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Gardening Weather Challenges- Growing Well Newsletter

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

There is SO much going on!!!

First up – THANK YOU to all of you who have participated in our workshops and programs through our first spring at the store (and yes, the programs are starting up again), – and thanks to everyone who planted gardens this spring. It was great hearing about your plans! And, THANKS to everyone who has helped to make these last 6 weeks of spring so successful. We especially would like to thank all of our staff; Paula, Donna, Corey, Anna, Shayna, Lynn, Bob, Joe, Jamison, Ryan, Nelson, Rob, Bill, Ann, Nancy and Irini. It takes a lot of people with a lot of talent to both deal with the normal craziness of spring AND to continue to improve the overall campus – BRAVO!!! They have helped us to do both and it has been quite the wild ride...

Now on to the oncoming summer – questions have been flowing in to the store that’s for sure!! Most are dealing with three key issues so I thought it smart to cover all three in this newsletter. That means that it will be a longer read!! Skip around to find out what’s most interesting to you...

Let’s start with Water Challenges - Biologic vs Geologic Drought Mother Nature is not known for her consistency and lately she’s been almost childlike in her ability to throw weather temper tantrums. We’ve had a real freeze (look at the Oaks and the Japanese Knotweed in some of the towns - 26 degrees at the store). We’ve been biologically dry – with only 2” (in one event!) in the month of May...with wickedly dry air (lovely to work in - and to grow wheat – but everything else???) Several frosts late in the month – and a recent “chance for rain” that passed both east and west of our local region. Every cold/dry wind the region sustains sucks water out of the plant’s leaves – and freeze dried is a real threat! Watch the dew points on the weather reports and you’ll see the world more like a plant or animal... That’s biological drought... geologic drought is when the bodies of water shrink and the artesian wells start to stutter... Biological drought ALWAYS comes before geological drought.

Overall, we’re getting longer, hotter and dryer periods (as well as colder, windier periods - 48 degrees yesterday – for the high!!!!). This is stunningly hard on plants since they can’t vote with their feet – and trees, in particular, because they’re carrying so much more mass than their smaller cousins. Plants need water consistency in order to thrive. Water can be too much of a good thing or too little – both need to be managed well if you want good results from your plant partners.

All of these stresses are buffered massively by the good soil structure created by all kinds of carbon (like composts) and the microbes that use that carbon for food and housing. All kinds of microbes are important, but the fungi are critical...and they love all kinds of complex carbon sources for food and provide a huge buffer against from both drought and flood as the return on their lifecycles. The goal is to keep the soil damp/damp dry for most of the growing season. This allows for maximum expansion of the plant’s root system, maximum development of the soil food web (those critical fungal tree associates) and greatest access to necessary minerals for plant development. Run soaker hoses or drip lines. Beware of overhead watering – overhead watering loses up to 75% of its water to immediate evaporation. Use drip tape or soaker hoses on top of the soil and under the mulch. And plan to water when the dew is falling – about 3-4 hours BEFORE sunrise. You’ll get maximum value from the water you apply and minimal damage from disease pressure. Watering at dewfall means that you lose no water to evaporation. Water evaporation is a total waste of time and money – never mind water! Plan to put your irrigation on timers and have them run in that 3-4 hour before sunrise window. This is when the natural world condenses water around the leaf (dew fall), and you get the best results possible for your efforts. Any overhead watering done during the heat of the afternoon largely evaporates. What a waste of time and resources! Only water during the day if it’s a real emergency or if you know you can flood the entire root zone (like a planter or pot). Several people have asked me about why we water during the day at the store, and that’s because we can flood the plant’s roots so have minimal evaporation.

One other thing before we move on – you need to know how much real water is hitting the ground. Grey, cloudy, cool days do not rain on the ground make. Please, put a tuna can or water gauge out to accurately find out how much rain/irrigation is actually hitting the ground. You’re aiming for 1-1.5” of water per week however you manage to get it there...

Challenges to the local tree scene... Now to some specifics for managing drought/frost stressed trees that you care about... Start with a bucket or barrel (size depends on the size of the tree – a 5-gallon bucket works for young transplants (under 3 years on site) multiple trash cans can be used for the big old oaks, beeches, and maples). The goal is to create a flood of water, molasses and soap over the root system to open up the area directly under the trunk and have that water work its way to the outside of the root system (that’s what happens when water runs down the trunk).

Here are two formulas – pick the one that fits your size tree... for a smaller tree and a 5-gallon bucket: Put 1⁄2 cup of molasses into a bucket and fill it with water. Make sure that the molasses goes into solution. Add a couple of good squirts of any dishwashing soap, doesn’t matter what it is, after filling (NO suds!!). for a larger tree and a 32-gallon trash barrel: put 2 cups of molasses into the barrel and fill it with water. Add about a 1⁄4 cup of soap and gently bucket it over the inner root system. Can take up to three or four barrels depending on the size of the tree you’re trying to work with...

The goal here is to use the soap to open up a hyper dry and tightened root system and to chase that opening with sugar (molasses) to simulate the sugars that a healthy root system would be shedding into its environment and have bacteria colonize those sugar corridors to keep the root system open.

