Thursday, July 31, 2014

Heeeres AUGUST!

Welcome back to another fine episode of Lost In the Farmers Market or LITFM for those of you into that acronym thing. Let’s face it, short hand terms are where it’s at these days and so this entire blog will be written in short hand starting right now.

Yeah sorry no, we’re not that cruel to the readers here at LITFM. If we had actually posted an episode like that it’d probably sound like every can of alphabet soup in the soup aisle at the local supermarket had imploded. But yes this does cap off this week’s episode and if you’ll bear with us we will get right to how this acronym business relates to anything.

Since this is the last post of July 2014 it’s time to talk about the upcoming month in the view of one of the things gardeners most dread and that is the August Slump. That’s right, August starts tomorrow, and with it comes the issue of heat humidity and drought. I admit thus far the weather has been very erratic this year and yet you never know it may straighten up and drop some drought on us tomorrow.  With that in mind now is the time to consider applying fertilizers so when your plants stress out either from the weather or the depletion of nutrients in the soil from their active establishment you are ready.

The first thing to consider in this topic is the use of fertilizer. Obviously fertilizer is critical to gardening success but the type of fertilizer you use is literally half the battle. Now before you go out to bLowes or Home Despot and buy that box or jug of bonnie fertilizer or Miracle-blo* consider one thing before you buy it. How often does it say you should use it? Miracle-blo* often says you should use it every week or two weeks and depending on the product they’re peddling this year it may say to use it every time you water your plants. Now think about that, what kind of quality fertilizer needs to be applied every time you water your plants? The answer is that no quality fertilizer needs to be applied with that frequency, and the same can be said for any fertilizer that needs to be reapplied weekly.

The issue is this, water soluble fertilizers are even once applied still water soluble so after you apply miracle-blo* the next watering will wash out a portion of it. Rain will certainly wash away any residuals of your fertilizer application and then within a few precipitation events (natural or by your own hand) you are back where you were with a nutrient deficiency and nothing to show for all the extra work. In an ideal world, we would all have fantastic ever-fertile soil and this would not matter, but honestly the world isn’t ideal and often our soil has issues. So this leads to that acronym stuff and how it relates to the topic as a whole.

The most important step to getting better results in the garden is learning how to read the labels on fertilizer packages. Typically fertilizers unless produced to handle micro nutrients or unless they are formulated to handle only one nutrient or group of plants will often have what is called an ‘NPK’ number on the front label. NPK is short hand for Nitrogen, Phosphorous & Potassium, and the three major nutrients that your plants need. These three nutrients in the right measure barring a major micro nutrient problem are often enough to get a respectable result in the garden and so fertilizer companies make a big deal of them. Typically a bad of fertilizer will say something like 10-10-10 which represents the relative amounts of NPK present in the bag when used at the suggested application rates for the target plants. For note, if a soil test recommendation calls for 10-10-10 fertilizer you can apply 20-20-20 at a reduced amount (50% less) per square foot to get the 10-10-10 effect. Likewise you can double apply 10-10-10 over half the recommended area to get the same effect as 20-20-20.

Now it is fair to say that formulations vary greatly, often the specific plant targeted will break up that formulation, for instance a fertilizer aimed at improving the flowers of a given plant might be 12-55-6 (sta-green), or a vegetable fertilizer might be 2-5-3 (Jobes), a general organic fertilizer might be 5-1-1 (Alaska) or lastly a combo flower and veggie fertilizer might be 18-18-21 (Miracle-blo*). In short the formulations vary widely and the use of the fertilizer is marketed specifically to remove more cash from your wallet. The truth is that the plants don’t know the difference, and so buying liquid soluble fertilizers is somewhat inefficient.  It is actually wiser to buy a granular fertilizer with slow releasing effects to save money and in the long haul negate the problems that you face with your soil while you work to improve the soil.

Granular fertilizers or solid fertilizers typically come in bags that are range in weight from one to fifty pounds and are sometimes available for specific needs. For instance Espoma’s Holly-Tone is geared towards ericaceous plants that prefer acidic soils but then it is also a slow-release product that is organic, and adds to the soil. Take the reference above to Alaska Fish fertilizer. This is also an ORMI recommended product that uses organic residues to feed your plants, it is not a highly soluble mineral salt like most soluble fertilizers and it too encourages good soil biology and even has been found to encourage fungal activity in the soil. Another consideration is the use of a manure product such as Black Hen which is 2-3-2 and is basically a dried granular manure product with slow release characteristics.

