Thursday, May 21, 2009

A short poem

Gratitude To A Vegetable Plant

Thank you,
for speaking to the elements
on my behalf.
Thank you for reaching deep
and reaching high;
that through your efforts
I may bite
into the soil and the sky.

© 2009 David Borboa

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Out of Phosphorous?

The June 2009 issue of the Scientific American magazine has an interesting article of some relevance to those of us who grow plants. The article by David A. Vaccari explores our present situation regarding this very important mineral and raises the idea that we may face a shortage of phosphorous in the next few decades.
As with many debates of this type --running out of stuff, that is, there are two sides to the story. Whereas Mr. Vaccari contends that the economically extractable phosphorous is running out, others believe that we have plenty.

Phosphorous is the middle of those three numbers on every bag of fertilizer. You've seen it: 5-5-1 or N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium). Commercial growers depend on it to grow the huge amounts of food it takes to feed our ever-growing human population.

Mr. Vaccari explores the various scenarios that contribute to this coming shortage, including how we have disrupted the Phosphorous renewal cycle. What Mr. Vaccari doesn't mention is the effect vegetable gardens may have on the demand for food on commercial growers. What would happen if, for example, 30% of Americans grew their own vegetables on their yards? What would happen if 30% of the world grew their own vegetables using sustainable methods?
By the way, I chose 30% based on the fact that when I drive around my neighborhood, only about two out of every ten houses has vegetables growing in their backyards (where I can see anyway). I figured, hugely un-scientifically, that 20% of my neighbors grow veggies, so I just increased that by 10%. I would be interested to find out how wrong I am.
And what about small farms that can supply food locally?

This article cemented my commitment to growing my own food using sustainable methods. I will continue to explore the possibility to grow vegetables all year round using cold-frames and green houses.

Over and out.

Monday, May 18, 2009

2nd Aspirin spray plus updates

Today I did the second Aspirin spray on all vegetable plants plus the fruit trees and the berry bushes. It wasn't quite 3 weeks yet but I figured since we had so much rain I better spray in hopes of forestalling any fungus episodes. For more info on this experiment, see here.

The watering through a wick experiment --see here, seems to be a success. The wick has not dried and the soil is moist even after a number of hot, sunny days. the surface of the pot has dried but the subsurface is moist. Now I need a plant growing in there to stress the system. So far, none of the herbs I planted in that container has sprouted.

And speaking of watering, something has come to my attention that I had not been aware of. Apparently, a sub-irrigated container, aka a self-watering container (swc), may prove too much for a young seedling. Small tomato plants especially may fail to thrive if they are in a sub-irrigated container that is moist all the time. I have noticed this myself with the smallest seedlings; they just won't grow in these containers. The larger seedlings had no problem whatsoever and turned into full plants and are now producing fruit (yeah!). I know of at least one post in a blog whose link I unfortunately lost, where this problem was reported. That case involved a self-watering container made with 2 liter bottles. I personally think the swc was constructed incorrectly but I can't prove it.

This next tip was reported a couple of years ago by someone else in a forum and I ignored it (typical!) at my own peril. It was advised to place a piece of garden fabric at the bottom of the sub-irrigated container to keep the roots of the tomato plant from reaching into the water reservoir (you place the fabric at the bottom of the bucket containing the soil).
The largest of my Brandywine tomato plants has already shot roots into the reservoir. When the plant does this, there is a danger of root rot and other things.
I have learned my lesson.

Last, I have an idea to fix my plastic watering spikes. The problem I am experiencing stems from the fact that last year I punched three wholes in them that were too large. The result of this is that the water seeps out too fast and the 2 liter bottle empties too quickly. I had hoped for a slow release of water that would allow me to water less often.
My proposed solution is to stuff garden fabric or an old cotton rag into the cone to slow down the flow of water. I will implement this later this afternoon and report on the results.

Over and out.