Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ain't no time for the summertime blues!

Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmer’s Market. For this week’s episode we are spotlighting a specific garden annual that is native to the United States. If you believe the agricultural chemical companies this annual plant is one of the scourges of the perfectly trimmed lawn. Then again I like to suggest that the perfectly trimmed lawn is the scourge of the landscape as it is thoroughly impossible to maintain because it is unnatural. The very idea of having a neatly mowed lawn around your property comes from the deception of wealth.  Anyone who was rich enough did not need to grow a garden to supplement their food supply and thus could afford to demonstrate their wealth by having a lawn. In practice lawns serve no real purpose other than erosion control, and realistically the amount of fertilizers and chemicals needed to maintain a lawn is prohibitive. Of course, the golf industry isn’t helping at all, as they often get legal allowances that let them skirt drought restrictions and chemical runoff laws. 

All that leads us back to the topic, what is a gardener to do about drought, and what specific crop is commonly found as an annual in your lawn. The answer is a group of plants commonly called the Purselane group, their scientific name is Portulaca and they are a native succulent annual that prefers the hot season and tolerates a wide variety of poor soils. You may have seen Purselane before at the garden center because fancy-flowering versions look like the picture below.

Portulaca sp. – Flat leaf Purselane [Variety unknown]
Purselanes are known for their large ‘cactus’ flowers, but this variety has been bred to be exceptionally flamboyant. The specimen pictured was cultivated from a stem cutting. Fortunately Purselane is easily cultivated from stem cuttings and responds well to rooting hormones. But commonly Portulaca will self-propagate from seed and if sown in the right spot will form regular mats of vibrantly colored flowers. The most common variety of Purselane grown this way is commonly called Moss Rose, and it’s scientific name is Portulaca grandiflora. Moss Rose is edible, but the thin needle like leaves are hard to harvest and so moss rose is primarily used as a annual ornamental.

Portulaca oleracea – Flat leaf Purselane (Red Grunner and Goldgelber)

            The flat-leaf Purselane group is known as Portulaca oleracea. Flat-leaf Portulaca has wide flat leaves that are easy to harvest and make for a great crunchy addition to a salad or if you have enough of them and interesting thing to add to a stir-fry. It is only very recently that the Industry has picked up on these easy to grow plants and begun hybridizing a wide array of bloom colors. Fortunately purselanes are easy to grow, drought resistant, and free of pests so they make for a good garden option. With that said below you will find the Market list for both Wednesday and Saturday.

The Fayetteville City market occurs twice weekly at the Fayetteville Transportation Museum on 325 Franklin Street. The Wednesday market runs from 12:00 to 5:00 pm and the Saturday Market runs from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. If you look below; the new plant list for this week includes some new selections.

4x Purselane, Red Gruner - $4.00
4x Purselane, Goldgelber - $4.00
3x Pepper, Flashpoint Habanero - $3.00
8x Pepper, Novelty - $5.00

3x Tomato, Pink Stuffer - $3.00
3x Tomato, Grand Rapids Cherry- $3.00
3x Tomato, Traveler 76 - $3.00
3x Tomato, Black Krim - $3.00
3x Tomato, Cherokee Purple - $3.00
3x Tomato, Brandywine - $3.00

2x Sweet Basil - $3.00
4x Cinnamon Basil - $3.00
2x Milkweed (A. tuberosum) - $ 4.00
2x Milkweed (A.incarnata) - $ 4.00

2x Small Aloe Vera - $3.00
6x Medium Aloe Vera - $4.00
2x Large Aloe Vera - $6.00

Monday, July 6, 2015

Special Delivery

Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmer’s Market. This episode will be posted late simply because of the Holiday weekend.  For those not in the USA, this weekend is Independence day which is a celebration of the end of the American Revolution, and the series of events that led up to it and came immediately afterwards. I hope that all you readers out there have a happy and safe 4th of July.