This bring us back to the real core of the discussion,  you only need to apply fertilizer to compensate for  a soil that is not able to support what you wish to grow due to a nutrient or soil structure condition present at the time. Applying a soluble fertilizer based on mineral salts such as Miracle-Blo* only is putting a Band-Aid on the problem. In comparison a slow release organic-based fertilizer is a bit like applying a local anesthetic, stitches and a gauze wrap. The real fix is to improve the soil whole sale, with organic matter and avoiding nutrient depletion in the first place for which the metaphor might be routine checkups, early preventative surgery and clean living. But enough of that, lets take a peek at this week's pictures.

This weird fungus appeared in the crescent garden and continues to build shelve like growths. It's been there for about two months now and keeps getting bigger.

Amorphophallus sp. - Voodoo Lily
Ok I admit to not quite knowing what voodoo lily this is, it's one of three I bought at the same time and this si the first time it's returned in at least two years. The white Voodoo lily was pictured last week.

Oh Myyy!

Muscadinia rotundifolia 'Southern Home' - Muscadine Grapes, Black
 So two years after the muscadines are finally producing something, no complaints here.

Lycopersicon esculentum 'Amish' - Amish tomato

Punica granatum ' nana' - Dwarf Pomegranate

Amazingly the little Dwarf pomegranate is currently producing several fruits, I've snapped a shot of this plant in bloom in a prior post. I never expected it to bear fruit, at least when it goes up for sale all of you out there know you will get something out of it for sure!

Christmas cactus in 6" pots and a single Rotary peperomia plant cluster in a 6" pot, coming soon to the market!

With all the garden topics covered it is now time to talk about the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. As you might have seen the weather is all set to not be so nice this weekend and I’ll personally play it as it comes, Friday is supposed to be far worse than Saturday and so on Saturday morning I’ll determine if I will go with merchandise or as moral support for the other farmers. With that said the market in some part goes on rain or shine on Wednesdays and Saturdays all 52 weeks of the year. The Wednesday market is from 2:00pm through 6:00pm and the Saturday market is between the hours of 9:00am and 1:00pm. The market is located in downtown Fayetteville in the front parking lot of the Fayetteville Transportation Museum at 325 Franklin Street. Should the weather been deemed nice enough the following is a list of what product will be coming to market

Southward Skies: A northern guide to southern Gardening
This is the second edition of my book, which was published using data compiled from several years of test garden operations. It’s written to aid gardeners of all skill levels in successful garden methods that are targeted for the south east but had proven to be a valued resource for gardens across the eastern coast. It’s certainly a good gift for that gardener you know or for yourself if you’d like to have a reliable field guide. The book costs $25.00 and we do take checks for this item, you can even have it signed.

On Sale: (3x for 5.00)
1x Pepper, Jalapeno, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Pepper, Sweet Banana , 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Pepper, Carolina Wonder, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Brown Berry, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Tomato, Martino’s Roma, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Rainbow Cherry Mix, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Red & Yellow Currant, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
3x Cucumber, Armenian, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
3x Cucumber, Poona Kheera, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
3x Horned Melon, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
3x Vine Peaches, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Basil, Thai, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Basil, Cinnamon, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Basil, Red Rubin, 3.5” pot ($2.00)

-For note a number of the listed sale plants are appearing for their last time this Saturday so get ‘em now while you can because otherwise they will become one with the compost bin!

4x Basil, Genovese, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Artemesia, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Fennel, Black, 7” pot ($5.00)
4x Lavender, Hidcote, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Oregano, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Rosemary, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Sage, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Thyme, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Toothache Plant 3.5” pot ($3.00)

4x Baloon Flower, White 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Nicotina, Flowering Tobacco, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Rudbeckia, Irish Eyes, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Rudbeckia, Golden, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

House Plants:
2x Peperomia, Huntington BHG, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Coming Soon:
Assorted Aloes
Assorted Peperomia
Assorted Succulent house plants
Rotary Peperomia, 6” pot
Christmas Cactus, 6” pot
Dwarf Pomegranates 6” pot
Chicago Hardy Fig, 6” pot

And this wraps up another discussion on LITFM, your handy resource for demystifying the crazy corporate gibberish of the garden world. If you have any questions about this episode or the content within feel free to contact us via the blog or in person at the market. Thank you for reading and as always keep ‘em Growing!

* P.S. No that’s not a typo I actually call Miracle-gro that they honestly deserve that name for all their patent product dishonesty.

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