Thursday, August 1, 2013

Et Tu August?

Ah the first of the dog days of summer, here comes August, and the first episode of the month. Welcome back to Lost In the Farmer’s Market where we foray into the facts of organic concepts and demonstrate how you can get your slice of the permaculture pie. For the first installment of LITFM in August today we are talking about some of our pet projects at the test gardens. As always you are welcome to try some of what we are trying and send in your results. Like the old saying goes it takes a village to raise a child and indeed it takes a neighborhood to prove or disprove a new gardening concept.

Last year we tested some “worm juice” to see if it could act as a liquid fertilizer. As you recall its results were that some plants experienced gigantism as a result producing massive leaves and extra growth beyond their known parameters. Heavier yields and great vigor were stopped by a lack of availability of additional doses of the fertilizer used and thus the plants started to sputter in mid-late August. For note ‘Worm Juice’ is the naturally occurring liquid byproduct of worm activity in a vermiculture bin. It looks like dirty water with bits of dirt in it and sort of smells like a stagnant pond. Despite this it’s apparently packed with nutrients as the image below demonstrates in the case of the Turkish Italian Orange Eggplant.

Literally the leaves were a foot long and 10” wide at the prime period of effect.
The issue was that it was difficult if not impossible to obtain the ‘worm Juice’ product with any regularity or in the quantities needed to maintain the growth of crops in the long term. That said the current project is the attempt to produce a similar water-borne compound minus the need for vermiculture and certainly from a chemical and mineral salt free source. By that requirement typical fertilizers were a no-go, Alaska fish fertilizer was not strong or balanced enough. What we are testing is fermented, high potency compost tea. Basically we took 12 cups of water to four cups of sifted and aged compost put them in a tightly sealed water jug, placed it in the sun for five whole days and the resulting liquid is the fertilizer if diluted by 50%. I have to warn you by the time it was done the jug was swollen from internal pressure as the microbes in side went crazy. Literally it smelled like every stagnant reeking swamp you could ever visit, and it stained the jug black but, it seems to work. Granted the test is early on and will be complete by the end of the month, the plants tested seem to have a burst in growth within 24 hours of application. All things considered, at the very least it’s an excuse to play in the dirt.

The potato pots, earlier in the year before being filled.

We are also testing some new ideas in the concepts of cover crops by over sowing our potato pots with leaf greens so that as the potatoes slow down something else can be producing food on the same spot.  As some of you might already know we have three large potato pots in the test gardens and thus the cover crops are all one of three things, Amaranth, Perilla and Basil. All are annual, the first is a leaf green, the second is a food preservative and colorant, and the third is well delicious. If this test works, it may be a way to open SPIN gardening to the container garden world and thus maximize space further then would be normally possible.

Da Berm! Da Berm boss!

The third project underway is the Anti-Erosion Berm which as of our last reference to it is finally partially active. As some of you know we had a break in at the gardens and the camera was stolen, but the picture included was the general layout of the integrated logs, all white pine which were intended to act as the anchor and a reservoir of organic matter and moisture. At the current time if you look at the photo, the side of the logs facing you is now covered over with a thick layer of compost over which a wild flower mix and generous amounts of red clover have been sown. Currently the seed are coming up and doing quite well so the ‘soiled’ side has a light patina of green.  But of course finishing the project is half the battle isn’t it?

Instead of just building a narrow berm and being done with it, the idea came to me that I should make absolute use of what was to be had there. Thus the rear side is planned to be elevated a bit more and added turning the berm into an almost crescent shape. That means more planning for planting and so what would possibly go back there and how far back, as the shady rock garden itself is the utmost rear limit of the berm. Does one extend the center of the berm to join the rock garden and create hidden paths?  Could the bern extend to a few feet off the shady rock garden? Maybe they should merge completely bringing the woods out into the open?

The answer of course is ‘Yes’ the final concept is a mix of all of those ideas. The berm will be extended rearwards to about 4 or 5 feet off the shady rock garden’s face following its precise curvature. But to bring the woods out into the open, the Rear side of the Berm will be planted with a line of blue berries and in between as many strawberry plants as will possibly fit.  Somewhere in the middle of the design some exotic nectar producers or perhaps a butterfly bush will be included. But most of all the face of the berm will overtime be planted with perennials both herbs and pseudo ornamentals such as coneflowers. No matter how it goes, the time table for the project is for it to be complete sometime in September as far as the soil is concerned. The perennialization will occur over several years and may not be noticed due to the piecemeal means one will have to use to get it done right. In the end it will be one hell of a permaculture endeavor, so please stay tuned for more updates.

With all of that project-related stuff covered I have to speak briefly about the plant list.

This weekend I will be at the Fayetteville Farmers / City Market in downtown Fayetteville. The market runs from 9:00 am through 1:00pm and is located at 325 Franklin Street and there is plenty of parking near by. As always there will be great handouts about soil conservation and wildlife management and of course copies of my book Southward Skies.  The following is this week’s plant list.

House Plants:
3x Aloe barbadensis – Medicinal Aloe
2x Peperomia verticilliata – Rotary Peperomia

4x Sweet Banana Peppers
5x Habenaro Peppers (Hot!)
2x Tumbling Tom Cherry Tomatoes (yellow fruit)
6x Beefsteak Tomato (Slicing tomato, On sale!)
3x Red Burgundy Okra (Heritage variety)
1x Japanese Long Eggplant

10x Egyptian Onion (Allium prolificum, good stuff!)
5x Italian Parsley (garnishes your dishes and clears out bad breath!)
1x Mountain Mint
1x Greek Oregano
1x Common Sage
3x Sweet Basil
1x Cinnamon Basil
2x Horehound  (Marribum vulgare, natural cold remedy!)

-plus whatever elselooks cool and fits in the truck!-

Available Soon:
Cayenne Peppers
Carolina Wonder, Green bell pepper
Pasilia Bajio Pepper (a sweet Cayenne)
Ghost Pepper (Sweet type)
Silver Aloe
Drunkards Dream Cactus

And the posting of the plant list brings this fine episode of LITFM to a close. I hope to see some of you at the Farmer’s market this weekend. More so, I’ll be present into the fall crop season so don’t be surprised when you see all sorts of cool seasonal plants at the booth soon. As always folks Keep ‘me growing!

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