- [Voiceover] Join us as we tour the organic fields of Green Door Gourmet where we find the typical Tennessee crops and some unusual ones. Then we head to the TSU Agriculture Research Farm to check on the sweet potato trials. Plus some summer maintenance tasks in the perennial bed. Stay tuned. First, fresh from the fields to the consumer. - I'm really excited to be at Green Door Gourmet here today. There are 150 acres of certified organic land. They grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables and cut flowers so let's go take a look. I'm here with Luke Yoder. He's one of the farm managers down here at Green Door Gourmet. We're in this huge patch of tomatoes. What are we growing here specifically? - Well they're pretty much all heirlooms with a exception of a couple of the artisan series from Johnny's which is a hybrid. But Cherokee purple's, black cherry tomatoes, San Marzanos, like a paste tomato, the Tennessee Bradley tomato; I hadn't grown that before. I figure it's a local variety, it should work out well. Right. Yeah. - What I've been trying to do here is kinda find a middle ground between industrial organic and bio-dynamic. So with the intention of using all on-farm resources and all on-farm closed-loop fertility. That's my goal here. But also the scale and the fast pace of growth here that we've been trying to get to pretty quickly, I think it edges into the industrial organic. I just call it industrial organic in that it's a lot of conventional practices but it is organic, so there isn't the synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and fungicides which is great. But there are certain practices that I don't think are necessarily sustainable that most of organic agriculture uses, so one of those would be a lot of plastic, called the plasticulture system. So you can see back there, you can barely see it at this point 'cause the squash has grown up so much, but I prefer not to use plastic. We've had two plantings of squash this year that had basically almost no yield. And so at that point, I was like OK I'm willing to give it a shot. And it could have been just change in the weather, but the results were really incredible how much squash we were harvesting off just putting that layer of plastic. But none of these tomatoes have the plastic. Instead of using that mulch, we used hay. It's been awesome so far to be able to use something that's grown here and we're not having to transport it, we're not having to have a factory make it out of petroleum products, we're increasing the organic matter and we're keeping the weeds down and keeping the soil cool and more moist, so that's the intention of the mulch. So you can see our trellising system, I've heard it called all kinds of things like Florida weave, Colorado weave. Some kind of regional weave, but I think it's pretty common especially with indeterminate tomato and these are all indeterminate. This one has eight strings up. And these are pretty tall posts. You can't see how far they are in the ground either. So as soon as the plant's planted, it's usually only really a couple weeks 'til you need to start trellising. You have to be on it right away. So at that point, we'll be suckering. So taking off-- We wanna get just basically one vine, at least at the beginning, later one we'll let it branch out but at that young age, when it gets to this tall, it needs a string because afterward if you're picking 'em up and putting 'em in, you end up damaging the leaves. So then throughout their growth when the vegetative growth stages are really high, we're out every week or two weeks putting one more round of string, so if you do 'em one at a time, it's not too big of a deal. Just go up and down. You get pretty fast at it. So you basically wrap around the post. And then the posts are about eight feet apart here. So come along to one post, tie it, come up to the next one and tie it, and so you're coming down one side and on the way back you come down the other side. So ideally you're not having - On the other side, OK. to pick up the tomato or do really any kind of trellising work; all you're doing is just running a preventative string before it falls over. - Yeah I mean and these plants are well eight feet tall, so it looks like it's working pretty well. - Yeah, well I'm six, so. Yeah. This looks like an interesting variety of okra. Tell me about this one. - This is the burgundy okra. And then next to it we have the Clemson spineless, kind of a standard green okra. - Yeah, very cool. And it has these really nice flowers. It's fairly ornamental also. - It is. It's a really beautiful plant. I prefer the taste. The pods themselves can get a little longer and still be tender versus the standard green, you need to get 'em when they're more like a thumb; this you can get kinda like a larger finger and it's a little bit longer, more slender pod as well. - Cool. And it looks like a hibiscus almost. Is that correct? - It does kinda look like that. Similar colors and shapes. - So what do we have? Is this hyacinth bean over here? - This is actually... You might have to come down this way to see a little bit better, but this is a type of spinach called the Malabar spinach. And it's not really even in the spinach family. But