Friday, October 25, 2013

First Frost Advisory!

Welcome back to another fine albeit chilled episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market. This week the topic has put on hold because of the frost warning. I know this post is going up late but if you are in the Fayetteville area it is said to drop to 33 degrees tonight which is a degree above freezing. The current winds make that temperature liable to feel a bit lower and you the gardener should be prepared for more of this. So in lieu of a full discussion on basil, here’s a bit about emergency protections for your frost sensitive plants.

 Step 1: Harvest anything that is near ready to eat within reason. In the case of the picture above the largest banana peppers were harvested as you can see in the bowl in the lower right of the picture. Any damaged fruit if salvageable should also be harvested to reduce strain on the crop plants to be protected.

 Step 2: Where possible move any plants that you are unsure of their cold hardiness inside or as close to stonework or a building as is possible preferably behind other plants or structures that will protect them. The Meringa tree above has an unknown hardiness so I moved it into the closed porch for protection. plants in small pots always should be brought in during very cold weather for note.

Step 3: Water all plants to remain outside thoroughly  to the point water drips from the bottoms of the pots and the soil is evenly moist to the touch.  The purpose of this is to protect the plants from the real danger of frost, dehydration/dessication.

Step 4: Group plants that cannot be brought indoors or to a more protective location tightly together. By doing so you create a likely area that prevents easy movement of wind and may reduce the formation of frost. I have to note, I moved them together like this before watering, but that's only because the tomato plants up front were tangled together and the rest of the mass came together behind them.

Step 5. By one means or another erect a windbreak. In this case the wind break is a large blue tarp supported by three internal poles and held in place by a log in  the back, and bricks up front. Additionally carabiner clips along the sides between the tarp's grommets keep the sides semi-closed.

Cold weather aside, as you may have heard through this site or the sustainable neighbor’s website, we are coming up on the end of national food week. Tomorrow you can bet that I’ll be down town manning the booth at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market which is located at 325 Franklin Street on the property of the Fayetteville Transportation museum. I hear that Marsha the leader of Sustainable neighbors has something planned for the market but that might just be an extra special booth or perhaps something for Halloween?
On Sunday between the hours of 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm the sustainable neighbors’ garden tour is ongoing. My test gardens are on the list as the final stop and you can expect a good talk about practices and other information as well as the noted wine tasting.

Below is this week’s plant list for the farmers market.

9x Spineless Prickly Pear

House Plants:
2x Silver Aloe

Salad & Fixings:
(More Black Seeded Simpson next week)

Cole Crops:
6x Georgia Collards
6x Morris Heading Cabbage-Collards
4x Savoy Cabbage
2x Mustard-Spinach ‘Senposai’
3x Dinosaur Kale
5x Napa Cabbage

Available Soon:
2x Blushing Philodendron

The plant list above concludes the fourth post for the month of October. Imagine that October gone so fast and November with all its fall glory rolling up rather rapidly. I hope you all found my emergency frost protection tips useful and next week I’ll post the delayed basil article. As always folks, Keep ‘em growing!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Of Eggplant and Men

Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmer’s Market. It is the third week of October and this gives you a good month or so before you are at risk of frost. As noted in prior posts I cannot stress enough how important it is to get those fall plants in and started so when the frost hits they are more liable to survive. But of course continuing the month’s topic, today I will be discussing the trials and tribulations of this year’s eggplant crop. As noted in earlier articles I tried a number of unusual varieties as well as some heritage types and a few recurring favorites from last year.

Early Black Egg
Japanese Long
Louisiana Long Green
Striped Ntula
Striped Togo
Turkish-Italian Orange
White Ntula

That’s not a long list so the favorites of course will be shorter than the tomato and pepper entries. After all while I do easily lay hands on the weird varieties honestly my personal demand for eggplant and the market’s demand is limited so the list reflects this. Admittedly all eggplant seem to have a common problem in that they always had fire ant issues for some reason and the fire ants were very persistent. The damage caused by the ants warranted chemical controls and additional fertilizer and watering. I might add that in prior year’s trials this problem occurred even when the specimen plants were planted in the ground.

