Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rocking so hard, the The rain came

Welcome Back to another episode of Lost in the Farmers Market, where we discuss aspects of gardening from an angle you might not have seen coming. To be honest half the time we have no idea what angle we’re coming from; but then that makes each episode more fun than if it had been scripted. For today’s topic I’m going to answer a common question asked about the test gardens and by extension settle a long standing quandary of sustainable gardening.

So the one question I get most frequently comes after I run through the yearly harvest numbers. Visitors to the gardens, market or during the talks given as part of Sustainable Neighbor’s own events often ask me what I do with all that produce. The obvious answer is that by bulk most of it does quite literally get consumed on premises. After all if one went through the trouble to grow produce, then it makes sense that it should be consumed by the person behind it provided there is not some amount of surplus. It should be said that when one harvests several ounces of say cherry tomatoes it’s not as plausible to eat them all before they start to go bad since the plants will just keep producing as long as I keep picking and providing for their needs. So this brings the conversation to other means to enjoy the harvest and extend the useful life of a given harvest.

I notice it’s often at times hotly debated if canning or freezing your produce is better, and indeed most gardeners actually should be using both methods. The fact is canning and freezing both have their strengths and weaknesses as well as processes that need to be observed to produce better final product. Canning in common context refers to the preservation of produce under glass using mason jars. Typically the food is stored with a bit of preservative liquid or broth and once sealed is generally held to last for a few years if all processes including sterilization of materials were completed properly. It should also be said that any food canned and intended for long term storage should be fully cooked to prevent the unwanted growth of fungi and bacterium inside the jars. More often than not you will know a canned batch has gone bad because the pop-up section of the internal sealing lid will bulge out and the jar may leak around the rims. A bad smell may come from a poorly canned batch of produce. With that said the chief strength of canning is the longevity of your product, it needs no refrigeration, it is largely temperature insensitive and can be as safe as store bought product with the advantage of you knowing precisely what all the ingredients are.

In respects freezing is the high nutritional value cousin of canning. The net advantage to freezing foods is that you need less preparation, sterilization and depending on the food little or no cooking. For instance when it comes to most fruit you can literally wash it, cut it to size and freeze it. Once thawed frozen fruit can be used in a given recipe and since it’s been frozen it’s still in whatever shape it was when you stored it. This makes freezing the great alternative for storing acidic foods, and is viable for storing bullion made of herbs or broth concentrates. The down side to freezing comes with unintentional thawing, if the power is out or your refrigerator should malfunction you may be in some trouble.

Personally I use both methods but with a slight modification. Produce from the test garden in late spring through late summer is frozen and anything else is canned. The intention there is to create a stockpile of ‘fresh’ food supplies to add to dry storage foods during the winter. As a trick for this the canned goods are in broth, and that broth is vegetarian base with extra garlic, oregano, basil and rosemary to increase preservative effects. Admittedly if I can get it I often include Perilla with ginger to assist the shelf stability of the canned produce.

That said as some of you might know, I have significant fruit crop harvests and that goes directly to the freezer for use either in baked breads or cakes during the winter or it ends up as a component in brewing. Take for instance this year’s Blueberry harvest, we had a LOT of rabbit eye blueberries to the tune of two and a half pounds frozen, and then some wild picked blue berries came into the picture and this was the result.

Six pounds of blueberries total produced this color, so hard-core!
I’ve no idea what this will end up as, but then it’s all just a fun experiment, and you don’t see many blueberry wines out there either. Who knows this could be 2014’s slammin-ultra-sensation-libation! Ok…channeled Macho Man Randy Savage a bit there….apologies in advance if that blew some of your minds up. But hey how does LITFM follow something that cool up in this post? I know pictures from the field those are definitely gonna finish up the brain-splosion effect.

Adenium obesum – Desert Rose
A Desert Rose in bloom in July, certainly a fitting thank you for all the fuss I put into caring for this fine specimen. For note the desert rose is a caudiciform, or a succulent with a fat trunk that has evolved to store nutrients when the environmental conditions are not ideal.

Aloe hybrid – Silver Ridge Aloe ‘Rare Flare’
For once the foliage isn’t the focus as this aloe is a summer bloomer and in a shade of red-pink that is worthy of note. I sold smaller potted plants from this mover plant last summer and it may return for the summer houseplant season this year. Also some red Gomphrena (annual flower) and Blue African Basil has sort of crowded into the picture.

Ocimum kilimandscharicum × basilicum 'Dark Opal ' – Blue African Basil

In reading the long Latin name above yes blue African basil is a cross between Dark Opal basil and Camphor Basil and bears both of their best traits. This mature specimen is the source of all blue African cuttings I sold this year and has proven to be the fastest rooting plant in the gel propagation tests short of chocolate mint. Because it produces so many flowers the mason bees and other similar insects love this plant.

Aloe deltoides – Checkerboard Aloe
At the corner of the block-row beds, is my Checkerboard Aloe specimen plant. But alongside you can see Aztec Gold African Marigolds and yet more red Gomphrena. The combination gives some good color, form shape and drought tolerance.

