Monday, January 26, 2015

Delayed part II

Welcome back to another episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market. As promised this week has a double post and this post is the second of the two. If you checked out our last post you would know that the double post is due to the semester starting and for at least the first week my schedule being thrown into pure chaos.With that said we promised you a look at the test garden labs and what we are doing to keep the local food train rolling all winter long.

The crops for sale and the most delicate plants are protected with a plastic sheet and grow under a fluorescent grow lamp to compensate for any lost lumen hours..
So this is the 'wind proof' area, it's purpose is to shelter the more delicate plants, while allowing them them the maximum amount of lumen hours so their growth is not stunted. As I always say, it is the drying effect of wind that causes the worst frost damage.

It's worse then that he's dead jim!

This is what I call an effective crop loss. All of these Japanese Red Giant Mustard plants were outside when the temperature dropped to 14 degrees for that one night about two weeks ago, and most of them are still alive. Unfortunately I cant bring them inside due to limited space so I brought in just a limited few and all of the lettuce and radicchio.

The radicchio seems oblivious to having been frozen or frost while the lettuce looks like hell but is recovering.

Much to my surprise on that 14 degree night all of the radicchio and lettuce froze solid, but the radicchio thawed and kept on as though nothing happened while the lettuce lost most of it's leaves and got a nasty aphid infestation. So I fertilized all of these guys last week, cut off all the dead stuff and used insecticidal soap to hose down the lettuce and just yesterday when I took this picture they seem to be recovering (lettuce) just fine.

These Red Giant Mustard plants were untouched by the cold and were brought in.
To the left of the plastic tarp in the earlier section you have two of the three intact red giant mustard plants. The third was left outside due to a fire ant infestation. In front of the Mustard plants is a semi-hardy type of ice plant and a Cuban oregano. In the two pots to the right are a pair of Collard plants.

Below the plastic bench are two more pots!
These two pots once contained Red Giant Mustard Plants but the cold killed the prior occupants and so I replanted with two surplus Savoy Cabbage Plants. This of this as a means to have a later harvest, they are positioned under the grow lamp to give them a bit of a boost. But finally we have the last picture, of the one plant that scoffed at the cold and refers to the winter as a "Frigid Wuss!"

Oh snap! Winter got called out by the Pansies!

Wow....winter, you got punked by a bunch of pansies, if that was me I'd be too humiliated to go on and would let spring take over.  That right there is super cold, but true. That is right folks despite the name pansies are tough little cold season annuals and can withstand being completely frozen plus they are edible, the flowers can go into salad. So yes your garden can keep going cold or no and this brings us to the end of a fill-in episode of Lost in the Farmer's Market. Considering the snowy eather we are soon to have in certain parts of the east coast please everyone think rationally and if you are in a area about to be hit; please drive safely. 

Thank you for reading and remember, I am at the Fayetteville City Market barring wet weather on Saturdays between 9:00 am - 1:00pm which is located at 325 Franklin Street in downtown Fayetteville in the front parking lot of the Fayetteville Transportation Museum.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A slight delay!

Welcome back to a slightly delayed episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market. As some of you might know, the semester started so rapidly that the posting of this episode is almost two weeks late. With that said expect a double post, as this week’s post will be coming sometime this weekend, and then all will be up to date. Now in regards to the topic at hand, this week’s topic is about the compiled information for the 2014 growing year. In reviewing and organizing the data I was able to immediately tell it was a tough year by more than one criterion. For instance there are no recorded harvests in January, February or March. But then we knew it was a bad winter and it is noted on record that I had an 80% crop loss of all crops planted in the ground. Potted crops struggled and were brought into the lab repeatedly and well 2015 seem to be more of the same. So the first record of note for 2014 is for the most productive plants by total weight of harvest.

Top 5 Most Productive – 2014, by weight
11.      Fig, White Ischia, 4 pounds, 11 ½  ounces.
22.      Fig, Brown Turkey, 2 pounds, 5 ½ ounces.
33.      Blueberries, Rabbiteye, 2 pounds, ¼ ounces.
44.      Tomato, Cherokee Purple, 1 pound, 7 ¾ ounces.
55.      Mustard, Japanese Red Giant, 1 pound, 6 ounces.

2013’s winning top producer, the red giant mustard had a bad year but somehow held onto a top five productivity spot by weight. However the unusually wet weather seems to have been a great help to blueberry and fig crops. Interestingly the Cherokee purple tomatoes despite being smaller than normal out produced all other types (22 varieties grown in 2014) by weight. It seems 2014 was made of surprising twists and turns as far as crop productivity was concerned. However one must also consider the numerical amounts of fruit produced.

Top 5 Most Productive – 2014, by Quantity
11.      Blueberries, Rabbiteye - 375 Berries.
22.      Ground Cherry, Cossack Pineapple - 181 ground cherries.
33.      Tomato, Mexico Midget – 169 tomatoes.
44.      Fig, White Ischia – 85 Figs.
55.      Fig, Celeste – 67 Figs.