Still my personal favorite as far as eggplant go, they take a while to produce but once they start only frost stops them.
Striped Togo Solanum aethiopicum

Striped Togo is a yearly favorite, the tall columnar shaped plants produce fruits in two’s or threes that are about 2” long and oval shaped. The plants responded aggressively to water soluble fertilizer (black magic mix) and even as of this writing are still trying to produce fruit. Togo has been a reliable producer for three recurring years in the test gardens and will continue to repeat as such. I might add that togo fruit are generally non-bitter unless grown and picked beyond their ripe status so there are no harvester error issues.

Typically when they are this color you don't eat them as they are supposed to be eaten green but heck taking one for the team!
Nyakati Solanum aethiopicum

Nyakati or Mock Tomato, is from the Ethiopian regions, and despite what images of it from the seed supplier and other images online seem to indicate only produced tiny pea-sized fruits with barely any eggplant flesh to them. Fortunately it produced quite a few little fruits so the individual size balanced out. Even so the red fruits were moderately bitter but nothing a little ketchup could not fix. Supposedly young leaves are edible but I never bothered to test it. It’s a nice eggplant but may be best grown as an odd ornamental I think. Expect it next year from saved seed.

The fruit as it turns out aren't a pure white like cloud 8 eggplant but rather a peach-pearl sort of white.
White Ntula Solanum aethiopicum

This African variety was one of three bought at the same time. As far as growth is concerned by the end of summer it produced a plant that was about three feet tall and produced a single large white fruit. The sole fruit is still on the plant for the purposes of maturing and later on harvesting seed. I would grow it again for its respectable growing habit albeit in greater numbers to compensate for the erratic seed germination. I should note that one of the common names of White Ntula is bitter Eggplant, I’ve not personally verified this for the noted reasons above but when I do it’ll be up here first.

A Louisiana long green that survived the Kiwano that ate HP bed B.

As a special mentions to this eggplant discussion I have to note the two eggplant varieties that will get a redo next year. Lousiana long green and Early black egg were both smothered by the Kiwano vine from the depths of hell. But sales of these varieties were good enough to warrant a return of both. More so, in the bad news department Turkish-Italian Orange has yet to live up to its suggested productivity or noted capacity. TIO won’t be sold next year but may be grown as a novelty to see what could be done about the poor productivity. This brings to a close the discussion of eggplant, next week we will return to the usual format when we cover the basil’s grown in the garden this year so expect photographs and such.

Oh yes the sustainability squadron in full effect at last week's market!
To change topic, it is that time in the article when I post what is coming to market tomorrow. The Fayetteville City/Farmer’s Market occurs on Saturdays from 9:00 am through 1:00pm at the Fayetteville Transportation Museum grounds at 325 Franklin Street in downtown Fayetteville. More so, there is TONS of parking nearby and you can find a wide variety of stuff at the market ranging from essential oils and crafts to the freshest produce and of course cold season plants. So come on by and check us out, below is the plant list for Saturday October the 19th 2013.

6x Spineless Prickly Pear

House Plants:
2x Silver Aloe

Salad & Fixings:
(More Black Seeded Simpson next week)

Cole Crops:
6x Georgia Collards
6x Morris Heading Cabbage-Collards
4x Savoy Cabbage
2x Mustard-Spinach ‘Senposai’
5x Dinosaur Kale
5x Napa Cabbage

Available Soon:
2x Blushing Philodendron
?x Japanese Red Giant Mustard

This wraps up the third entry for October and as you may realize both Daylight Savings and Halloween are right around the corner. I might add Food Day is on the 24th and there’s all kinds of cool stuff going down on the 24th through the following weekend. If you’ve got questions about where and what to plant feel free to contact me through this blog or in person at the market. As always folks keep ‘em growing!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Well it's at least acting like fall

Welcome back to another episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market. This week’s discussion covers the successes and failures of the Pepper crop. Additionally the first weekly precipitation report is being released, which will be a regular feature as long as there is anything to report. Also at the end of this episode you can expect the plant list, and stuff about the market including a new booth picture. But first let’s get into the precipitation report for 10-2-2013 through 10-8-2013.