it's a heat-loving green. And so it would love it if it was 110 degrees and humid every day of its life. So here it would be an annual, but in tropical places it's a perennial, can be a perennial vine. But as you can see, it just grows like crazy. It does need a trellis. I'd recommend starting indoors 'cause it has a pretty long germination and in the heat of the summer it's hard to get seeds up sometimes outside. It's actually a really large seed as well, about the size of a peanut. And it doesn't necessarily taste like spinach, I'd say more like Swiss chard, a little earthy, kinda that, or it's like acid taste. - That little bit of edge of sliminess kinda like spinach. - Yeah kinda like okra, yeah. Well these are some really healthy pepper plants right here. Looks like you got a lot of varieties. - Couple different kinds of hot peppers. Probably way too many ghost pepper and scorpion peppers. I really like cayenne. Cayenne's probably my favorite hot pepper. It's got a lot of good heat but a lot of good flavor and I've heard good things about the health effects of a cayenne pepper versus any other. 'Course a lot of jalapenos. And then this is the Carmen, kind of a horn-shaped pepper. It turns red. We've picked all the red ones off. And then a bunch of different kinds of bells. - I see some eggplants. Those are really nice. - Yeah this is the standard kinda black-beauty-style eggplant and then the white, it's actually Johnny's varieties Clara and Blanca. - Yeah. Is this Blanca? - Yes, yep. And they get large just like you would harvest a standard black beauty. And then tried out some other varieties of eggplant as well. This is a Turkish orange. We've picked all the orange ones already but these will actually turn an orange color and they're about that size, maybe the size of like a tangerine. First round of two other kinds of eggplant just totally died, didn't stand up to the flea beetle pressure we have. - I was gonna say, yeah. And these even look pretty eaten up, but they're doing better than the last for sure. - Yeah, so do you try to do anything or do you just try to grow varieties that are a little more resistant? - Well this is another one of those lines, you know the industrial organic to bio-dynamic spectrum I'm trying to ride right in between. I guess a bio-dynamic farmer, there's different methods they'll use for pest control which I haven't necessarily gotten into but plant health is the first thing and growing the plant at the right time are probably the most important things and I've found that the flea beetle pressure does ease up a little later in the season, so just working with what the natural rhythm of the season is one of the most helpful things. But then we've tried diatomaceous earth. You kinda sprinkle the powder on with a shaker or a sock or something like that. Works for a little bit, then it rains and washes off and you need to do it again and you wanna do it when it'll stick to the plant. It really didn't help with the last planting of eggplant. An organic farmer can use something called PyGanic which is supposed to have an effect on the flea beetles. But that's one I'm kinda-- There's all these organic-approved sprays that are out there, biological controls, and that's what I'm pretty cautious of 'cause I know it'll harm a lot of the ecology and I just love when I see an ecological solution to a pest. Some people do release different bugs. I've never done that. But by growing flowers, this patch doesn't really have a lot of flowers, I wish it had more. But maybe I'd have less flea beetles problems, but growing flowers and cover-cropping and having a diverse ecosystem to attract things like the parasitoid wasp. On tomatoes we've found the tobacco horn worm, tomato horn worm; I've seen couple this year that are covered in these white egg sacs and the parasitoid wasp will lay those eggs and actually take over the body of the horn worm and that's just one of the coolest things, one of my favorite things to see is when the ecology can help support you. But in order to have that happen, you gotta be patient and you might lose some crops too because you're thinking: "Well I don't wanna spray this thing "that's gonna kill everything, "don't wanna completely bomb the area." And then leaves it more susceptible to the next pest. So it's definitely a tricky line 'cause when you're trying to run a business and have good production, you're faced with these decisions like do I do this thing that might harm the future ecological and soil health or do I do the thing that's right to do for long-term soil health but we might lose a crop. - This is a really interesting plant over here. What's this guy? - This is called a Litschi tomato. This is again from the Baker Creek Catalog. I noticed they had this whole section in there, they call it on solanum fruits. So they're related to the tomato, they're in the Nightshade Family but a lot of 'em are from tropical areas, actually a lot in South America. Some of 'em we're kinda on the very edge of being able to grow as an annual in Tennessee 'cause the frost will kill them, but yeah, this is the Litschi tomato and it makes these little red fruits like that. So it's a little bit - Wow. of sweeter, kinda different taste versus