Friday, April 17, 2009

The road to my garden is paved with good intentions

This week:

I bought the material to fix the screen on my rain barrel. The bug screen in the barrel was bashed in by a two legged garden predator. Beware of 3 year old boys bearing hammers. And how did he come by a hammer? Really, besides the fact that I am a terrible parent, 3 year old boys gravitate to the most dangerous activity/object in their vicinity. It's in their genes. When I am outside, my boys outnumber me.
Anyway, I bought the material but I did not have the time to fix the barrel. Maybe this weekend.

I bought the wire mesh to make the sifter to sift the river rock from the flower bed upfront. The original owner of the house had landscaped using smooth river pebbles. The next owner, whom I bought the house from, let the flower bed go for 6 years and the river pebbles sunk into the bed.
Did not get to make the sifter. Between my wife's work schedule, and my sick toddler there was not time. Maybe this weekend.

I bought a Blueberry bush. This is my fourth Blueberry bush. My previous 3 have not made it. I am not giving up. This bush is more mature than the other 3. It's sitting in its store pot outside. Maybe this weekend.

I bought compost to amend the soil where the sunflowers are going. It's sitting in my garage.
Maybe this weekend.

I got the wood to make the strawberry bed. The strawberries are inside under lights wondering when the heck I am going to give them a proper place to grow.
Maybe this weekend.

I got the totes to make into self-watering containers for the remainder of my peppers. Maybe this weekend.

My friend kept calling wondering when we are going to build the protective cage for all my containers. Maybe this weekend.

Life is what happens when you are making gardening plans.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Amazing stuff!!

This morning I learned something that has shaken me to the core! Maybe I am amused and shaken to the core easily but this bit of information has implications that make my brain implode with the possibilities.
And what has so rocked me as to render me giddy?

The fact that the plants I grow and eat are made of sunlight.

Whoa! I feel faint just thinking about it!!!

You see, I, like many other people, took it for granted that all plants were made from the minerals and nutrients from the soil. I suppose that if I had really thought about it, hydroponic plants could have cued me on this.
Yes, I knew that photosynthesis was instrumental in the creation of energy for the plant but I did not know that photosynthesis MADE the plant itself.

That the plants are NOT made from the stuff from the soil (at least not substantially) was proven a long time ago by a Flemish (Flemish=Belgian-Dutch. I did not know this, I had to look it up) scientist. This guy planted a tree in a container with soil and fed the tree only water for 5 years. Then he took the tree and weighed it. Then he weighed the soil. The tree weighed well over 100 pounds but the soil was only missing a few ounces!
So where did all the carbon and stuff come from to make the tree?: Sunlight, via the process we know as Photosynthesis.
Come on!....Sunlight!!!!. Carbon, Vitamins, Minerals, Lycopene, Capsaisin, and hundreds of other compounds....ALL FROM SUNLIGHT!!!!

I immediately get back to StarTrek (doesn't everything always lead to StarTrek?) and their magical Replicators. If you have never watched StarTrek (!!!!!!), a replicator is a device that synthesizes anything out of pure energy. Captain Pickard's favorite thing to conjure up from pure energy is Earl Grey tea, cup and all.

Couldn't we, the smart inventive mammals in this planet, figure out how the plants do this and recreate the process? Couldn't we?


I guess I should have been paying attention during Biology class. It turns out that the process noted above, although still impressive, is not what I originally thought. The plant DOES NOT convert sunlight into stuff, rather, the plant, via photosynthesis, takes the carbon from the carbon dioxide in the air and turns into stuff. That is why plants are good for the atmosphere; they take Carbon Dioxide and return Oxygen. Sixth graders know this, now I do as well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Live and breathe gardening...literally

Yeah, you've heard some people live and breathe gardening but this is just too much!

from: (pictures of tiny tree at the site)

"5 cm. fir tree removed from patient’s lung

13 Apr, 11:35 PM

A five-centimeter fir tree has been found in the lung of a man who complained he had a strong pain in his chest and was coughing blood.

The 28-year-old patient, Artyom Sidorkin, came to a hospital in the city of Izhevsk in Central Russia last week, Komsomolskaya Pravda daily reports.

Doctors x-rayed his chest and found a tumor in one of the lungs. Suspecting cancer, they made a decision to perform biopsy, but when they cut the tissue, they were amazed to see green needles in the cut.

“I blinked three times, and thought I was seeing things. Then I called the assistant to have a look,” says Vladimir Kamashev, doctor at the Udmurtian Cancer Center.

The five-centimeter branch was removed from the patient’s body.

“They told me my coughing blood was not caused by any disease,” Sidorkin says.

“It was the needles poking the capillaries. It really hurt a lot. But I never felt like I had an alien object inside of me.”

It is obvious that a five-centimeter branch is too large to be inhaled or swallowed, doctors say. They suggest that the patient might have inhaled a small bud, which then started to grow inside his body.

