Calling All Organic Gardeners and Producers!!

February 4th through the 6th is the 2016 Missouri Organic Association Annual Conference, University Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, Springfield MO. Those attending will be from Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee and Kansas.

University Plaza

2016 MOA Annual Conference

The topics will include: Grain production, Livestock production, Commercial  Vegetable production, High-tunnel small fruits and vegetable production, Sustainable living skills, Culinary and medicinal plants, and a whole lot more!

The “Top Chef competition”, featuring 6 of the premier chefs from St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia, scheduled for Friday, February the 5th, is by now a tradition of the MOA Conference.

One of the surprises prepared for this year is the “Consumer Health Education Seminary”, scheduled for Saturday, February 6th and open to the general public. The discussion will focus on organic foods and their connection to a healthy diet and balanced nutrition. The session will be presented by dietitians and medical physicians and will include definitions and discussion regarding “health food terminology”. Our guests will learn about the difference between organic, non-GMO, natural foods, free range, cage free, etc.

I will be one of the speakers on Thursday, February 4th. My topic will be “Making a Seed Saving Garden” from 11 am to 12 pm.

2016 MOA Annual Conference

This will be my third year attending this incredible conference. This is a well organized conference including friendly vendors and volunteers, relevant topics of the day, organic meals as well as a beautiful conference center and hotel with free parking.

Hope to see you there!!

Papa

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Sweet Peas for the Sweet!!!

Now is the time to start Sweet Peas for winter and early spring production. Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus) are members of the legume family Fabiaceae which hail from Southern Italy, Sicily and the Aegean Islands.

Henry Eckford of Scotland is responsible for the incredible crosses which produced many of the famous heirloom varieties known today. The noted beauty and fragrance is a direct attribute of the careful breeding by Eckford in the late 1800s through 1906. The breeding production of today focus on stem length and lasting abilities of cut flowers.

Sweet Peas require scarification (nicking or abrading the seed coat to enhance seed germination). Warm water soaking of the seeds may also enhance germination.

Use a nail file or nail clippers to nick the seed coat. The nicking or “chipping” will speed up the germination process. By the way, this is a tedious process. Make sure you give your self plenty of time to keep on schedule for your planting area.

Planting in large cell packs or 4″ pots for transplants is a proper way to plant exactly where you desire. Start the process by using a soiless soil mix with generous compost added. Make sure the soil is adequately moist and plant the seed 1″ deep. I usually plant two seed per cell or pot. Once planted, water in the cell packs/pots and place where the soil temperature is  65° to 68° (F). I know that sounds pretty cold but that is what sweet peas prefer.

The correct germination temperature will insure proper germination in 7 to 10 days. When most of the seeds have germinated move the seed flats to a much cooler area (45° to 55° (F)). A mildly heated greenhouse, coldframe or hoop house will do the trick. Sweet pea seedlings can take it down to 32° (F). The added benefit is stronger and cold tolerant seedlings.

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Sweet peas may be bothered by aphids when planted outside. The aphids spread disease and stunt the plants and subsequent production. The other area for concern is powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is caused by too much shade and poor air movement. Watch cultural practices (such as full sun and planting further apart to provide air circulation) to prevent the scourge of this pernicious disease.
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Be careful with sweet pea seeds! They are toxic for consumption. If you have small children the seeds could be enticing!

I will keep you posted on future development.

Papa

 

Warm Weather Winter Gardening!!

It is hard to believe how fast the veggies grow in the warm temperatures this winter!

The lettuce, radish, arugula, beets, spinach and Oriental greens seedlings were started November 30th.

The broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard and kale transplants have tripled in size. The color and texture are simply marvelous!

Sweet Peas will be started this weekend and should be ready to pick by late winter/early spring. The transplants will be started in cell packs to be planted by mid-January.

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It has been so warm, the rhubarb and strawberries are starting to take off.

You should definitely try your hand at Fall and Winter gardening.

Papa

 

A Summer Stroll at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

If you are ever near Springfield or Branson, Missouri, you should check out Bakersville Pioneer Village. Home of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, it offers an amazing Seed Store with over 1700 varieties of heirloom, hard to find seeds, gardening books, hand made items from the local Amish community, and items found in an old time Mercantile.

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There are monthly festivals the first Sunday of each month (March through October) featuring local produce and herbs, Blue Grass and old time country music from local musicians and artisans selling home made soaps, jewelry, quilts and various crafts.

I often speak about Seed Starting or some aspect of gardening in the theater.

The next festival is coming up Sunday, September 6, 2015.

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The hotel is open as an eatery offering vegan cuisine from produce grown at Baker Creek by our Chef Quintin Eason.

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Enjoy strolling through the gardens of this quaint little “town” and enjoy the flowers in their full summer bloom.

Stop by the Flour Mill (Friday and Sunday) to get the best cinnamon bun you have ever eaten!

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Make sure you stop by the Seed Store and say Hey!

Papa

For Milkweed Go Native!!

It is very important that you supply the correct varieties of milkweed for your specific location.

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For instance, I live in the Missouri Ozarks. The recommended varieties are: http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Milkweeds-of-Central-US_plus-vendors_XercesSociety.pdf

  • Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
  • Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
  • Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
  • Green Antelopehorn (Asclepias viridis)
  • Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)

Sunset Flower AKA Scarlet Milkweed AKA Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is not recommended for a Monarch butterfly larval plant in North America. Tropical Milkweed is native to South America. It is now becoming an invasive species in the southern states of America. The Monarchs that consume this variety become prey to additional parasites. Subsequently, this variety weakens the larvae and butterfly. Lastly, the Monarchs are not migrating to Mexico because they have a constant supply of the wrong food.

Check out these links for native milkweed in your area:

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/xerces-nrcs-california-milkweed-guide.pdf

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/NativeMilkweedsGreatBasin.pdf

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/SE-Monarch-milkweed-butterfly-host-plant-brochure-final-2012.pdf

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Monarch-Butterflies-East-Region.pdf

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Monarchs-Milkweeds_Northern_Great_Plains.pdf

Don’t forget nectar producing plants for your Monarchs as well. Some of their favorites include:
Buckwheat (Eriogonum)
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
California Lilac (Ceanothus)
Citrus (Citrus)
Coneflower (Echinacea)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis)
Cosmos (Cosmos)
Daisy (Aster and Chrysanthemum)
Dianthus (Dianthus)
Heliotrope (Heliotropium)
Lantana (Lantana)
Marigold (Tagetes)
Milkweed (Asclepias)
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
Rabbit Brush (Chryssothamnus)
Rock Cress (Arabis)
Salvia (Salvia)
Senecio (Senecio)
Star Clusters (Pentas)
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia)
Verbena (Verbena)
Wall Flower (Erysimum)
Zinnia (Zinnia)

Papa

Beets from the Hoop House Two Weeks Early!

Garden beets grown in a hoop house are ready to harvest two weeks before those grown outside. The beet plants and beets are more tender. The protection from the outside elements accelerate the growth for an early crop.

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The beauty and flavor of these beets are unbeatable (excuse the pun!)!!

Papa

Cheerful, Self Sowing Bachelor’s Buttons

I planted several different varieties of Bachelor’s Buttons last year. The seed heads shattered and self sowed a naturalized planting for this spring and summer. I love the colorful display and the added benefit of sustaining beneficial insects. Try growing Bachelor’s Buttons and you won’t be disappointed!!

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Vegetables are for the body. Flowers are for the soul!!

Papa