Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Its a Bird! Its a Plane! its an early Episode!

Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmers Market or LITFM 10-10-10 for all you radio station enthusiasts out there. This week we’re going to break with the topic set for the month of August briefly to talk about the “sparklitis” outbreak in Fayetteville North Carolina. As you may know “Sparklitis” is a common affliction of those of the shopping persuasion, and there is no known cure. However by sating the “Sparklitis” urge with something completely exotic is just about the only way to cause the condition to go into remission. We at LITFM are working with both the CDC and USDA to distribute “Sparklitis” fighting items to slow the spread of this extremely communicable affliction. How we  at LITFM are involved in combating this affliction will be covered in the second half of this episode and keep in mind this is a Photo-heavy episode so mind your internet connections this episode will be like digital penicillin for the fighting of the “Sparklitis”.
The pros of August, suddenly all the peppers get that turbo-growth spurt and bam! peppers everywhere!

Now first off as you know it’s August and that poses its own set of problems and the first of such is the yearly cycle of larval critters. In late spring the cabbage moths are the problem, and in the dead heat of summer you get the good, bad and ugly. The good is that by now there’s no doubt the ladybug and praying mantises are out and about and chances are you’ve seen one or both. The test gardens have a very persistent population of leaf-footed bugs, and Wheel bugs both of which are aggressive predators of other insects. In terms of bad one could say that the larvae of the black swallow tail butterflies are a best in that they eat any and all members of the carrot family but prefer fennel and parsley. If you planted enough however there should be enough for both you and them and so it’s relative. As for the ugly you get what we have here in the picture below.

Exhibit A: Insidious insect invasion and subsequent sacking of solanum!
Fortunately I caught the culprit and detained him, he was entirely unrepentant about the damages caused and proceeded to defecate all over his cell. In fact this vile creature decided to try and ruin his mug shot by defecating several times as we tried to snap his picture.

Exhibit B: Caught in the act with stolen piece of Solanum, attempted to eat evidence before picture could be taken.
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate, some men you just can’t reach so you get what we had here last week. Which is the way he wants it…well he gets it!”

Yes this is a Tomato horn worm and constitutes the “ugly” catergory as a whole for the tough month of August. This creature’s scientific name is Manduca quinquemaculata an it’s the larvae of the Five-spotted hawkmoth which explains their enormous size and how they just seem to appear. The adults of this species lay their eggs on the target plant at night and eggs take between two and eight days to hatch. As any gardener knows from there it’s just days before a tiny little caterpillar becomes something as big as a man’s thumb. This specimen was all that at 4” though when the picture was taken he was defensively curling up a little.

I might note that using black lights is an easy way to spot these critters at night but also scouting for suddenly stumpy stems is another way.  I spotted this one because I noticed a section of missing leaves. The tomato will absolutely recover and the perpetrator was put in “wet storage” That is immersed in 90% isopropyl rubbing alcohol for preservation. Why the stronger rubbing alcohol? It tends to keep the original colors of the preserve insect and there is very little suffering, though admittedly the suffering isn’t so much what I’m concerned with.

With that said this is the time of the year the hawkmoths are in flight so keep a close eye out for the horn worms as they will attack any member of the nightshade family. The plant targets of preference include Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Tobacco, Potatoes and moonflowers. The Larvae are vulnerable to any direct application insecticide and thus are easily picked off once spotted though it may be wise to do damage control checks as part of your routine to prevent incursions. But somehow I suspect your all waiting for the second half and so let’s get with the digital “sparklitis”

Peperomia obtusifolia ‘varigata’ – Variegated Desert Privet
The desert privets are the definitive poster child for the widely varied peperomia family and may be the most cultivated member of the family. The desert privet makes for an easy low-maintenance house plants that only require occasional water low amounts of fertilizer and as much light as you can provide. They do not tolerate temperatures below 30 degrees without protection but do prefer a soil with moderate organic matter that drains well. This variety is variegated which makes it good in use as a means to brighten up a corner near a window or as a temporary accent.

