Thursday, October 2, 2014

And Finally Autumn

Welcome back to another episode of lost in the farmer’s market. It’s October and this in theory is the first month in which the possibility of a frost might occur. As some of you might know our first possible frost date is around the 25th-29th of October depending on what source you consult. This first frost however is not liable to be a killing frost as those often don’t show up until December or in the case of a few years ago not until February of the following year. With that said I often answer queries of if it is too late to get in a fall-winter garden as somehow local gardeners have it in their minds that it is already too late for some reason.

Radicchio Rossa di Verona” - Chicorum intybus
To be perfectly honest, you can plant your fall crops as late as mid-November as long as you make provisions for their care and if need be are ready to place anti-frost protection as needed until the crops settle in. The settling in of your fall crops takes about two weeks and generally is accelerated with a root stimulator type fertilizer. Alternately one can simply place a bit of Black Hen in the plating hole before the plant is placed to have the same effect. So of course this leads to the next most common question, “Will ___ survive the winter?”  Well most of the cold season plants will do just fine, Kale, Collards, Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Mustard greens, Spinach, Beets, Swiss Chard, Radishes, Lettuce, Radicchio, Carrots, Cilantro and Parsley will all generally make it through winter. More so since most of the above list are sold as Annuals but are actually Biennials, it’s in their life cycle to persevere in cold weather.

Bibb Lettuce 'Black Seeded Simpson - Lactuca sativa

At the test gardens the bulk of my harvested produce is not during the warm season but the cold season because the leaf greens are very productive in the colder season. For instance Red Giant mustard is notable for producing 12” long leaves and yielding a half pound of greens per plant per harvest. Collards and Kale are no slouches for winter food sources either and can most certainly pick up the slack for other species of food crop. In short there is no reason to avoid starting a winter garden, the only obstacle you face is you. Also this leads to the third question I get a lot at the market. Occasionally someone will ask something like “It says it takes ___ days but…it’s October!”  I personally would call this an excuse.

Romaine Lettuce ' Rouge d'Hiver - Lactuca sativa

The reality is that, when you see a set number of days on a seed packet or plant label it’s a literal statement of how long it might take a plant to mature from seed. By the time the plants are available for sale however a portion of that time has passed. For instance my lovely Rouge d’Hiver lettuce says 60 days, but it took me about 40 to get it to salable size…so maturity might be by the end of October if one were to buy it right now and site it properly. I might point out that it is generally unwise to get too wrapped up in the numeric of gardening because they can be misleading as many factors such as care, siting, weather and soil conditions can have major effects on your progress. The maturity numbers are actually there to give a gardener a general estimate/average of the start up time but they are not an absolute statement of fact. Indeed as observed with the month of September the weather can play heck with your garden plans. For instance while there is no current precipitation information for the first week of October, for the record, the test gardens received a total 3.8” last month  over six precipitation events in total or about an inch a week which is ideal for the plants. What is ideal for the plants does not relate to what may be ideal for your planning and so we have later than normal start on cold season plants.

Mustard Greens  India - Brassica juncea
But there is some good news, as some of you have seen the good stuff is in at the market and you can get those fine cold-season staples on Wednesdays and Saturdays at my booth.  The Fayetteville Farmer’s market is located in downtown Fayetteville and is open two days a week. The Wednesday market runs from 2:00pm to 6:00 pm, and the Saturday Market runs from 9:00am to 1:00 pm. The market is located on the property of the Fayetteville Transportation Museum which is on 325 Franklin Street. As always the Museum will be open and there is public access to bathrooms and there is an ATM on the premises. Without further ado here is this week’s plant list.

Mustard Greens  Japanese Red Giant - Brassica juncea

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.

1x Grape, Copper Muscadine - 3.5” pot ($3.00)

6x Baloon Flower, White 3.5” pot ($2.00) <On Sale! Last Week>

Cold Season Crops
6x Romaine Lettuce, “Rouge d’Hiver” - 3.5” pot ($3.00)
6x Bibb Lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson - 3.5” pot ($3.00)
6x Radicchio, “Rossa di Verona” - 3.5” pot ($3.00)
6x Mustard Greens, India - 3.5” pot ($3.00)
6x Mustard Greens, Japanese Red Giant - 3.5” pot ($3.00)
6x Collards, Georgia Southern Creole - 3.5” pot ($3.00)
6x Kale, Redbor/Red Russian - 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Onion, Red Egyptian - 3.5” pot ($3.00)

As you may already know the forecast for this weekend seems to be going every which way but to a clear statement of what things might be like. For note a depending on how things go this month I may or may not continue with Wednesday markets in November. You can expect that should it change I’ll announce it here. Saturdays will continue regardless.

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