Friday, June 14, 2013

Staying cool in the summer

Welcome back to your weekly edition of Lost in the farmer’s market, today’s topic is plant selection and the effect it has on the frequency and amount of watering you will have to do during the dog days of summer. We also have some great garden photos for you, so stay tuned because your about to embark on a sustainable adventure into the land of urban farming!

The first thing to know when considering your plant selection with an eye out for reduction of watering is to remember that the entire process will be trial and error. What works in the test gardens may not work in your yard to the same degree. However most gardening is trial and error even with the best of circumstances and so you will never find yourself operating outside of the same element you always have been. It’s pretty obvious certain plants are complete water hogs, they just need more then average and commonly this group are the ornamental annuals. By definition an annual is a plant that germinates, matures and produces seed or fruit within the confines of one season. A prime example of a annual that often requires a bit of extra water might be Impatiens, Pansies or Violas. Much the same way a handful of perennials are equally dramatic complete with very pronounced or other discoloration and the biggest offender here is your lawn.  In the department of biennials and such most of the lettuces, spinach, radicchio, and Swiss chard are notoriously needy of extra water but yours truly admittedly overlooks this due to the produce factor.

The selection of what you put together will influence how much work you put into watering as well as the possible cost found in your water bill.  For instance if you were to have a full sun bed it would be wiser to put in a group of plants able to not only withstand the sun, but the humidity and soil factors. One could achieve color effects and shapes by selecting within the primary plant groups selected and still get the entire effect without the maintenance effort or the cost. This of course means you will have to think outside of what the garden magazines say, you may even have to discard your garden books to find what works in your yard. A case in point can be found with the Curbside mailbox bed at the Test gardens. This bed is an odd blend of perennials of several differing types. At the core of the bed is enriched topsoil that gets mulched yearly with pine bark. The bed is a raised one with a one foot internal depth and a slight incline in the back to counter the curve of the front yard. Here is where the design gets interesting and the point gets proven. The mailbox bed is centered around a Swamp Mallow, with a pair of flanking ‘Magnus’ Coneflowers, and a pair of spineless prickly pear cactus followed by, yet an other pair, two very vigorous Artemisia plants. In the front row buried under the artemesia are a matched pair of Star Tickseed plants the front row otherwise is all ice plants. The back row is filled with alternating Blue Beardtongue and ‘May Nacht’ Ornamental sage. Needless to say every single season has something going on and I never have to water the thing ever! The weeds can barely get a foot hold, and I get great but unconventional decoration for the mailbox.

Technically, the one plant out of place in the design is the Swamp mallow which is not supposed to do well in hot dry spots yet the plant has not gotten the memo. This is where trial and error becomes important as does knowing your soil quality. Using the case in point all if not most of the plants are matching in their needs (drought and heat proof), some have double uses (artemesia, coneflower, prickly pear) and at least one is a complete long-shot oddball plant (swamp mallow). It may take a few tries to get the selection right, but the trick is to start with a handful of core plants, then base the rest of the selections off of those plants to create an effect. When and if things die, consider why they died and if there is more then one if the others died. Some times despite the best of attention you get a bad plant or a disease comes in to undo your work. Just remember the key to selecting plants in regards to reducing watering needs is to pick the right plant, for the right place especially when it comes to exposure. If you match plants with the same needs and don’t shirk on soil quality after your plants are established you shouldn’t have much in the way of problems barring bizarre weather. But remember; think outside of symmetry too, a plain bed that’s all herbs or ornamentals is like having an invitation for complications.  If you mix and match your plants within the frame work of their needs the results will be nothing short of amazing over time.

A tiny little baby preying mantis hanging out on one of my paprika peppers!

This toad seems to like getting a shower as I water the castor bean plants.

Monarda fistulosa ‘Purification’ – Beebalm doing what it does best bringing in the bees

Hemerocallis sp. -  The first Daylily bloom of the year.

Foeniculum vulgare - Black Fennel with a small stink bug on it, note the diamond shape in the bugs carapace.

Ruta graveolens - Rue, the seed pods of this bitter culinary herb are unique in the carrot family.

These are black Muscadine grape vines, both plants are of the same variety selected for productivity as much as the neat foliage.

Another attraction to the local bird population for the test gardens is sand bathing where they seem to roll about in the sand.

Oregano in bloom is worthwhile to note because its flowers are a bit odd by mint family standards.

Santolina chamaecyparissus - Lavender Cotton in full bloom, not bad for an aster relative huh?

With all the garden topics covered as you all well know I will be at the Fayetteville farmers/ City Market which is located in downtown Fayetteville located at 325 Franklin Street. I will be there from 9:00 AM though 1:00 PM. I will have copies of Southward skies available and as always here is the plant list for

6x 4” pot Beefsteak Tomato
10x 3” pot Beefsteak Tomato
3x 3” pot Roma Tomato
4x 3” pot San Marzano Tomato
2x 3” pot Amana Orange Tomato
2x 3” pot Purple Calabash Tomato
5x 3” pot Nankeen Cotton
3x 3” pot Chinese Ornamental Pepper
1x 3” pot Asian Winged Bean
1x qt pot Red WeedCastor Bean
2x 5” pot Star Coreopsis
-plus whatever else fits in the truck!

With all that said, check back next week for another episode of lost in the farmer’s market when the topic will be about how to manage containers in the heat! I hope to see some of you down at the farmer’s market and as always folks keep ‘em growing!

No comments:

Post a Comment