First off we have the above image. This is a picture of the ‘turning area’ at the headquarters. It high lights one of the points of confusion between northern and southern gardens. In the south, the number of pine trees means that the cheapest available mulch is what is called pine straw.  At the store it might cost 3-5 dollars per bale, but if you have pine trees you get it for free. As far as mulches go, pine straw is light, cheap, and if it’s harvested from long leaf pines it lasts for roughly 2-3 years. Mulch acquired from bark, or chipped hard wood by comparison lasts 1-2 years on average depending on type. The point of mulch is twofold; firstly it limits or stops erosion by water by acting as a physical barrier to hold the soil in place. Secondly, mulch acts as a slow releasing soil improvement since mulches from pine straw, bark or wood chips all eventually decay leaving behind organic materials that help improve topsoil quality. In the picture above a lot of moderate quality pine straw has been used to cover what was bare sand soil. In doing so, the soil beneath the pine straw can only erode at a limited rate. This means that even with restricted vehicle traffic, the erosion issue in this area has been successfully abated at the cost of using 204 cubic feet of pine straw. Eventually the pine straw will break down and need to be patched or replenished but until then it looks good. For note, if you notice there is no pine straw under the truck. This lack of pine straw there is intentional as pine straw still contains pine resin and potentially can still catch fire if exposed to a source of heat such as a hit vehicle engine. Also, this is why I balk at the use of Rubber mulch; it does not break down and only leaches zinc into the soil making it a poor choice for residential use in the garden.

But speaking of soil and such with the entry into the month of July, it is now that we must keep a wary eye on our nightshade crops for that summertime scourge known as blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is a ‘disease’ that actually is a nutrient deficiency. For some reason in the peak of summer members of the nightshade family, particularly tomatoes  might start getting blackened bottoms on fruits while they are in the green stage typically. The long-term solution to this problem is to use a little fast-acting lime, oyster shells or, eggshells. The short term and fastest solution is to crush one regular strength antacid tablet in a cup of water and apply the mixture to the single effected plant and repeat process for each other affected plant.  Why this nutrient deficiency strikes is unclear. It is known that bloom end rot will attack potted plants even if they are growing in new potting soil and plants planted in your garden beds with equal opportunity. It seems to strike different plants every year and with no set pattern. It’s one of those summertime vigilance things that all of you out there should pay attention to. But don’t worry, here’s the good news, garden photography!

So here we have an improvised irrigation system for one of the figs. This fig came into my possession in fall of last year, I don’t outright recall the person’s name but they were moving had this brown turkey fig potted up in a 16” pot and could not take it so it was offered to me. I carted the bush away brought it home and it the cold weather set in before I could get it planted. As seen in earlier images it was finally planted near the growing trays so it could make use of the fertilizer runoff and be much easier to maintain. The bucket is an old brewing vessel that proved unneeded. Inside of it is a layer of large stones and a single small hole was bored in the bottom so water or fertilizer placed inside drips out slowly right at the roots of the target plant. The lid is weighted so it cannot blow off and the old non-functional airlock ensures air exchange. With a two-gallon capacity if can mimic a good ½” to 1” rain depending on climate conditions roughly speaking.

In this image some of the surplus rudbeckia have decided to bloom, I think they’re one of the Indian summer types I sold last year. They were in bad shape when planted and I didn’t expect them to survive winter.

In this image we have a mix of three types of cone flower, some Echibekias which are a rudbeckia-Echinacea hybrid and in the upper left the leaves of perennial cabbage.

I think this is a Sumerina Yellow Echibeckia, the last image had an orange one.

Vaccinium ashii – Rabbit Eye Blueberry
It’s that time of the year and the blue berry crop is off the charts already. My four bushes are so loaded with berries they’re bent over from the weight. I’ve already harvested a pound and a half.

Lilium sp. ‘Rio Negro’ – Asiatic Lily
Honestly, they’re dark pink! With a name like Rio Negro I expected dark red or, a darker shade, but then I’m not complaining at all.

Lilium sp. ‘Purple Prince’ – Asiatic Lily
Ok so this Asiatic lily is at least sort of purple it’s not nearly as flamboyant as Rio but still very nice. Obviously this is an overdue post, so there is no farmers market info attached, stay tuned for this week’s post where I’ll include the plants list and introduce you to a garden plant you may not have considered before.