Friday, March 25, 2016

Get lost winter!

Welcome back to another fine episode of Lost In The Farmers Market, this is our first episode of spring 2016, and you can bet there is some good stuff planned for this one. You have to love how spring came so fast though; it was not long ago temperatures were dipping into freezing every night. It appeared as if nothing seemed to be growing except the winter weeds and then suddenly we had a bunch of hot days and everything was dusted in a patina of yellow pollen from the pines. As if teasing all those nice seed catalogs and garden supply books started showing up in the mail and you placed your orders and the waiting game started. We all looked outside and relished the few warm spring-like days and then the weather started to act like summer sort of and we had to hold onto the urge to do anything because we knew it’d cold again. But then the miracle happened, all that stuff you ordered in February showed up in March!

Oh yes it’s very much like this.
So you have the goods, and well the weather turned sideways…again. But there is good news, the unofficial final killing frost date is Sunday April the 31st and that means in short order it will be very safe to start putting out your tomatoes or planting your warm-season plants directly. But of course not everyone knows what to do this time of year so of course as the first order of business I’m teaching this class.

Jump-Start Your Garden
Sunday April 10th, 2016 2:00-4:00pm

At the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex
801 Arsenal Avenue Fayetteville NC 28305.

You can sign up for this class here:
Walk-ins are welcome.

This class is hopefully the start of a monthly series (2nd Sunday of every month) and it comes about three weeks before the Sustainable Neighbors Urban Farm Tour which is slated for the First May 1st, 2016 between 2:00-5:00pm. The garden tour locations will be announced as I verify who is willing to host a location. So yes spring has sprung and there are all sorts of good stuff going on. Also there is the City market Meetup which happens weekly and

The City Market
325 Franklin Street, Fayetteville NC
Saturdays 9:00an-1:00pm

Below you will find a list of what is most likely going to be available at the market; I should note that this is the last week that I sell soup-kits. This is mostly because I require the table space for warm season crops and honestly soup isn’t as great when it’s hot out. I should have tomatoes and or warm season items in a week or two depending on what the current weather pattern decides to do.

8x Soup Kits, $5.00 (Celery, Carrot, Red Potatoes, Onions, Purple top turnip and a parsnip)

Crop Plants
8x Rouge D’hiver Lettuce, $3.00 (Romaine Type Heirloom)
8x Napa Cabbage, $3.00 (Asian Cabbage, Heirloom Type.)
6x Dinosaur Kale, $3.00 (AKA Tuscan Kale, good for kale chips)
6x Swiss Chard $3.00 (Bright Lights Mix)

With all of the aforementioned covered, now I move onto the main topic. For you regular readers you might remember the image below from January. This is a Crosby’s Prolific Aloe, and this image was again taken of the plant in January. As the weather has stabilized I was preparing to bring it out to the deck so that it could get some additional sun and hopefully bloom and I noticed something was wrong.

 Aloe x. nobilis – Crosby’s Prolific Aloe

The fact is that succulents and cacti are very dramatic when sick and you can easily spot a sick succulent in a row of identical ones because they are very apparent. Since succulents can’t exactly wilt like a bedding annual and can be scarred by injury for years when they suddenly collapse it means something is terribly wrong. So you have what I found on the growing tray a few days ago.

This is incredibly bad.
This aloe is suffering from a sickness that is commonly fatal to aloes because it is so difficult to detect before the plant has gone soggy. The sickness is commonly called Root Rot and it is caused by one of two types of water mold both tend to strike as a result of over watering. The two common culprits are called Pythium and Phytopthera and both are hydrophilic in nature in that they need a wet environment to attack your plants. For note I keep my aloes very much on the dry side so I suspect this aloe got attacked because fungus gnats are known to spread root rot as the root rot organisms can live on the feet of fungus gnats. Why root rot randomly attacks healthy plants is unknown, but it’s always severe, some plants lose half their mass and recover, others seemingly turn into a puddle of slush overnight. Literally for succulents root rot is as severe as Ebola is in humans. Generally treatment isn’t worth doing but if it’s a special specimen like this Crosby is, then the first step is to remove as much infected tissue as you can.

Opportunistic fungi and diseases move in after root rot has done it's worst

Mostly cleaned this aloe still is a mess.

In the case of my aloe, that means removing any and all collapsed stems. Since most of the connective tissues are pulped by the disease this should be easy but try not to touch the healthy portions of your plant after you’ve touched diseased portions. Cut away as much as you can and then wash your hands and any tools you may have used with rubbing alcohol. Next inspect the healthy portions; in the case of my aloe the one healthy stem is also being attacked. Since this is a specimen plant, I will go ahead and cut the healthy stem off, then peel away the dry papery coverings over the stem. The next step is to cut ahead of the encroaching rot and make a cut into healthy tissue with a clean pair of scissors or a very sharp knife.

The rot has attacked this stem also but the crown in this case is well above the damaged area.

With the papery sheaths at the leaf bases removed it's clear that the rot does not go all the way up.
A simple single cut with a clean pair of scissors and now we have a potentially viable  cutting.
It is possible this cutting may make it but there is one more aspect to after-care, this cutting should be allowed to air-dry for a few hours, then get dipped in rooting hormone and allowed to form a callus at the end of the stem. The callus forming procedure can take a few days, but make sure to seat the cutting so it’s bottom faces down like shown. In few days the cutting will either collapse due to rot or begin to form roots, at this point it’s a 50-50 chance depending on how well you maintain sterility during the cutting procedure. If it survives, a few days place the cutting in a small pot with sterilized potting medium and water sparingly. Within a month the cutting will either grow roots and, continue on or the disease will take its toll. As for the remains of the plant and its old potting soil, dispose of that in in the compost and do not use any compost from your compost bin for at least six to eight months.

The cleaned cutting being dipped in rooting hormone after being allowed to dry a few hours.

The cutting is placed upright in a jar for a few days to allow a proper callus to form and to impede the progress of any surviving root rot pathogens.
 From the point in the last picture it become a waiting game to see if or if not the cutting recovers. Either way I hope this helps some of you succulent and cacti growers out there.