Regular rains can bring out all sorts of critters. In this case a Green Tree frog was seen Saturday afternoon hiding out in the White Ischia figs.

For the first and hopefully not the last time, I present the localized precipitation report. The information as presented is gathered from three equidistant rain gages positioned about the test gardens to represent the average range of the topography. One gauge is out in the open with no obscuring objects another near the hedgerow and the third close to the tree line. The results of the total precipitation will be noted below along with the number of times precipitation in any noticeable amount was found in the gauges. The gages themselves are checked about 5pm every night and the range of study is in a seven day period from Wednesday of one week to Tuesday of the next. In the case of this week we had meaningful precipitation on the 7th and 8th

Rain 10-07-2013: 0.51”/0.49”/0.51”
Rain 10-08-2013: 0.15”/0.10”/0.15”
Average Precipitation: 0.65”

Obviously a little over a half inch is better than nothing; however the last useful amount of rain to fall was back in September on the 22nd (Avg. 0.78”).  This does not necessarily mean we should act as if it’s a drought as the cool weather means your crops are transpiring a bit less. It is however a sign to be cautious and use your irrigation responsibly, as it may be a somewhat dry winter which poses a new set of problems.

Now in terms of the Peppers, I have to start by saying this year was somewhat of a flagship year. Numerous varieties were tested, and a few supposed winners turned out to be utter duds. As some of you know I always have some variety of pepper in the test gardens as a rule because I consider them essential as a spice element to cooking. Indeed all varieties add a certain sort of flavor to the mix that can’t be replaced. Their inherent heat tolerance and drought toughness is also commendable. With that said below is a list of what was grown and a listing /description of what worked and why.

Carolina Wonder, Green
Carolina Wonder, Red
Cayenne, Red
Cayenne, Purple
Chinese Ornamental
Devil’s Tongue
Lemon Drop
Paprika, Pritamin
Paprika, Cecei
Paprika, Leutschauer
Pasilla Bajio
Red Peter
Sweet Yellow Banana
Tobago Seasoning

Quite a list isn’t it? The list in truth tells half the story as with every sowing of any seed you expect some never to germinate for whatever reason and some others to have troubles after or outright fail. Likewise with all the optimism of this list the following notes indicate where the success and failures lay. Would I give some varieties a second go next year? Absolutely I would, and in the case of the Sangria, Chinese Ornamental, Pasilla, and Purple Cayenne they will return next year in novelty status. The following peppers were very successful in the test garden and warrant a full return next year.

Lemon drop peppers take a while to mature but are heavy producers once they do.

Lemon Drop
The LD pepper has been one of the most consistently productive flavor peppers in the garden two years running. It withstands heat and drought well and is very dramatic about wilting when it needs water so not surprisingly it gets taken care of rather early and often. In trade it’s 2-3” long peppers are bright yellow when mature are spicy but not hot and add a citrusy flavor to anything they are added to without being overwhelming. Excellent for use in pots by itself, tends to suffer when put it with other plants. No pest problems as seen.

This specimen was jokingly called the 'Ugly plant' because it for some reason had massively warped leaves and seemed to only produce 'ugly'. it wasn't until this pepper started producing fruit did I realize it was a Tobago seasoning pepper. I plan to save some seed to see if it's a unique genetic trait.

Tobago Seasoning
TB peppers are slow to produce and once they do the round peppers are best picked at a color range from orange to red. The flavor is a sort of smoky spice with more kick then a paprika. Over all the plants in the garden grew well had no real problems, they just were not heavy produces so upwards of three plants were needed to match the output of one Lemon drop pepper plant. Pests were not an issue though last year we did have a horn worm or two but the way this pepper grows the damage is easily visible. TB is best grown in a pot by itself as it is somewhat slow growing early on, but matures to a plant as big as any late season pepper.

Sweet Yellow Banana peppers are edible at almost any stage of fruit maturity with a differing flavor depending when and  you eat them.

