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Summer Garden Challenges- Growing Well Newsletter

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Well – the weather challenges continue – and the garden challenges keep pace – ugh!! This is the time of year when the harvest begins to pick up steam as all of the earlier work done to prep the gardens for success begins to literally bear fruit. For some – with healthy soil systems and good support, the season is going gang busters. However, if your soil system has some challenges or isn’t up to snuff (or is in a flood plain!), then all kinds of problems are starting to rear their (very) ugly heads. Some of you know that soils are my “thing” and it’s interesting to hear the stories of both success and stress that flow through the store. One of the perks of the job…😊


First – a word about the trauma to local (regional) farms – especially in the western part of the state in the Connecticut and Deerfield River flood plains. Several farms have been completely wiped out for the season. This is heartbreaking and back breaking… When true flood waters cross a farm, the potential contamination level from up stream sources can’t be known, but must be acted on as if that contamination is hazardous for the safety of all. That means that all of those crops underwater in flood (not immediate surface pooling) are a complete loss and the fields cannot be planted again immediately even if they drain well. Check here. If you’re curious about the decision tree that farmers will be working with. It takes time for the soil system to right itself and become safe to plant in again. There’s an entire calculus involved as to when and what can be replanted but, we’re half way through the season and there’s not going to be enough time… PLEASE, take the time to get to know some of our local farmers and understand the challenges they face as they (and all of farmers everywhere) work to put quality food on your tables.


Now – back to what you can do for your own gardens – and this next batch of information is good for ALL KINDS of gardens – not just vegetable gardens… In fact, the most fun in the world is to apply a nutritional foliar spray to a flower garden and watch the bees and other pollinators go NUTS!! They know when the flowers – all kinds of flowers – have lots of energy for their use in the 24 hours following the spray! And – what is a foliar spray you ask??? Well, it’s the backbone to managing these incredible weather swings. It’s so important (or at least I think it is!) that our next two workshops are Working with Foliar Sprays, 7/22 and 7/29, 1-2:30pm,: This is where the rubber really hits the road – or should I say leaf?? Foliar sprays can kill insects and diseases directly, but they can also be used to prevent problems from developing and can directly increase the base line health of your plants. It can bail out the plants if they’re over AND if they’re under water. If you’re planning on eating anything from your plants then you’ll also see an improvement in flavor. Really – what a tool to have in your arsenal! $30/person – limit 10 – and includes enough foliar support for you to mix a gallon when you get home and are ready to get spraying! We’ll actually mix a spray and use it at the store to demonstrate everything BUT the right time of day – almost a perfect program 😊


Moving on now to our next installment of “What’s Blooming Now”, let’s a look at Echinacea in all of its myriad colors -and there-in lies the rub! You knew there would be rub – didn’t you?!?


Echinacea purpurea is one of the most beloved perennials that is also a fantastic native plant. It blooms through the heart of the summer and native bees, butterflies and skippers hunt out the nectar. Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly and several moth’s caterpillars feed on the foliage and flowers. The Eastern Goldfinch relishes the nutlike seed and it’s fascinating to watch them feed on the seedheads. You can also consider the medicinal qualities attached to the species. Roots and above ground parts were used extensively by Native Americans and traditional herbalists for immune system support, detoxification and wound healing. And then there are the aesthetic qualities of the harvested seed heads -excellent in fall arrangements. With all of these positive qualities going for the plant, everyone should have at least one in their garden– in its classic purple color. If you’re supporting native insect populations, then you want to plant the straight species – Echinacea purpurea and, perhaps, add some Magnus or Ruby Star (both cultivar’s flowers are still in the purple flower range) to sharpen up the picture. Tests have determined that a height reduction doesn’t matter much to the insects – it’s the color changes that really matter. Having said that, there’s been a LOT of breeding these last few years or ten and there are now all kinds of intense colors as well as white and green available on the Echinacea bandwagon. So, what’s a gardener to do?? The new colors in the Echinacea breeding programs are truly electric, and they should be enjoyed for what they are – magnificent garden plants for the human eye – but not all that much for the insects – and that’s ok too!! EVERYONE who uses a garden space has to be taken in to account…


Since there is such a HUGE interest in native plants, and it’s a bit more complicated than planting a few native plants in the vegetable garden (that whole purple cone flower discussion!!), we’re going to look at the topic in depth on 8/5 with Native Plants and Re-wilding, 1-2:30pm: Here’s a chance to explore this complex topic, learn what some of the plants look like and see how you might add them to your garden designs. This will be a joint presentation to cover all sides of the conversation.

$30/person – limit 10 – and includes a native perennial for you to take home.


This leads in to our last plant highlight for this newsletter – Cephalanthus occidentalis – common buttonbush - This has always been one of my favorite native shrubs that I learned about years ago. It likes moist soils but does adapt to higher organic soils in drier habitats. You really have to see the balls of white tubes with their extended stigmas to believe that a flower can be that perfect. And, the bees that have shown up at the store are having a great time exploring them (along with a whole LOT of other blooming plants – come and check out everything that’s in bloom – just like the bees are!!). Don’t worry, if buttonbush doesn’t tempt you, others are sure to jump out and catch your attention – more on those in the next newsletter!


And finally – it’s almost the end of the newsletter!!! You knew we’d reach the end somehow… but there’s time for me to leave you with a new word - mycotoxins. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: A mycotoxin is a toxic secondary metabolite produced by fungi and is capable of causing disease and death in both humans and other animals. The term 'mycotoxin' is usually reserved for the toxic chemical products produced by fungi that readily colonize crops. Wikipedia. Highlight is mine. Why do I bring this up? ANYONE feeding livestock of any kind has to be VERY aware of the reality of mycotoxins in the feed supply chain, the age of the grain being fed out and the storage area that the grain rests in before you pick it up. Here at the store, we’re using heavy fans in the warehouse to keep the humidity from building up on any of the bags. If you’re transporting grain, never let the bags get wet – like in the back of a truck with a sudden downburst (sound familiar??). Keep the feed in tight cans. Run the cans out and sterilize them several times a summer. Having said all that – there are mycotoxins in the grains themselves due to all of the growing and harvesting challenges found throughout the farming world – what to do?!? One of the products that can work as a physical absorber for some of the mycotoxins is Azomite - a hydrated sodium calcium aluminosilicate (HSCAS) containing other minerals and trace elements. Lots of big words that mean that the structure of the mineral will absorb mycotoxins and also provide a whole raft of micro-minerals. We’ve used azomite in our goat and horse management protocols for years. It’s especially good for poultry of all kinds – check here for more details. Azomite is available at the store in 2 lb bags for the chickens and small herds and 50lb bags for more extensive use. Just as an FYI – Azomite brings out the best in fruit and vegetable flavors and fragrances in roses and other flowers.


And that really does wrap this newsletter! Hope to see you at the store soon 😊



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