a cherry tomato. - Yeah yeah, that's really cool. Yeah we got another real spiny plant here. What's this guy? - Oh this called the Natanya. And I haven't been able to taste one of these fruits yet. It's just starting to flower and it has a really long season so I'm really looking forward to. Can't help but think of something so spiky's guarding something really tasty. - Yeah right! It looks like another Nightshade too with the flowers. - Yeah it is, yeah and it's actually a really soft fuzzy leaf and I've heard it does well in containers. So that gives you the option of bringing it inside on a frost or something like that 'cause it's also a really pretty ornamental plant. - It is, yeah, that's the place I've seen it is in gardens, just one or two here or there for its leaves. Appreciate you showing me around the gardens here. - Yeah, no problem. - Thanks. So I'm in the store here with Silvia Ganier at Green Door Gourmet and we're looking at all the beautiful produce out of their fields. Tell me about all the things that y'all offer at the store. - Well it's pretty amazing; the store began because we wanted to have a spot just for our vegetables. And about five years ago that's all we did Saturday mornings in an open-air shed and the demand grew with people looking for not only our vegetables but other things local. So now we work with over 100 different artisan producers and other farms to come together in a cooperative collective manner, so you can get everything from grass-fed meat to homemade jams, fresh produce, glass-bottle milk, it's just really a fun concept when you're looking for something local to find it all in one spot. - Yeah I really do feel like it's kinda like a mecca of the local stuff within Davidson County. It's wonderful, so. So many things offered here. You really just have to come out and see it yourself, so I invite you to come out to Green Door Gourmet and just check it out yourself. - Obviously it is not May in my garden. I have a case of the uglies. Let's look at what we can do now to make things come out better next year. Well we're into September in the perennial gardens. Lot of things can be done now and Carla Keen is the horticulture and small farm coordinator with Tennessee State University here in Montgomery County. And I'm gonna call on her expertise to sorta guide us through some crucial things that need to be done in the fall. - Well at this time of the year, I would wait until after these have completed their flowering and probably after the first hard freeze you can go in and clean up most of your perennials, but if they're like the peonies that are pretty beaten up, maybe have a little bit of powdery mildew, some things going on, you can go ahead and cut those back now and it would be OK. - There's something else that these plants harbor and those are the eggs to insects. - Yeah. - So is there something that we should be doing this time of year in order to prevent them from coming back next year as far as insects? - You're just gonna have insects in the garden. We know that the pests are there. There are some systemic-type products that you can put out. I would probably not put those out until next spring. Everything is getting ready to shut down at this time of the year, they're going into fall, they're gonna go into dormancy, so if you put a chemical on that's a systemic, it's really not gonna do any good. You're gonna cut it off and you're gonna throw it in your compost pile. - That's right 'cause it's got So yeah, it needs to go down. to be put on when the sap is rising or the new plants are coming up in the spring, then that insecticide can work its way through the plant and then when the insects come in and they try to feed on that plant, it kills 'em 'cause they take in the insecticide that way. - So just a good cleanup at this time of the year is always good; cutting back your perennials, if you have any weeds in your bed, trying to get rid of those weed seeds so that they don't come back and be a problem next year. So just a good general garden cleanup and then put a two or three-inch layer of mulch. That's gonna help you get through the winter. - OK. Well now you've mentioned weed seeds. I think it's good for gardeners to understand the things that are giving them problems that are actually perennial weeds versus those that come back each year by seed. - Right. - And I discovered a few years ago a product called Weed Impede and I did use it and I saw very good results, especially in my rock walkways. I had some invasive grasses and for sure, so and to have that sprayed in your day lilies or your iris beds, I think it does recommend a fall application, but I found that it worked really well. Well I see that I also have iris in here. Do you recommend dividing them in the fall? - Oh yeah. You can. Most of your perennials can be divided either early fall or early spring. This time of year when it's still kinda hot and dry out, if you're gonna divide your perennials, make sure that you've got another place for 'em to go, put 'em into the ground, get 'em watered in so that they'll get established before our cold winter temperatures set in. - Yeah and we don't know. - And we don't know. Yeah, so about mid October we usually get a good hard