Meanwhile, the piece of lung with the little fir tree has been preserved for further study."

Ollas update and a couple of rants

Olla Update
I found a pottery shop that will teach me how to make pottery. It may seem boring to other people but, at least for now, my goal is to make ollas for watering. Ollas, if you don't know, are terracotta jars that you bury next to your plants and fill with water. The plants then "take" the water from the porous terracotta as they need it. Classes are $15 each and the whole course takes 10 classes. Not bad for a neat skill that will last a lifetime, and one that I could pass down to my boys.

Rant #1 - India's green revolution disillution
I've been following the story about the farmers in Punjab, India. Apparently, the Indian government encouraged, via subsidies, the adoption of modern farming methods, you know, chemical pesticides and fertilizers, high yield crops, modern machinery, and now, the Indian farmers are running into familiar problems (familiar to the West that is).
First, the water table is falling by about 3 feet per year. High yield crops require high amounts of water.
Second, the land requires 3 times as much fertilizer as before. No big surprise there.
Third, the crops require more and more pesticides every year. Yeah, heard about that one too.
Last, because the Indian farmers are having to drill deeper each year to get ground water for the crops, they are now hitting brackish water and thus are killing their plants with the salt.

Now, I am not so naive as to believe that we can do away with modern farming practices overnight. For all my love of organic, local gardening, I know that the majority of the people do not grow vegetables (even if new gardeners are popping up in record numbers) and to sustain our current population, we need big agriculture. This doesn't mean however, that we just accept the status quo and bury our head in the sand (do Ostriches really do that?).
I read somewhere that our current situation can be traced back to the moment Fritz Haber successfully synthesized Ammonia with Nitrogen from the air and thus ushered the modern era of chemical fertilizers (later he was instrumental in the development of Zyclon B, and was a defender of the use of poison gas as a weapon). Prior to that, fertilizing relied on guano from South America and other natural sources, such as Nitrite salts. Because there was only so much guano, we could only grow so much and thus, we had a natural check on population growth, meaning that if more people came about than we could sustain, they would simply starve (aka, Malthusian Catastrophe).
Now we are hooked on Big Ag and Big Chem with the results we see now: pollution of our water supplies and exhaustion of our water supplies, not too mentions others such as the diminished nutritional value of our crops and the increse in diseases due to the pollutants in our food.
I live in Kansas and every year, I see less and less farms around here, which tells me that someone else is growing our food and I am afraid that those people are in it strictly for the money and are not really looking out for my best interests.
We need to turn this around but I am afraid it won't be easy. I do have hopes though, because I know the inventiveness of man but we have to start by recognizing that there is a problem.

Rant #2 - lawns
The more I gardened, the more I began to see my lawn as a waste of space. Then I started reading Second Nature, by Michael Pollan and now I know that not only are lawns a waste of space, but also that they are a BIG source of pollution and water waste.
I spoke with my wife about this and she now agrees that we must do something about our front lawn. I've seen other people's lawns around here that use stone and flower beds instead of grass.
That may be the way we go.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The waiting garden

It's raining still. It began on Saturday night, stayed all Sunday, and it's still hanging around this morning.
Before the rain started, I managed to put out two more tomato plants, a Black Russian and a cherry type; Maskotka.
Then I decided to put the Jalapeño M plants out as well. They seemed happy on the 65F degree weather, with a gentle breeze and a beautiful sun. I haven't checked on them since but I have the perverse feeling that they are dead.
I also put all the potatoes that I had in peat pots out on tubs. Then I moved the garden bags where I am growing some more potatoes.
I also filled the upside down tomato planter that I bought and stuck a Jet Star tomato plant in it. This is my wife's tomato plant. "I just want a plain red tomato" she said.
So far, I have the following tomatoes outside in home-made, self-watering containers:

Market Miracle
Amateur's Dream
Black Russian

The onions and the garlic are doing great. My radishes all recovered from the snow and ice storms. My lettuces are coming on strong and I now have Minnesotta Midget canteloupe plants emerging.
I really wanted to plant my beans and peas this weekend but I did not get to them. It turns out that my wife and children want my attention as well and so I can only allot so much of it to my plants.

The book by Michael Pollan, Second Nature, is really good. I really like his take on weeds and weeding.

Still no pictures. I took a few pictures on Saturday but I was not happy with them. I want beautiful pictures like the ones here and here.

Last, I took the rain barrel I bought last year and put it under one of the water spouts. My 3 year old thought it was a good idea to take a hammer and bash in the bug screen on the barrel. I kept thinking of the best way to fix it and I finally got it: grease splatter screen. I will use that until I find the right size mesh somewhere to fix it permanently.
I also put a brand-new trash can under another one of the water spouts to collect water for the flower beds. They should both be full by now.

Hopefully, I will get to put the Irish Eyes sunflowers out today when I get home.