, into their precipitation and by way of their rain deliver tiny amounts of nitrogen to the land. If you have ever noticed the day after a thunderstorm everything is super green, it’s because of the nitrogen. Nitrogen is pretty capricious, it dissipates so quickly that the USDA Soil Lab wont even test for it because they know it wont be in the sample by the time it gets to the lab in any useful amount.  I might add it has been noted in some reputable publications that being downwind of a thunderstorm and thus receiving the spike in humidity it causes is sometimes enough to get a weak greening effect. Not bad at all if you consider those may showers we talk of in rhyme and those night time and afternoon summer storms are actually doing you a double-favor. Rain itself is a godsend because it can flush the water-soluble pollutants out of the soil (such as salt) with successive rains as well as aid plants in developing a deep root system and support better yields.

That said watering from water storage devices does trap some of whatever trace elements are in the rain, but not any useful amount of the nitrogen. However in most cases unlike water pulled from a well or a municipal source collected water tends to be closer to pH neutral except in regions with heavy pollution. This makes collected rainwater an important resource for transplanting and deep irrigation while tap, well or municipal water is somewhat better for use during droughts. The chlorine in tap water actually serves a surprising use in the garden as it can be applied to aid in calcium uptake in vegetables or fruits such as those in the nightshade family to avoid blossom end rot. Admittedly it’s a bit of an expensive solution when compared to dolomitic or hydrated lime but it does in the right measure with a set amount of dissolved Epsom salts aid in countering some soil deficiency issues.

The last and perhaps most important aspect of this topic that needs to be addressed is the ‘Deep and Infrequent’ principle of irrigation. Basically it has been proven that watering a little but more frequently benefits your plants less then if you water heavily but infrequently. The reason for this is that shallow watering does not promote deep roots. Basically what happens is your garden plant if watered shallowly will develop most of its roots near the soil surface and thus be more subject to drought and heat related stress. Additionally soil nutrient depletion may occur over time ruining the longevity of a garden plot. Now the deep and infrequent concept holds that you would like to have 1” of water per week total at least. There are little devices you can get to measure the amount of water you are applying in inches at most hardware stores but it’s better to get a actual rain gauge and monitor weekly rainfall amounts to get a feel for your own specific area. Deep and infrequent is important as a watering method because you are ensuring that a larger column of soil is being wet by the applied moisture. The effect is that your plant’s roots radiate out through the soil strata more evenly and thus are better prepared to suck up every drop of moisture that comes their way as well as being better able to get at any near ground water that might be below. This even rooting zone translates to more uniform nutrient uptake and improved drought, pest and disease resistance as the plants are stronger overall. In the end this all translates to a sigh of relief in the drought season for you because you know that those plants out there can handle the brief periods when you cannot add extra water and no rain is forthcoming. In short, you and nature have struck a deal, and it’s mutually beneficial.

Despite the summer heat I am still manning the booth down at the Fayetteville Farmers / City Market in downtown Fayetteville. Keep in mind the venue is open rain or shine with the proviso that obviously violent storms are about the only thing to impact the market being open. The market runs from 9:00 am through 1:00pm and is located at 325 Franklin Street. As always there will be great handouts about soil conservation and wildlife management and of course copies of my book Southward Skies.

5x Burgundy Okra
2x Nankeen Cotton
5x Ghost Pepper (Sweet)
12x Banana Pepper (Sweet)
11x Red Carolina Wonder Pepper (Sweet, Bell)
3x Chinese Ornamental Peppers (very hot)
2x Large Beef Steak Tomato
6x Small Beefsteak Tomato
1x Roma Tomato (Cooking Type)
1x San Marzano Tomato (Cooking type)
1x Sedum (Groundcover)
-plus whatever else fits in the truck!-

Next week
4x Spear Sanseveria (Houseplant)
4x Sangria Pepper (Ornamental)
3x Litchi Tomato

Available Soon
3x Red Peter Pepper (Spicy)
4x Green Carolina Wonder (Sweet, Bell)
1x Peperomia Verticiliata (Houseplant)
15x Egyptian Onion

With all that said thank you for continuing to support our humble endeavor by reading this page, and commenting when you do. Next week’s topic will cover another aspect handling the summer heat as well as a related bonus topic focusing on plain cool plant stuff.

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