Peperomia hybrid - Huntington Hybrid Peperomia
The Huntington Hybrid peperomia is one of those odd plants that seems to have never made it into major cultivation. Perhaps it’s the fact that this one will keep growing straight up unless encouraged to branch by the pruning of its apical tip. Either way it is a bit more sensitive to constantly wet soil so it has to be treated more like a cactus in regards to watering needs. Otherwise it is a unique peperomia to add to a collection.

Peperomia verticilliata – Rotary Peperomia
The Rotary peperomia has been offered at the booth several times and this time we have used an image of what the mature plant looks like with time. In deed it produces little offsets like a aloe once mature allowing it to form a uniquely shaped semi-shrubby form with time. Honestly this one is a little more moisture sensitive than the desert privet but also a lot more responsive to fertilizers. Rotary is an odd plant for the gardener who has it all.

Aloe ‘Quicksilver’ x. ‘Rare Flare’ – Silver Ridge Aloe
They’re back for another go in the August market. I sold a number of these last year in 3” pots and they sold out but you folks wanted more and here they are in limited supply. Rare flare is more of a visual and texture plant but it does bloom when it reaches a certain size and those blooms are typical pink-red aloe blooms.  I can personally say I’ve seen humming birds go for the blooms on this plant and it is also fair to say this aloe requires little fuss even being able to survive for a while without irrigation.

Aloe vera x Gasteria verrucosa ‘Radiance’ – Radiance Gasteraloe
When I first encountered the mother plant these came from I said “What an Aloe!”  Indeed, this is an aloe hybrid that throws all the normal expectations of aloe out the window. Radiance prefers bright light as a house plant or partial-full sun as a summertime outdoor plant. The soil mix used with this one should contain decent organic matter but be able to drain rapidly to avoid root rot. I also should note that when watering this one care should be taken to avoid getting the crown wet. The best use for this plant is as an exotic accent since its lower parts and near the central crown of the plant are white or pale pink-green while the leaf tips are dark green and textured. This lighter coloration seems to fade towards the top like the bubbles in a fizzy beverage which adds additional appeal to the plant.

Aloe vera ‘ Blue’ – Blue Medicinal Aloe
Amazingly just when you thought medicinal aloe could not get any better, along comes ‘blue’ which is a more blue colored version of normal medicinal aloe. In use it is identical to the normal medicinal aloe except that in household cultivation it’s got a differing coloration.  The general rue with any aloe is to water only when dry and to avoid getting the plant’s crown wet to avoid incidences of root and crown rot. Blue fortunately is identical in care needs to plain medicinal aloe and with time it will get rather large and produce offsets.

Aloe nobilis ‘Gator’ – Gator Aloe
To clarify the name “Aloe nobilis” isn’t actually a recognized plant name yet. It seems it’s the generalized name for any cross between A. perfoliata (Mitre Aloe) and A. brevifolia (short leaved aloe). As far as aloes go this one is still medicinal but the leaves yield less gel but are more readily adapted to hot dry arid conditions and poor soils. As a house plant it stands out as an dark green alternative to a number of non-succulent house plants with similar grassy or strap-leaved foliage. The teeth along the leaves margins are fairly rigid though but not as deadly as a true cactus. I suspect the name gator came about due to the resemblance of the leaves to an alligator’s tail.

Aloe dorotheae – Sunset Aloe
Introduced last August at the booth in very limited numbers the Sunset Aloe makes its grand return for those of you who missed it. Sunset aloe is almost extinct in its native range because of over collecting; the locals use it in the same way we used Aloe vera. Unfortunately due to its slow growth rate sunset aloe is not the best choice for first aid treatment of burns however its ability to turn brilliant red-orange in bright sun is well worth it being used as a specimen potted plant in the summer garden and as a permanent item in your winter house plant collection.

