Mark Reed

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since Mar 19, 2020
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Recent posts by Mark Reed

I voted yes, although I originally just wanted a little garden pond. It has a small stream section, and the pump runs year-round so it doesn't freeze.  Or if it does, I go out and open it up. All kinds of critters take advantage, my favorites are the birds. Open water in winter attracts more and more kinds than feeding.
1 week ago
I have all of those things and although not specifically quantifiable, I think they do help some.

Avoiding monoculture even in my small-scale gardens also helps. For example, twenty squash plants dispersed across the garden rather than all together in a "squash patch" noticeably decreases the pest and disease pressure on any one plant, varied species apparently act as camouflage for each other. Along that same line, allowing weeds to seemingly overwhelm corn sprouts prevents them from being pulled up by crows. When the corn is big enough to be out of danger the weeds can be pulled and dropped as mulch, where upon the corn explodes into growth and hogs all the nutrients, water and light, nothing else is needed for the rest of the season.  

I created a new brassica vegetable I call broccol-ish that produces an abundant harvest while it's still too cold for cabbage flies to be an issue. If the worms want to eat the leaves after the weather warms up, fine with me. The only important thing then is the seed pods, and they don't bother them. The clouds of white and yellow butterflies are beautiful and they pollinate everything else.

I employ various other effective practices as well but still, I doubt I'll ever be able to say I have no pest problems at all, but I look at the same as I do disease problems. Pests and diseases are just part of the natural world. Eliminating them completely isn't necessary and I suspect in the long run might even be counterproductive. As long as I get my harvest anyway, I don't have a problem. I view it more as a balance, a compromise, a peace treaty of sorts.
1 week ago
I agree it is all soil, it occurs to me that the difference under consideration here is condition.  In my garden after thirty years of zero chemical inputs and lots of added organic material it is dark and fluffy. I can push a shovel to full depth with my toe. I often plant seeds by just poking them in with my fingers. I can easily dig in it with my fingers, even big deep-rooted weeds like dandelions and dock easily pull up intact.

Out in the yard the ground is yellowish brown, covered with a couple inches of dark soil and grass roots.  Here I would need to stomp heavily on the shovel several times to get it to full depth, and it would not crumble, but come out in one big chunk. Many things will still grow in the hard chunky places but working it is considerably more difficult. I wouldn't want to plant root crops there, except to improve it by letting them rot.

I reckon if I wanted to make up a definition, I'd say soil is loose, dark colored, full of organic material and biologically active. Dirt is hard packed, with lower levels of organic material and microbes.  

I could go out with my camera and easily demonstrate the difference except right now it's all covered up with a couple inches of cold white stuff. And it's almost dark. And my beef stew is done and smells really good, so it's time to make the corn bread.
1 week ago
Anyone here have or know where to find hulless oats and barley seed? I really like both of them and have tried to grow them before and want to give it another try. Links to any sources would be greatly appreciated.

I garden in the mid-Ohio River valley and have an assortment of genetically diverse seeds, tomatoes, beans, corn, radish and so on that either are already, or on their way to being nicely adapted to this climate. Peek at a map and put your finger on Cincinnati OH. Look east of there, across Pennsylvania, north to about even with Indianapolis, west across Illinois and down the Appalachians to North Carolina. Don't include western KY or TN.

If you are in the covered area and happen to have hulless oats or barley that you have grown yourself for some years and can tell me how to grow them, I can fix you up with things mentioned above and other stuff too.
1 month ago
In my area anyone who wants to start an orchard of any type is going to have a hard row to hoe. Pests and diseases aside, the increasingly erratic weather has put a stop to reliable fruit production here. I still grow various fruits and still usually get a good harvest of something. Maybe it's grapes one year, pears another. Peaches and apples are down to maybe one year in five.

The only commercial orchard left around here ripped out their peach trees and converted that ground to fall ornamental row crops, gourds and corn. I don't know how they do it, but they do still usually have some apples. You don't see big wagon loads of them anymore though, and you don't just stop in at random to buy some. It's all pre-order and by appointment now. I don't think they have had any unsold excess for a long time.

