THE 2 WAYS TO KILL IT
Mickey mouse plant has a strong taproot, making it difficult to control by pulling out. 1. Spray seedlings and dense areas with 330 ml/10 L 600g/l triclopyr or 165 ml/l Yates Hydrocotyle Killer. 2. Cut plants close to the base, then swab the stump with 330 ml/10 L 600 g/l triclopyr or 165 ml/l Yates Hydrocotyle Killer immediately (less than a minute) after cutting.
EVERY TIME I mow the lawns, it seems to end in disaster. The latest trim revealed that a good-sized patch of lawn has been invaded by a rather irritating pest of turf – selfheal. This invader needs to be dealt with if my hopes and dreams of a perfect lawn are ever to be realised.
Selfheal ( Prunella vulgaris) is a common perennial weed of turfs across New Zealand, but its origins are shrouded in a bit of mystery. We think it’s probably native to Europe and Asia but it has been found in North Africa and North America since before anyone can remember so noone can be 100% sure where it came from.
Selfheal is a member of the Lamiaceae family of plants, otherwise known as the mint family, which includes such notables as mint (surprise!), sage, lavender, basil (my favourite), catnip, thyme and even our recent topic, henbit.
Like most members of the mint family, selfheal is completely edible and young leaves can be used in salads, soups and stews. However, it’s more commonly used in herbal medicine (the alternative name for selfheal is heal-all) by many cultures around the world to treat a wide variety of ailments, including sore throats, fever, diarrhoea, bleeding, and skin irritation.
Apparently selfheal does it all, although I must profess to a little scepticism as scientific work has yet to determine exactly what health properties it has, so until then I would advise a little caution*.
Identifying selfheal is a cinch! No, really, I mean it. It’s a mint so it’s going to have a square stem. This stem throws out roots to anchor itself to the ground, creeping along and forming large patches within the turf. If allowed to it will actually grow to approximately 30cm, although this is rare if you’re regularly mowing it off. The leaves are typical of the mint family, lance-shaped and growing in opposite pairs along the stem. However, unlike many members of the mint family, selfheal leaves have no minty scent when crushed.
During late spring and summer it will produce its distinctive club-like flower heads, a blocky structure chock-a-block full of little flowers that turn brown and die off after flowering. Due to its nature it is nearly impossible to get it out of a lawn as it hides itself too well, so if you want to get rid of it there are only chemical options.
Unfortunately, like most members of the mint family, it is resistant to many chemicals. You’ll probably have the most success with 2,4D spiked with a little Dicamba, but even then it will take a couple of sprays for it to be gone for good.
Go beyond the basics and include weight, cooking instructions and any other explanations that may be useful (or just plain fun).
Customers love signs and explanations. You must label everything with a name and a price. For some reason, food without prices doesn’t sell well. Many people are too shy to ask directly about prices. But there is much more you can say:
Write a description of your farm (location, size, ownership, family history, crops, animals, climate, workers). Write a description of your methods of production. Are you organic? What does integrated pest management mean? What breeds do you raise and why?
If you answer a question often, write it down. Save your time and help shy customers who will read a sign but won’t ask you a question.
Bring articles and information about your farm and its role in agriculture. When an agribusiness meat processor recalls tons of beef because of E. coli, or E. coli is found on organic lettuce, be ready to answer questions from customers. Tell them what you know about agriculture, food safety or animal welfare. Good customers want to learn about farming and foods. You must help them.
A brochure with cuts and prices is particularly helpful for meat, poultry, and cheese producers, especially when your prices and cuts are steady throughout the season.
Recipes are the indispensable handout.
In a customer survey we’ve taken at a popular London farmers’ market, freshness and quality were the top things customers volunteered in answer to this question.
No other answer – meeting the farmer, saving family farms – came close. Customers did cite these (and other) considerations, such as organic foods, and value for money was also at the top.
But freshness and quality were tops, and freshness is really a form of quality which means that quality and value for money are the main reasons people come to market. BY THE AGE OF 12, I was running my family’s farmers’ market stand on my own. The dual importance of a high quality product and a high quality relationship with regular customers was one of my earliest lessons.
Ultimately, farmers’ markets will not succeed simply because we are farmers and the folks down the road are not. They will succeed because the produce is superior to what consumers can buy elsewhere and the price is right. If your peaches are green or mealy, your corn is immature, your beans are tough, your meat is poorly packaged, your bread is stale, your lettuce is wilted, or your tomatoes are tasteless, customers won’t come back. Taste your products. Do they measure up?
We are lucky that farmers’ market customers are discerning; that’s why they shop at the farmers’ market. But with regular exposure to fresh, seasonal, highquality produce, they will become more discerning, not less. You cannot give them the same old apples week after week, or uneven quality, or bad prices – and expect them to come back simply because you are a farmer. They will shop elsewhere. SUPERMARKETS OFFER the same cosmetically perfect bland foods, from apples to bread to cheese. We need to offer something better, and different: the sweetest strawberries, handmade bread, pastry with real butter, raw honey, fresh eggs, marbled, well-hung beef.
For processed foods, use good ingredients and tell customers why your jam or cheese or bread is different, like that it’s handmade, cured properly, or not treated with chemicals.
Flavour is the most important quality in food. But there are other ways to distinguish your product from what they’ll find in a supermarket. It should be fresher because it hasn’t travelled far, it should be exactly the right maturity and texture (something supermarkets often get wrong because of transportation needs which means hard pears and mealy tomatoes).
Rarity itself can be a virtue. Grow traditional and unusual varieties and breeds.
If your product has a good quality, eg plum tomatoes make thick sauce, a breed of beef is good on the barbecue because it’s lean, a peach is easy to peel, then say so. It’s not worth coming to market only to sell asparagus for three weeks a year. To make a good return from markets you need to have spring, summer, autumn and winter crops. Extend the season by growing cold weather crops, or by planting several batches of carrots for a steady supply of young carrots if they are popular. If you want to sell seriously at markets, you may need to change your growing patterns.
MEAT, POULTRY, DAIRY, and egg producers, and those selling chilled processed food like pasta, have particular challenges in display. You need to show off your food just as the peach and tomato farmers do, piled high and colourful and seductive. Sometimes a meat or poultry farmer seems to be selling nothing at all. There is a sign with prices – or there should be – but there’s no food in sight.
At many farmers’ markets, including London Farmers Markets, there is access to electricity. Farmers use chilled glass display cabinets, which look beautiful and allow them to sell fresh meat, sausages, meat pies, smoked fish, cheese, and more.
Meanwhile, most producers sell fresh or frozen meat from plastic cooler chests. No one can see the lovely foods and they can’t choose their own. They can’t browse without making a commitment, and they find that embarrassing. These are all barriers to more sales.
I admire the set-up of a buffalo producer, Cibola Farms who sell at a farmers’ market in Virginia, USA. Cibola has created the sense of a butcher shop in the open air, with a U-shaped stand to invite customers in without making a commitment, so browsing is possible. Customers are invited to rummage through the plastic bins for frozen meat, so self-selection is possible. One improvement they might consider is a nice color photo of each cut on the chest as their white plastic containers aren’t very distinctive.
Check out how Cibola run their stand: www.cibolafarms.com/aboutfarmers-markets BRING NOT ONLY YOUR FOOD but also your farm to market. Pictures of crops, animals, processing (say, making cheese), and workers with crops and animals are interesting and charming to non-farmers and bring life to your stand. Pictures also reinforce the message that we are all linked to farms through food.