The Southside Master Gardeners’ Spring Plant Sale will be held at the Halifax Extension Office/Halifax Public Library parking area on Saturday, May 1 from 7:30 a.m. to noon, rain or shine. Shiitake mushroom logs and rain barrels will be on display.
Shiitake mushrooms, flavorful and nutritious, are also known for their medicinal qualities. The exciting news is that they can be grown right here in Southside Virginia. The mushrooms are cultivated using a process that basically imitates Nature. Recently felled hardwood trees, cut into 40 inch logs, are used as the growing medium. A fresh White Oak log, for example, cut to length and inoculated with viable spores called mushroom spawn is all that is needed to grow Shiitakes.
The logs are “planted” by stuffing spawn into a series of small pre-drilled holes. Logs are then placed in a shady spot where they incubate for 6-18 months to allow the spawn to fully colonize. Fruiting occurs seasonally during natural weather fluctuations over the next several years. Typically a log will fruit a dozen times in a 3 year period.
On a small scale growing Shiitake mushrooms can be great fun and growing on a large scale can potentially become a profitable cash crop. The display will include inoculated logs and informational handouts.
With the record rains in the past year, collecting rain may not seem important. However, in Southside Virginia a drought will occur every 5 years and a severe drought every 10 so don’t get too comfortable.
Rain barrels collect rainwater runoff from a roof. One inch of rainfall from a 20’ x 40’ roof can yield 500 gallons of water. Although rain barrels generally only hold 50 gallons, one small rain can fill a barrel giving you enough water to take care of your containers or a small vegetable garden for several weeks.
To expand your water conserving capacity, rain barrels can be attached to each other so that one main barrel receives the rainwater from the downspout and overflows into subsequent barrels. A series of six would take care of most watering needs for an entire summer. A drip irrigation system or a soaker hose can be attached at the last barrel nozzle and used to water landscape beds or vegetable gardens. The advantage of these systems is getting water right to the roots. Plants take up water through their roots not their leaves.
In addition to rain barrels, a wide range of plants--vegetables, annuals, perennials, herbs and houseplants--will be on sale at the May 1st Plant Sale. New to the sale this year are garden accessories, such as bluebird houses, tobacco sticks, bamboo poles, painted flowerpots, composted manure, soil test kits, decorative rocks and driftwood. Southside Master Gardeners, in conjunction with the Halifax Improvement Council, are also offering Earth Savvy multi-use green bags as a not-for-profit project for only $1 each.
Other interesting and helpful demonstrations include an herbal display, hypertufa, vermiculture composting and tool sharpening. Each will include informative handouts and the opportunity to sign up for related classes. Master Gardeners will be available to answer your gardening questions throughout the morning.