My only apples for years, have come from trees grown from seeds of old feral trees, same with peaches. They are fine but of little commercial value due to small size and less than perfect appearance. Plumbs are even harder to come by, even our wild trees rarely produce anymore. Pears do quite a bit better producing well, maybe one year in three but people don't seem to care about them like they do apples and peaches.

1 month ago

Jonathan de Revonah wrote:Mark,

1) In what region/hardiness zone are you located? How far north do you think growing sweet potatoes from seed/to flowering can be successfully accomplished? Has any progress been made by you or others regarding improving cold-hardiness or faster-maturing?

I'm in zone 6-ish, mid-Ohio River Valley. I think they can go (and make seeds) quite a bit farther north. They don't like cold, and I don't expect they ever really will, all things considered. Maturity is hard to define in sweet potatoes. They don't get ripe like a tomato; they just grow until harvested or frost killed. Some do of course get bigger, faster than others.

Jonathan de Revonah wrote:
2) Do you have seeds or slips available for purchase or trade?

Not yet but I hope too before too much longer. I've talked to a couple of seed companies but haven't worked anything out yet.

Jonathan de Revonah wrote:
3) Do you do anything to coax the plants to flower?

No, nor anything to coax them to sprout.
1 month ago

Jonathan de Revonah wrote:
Any notable updates from 2023 for this project, Mr. Reed?

In both 2022 and 2023 I spent a lot of seeds establishing a direct seeding germination rate. That is planting directly into the ground, outside without any heating or cover just like might be done with beans or anything else. While many will still lay there and sprout weeks or months later, or even the next year, I'm confident to say germination within two weeks or less is at 50% or better. In my climate most that sprout by the middle of June have time to make nice roots, but I only go on with those that sprout within two weeks of sowing.

In 2023 I discovered my favorite ever of my "ornamental" line. Ornamental meaning the plant does not make large storage roots. This plant exhibits a growth habit that makes it very easy to trellis, it almost climbs on its own. It has dark purple leaves with deep lobes, the internode length is very long with flowers at every node. It is one of seven "ornamentals" overwintering inside right now. It is one of two that I've confirmed is self-compatible.

In the culinary line I have eleven that we are evaluating now for how well they store and for flavor. With a couple of exceptions these are all nicely seedy with a bush or semi-bush growth habit and clump root trait. That is the roots grow in a nice cluster, directly under the main stem where they are easy to find and harvest. One, the most bushy and productive I've seen does not bloom until very late so makes few seeds, but it is such a nice plant, I'm keeping it at least for now. Another one has very large vines, which I don't really like but the roots are so sweet and yummy I'm keeping it too, at least until I find a bushy one of comparable flavor. Eleven is too many, so after storage and flavor evaluation I am cutting that down to the five or six, best of the best to backcross with each other next year.

If you watch that video on YouTube there are some more videos from 2023.
1 month ago

Greg Martin wrote:Does anyone know of a source that currently has hican seeds available for sale?  I seem to be striking out.

Try again next year. There was barely a hican, pecan, nor hickory to be found here this year.  Good amount of walnut and butternut though, bumper crop really.
2 months ago
The purest water I can get my hands on with just enough sea salt that the solution tastes faintly salty. Boil hard for a few minutes and let it cool. I make it about a pint at a time and keep in the refrigerator. I just put a little on a clean cloth or drop it in, doesn't matter. If my eyes are itching and red, it cures it completely and immediately, and lasts three or four hours.

I would never put anything other than cool, sterile saline in my eyes and I would never buy it in little plastic bottles from some factory.
2 months ago
I think anything below 50 degrees can degrade the flavor and storage life, but as long as they haven't actually frozen, they may still be ok. Just get them in as soon as you can and keep a close eye on them in storage. Or may just go ahead and eat them up, they may not be as sweet as otherwise could be, but probably still good.

If you depend on them to start slips next year and if you see them getting a soft spot, withering or turning rubbery you might be able to go ahead and start your slips, and pot them up for house plants until spring.