I am sure that Red Giant Mustard would have made the quantity-based top five easily however counting how many leaves you pick is a bit much to keep track of. I can safely assume there were more leaves picked than blueberries simply because of the sheer amount of leaves it tends to take to have a pound of greens for cooking. Either way, the blueberries won the confirmed quantity count followed by the ground cherries and last year’s tomato quantity favorite Mexico Midget. White Ischia figs make up the fourth spot while celeste figs lacking the weight of the brown turkey figs take up the fifth spot for quantity. But of course, these two charts only tell part of the story.

Most Successful Non-Perennials – 2014 (by quantity)
11.      Tomato, Mexico Midget – 169 tomatoes.
22.      Ground cherries, Cossack Pineapple – 181 ground cherries.
33.      Tomato, Brown Berry – 48 tomatoes.
44.      Tomato, Blueberries – 43 tomatoes.
55.      Pepper, Yellow Devil’s Tongue – 32 peppers.

So now it’s starting to show the real demographics of success, we now know what did best, produced the most and now the final aspect of this survey of our records is something LITFM has never posted for public scrutiny before. At the Farmer’s Market every week your purchases were recorded and noted, and the following indicates what you preferred the most and thus will be returning in 2015.

Best Sellers – 2015
11.      Aloe
22.      Assorted Basil
33.      Lavender
44.      Artemesia
55.      (Tie) Rosemary, Red Giant Mustard and Stonehead Cabbage.
66.      Irish Eyes Rudbeckia
77.      Golden Rudbeckia
88.      Parris Island Cos Lettuce
99.      (Tie) Rouge D’hiver Lettuce & Sage
110.  Sweet Banana Peppers.

I have to admit, the interesting thing about the above record is how well all of you out there responded to the offering of Aloes of assorted types, and that of this entire list half of it is comprised o of new offerings for 2014. I might add your response to my offerings of fruiting shrubs was also very encouraging, who knew the Chicago Hardy Figs and Dwarf Pomegranates would be gone within a week of their initial offering?  I can assure you that 2015 will have some real surprising additions and a number of your requests have been taken into consideration for this year. With any luck the remainder of January and all of February will not be nearly as bad weather wise so far we’ve already had our first real deep killing freeze with that weather about a week ago where temperatures hit 14 degrees with wind chill. Honestly the test gardens still have damages from that and I am currently trying some new and inventive means to keep the crops alive as February is typically when we have been getting additional freezes and snow.  However know that things will keep rolling here and in the next installment you get to see some of what I am doing to keep the crops alive.  

In the meanwhile this Sunday is the Sustainable Neighbors Yearly Seed Swap event. The event is happening on Sunday January the 25th at 2:00pm at the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex. Also, I am still at the Fayetteville Farmers Market on Saturdays between 9:00am and 1:00pm however due to the bad weather this weekend I might not attend, hopefully the weather will cooperate next weekend. 

P.S. Stay tuned however this weekend's normal update is coming soon.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wait Who told January it could be this Cold?!

Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmers Market. This episode marks the first of forty-six episodes making up the entirety of the 2015 web log season. As per tradition the month of January is reserved for reviewing the prior year’s activities and processes to determine which if any of those plants, products, materials and methods is worth integrating to routine operations at the test gardens. There are four posts for the month of January so of course you can expect a Harvest summary for 2014, a products review and a plant review. Most of the aforementioned data is still being studied and prepared so for today’s post we are reviewing the origins and nature of 2014’s most famous plant species.

I know some of you regular readers are already guessing as to what the most popular plant species for 2014 is and indeed I can’t blame you for guessing as the answer could be any number of plants or plant groupings. Amazingly in 2014 the diversity of plant materials sold at the booth exploded for lack of a better word. We offered more varieties than in any prior operations year and 2015 is already ahead of the curve in materials so I think all of you out there who read this know that the booth will be featuring a number of firsts in 2015. But let’s talk about the obvious item at hand; the most in-demand plant species of 2014 was the Aloe family group. During August we had the “Sparklitis” month event devoted to aloes primarily and then we upped the ante when we attended the Hanukkah Bazaar in December. Your response was to buy most of our stock and due to that I think it can be fairly said that the customers have spoken.

But of course the real telling factor is how this favoritism altered the plant collection at the headquarters as that collection is the true yardstick by which one can determine how much plant hunting went on for a species in 2014. In total in 2013 the Aloe group collection had eleven individual plants on record consisting of the following varieties.

