Mark Reed

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since Mar 19, 2020
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Recent posts by Mark Reed

Joshua States wrote:
I just leave the last half-dozen or so on the vine until they turn brown and remove the beans/peas and save them for next year. Generally, I will isolate the largest pods and let them ripen.

My rule is the first and best are saved for seed. Some say letting early pods or fruit mature slows down or reduces overall harvest. Saving the first and best for years, has greatly improved the overall production and quality for me. If it has reduced overall production, I haven't really noticed.
14 hours ago
I've had a couple of pairs of Rocky boots. One I got around 1980, I walked a lot of miles and did a lot of work in them until they gave out about 2017 or so. I had to pay extra for the military, made in USA line and was still afraid the new ones wouldn't last like the old ones did but so far, they seem fine, very comfortable and apparently just as durable as my old ones. They are not leather or waterproof. Going over the top of my boots in icy water, somewhere way off trail in the Smoky Mountains one time, and with a three day walk from the car, pointed out to me that waterproofness goes both ways, if water gets inside you keep it. Thats when I bought my first pair of Rockys.

I mostly just wanted made in USA but thinking on it, I guess the military figured it out too. Once in a while you will need to wade, or you will fall in water deeper than your boots and you may have no choice but to keep walking. Waterproof or leather boots could be a real problem.
2 weeks ago
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.
2 months 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.
2 months 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.
2 months 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.
3 months 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.

3 months 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.
3 months 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.
3 months 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.
4 months ago