Sweet Yellow Banana
Honestly SYB is practically the test garden’s replacement for any sort of bell pepper if 2013’s info is an indicator. SYB produces regularly, has that trademark pepper aroma and flavor when used and its only issue is that the peppers cant in theory be stuffed as one might with a bell pepper. Even so, this variety grew well in the ground and in pots and produced well in either situation but more so in the pot because of course pots get more attention. Either way this particular variety will return next year in numbers.

This pair of Sangria peppers survived the season to be brought in for the winter. Strangely enough the plants never developed much of the trademark purple leaf coloration.

Sangria Ornamental Pepper
SOP was a slow start; with a number of duds in the seed and the few plants that madeit to the gardens and the market did alright. In fact a pair of such late germinating seed will be overwintered this year to serve as a ornamental center piece and a mother plant for seed collection next year. What makes sangria so nice, is that it bears blue-purple foliage and fruit that are almost purple-black at their prime. It visually goes well with light or equally dark foliage and planted in with Thai, blue African and traditional basil it can be a striking cluster of colors. The plants are rather resilient once they get going and do well once they are about 6” tall or so.

Chinese Ornamental Pepper
Much like SOP, these peppers were slow starters but also had an odd branched growth habit. I tried a number of things to get these guys going but in the end only time prevailed. The mature specimens were quite nice looking in a Christmas tree sort of way with their triangular form and little red peppers that resembled Christmas bulbs. These plants seemed to shrug off most of the summer’s heat and lack of watering but reqired regular fertilizing to do their best.

The Paprikas (Pritamin, Cecei, Leuschauer)
All three noted paprika species above were not sold this year but rather purchased as a experiment to see what the big fuss was. Amazingly I found these peppers uniquely slow to produce but the wait was worth it, dried paprika has nothing on a fresh paprika pepper used in substitute. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Pritamin for its heavier production, shorter maturation time and excellent flavor. You can bet if I can get some seed for these they will be in the list next year.

Rainforest (Capsicum baccatum)
Devil’s Tongue (Capsicum chinense)
The two peppers in this case deserve a special mentions as both came into my possession though another vendor at the farmer’s market Laura Bradley. The special mentions is specifically because both grew incredibly well and Rainforest wound up being added to the hot mix of peppers for use in chili, whereas Devils Tongue, well I threw one at a vagrant once and watched him burst into flames upon contact so it’s an ornamental, yeah that’s it! Either way I liked both and wouldn’t mind doing more with them next year so special mentions to both. I might add Laura also sold me the paprika trio.

The booth of sustainable goodness, yep look for that rooster tablecloth folks!

As you can figure this just covers the successes and more so what you can expect to see next year. But of course I could probably talk peppers for an article or two  however the need to get to the plant list and farmer’s market stuff looms large as the weekend nears so with that in mind  remember the following. The Fayetteville City/Farmer’s Market occurs on Saturdays from 9:00 am through 1:00pm at the Fayetteville Transportation Museum grounds at 325 Franklin Street in downtown Fayetteville. More so, there is TONS of parking nearby and you can find a wide variety of stuff at the market ranging from essential oils and crafts to the freshest produce and of course cold season plants. So come on by and check us out, below is the plant list for Saturday October the 12th 2013.

House Plants:
2x Silver Aloe

Salad & Fixings:
4x Romaine Lettuce
4x Black-Seeded Simpson Lettuce (bibb type)

Cole Crops:
6x Georgia Collards
6x Morris Heading Cabbage-Collards
2x Savoy Cabbage
3x Mustard-Spinach ‘Senposai’
6x Dinosaur Kale
6x Napa Cabbage

Available Soon:
2x Blushing Philodendron
12x Spineless Prickly pear
6x Japanese Red Giant Mustard

As you all may know the plant list concludes this post; the second post of October. Keep in mind as the weather cools your time is running out to get those cool season plants in the ground. The extra rail will help you a great deal however the sooner you get the crops in the better. If you’ve got questions about where and what to plant feel free to contact me through this blog or in person at the market. As always folks keep ‘em growing!