Aloe ciliaris – Climbing Aloe
Aloe deltoidantes ‘Sparkler’ – Checkerboard Aloe
Aloe descoingsii – Miniature Aloe
Aloe dorothea – Sunset Aloe
Aloe varigata – Partridge Breast Aloe
Aloe vera/barbadensis – Medicinal Aloe

Gasteraloe hybrid – ‘Green Gold’
Gasteria verrucosa – Ox Tongue

Haworthia attenuata var. zebrina – Zebra Plant
Haworthia coarctata – Black Dragon
Haworthia cuspidata – Star Window Plant

To say that the collection has eleven examples of the aloe family is no small feat. For note Aloe, Haworthia and Gasteria are all so closely related as far as succulents go, that they can cross-breed naturally however more often than not the crosses are due to human-assisted sexual reproduction via manual pollen transfer. In 2014 due to the success of the 2013 offering of rare and exotic aloe species the race was on to present more of the established varieties (Aloe vera, Checkerboard aloe and sunset aloe) while making inroads to offering new options that may not have been known previously. This meant scouring any and all wholesale plat purveyors who dealt in  house plants and then after that hitting up every nursery within a sixty mile radius at least once every two months starting in March. Additional rarities were special ordered in some cases for sale as part of the August specialty month. What was available already at the headquarters was divided and prepared months in advance of August and this set the stage for a much larger Aloe grouping plant list when compared to the original eleven plants noted above. As of this writing the aloe ‘clan’ consists of some twenty seven individual specimens not counting the crop for this year. For 2014 the following specimens were introduced to the collection.

Collection Items
Aloe gastrolea – Midnight Aloe
Aloe hybrid ‘Christmas’ – Christmas Aloe
Aloe hybrid ‘Silver Star’ – Silver Star Aloe
Aloe hybrid ‘Moon dance’ – Moon Dance Aloe
Aloe nobilis ‘Gold Tooth’ – Gold Tooth Aloe
Aloe nobilis x Aloe sp. – Crosby’s Prolific Aloe
Aloe x ‘Grassy Lassie’ (Griffin Hybrid) – Grassy Lassie

Gasteraloe hybrid ‘Green Gold’ – Green Gold Gasteraloe
Gasteria bicolor – Lawyers Tongue
Gasteria verrucosa x Aloe sp. ‘ Flow’ – Flow Gasteraloe*
Gasteria verrucosa x Aloe sp. ‘Radiance’ – Radiance Gasteraloe*

Haworthia mirabilis – Wonderful Haworthia
Haworthia miribilis var. triebneriana – Domed Star Window Plant
Haworthia sp. – Pagoda Haworthia
Haworthia venosa subspecies tesselata – Tesselated Haworthia

Sale Items
Aloe glauca – Blue Aloe
Aloe hybrid – Blizzard Aloe
Aloe nobilis subsp. – Gator
Aloe gastrolea – Nightskye Aloe
Aloe x  hybrid – Fauxgave

As you can see, we offered five new aloe types in 2014 with good success. However in the above list you might notice two entries with asterisks. That brings us to the more interesting part of the topic at hand. In the plant trade despite efforts to make the plant stock uniform so that the customers always get roughly the same result we often come across the fact that the plants themselves often have their own plans. While the act of taking a cutting, or dividing a clump-forming plant or any other form of asexual reproduction of plant stock does endure that the new plants are genetic duplicates of the parent plant, some times the environment ont he growing rack prompts recessive traits to be come dominant and you end up with a mutation of an otherwise homogenous crop. One of the plants offered this year as marked with an asterisk above,  was a interesting example of such variation. The 'Flow' Aloe-Gasteria hybrid was offered in spring of 2014 by Angel Plants who is known for their interesting variety of house plants. However in the growing racks they seemingly failed to notice that they shipped out a number of plants exhibiting the same genetic mutation.The image below depicts the specimen plant (a offset of one of the mother plants) of the 'Flow' Aloe-Gasteria hybrid. Note the fat fleshy leaves that make it's aloe heritage very obvious. Notice the impossible deep green stem tips and lighter green freckles all over the plant qwhich come from the Gasteria side of the parentage.

The 'Flow' Gasteria-Aloe hybrid
 For comparison, the plant below is the 'Radiance' type that I actually sold this year, or perhaps the oddest example of the type. Note the leaves are thin, and the amount of gel within is probably next to none. The Radiance type more closely resembles it's gasteria parentage and barely resembles the Aloe side of the equation.
The 'Radiance' Type Gasteria-Aloe hybrid
For clarity purposes I've included an image of an Aloe and a Gasteria so you can see what traits are evident in the probable parent species.

Gasteria verrucosa - Ox Tongue Plant

Aloe nobilis x Aloe sp  'Crosby's Prolific'

So clearly radiance was a mutation on the normal strain, that to a skilled handler of exotic plants stood out readily and of course I snapped up every example of the mutation for exclusive distribution. Some of you out there have members of this rarity as a result and as you can see the Radiance type is already producing pups so the item will be kept in circulation. This highlights the odd aspect of the plant trade however. Often the new hot item of the year isn't intentional it just so happens to be a chance mutation that is stable and desirable.  What will come for next year's August event? Who knows but I can assure you that it will be something  to talk about. This puts the cork in the bottle for this episode of LITFM, just remember folks, winter plants need less watering and try to avoid wetting the leaves, stems or crowns of your succulents and other plants.

I'm still manning the booth at the City Farmer's Market on Saturdays between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. I cant say what materials will be sold at the booth other than fresh cut herbs, and soup kits. What plant stock I carry is dependent on the weather. The Fayettevile City Market is located at 325 Franklin Street in the front parking lot of the Fayetteville Transportation Museum.