Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hot, but not in the way you think

Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmer’s Market! It’s that prime season where the spring’s cool day time temperatures are tapering off and the first real challenge of summer’s heat and humidity are beginning to limit one’s ability to garden for as long as was possible during the spring. This is a time of some of the most violent and brief pop-up thunderstorms which help in keeping our gardens reasonably well stocked in water and green due to the delivery of atmospheric nitrogen. Amidst all that the mosquitoes, fleas and ticks become a problem as well so we break out the repellant and appropriate attire and hope for the best while performing the usual garden chores with the aim being a better harvest.  Yes, indeed it is late spring and we’re getting a taste of the heat of summer. With all that we get a chance to see some cool things in the fields and, to kick off today’s post I have some interesting photographs from the field.

Charadrius vociferous - Killdeer

I spotted this bird on the Fayetteville Technical Community College’s main campus, I’d seem them running about on a nearby grassy area before but it seems now the campus has a breeding population of Killdeer. This one has decided to nest in the pine straw not far off a loblolly near the construction site so I can presume it is very used to people. For note Killdeer are a native medium sized plover, they are named onomatopoeically after their primary call.

Santolina rosmarinifolia – Green Lavender cotton/Santolina
So all the types of santolina are in bloom right now but the green type which is more minimalistic in form is striking because of the ration between bloom and foliage. You can see compound flower which identifies it as a member of the daisy flower clearly here. The flowers of santolina are literally the center of a daisy with none of what we might call petals.

Santolina chamecyparissus – Grey Lavender Cotton / Santolina
The grey form is also in bloom, keep in mind mature stands of santolina tend to bloom from mid-April through June. Both are incredibly drought tolerant once established and will survive poor soil neglect and are evergreen and aromatic but have no known culinary uses. The primary use for santolina is as a natural alternative when paired with Cedar as a clothing moth repellant.

Asclepias curassavica – Scarlet Milkweed
Milkweed is a diverse group of plants that all are pollen providers or hosts to a number of butterflies. Scarlet Milkweed may be an attractive magnet plant for Humming birds due to its incredibly red blooms which have yellow centers. For those who wanted to know what the difference in bloom is between Scarlet and common milkweed look below at common Milkweed.

Asclepias tuberosum – Common Milkweed
To be fair this stand was grown from seed and is about six years old, but what a show! This specimen will be blooming hardcore for another few weeks to a month. Common milkweed is perhaps the most orange thing in any given garden short of an African marigold and yet it is one of those temperamental perennials that hates being transplanted due to its deep taproot. Once it in and established, generally a milkweed when provided with annual compost and spring fertilizer will grow into a potentially large deciduous flowering hedge every year. The plant that the seeds for the one photographed came from reached four feet in height.

Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’ – Liliac Sage
Originally this battered specimen was found on the distressed plant rack for $3.00 it was fairly beat up. But being planted in a partial shade bed for protection from summer heat it’s finally recovered it seems. Only time will tell if it’s a long-term success or not but I do know Sages LOVE cold winters as all varieties of sage on premises rebounded incredibly after our last harsh winter. Honestly…with a name like purple rain how could a ex-DJ like myself not buy if only for the chance to make Prince Jokes.

But now we move on to the closing of this overdue post*. I do have some very good news, I’ve managed to work out a trade partnership with the pepper lady. As some of you might remember Laura Bradley used to be a market vendor at the Farmer’s Market and stopped attending. She never stopped growing horticultural curiosities and now I am bringing her organically grown GMO-free exotic pepper plants and spices to the City market! This is one hell of an event because now you can hit up the booth and find things that no one has seen before. Starting with the Wednesday market you can expect to see Turmeric plants, and a new variety of pepper plants such as super-hots like Naga Jolokia, and Chocolate Scorpion. We’ll have strong hots like Trinidad Congo and Red Fatali. For those not into the burn there is a selection of low-hots such as Aji Pineapple, Aji Limon. The selection is random and always super good. But don’t worry if you want regular peppers we’ll have that, and the usual array of garden favorites.

*Another will be posted for the last weekend of May shortly.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Who told April showers to come in May?!

Welcome back to another episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market! Now I know some of you are wondering why there was no episode for the last two weeks and the simple answer is a combination of the lead up to finals and a unique situation at the headquarters that required heavy documentation. Finals are still going on but, the special situation has been photo documented and you get to see it here for your garden your entertainment and education. But first I have to say that the 4th annual Sustainable Garden Tour had a good sized crowd this year the weather cooperated and I’d like to personally thank everyone who offered a location for participating as tour sites. For those who attended the tour I’d like to thank you also for checking out and supporting some of the local bastions of sustainable practices. We’re hoping to offer the 5th annual tour in either late September or October so stay tuned for announcements on the Sustainable Neighbors site for more information.

             In terms of the City market things are progressing as normal, despite the somewhat unpredictable weather however you might have to look to find my booth now. In the last two weeks there’s been an acoustic schism between me and the folks up top. It was about thirteen to fourteen months ago that I started bringing a small speaker to the market every Saturday to play a random selection of jazz, blues, R&B and funk just to spice up the area. Part of the reason was that the music being played by the Transit museum over the loud speakers wasn’t really right for a city market atmosphere. The other reason was that I was so far down in the parking lot that the music offered came in as low and distorted so there had to be something to fill the void. So over the summer of 2014 I experimented with what the customers liked trying a number of genres and took requests as any good DJ should. The final result was a Jazz blend that met the tastes of a wider audience and offended none with a selection that keeps growing to this day. All was good, and I was set to add another clip of songs to the mix for the summer of 2015 until the market before last. I was approached by Mr. Daws about the market rule prohibiting “Competing music”. There was a short discussion and of course we had a problem.