Next step: Use the same buckets, but use water and add liquid fertilizer, (along with liquid humates if you’re up for the additional support). I much prefer liquid fish and kelp like Neptune’s Harvest but have used all kinds of mixes through the years. The hydrolyzed fish supports fungal growth though, and that’s the best of results for the tree... Plan to use a cup of fish or 1⁄4 cup of “blue crystals” in the 5-gallon bucket and a quart of fish or 1 cup of “blue crystals” in the 32-gallon trash barrel. If you do use the chemical fertilizers (“blue crystals”), that’s the time to really think about using the liquid humates to tame and stabilize the fertilizer.

Water again (if we don’t get rain) about a week later and keep that rate of water going for a bit.

It usually takes 2-3 weeks for the tree to respond and you’ll reassess the tree 3+ weeks after the treatment. The goal is to activate the secondary growth spurt that CAN happen at the end of June. You can always stop in to the store with specific questions, and we can try and trouble shoot what you’re seeing. Please take clear photos!!! Now for the second major group of questions coming in swarms... Compost vs Fertilizer for getting gardens off to a great start.

This one’s a “both win” scenario. Healthy gardens need both carbon (compost and other organic matter) and fertilizer (the minerals needed to create complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins). Essentially, the compost is food for micro- organisms that, in-turn, actually feed the plant. The minerals in the fertilizer are also consumed by the micro-organisms and then made available to the’s a really cool story actually... Here’s the formula of organic mineral fertilizers that has been my backbone for both garden installation and maintenance for years and years. I have used it on an almost daily basis:

50lbs. alfalfa meal – huge booster of micro- organisms of all kinds 50lbs. North Country Organics ProGro – balanced mineral fertilizer – regionally produced and one of the best ever developed 20lbs. Azomite – trace mineral, highly active clay 20lbs. Leonardite (Soil activator) –stable carbon source 20lbs. calcite lime (only in the spring mix and only if not working with broad leaf evergreens and blueberries – omit if those plants are yours) IF YOU KEEP THE MIX DRY it will store well. Get it wet and you’ll hate me and you won’t like yourself much either!!! I think you’ll be really surprised at the quality of plants that you can grow using this mix.

Obviously, this makes enough for commercial applications in all kinds of gardens but you get the drift. It’s actually creating a multi-course dinner for the soil microbes. This would be mixed in with the soil and whatever compost was deemed necessary for the soil’s structure at the beginning of the growing season and the amounts would be tailored to the plants being grown. Tomatoes are one of the hungriest plants you’ll ever grow – followed by cucumbers, squashes, zinnias, dahlias, roses and on and on...this lasts the plants until about the third week of July and then other management strategies kick in.

More on that later!!

One quick definition: Humates: Liquid and Granular Carbon Using liquid humates is the closest thing to a “magic potion” you’ll ever work with for managing the health of plants in containers (or anywhere else for that matter). It’s not magic of course! Humates are long chain carbon molecules that greatly enhance a whole series of soil activities from acting as an auxin-like growth enhancer, a bridge from the root to the greater soil colloid, raise the Cation Exchange Capacity, or CEC, of your soil, and help to make all of the minerals available in the soil available to the plant roots.

Next steps for chicks And now to the last topic – all of those baby chicks that have new homes are about to age out of Starter Crumble and need to move on to the Grower/Finisher Crumble. “Typically, baby chicks are fed starter feed until they are six weeks of age. Starter feed is protein dense (usually 20-24% protein) and designed to meet the dietary requirements of baby chicks. Chicks between 6 and 20 weeks of age should be switched to grower feed, which contains less protein than starter feed (16-18%) and less calcium than typical layer feed varieties. It’s important to make the switch to grower feed since feeding too much protein to growing pullets can cause kidney or liver problems later in life.” CLICK HERE for more information. Chickens start to lay around 5 months so that’s the target you’re aiming at – grower/finisher (they are teenagers after all – need more protein for decent growth) until then!!

You’ve been asking when programming returns. Here are our ideas for upcoming programming - but we’d like your feedback... Please let us know what you’re most interested in! Check in with us on Facebook or email the store with the number(s) you’d select and we’ll see what topics “win” and take it from there. If we missed a topic you’re interested in, let us know that as well.

  1. Creating A Raised Bed from The Ground Up,

  2. Using Foliar Sprays to Enhance Summer Plant Health, 3.

  3. Herbs -How to Harvest and Use,

  4. Roses -How to Grow and Troubleshoot,

  5. Creating Nifty Containers – Including Veggie/Flower Mixes

  6. A Monthly Discussion with a Dog/Cat Nutritionist,

  7. Animal Training,

  8. How To Handle Small Animal House Pets

  9. For The Farm Animals: Forage Evaluation and What Those Results Mean, Managing Chickens, Goats and Others for Peak Health of The Animals and the Food They Produce

  10. Identifying “Good” And “Bad” Bugs

  11. Supporting Bees, Butterflies and Birds

  12. Managing Gardens for Native Pollinator Supports

  13. Trouble Shooting Your Garden Before It’s Too Late

  14. Miniature And Fairy Gardens

  15. Late Season Pollinator Support

  16. “Coffee Klatches” for all Kinds of Farm and Garden Interests

One last thought...your peppers, tomatoes, and basil like warm feet and air. This current cool pattern probably has them sulky. As the weather warms, they’ll improve. Their growth is just a bit impeded. So – that’s it for now! As I said – so MUCH going on! Here’s to the happy growing of plants, chicks, and all new spring livestock. See you at the store!

And don't forget about Father's Day! We have a lot of great gifts for dad in the

gift shop so be sure to stop in!

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