Saturday September 15, 2012 5th and High St., 7am-12noon
Cool weather moving into the area at this time of year gets the gardener's mind turning toward the first frost. With an average first frost around the 20th of October, we can still hope for a few more weeks of summer produce. But with cooler weather and shorter days, seasonal produce at the SKY Farmers Market is shifting inexorably from watermelons to pumpkins, and from peppers to broccoli and fresh greens.
The cool fall weather is a fine time for planting, both cool season annuals like pansies and mums and also perennial plants, shrubs and trees. Look for Frint's Nursery and other vendors to provide you with high quality plants for your fall plantings.
It's also a great time for hot breakfast in the cool morning air. A nice hot breakfast of local foods at the SKY Farmers Market is the perfect way to begin a beautiful September weekend in Bowling Green.
See you there!
Farm Profile: Red River Produce
Louellen Mimms loves to grow pumpkins. Of the 4 acres of produce grown at Red River Produce in Adairville, the acre and a half of pumpkins is her favorite part. For some 46 years, Mrs. Mimms has cultivated countless varieties of pumpkins, winter squash and ornamental gourds on her farm in Logan county.
Since they require such a long growing period to ripen, growing through the entire summer before they mature, a lot of work goes into raising a crop of pumpkins, especially in a tough summer like this one. But for Louellen Mimms, it's truly a labor of love.
Pumpkins and squash are one of those unique seasonal marvels, a true harbinger of fall. Louellen's enthusiasm for the variety of shapes, colors, tastes and textures available this time of year is contagious. Among the types of pumpkins she currently grows are:
Lumina pumpkins have milky white skin with orange flesh. This makes for a really spooky jack-o-lantern! Just remember to display them out of full sun so that they'll keep that ghostly color longer.They also have excellent flavor and make a great pie.
A tiny white skinned pumpkin which, like Luminas, can turn a soft yellow color after harvesting if not protected from the sun. A favorite with kids!
An heirloom from Australia with a uniquely slate-green color, deep ribs and drum shape. It's golden yellow flesh is sweet and terrific for baking. It does have a pretty hard skin, so use caution when cutting.
The Fairytale is an old time French pumpkin. It is deeply lobed and has a smooth hard skin which starts out dark green and matures into a deep mahogany color. It's fine-grained orange flesh is very tasty.
Another French heirloom and a traditional favorite, this variety is undoubtedly the pumpkin that Cinderella's fairy godmother transformed into a carriage. It is also recorded as being the variety cultivated by the Pilgrims. With it's rich orange color, flat shape and pronounced ribs it makes a beautiful fall decoration. It is also the perfect pie pumpkin, if you can bear to cut it up!
Be sure to stop by the Red River Produce booth this fall to check out some of the magical sights and tastes of the season. One of the original founding members of the SKY Farmers Market, Mrs. Mimms attends both the Tuesday and Saturday markets.
Pollination is a crucial element in the production of food crops. The major grain crops like corn and wheat are pollinated by the wind, but most of the food crops that we like to eat, especially fruits and vegetables, require insect pollination in order to be productive.
While honeybees are important pollinators for certain crops, particularly in large mono-cultures, wild pollinators like butterflies, wasps, wild bees, and flies cover a broader spectrum of plants and may be even more important for food production, both economically and ecologically. Wild pollinators, especially bumblebees and small mason bees, are better at pollinating some food crops. They can also work flowers when conditions are too cold or wet or windy for honeybees.
Besides pollinating food crops, many pollinating insects also perform other functions within an ecosystem. For instance, small wasps that feed on nectar also parasitize caterpillars and other pests - I once watched a tiny wasp pluck a mosquito off of my arm and fly away with it. Wild insects also help to pollinate wildflowers and trees in the landscape that in turn feed and support a wide range of wild creatures. They are an integral part of the larger ecosystem that directly or indirectly supports every other part.
With honeybees in a sharp decline in the U.S. due to economic pressures, industrial strength pests and diseases, and the widespread use of systemic pesticides, wild pollinators are becoming even more important to the productivity and stability of farms. Agriculturally, it makes more sense to manage a natural population of many different species of bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies than it does to rely on a single highly managed and highly vulnerable domesticated insect for pollination services.
But just like honeybees, wild pollinating insects are on the decline. Where this service was once provided free by the natural ecosystem, Chinese farmers in Sichuan province now have to pollinate apple trees by hand with chicken feathers and cigarette filters. California almond growers are flying honeybee colonies in from Australia to pollinate their groves.
Like so many wild species, the primary cause of the decline in wild pollinators is habitat loss and destruction as a result of development and agriculture. While agricultural and household chemicals have an impact on these insects, the main threat is the impoverishment of their ecosystems by massive agricultural monocultures and human lawnscapes. These insects need a rich and diverse landscape in order to provide them with nesting sites and a variety of food sources.
Fortunately, it's not all that difficult to create habitat for these tiny creatures within our agricultural and urban landscapes.
Improving Habitat for Wild Pollinators
Farmers and gardeners can benefit from the services of these wild insects by taking a few simple steps to encourage and support their populations. Homeowners can also improve their home landscapes for these beneficial insects. These practices will also benefit honeybees.
Create natural habitats
Farmers and gardeners can improve insect habitat in their cropping areas by planting flowering margins specifically for pollinator habitat, planting mass-flowering crops like clover, and leaving areas of undisturbed natural vegetation as a source of nectar and nesting sites. Wild meadows and woodland provide a great variety of flowers and shelter for insects.
Protect natural water sources
Rivers, ponds, springs, and streams support an abundance of wildlife, including pollinating insects. A garden pond or a simple birdbath can provide a source of water in a home garden.
If you have to use pesticides, try to choose pesticides that are safer for pollinators. Avoid spraying plants that are in bloom and try to spray at times of day when pollinators are less active.
By welcoming wild pollinators into the landscape, we not only provide a more stable and productive environment for agriculture and the natural world, but also a more diverse and enjoyable environment for ourselves.
A bed of mountain mint buzzing with life at Falling Springs Flowers