frost and then we'll get what you call Indian summer where it warms up again and it's nice, so. - OK. Let's move forward just a little bit, fast forward. OK it's been cleaned off. What do you recommend as far as any fertilization or mulch for this type of perennial border? - OK usually on this type of border even for just your perennials, now for woody ornamentals we also recommend this too to not fertilize at this time of year. You don't wanna encourage a lot of new growth that could get frozen back by our first frost and also the nutrients, especially the nitrogen, will leach from the soil and it just goes into our groundwater and becomes a environmental issue. - What about the phosphates that will produce better brighter flowers? - Right. Your phosphorous can be put down now. Your lime can be put down now. And there's really not a problem with that. Really it's your products that are high in nitrogen that you wanna avoid at this time of the year because they're just not used up by the plants, or if they are used up, you encourage that new growth and then you have winter kill, you have winter damage to your plants. - OK Carla. Here we are in the Annabelles. What are we gonna do? - Alright with your hydrangeas, a lot of different varieties of hydrangeas, so you do wanna know what type you've got. Generally we recommend that you start pruning these back right after they flower, as the flowers start to die like this here. You can take a lot of their-- If there's just kind of straggly growth and things like that, you can go ahead and cut that back also but usually they will bloom on new wood. - These from the ground actually will. - Right. So the hydrangeas will usually bloom on the new wood, so you're gonna be OK if you hit it a little bit hard. A lot of times our winters do the pruning for us. They will kill 'em back to the ground and then they'll come up, but most varieties do bloom on new wood, so you're gonna be OK. - This is just ugly right here and the better thing to do, is because it can be cut literally within a foot of the ground. - Yes you could cut it down completely or you can pick and choose. - This ugly can go! - This ugly can go. - OK. This ugly can go, yes. Alright, and behind you, we were talking earlier about trimming back all of the peonies, but this happens to be a Tray Peony and anyone that has this, they shouldn't cut it, should they? - I believe not. I believe not. - See this one, even though it sprouted from the ground down here, it's not happy with the-- It's been scorching . This has happened to my Japanese Maples also but I do see that there are little tips here that's gonna be next spring's growth, so for sure if you have a Tray Peony, do not-- - Yeah those are grafted, and so if you were to cut it off below the graft at the bottom, you're just gonna get whatever the root stock was, so you wanna be very careful about pruning the peonies. - I've got another example over here that definitely needs to be trimmed for now. This is the Mexican Glad. And it's so beautiful and it's very fragrant at night. It's one of the night fragrance things. And I'm gonna probably cut these off for now like this, but I do need to allow this foliage to continue to grow like you said until frost, and then I need to lift these out of the ground. Sometimes I actually have planted these in the pot, but they don't do as well. 'Cause I did that this year with my tuberoses and they did bloom but I'm trying to get a new start, so they're going in the garage. Yeah so I'll dig these out later. But there's still another perennial that really gets the uglies. It's the Black-Eyed Susans. - Black-Eyed Susans. Let's go look at those. OK. - You think you can make these look better? - I think so. I think on the Black-Eyed Susans, we can just go ahead and cut all this ugly stuff out and you don't wanna pull up the whole plant because you want your plants to come back next year, so we're just gonna cut them down to the ground as close as we can, get rid of all this ugly dried up growth. That would be your final cut to overwinter 'em. To keep 'em blooming for a little while longer, a lot of times I will just clip off the dead blooms because you still wanna attract your birds and butterflies and such like that, so you can just do some handpicking to keep these kinda freshened up a little bit for a little while longer. - And you know, I have seen the yellow finch lie on the seed heads. - They love the seed heads, so that would be a benefit to leaving some of them behind but we would need to do this cleanup in the garden so that you don't have a lot of the problems, you don't have the diseases and insects next year that you might have had problems with this year, so it's a good idea to cut 'em back, put 'em to bed for the winter. - And let the leaves fall. And let the leaves fall. Thank you, Carla. It's been a joy to be with you and to hear what you have to say about things. - Alright thank you. It's been great being here. - Well we're at the Tennessee State University Research Farm where we're looking at their sweet potato trials, and in fact in this case, it's organic sweet potato trials. So Doctor Nandwani, why is sweet potato production important enough to study it? - We looked at the census of