Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Here comes the rain again...no really.

Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmers Market and indeed this is an early release episode due to it being sparklitis month. With that said I have to say that this month thus far has been complete insanity. As some of you might have seen I was out manning the table on Saturday when the weather mocked the weather forecast and did whatever the heck it wanted. Honestly this has to be the wettest August I’ve ever seen, and indeed on Saturday we received approximately 3.68” of rain on average and then on Sunday an additional 0.83” of rain fell bringing the weekend total to an average of 4.51”.
In short with weather like this I hope your irrigation systems have a weather sensor because if they don’t your just throwing money away. Keeping in mind I am knocking on wood right now; the forecast looks ok for Wednesday and is hovering at 20% chance of rain on Saturday. As with last weekend I fancied the odds on the weather but made sure to be prepared and, this week more so. Before anyone asks though yes, the Fayetteville Farmer’s market occurs even if it rains; we just might close up shop early is all.

Now that there is a big bowl of figgy fun!
However the unusual wet weather has some distinct advantages.  Some things in the garden do better in this weather and others just carry on as normal. Take for instance our first photo of the week. Tuesdays Fig harvest, this is a mix of White Ischia, Chicago Hardy and Brown Turkey type figs, with a total weight of three pounds two ounces all in one go. Literally weather like this can cause sudden and mass ripening in fig fruit that otherwise had done nothing the whole time for weeks. Most soft fruit do benefit from weather like this making this current situation at least not as bad despite the mosquitoes and the actual gloom.

With that said I do need to talk about a group of plants found at the table as part of Sparklitis month. I often get questions about what a Peperomia is and what one does with it. To start off the common nickname for Peperomia is Radiator Plant, though with over a thousand recognized members of the family the individual common names vary rather widely. Generally members of the species are considered to be epiphytes which means they grow in or with other plants in a non-parasitic way much like members of the Holiday cactus group (Schlumbergera). Due to this and their large tropical and sub-tropical distribution they prefer warm somewhat humid locations but do not tolerate frost or extreme periods of cold (ie 30-35 degrees Fahrenheit or less).
Peperomia obtusifolim varigata – Varigated Desert Privet

As noted above, the peperomia has a large number of members and is quite diverse in shapes forms and colors. Indeed the handful of specimens in the test garden collection are honestly the tip of the iceberg as far as the species goes. Most if not all members of the species feature succulent foliage and are considered to be perennials in their native habitats. In general cultivation Peperomias do not mind natural environmental humidity but do object to having constantly wet foliage. In the same way Peperomias also do not like to have constantly wet roots or soil and so their care is very similar to a Euphorbia, in that a lot of the care rules for cactus apply to the peperomia family. When it comes to exposure some species cannot be put out in full sun as they will suffer from leaf scorch where the morning dew collects. This is not the end all as some members of the family can withstand this if given a transition period. The one thing to remember is that with more exposure expect to have to water more frequently. In general it is wise to provide a peperomia with a potting soil that somewhat mimics the soils it might encounter in a tropical or sub-tropical region. Basically the soils should provide good drainage and be high in organic matter. My common mix for peperomias is a combination of tree bark fines, coco-fiber and sand with varied additives included such as vermiculite and perlite added.

Peperomia verticillata – Rotary Peperomia
As you can see in the above picture of a rotary peperomia the members of the species produce flower spikes rather than what we might expect a flower to be. The spikes are actually a mass of dozens to hundreds of miniature flowers. Basically the flowering structure is similar to that found on a Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major) a common lawn “weed”. The flowering structure is also similar to that of a Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) or the Peace Lily (Spahtiphyllum cochlearispathum) which is a common house plant. The critical biological difference is the lack of a showy bract to attract pollinators which for us would be the “flower petals” in the case of the calla or peace lily. Biologically the bract is there to draw the attention of pollinators to the less than showy actual flowers in the center. An incredibly common example of what a bract is can be found with the common Poinsettia (Poinsettia pulcherrima) who’s colored “petals” are actually modified leaves. It is likely that this form of flower came into being to counter insect pests that might eat part or the entire flower. Basically if you have a thousand flowers, and an insect only eats seven hundred and half the remainder produce seed, then not only do you carry your genetics onward but you don’t have to worry about competing with your offspring as much.

Peperomia orba – Teardrop Peperomia
Lastly, one has to ask, why I might carry these plants along with the aloes? Well, peperomias are a good starter plant for those not accustomed to succulents. Considering they are a foliage plant that produces very little leaf and flower litter and one can see growth in short order growing these guys is quite rewarding. I might add it is easy to take cuttings of a mature peperomia, and these guys do help cleanse the air inside one’s home. They also make a nice gift for that gardener for whom you’re stumped on what to get as a gift.

Ironically in contrast to last week’s early post this post is much shorter by a few pages simply because of the bad weather. It’s somewhat difficult to take good pictures in the field when the weather seems to be doing anything but being droughty. As you may know the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market occurs every Wednesday from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm and on Saturdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Fayetteville Transportation Museum. The museum is located at 325 Franklin Street in downtown Fayetteville and on the weekend parking enforcement takes the day off so there’s plenty of parking with no need to feed the meters. Without further delay here is this week’s plant list.

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.

Fruiting Shrubs
1x Fig, Chicago Hardy, 6” pot ($12.00)
1x Pomegranate, Dwarf, 6” pot ($12.00)

4x Basil, Genovese, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Artemesia, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Fennel, Black, 7” pot ($5.00)
3x Rosemary, 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 hybrid, Huntington BHG - 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Peperomia obtusifolia varigata, Desert Privet, 3.5” pot ($5.00)
2x Peperomia orba, Teardrop Peperomia, 3.5” pot ($5.00)
2x Aloe dorotheae,  Sunset Aloe - 4.0" pot (6.00)
1x Aloe deltoideodantes, Checkerboard Aloe - 4.0" pot ($6.00)
2x Aloe glauca, Blue Aloe - 4.0" pot ($6.00)
2x Aloe hybrid, 'Blizzard' Aloe - 4.0" pot ($6.00)
2x Aloe nobilis ‘Gator’, 3.5” pot ($5.00)
2x Aloe vera ‘Blue’, Blue Medicinal Aloe - 3.5” pot ($5.00)
2x Aloe x Gasteria, 'Night Sky' Aloe - 6.0" pot ($6.00)
2x Aloe vera x Gasteria verrucosa, 'Radiance Aloe' 4.0" pot ($8.00)

Coming Soon:
Black Dragon Haworthia
Silver Ridge Aloe
Rotary Peperomia
Assorted Rare Aloes
Assorted House Plants

This brings to a close another Episode of LITFM, which makes for the third episode of August with two more before we hit the start of the cool season. Also soon we will be revealing the results of the smart pot versus conventional pot trial so stay tuned  and lets all hope for more stable weather.

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