            My music was not a problem for the last thirteen months, it certainly was still playing within the same volume range and there were no curse words or inappropriate terms in the music so what indeed was the problem? The Museum had been playing their own mix over the loudspeakers at a growing volume and had been given a few of music CD’s by a vendor or two.
The problem with that is that it means only a handful of individuals were picking the music, none of them were ever professional DJ’s and so the music mix was wrong, the beats didn’t match, the tempo and tone was often off and it still is not energetic enough to inspire a buying mood. But anyway, now it’s months later and suddenly my jazz selections were an issue for no good reason. It literally made no sense two weeks ago and it does not now. The smart thing for the Transportation Museum to do was to ask for say three to six songs from every vendor,  in MP3 format and then use something like winamp or an MP3 player to make a shuffled  playlist so everyone's songs get some play and no one can complain about the mix because everyone has skin in the game. One set of selections per vendor, a new set every six to twelve months. Each time you switch the songs must be different. I might add for the sake of record keeping it would probably be wise to keep formal song playlist records for the 6-12 month mix periods.

            Since I doubt the above fair solution will ever materialize, I do recommend that if you’re at the market, to bug the folks in charge about it or, that they allow vendors at the ends of the market space to play music under the following conditions:
1.      Music selected MUST be acceptable for a general audience. (ie no profanity, racial slurs, or themes that one would not want to expose young children to.)
2.      Eligible vendors must be positioned at the edge of the market layout map where their music does not interfere with the provided music due to distance.
3.      Eligible vendors must only use directional speakers and restrict volume to reasonable levels.
4.      Eligible vendors must submit monthly play lists to the museum staff for evaluation for quality standard checks.

But anyway that’s what I think of the current mess at the City Market, but wait this is a blog about gardening right? Well, lets get to that, first off are some pictures from the garden and then that project that I photo-documented.

Salvia officinalis - Common sage
 It's not common you see sage in full bloom in the warmer climates bit it seems that this one out at AME Mt Zion church is doing so. I chalk this up to a perfectly cold winter.

Rhododendron maximum - Great Rhododendron
As noted to visitors on the tour this is the site's only rhododendron, and after several years of clearing out competition and encroaching vines this one bloomed.

Pisum sativa var. saccharatum 'Snow Bird' - Snow Pea 'Snow Bird'
 The snow pea crop has surprisingly benefited from the irregular weather and is rapidly reaching the harvest stage.

The next part is where this post gets very interesting. Lat year I constructed a terrarium so I could bring some greenery into the house in a form where care and maintenance was reduced. The first two plants proved to be a 50-50 sort of success as one died and the other has gotten much larger. After uniting the dead plant with the compost pile and potting up the overgrown plant (an aralia) the pair were replaced by an aloe and a haworthia while two small succulents in 2" pots were also placed in the terrarium to mature. About six months later I noticed yellow-white nodules visible in the soil that seemed inter-connected and they were growing. I figured, it was soil based fungus and it posed no threat and indeed that assessment was accurate. As it turned out the nodules were a fungal colony that came in with the soil or the initial plant selections and it had expanded to grow throughout the soil substrate of the terrarium. Then the first of them began producing the fruiting structure we call a mushroom. I didn't quite catch all the phases of that on camera so when the second growth began to appear I paused LITFM updates until I caught the entire process on camera. For note the species of fungus is called the following and the pictures below document the life of a fungal fruiting body.

Leucocprinus binbaumii  aka Lepiota lutea - Houseplant Mushroom

This fungus is common in humid areas and often gets into potting soil mixtures, I cannot say if it is toxic so I do not advice making a snack of it but carefully handling one certainly will not cause any ill effects so at least it's not contact-toxic. The larger mushroom photographed took about four days  from emergence to collapse and that seems to be fairly consistent. All of this opens the door to wondering if one could propagate edible mushrooms in a terrarium at home intentionally and such may be the focus of a later LITFM.

But if your easily bored you can sum up the entire fungus group with the video below!

The end of the first 'bloom' -  05-03-2015 10:37pm

First 'bloom' sags after spore drop - 05-04-2015 2:23 PM
See the white patch on the rocks behind the mushroom, that is where the spoors drifted after release mostly.

Emergence of 2nd 'Bloom' - 05-07-2015 2:02 Pm

Elongation of 2nd 'Bloom' - 05-08-2015 6:22 PM

Growth of 2nd 'Bloom' - 05-09-2015 1:50AM

Elongation of 2nd 'Bloom' -05-09-2015 8:05 AM

Elongation of 2nd 'Bloom' -  05-09-2015 1:19 PM

Rapid growth of 2nd 'Bloom' - 05-09-2015 6:37 PM

Rapid growth of 2nd 'Bloom' - 05-09-2015 9:16 PM

Cap Expansion of 2nd 'Bloom' - 05-09-2015 11:09 PM

Cap Expansion of 2nd 'Bloom' - 05-10-2015 12:09 AM

Cap Expansion of 2nd 'Bloom' - 05-10-2015 12:26 AM

Cap Expansion of 2nd 'Bloom' - 05-10-2015 1:06 AM

Full Cap Expansion -  05-10-2015 8:51 AM

Collapse of 2nd 'Bloom' - 05-10-2015 1:30 PM
So how about that, you have now seen the entire fruiting cycle of the Houseplant Mushroom! The next time you see some strange mushrooms growing in a potted plant now you know what they likely are and don't have to worry about a thing. So that's it for this episode of Lost In The Farmers Market, See you next time!