agriculture data from seventies, the sweet potato production was very high and there was lots of farms, over four and 500 farms, they were doing sweet potato. And over the years to 2010, the number of farms have gone down and of course the production has gone down. It could be for a variety of reasons, so the Tennessee State University and Extension Department through our organic agriculture research is promoting this crop and doing the research trial. - Well these beds look fantastic but I know there's something different about each one, so what are some of the aspects of the sweet potato production that you're looking at here? - Weed is a main constraint; is a major constraint because we don't use chemicals. We are testing different mulches like plastic mulch which is approved in organic agriculture. We also using wheat straw, we are using pine needles. And with the control, control means there are no mulch on that. So we are comparing the effect of these different mulches with the control and see how they are able to minimize the weeds, how they are able to suppress the weeds in different beds. - And I know a lot of people like to use the plastic mulches; it's available on the market and it is organic as you mentioned, easy to use. What do you think might be some of the benefits of it? - Under the plastic mulch and especially because of its color, the black color, it absorbs more heat and it maintains the soil moisture. What that means is the water needs would be less. We do have a red mulch and we have a mulch which reflects the light. That is good for many mice, insect-based and disease problem, especially the white flice, the mulch we are going to try next year, that helps in repellent of the insect base, so these are some of the benefits of this, especially the plastic mulches. We want to know the acceptability from the consumers once we produce these varieties. It is very important that how public or the consumer, they liked it, their texture, on their taste, on their aroma, flavor. We conducted a taste testing. We invited all faculty, students, and all of the staff and we had a small simple form to fill out. They tried all these varieties and they gave very positive and very good feedback which was very important for us in terms of the calculation. - So I guess we're about halfway through the growing season for the sweet potatoes? - Yes we are. We have different planting times. We started growing them in May. Our first harvest. Our first planting was done in May. And then we had some others we planted up 'til last month all the way down there. So these ones will be ready in about a month. It's almost due for harvest. This is the marketable size. If we leave it too long in the ground, it'll grow more than it's supposed to and become a jumbo size and those are marketable but most people prefer the ones that are medium. - Do you have to plant these as where you cut up the potatoes like you do with other potatoes into the eyes or do you just plant the whole sweet potato? - We just plant the whole sweet potato in the ground and then it'll start forming roots. Or we can take a vine maybe as much as six inches without roots and sow it in the ground and then it'll grow the roots from under. We have them in purple, in white, in orange, yellow. Yes, different varieties. We have about 10 plants for each variety and then one-foot spacing in between the plants and then we have two feet spacing in between the varieties. - So I know that one thing that you're really looking at here is how many weeds are growing. Now how do you do that kind of research? - OK we have a quadrant. It's a one foot by one foot square. And then we just place it on the bed and then we count the amount of nutsedges. Nutsedges are a type of weeds. And the amount of nutsedges-- We also separate the broad-leaf weeds and also the grasses and then we determine the amount of each and then we calculate the population density. There is a formula for that. - So this year, you're looking at weeds. Next year you're going to be looking at what might work well for pest control. And are there other ideas in the future of what else you'll look at? - Well as far now of the variety trial is on the top because we started last year and always farmers, they need new varieties, that which variety performs well in their local soil and climate conditions. And because we are in organic agriculture, weed management is a major challenge, so we are focusing on that to address the weed problem. We are also looking at, as I mentioned earlier that nutritional contents of these varieties. - Well this is really great research and thank you so much for doing it because I know certainly as a consumer that some point I will absolutely benefit from better-tasting sweet potatoes. As a home gardener, well at some point these trials are gonna benefit me. And of course all of the agriculture in Tennessee is benefiting.
September 24, 2015
Season 24 | Episode 13
On Nashville Public Television's Volunteer Gardener, we tour the organic fields of Green Door Gourmet and find typical Tennessee crops, and some unusual ones. Then we head to the TSU agriculture research farm to check in on the sweet potato trials. Plus, some summer maintenance in the perennial bed.