Miribilis jalapa – Four ‘O’ Clock & Gomphrena globosa – Globe Amaranth (Purple)

In the bed that had the lupines I planted a number of gomphreana to hold the soil and keep weeds in check then sowed four o clocks and cosmos to begin the perennialization of the bed. For note Four O Clocks are actually perennials in our climate as is the lupines the globe amaranth and cosmos will self-sow.

 The treatment of Squash stem Borers.
"He's an ugly little spud isn't he?!" - The Ghostbusters
Yeah my volunteer gourds got the borers so I went on the offensive. In the cases of stems I could move I cut the borers out. Note that where a borer enters he’ll make a gross looking plant seal around the entry hole composed of its dried feces. Usually the borer isn’t far from that so you can see the entry hole plug in the first picture hanging off the stem. Inside is a grub about 1” long that’s all white except its head which is either black or red. In the case of picture one I pried the ugly thing out and killed it. In the case of picture two where I could not move the stem I waited until night and shined a bright LED lamp under the squash stem until I saw a dark mass inside then drove three old sewing pins through the borer to stop it from doing any more damage. The next morning I used a small but very sharp 2” folding knife to cut the now very dead border out of the squash. Needless to say squash borers are little bastards and utterly devastating when your squash is encouraged to grow up on a trellis. On the ground the squash will root at intervals making the borders less effective. If this is a regular problem try butternut squash…no hollow stems plus the borers hat butternut squash for some reason.

Plumbago ariculata – Cape Leadwort
The word Plumbum comes from the Latin word for Lead, Plumbum, which is seen on the Periodic table as Leads short hand Pb. It got the name because of the plants sap creating lead-like stains on the skin leading to the ancients Greeks and Romans to believe it was a cure for Lead Poisoning. The blue flowers also somewhat resembled the color of lead under certain circumstances also. Now keep in mind I got this from the distressed plant bit at Lowes and this type of plumbago is a hardy perennial. It’s already responded to its new home quite nicely.

Amorphophallus alba – White Voodoo Lily (left)
So in the category of odd Latin names Amorphophallus comes from the ancient Greek words Amorphos and Phallus or literally misshapen Penis.  Yes the guys who named plants totally had sex on the brain ALL. THE. TIME. Now why is it in the test gardens? Well for one it’s the white voodoo lily and that makes it kind of rare. The foliage as seen goes well with the Barlowe Double Columbines and has come up thicker this year than any prior year. The flower resembles a Calla lily sort of but the ‘petals’ are more cup like and the actual flower, that thing in the center called a Spadix is sort of well man-bit shaped. It’s one of the few members of the Arum family that can grow around these parts with no special provisions for care. When this blooms…oh how the innuendo will fly.

Hibiscus coccineus ' Texas Star' - Scarlet Rosemallow 'Texas Star'
 I've had a member of this particular breed in the test gardens for years and as some have you have heard the little old lady used to think it was pot and would call the police on me for "flagrantly promoting drugs!" Well now there's a pair of them in the crescent garden and both are blooming, but the flower is so nice I had to snap a picture of it. It's like the tropical hibiscus but with all the native hardy durability so it's literally the best of both worlds. Did I mention the huge red flowers that bear nectar that can attract humming birds?

But with all the garden silliness and funny names being tossed about it’s easy to forget that the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market is open on Wednesdays from 2pm to 6 pm and on Saturdays from 9am to 1 pm. The market is located at the Fayetteville Transportation Museum and runs all year around. There is plenty of parting and there are both bathrooms and an ATM on site within the museum. With every week we get new vendors and the market grows and now we have a food truck that specializes in burgers. So not only can you get your fresh produce but you can now get fresh ice cream lunch and keep up with the best and latest info about the Agriculture scene. But below you can check out the plant offerings this week at the 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)
1x Pepper, Habenero, 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)
1x Tomato, Reisotomate, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Eggplant, Casper , 3.5” pot ($2.00)

3x Cucumber, Armenian, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Cucumber, Poona Kheera, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

3x Horned Melon, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Vine Peaches, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

3x Basil, Genovese, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Basil, Thai, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Basil, Cinnamon, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Basil, Red Rubin, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Artemesia, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Fennel, Black, 7” pot ($5.00)
3x Lavender, Hidcote, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Oregano, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Rosemary, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Sage, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Thyme, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Toothache Plant 3.5” pot ($3.00)

1x Passion Vine, 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)

Well this concludes another fine and yet somewhat disorderly episode of LITFM, and there’s just one thing to mention here. In terms of precipitation and not counting the total rainfall on Thursday, we had 1.2” of rain spread across two rain events. This is fantastic and a tad ironic because it poured on Monday right after I used the hose to irrigate. But we need the rain pretty bad and T-storm rain waters your plants….LIKE A BAWSSS! *

*If you don’t get that joke look up the lonely Island song Like a boss on youtube, somewhat NSFW. LITFM does not endorse bombing the Russians flying into the sun or for that matter doing anything with sewer fish.

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