Aloe deltoideodantes – Checkerboard Aloe
I introduced this plant to the area last year as part of Last August’s sale and it’s back. Due to a lack of a common name I nicknamed this aloe ‘checkerboard’ because the white patches on the leaves are almost perfectly square and appear in a semi-grid formation. As far as house plants go this aloe does not tolerate wet soil but will withstand neglect and some cold. I do recommend occasional fertilizer, repotting every few years and avoiding exposure to frost.

Aloe glauca – Blue Aloe
The A. glauca group are actually the true blue aloes and are not to be confused with the blue medicinal aloe which is A. barbadensis/vera. Although used commonly in skin softening and rejuvenating cosmetics blue aloe does have use in treating burns but has slightly differing effects than true medicinal aloe. As a house plant its care is identical to Aloe vera and it also can be put outside for the summer.

Aloe hybrid ‘Blizzard’
Blizzard is a hybrid of undetermined parentage that has striking white foliage with an attractive flower as the picture indicates. As noted in other entries Aloe flowers are attractive to humming birds and butterflies and it tends to occur in early to mid-summer. This aloe seems to tolerate more moisture than some but has no real cold tolerance. As a house plant I would treat it more like a cactus and water only as needed and cut back on fertilizer during the winter months, bright light is a must.

Aloe x Gasteria ‘Night Sky’
Night Sky is a striking aloe that seems to have some Gasteria parentage due to the textured and impossibly dark green leaves. No information searches have confirmed the parentage or the nature of if the variety is protected so we gave it the name Night sky due to its dark green-almost black leaves. Thus far it’s proven to not be tolerate of having constantly wet roots but otherwise seems to be temperature insensitive. I have not tested this plant’s frost tolerance however and presume it to be limited at about 25-30 degrees Fahrenheit. Even so this is a real show stopper especially if it were to be placed inside a light colored decorative vase or pot.

Haworthia coarcata ‘Black Dragon’ – Black Dragon Haworthia
The Haworthias are relatives of the aloe and Ox-Tongue families as such they are relatively easy to care for as far as succulents go.  I believe I bought the mother plant for this one at a Home Despot back around 2005 as part of a cactus and succulent display. It at the time was just an assorted succulent and it took some time to identify its precise species but then it threw a curveball. The mother plant exhibited a very dark green coloration that was almost black and its leaves showed a spiraling pattern with extremely rigid leaves that resembled scales. No other pictured member of the group featured this trait so, I ascertained it was a mutation and named it “Black dragon”.

Punica granatum ‘Nana’ – Dwarf Pomegranate
I did indeed hint these would be returning and guess what; here they come. In the august season just to increase the “sparklitis” effect I am happy to present dwarf pomegranates that are mature enough o produce fruit despite being in 6” pots. For note pomegranates are deciduous perennials in our climate and need full sun to do their best in the land scape. I recommend planting them in soil that is heavily enriched with composted manure or well-aged compost and then applying a 1-2” layer of mulch.

Ficus carica ‘Chicago Hardy’ – Chicago Hardy Fig
I told you these would return also and here they are in big 6” pots and like the pomegranates above they are 100% GMO free and organic! Figs are one of the most easily grown deciduous fruiting shrubs in the sustainable gardener’s arsenal. I might add this variety is the most cold tolerant fig you can buy and it forms the nicest shrub possible completely hiding whatever you want to hide during the warm seasons with ease.

I realize this has been a long post but we must move onto the closing, and in doing that I present the market materials list. 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.  Moving right along here we have 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
2x Fig, Chicago Hardy, 6” pot ($12.00)
2x 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)
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 hybrid, Huntington BHG - 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Peperomia obtusifolia, Varigated Desert Privet - 3.5” pot ($5.00)
1x Peperomia verticilliata, Rotary Peperomia - 6.0" pot (6.00)
2x Aloe dorotheae,  Sunset Aloe - 4.0" pot (6.00)
2x 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
Perennial Aloe (zones 7-11!!)
Heart-Leaf Philodendron

-And whatever other crazy stuff happens to have rooted at the HQ and looks really cool!

Also coming soon, Christmas cactus!

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