Friday, April 2, 2010

Monsoon Season

The Monsoon season has begun. Torrential, driving rain; howling winds; stem-breaking hail, thunder, tornadoes. From here on out until Summer my vegetables will fight for survival. It is a miracle that they make it at all.

Not that it is all bad. When I started growing plants, I noticed that my plants were a little brighter and stood a little straighter after heavy thunderstorms --heavy on the thunder that is. Now I understand that a certain amount of Nitrogen gets fixed from the air by the tremendous energy of lighting and it gets delivered to the plants via the rain.

I am reading the book Just Food by James E. McWilliams. What an eye opener! McWilliams is an Agricultural Historian and he makes a good case for not concentrating solely on food miles when we look for sustainable agriculture. There is so much more in the book though. I am terrible at book reviews but when I am done I will attempt to review it here.

I have this fantasy rolling around my head that I can produce vegetables at mega-farm prices in my yard. I've been doing some research on the Internet (it is amazing how much info on farm production there is online) and, at least for tomatoes, I need to make my plants produce anywhere from 8 - 20 lbs (3.6 kg - 9 kg) per plant. Of course, I have to get that at a profit if I was to sell my tomatoes.
The next stage is to grow 50,000 lbs of tomatoes in one season, which is the output of many tomato farms.
Then I would like to grow various crops, not just tomatoes.
Naive? Maybe, but even if I can't do it, failure is such a wonderful teacher that I am bound to come out ahead.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What happened to Spring?

This year I worked really hard to ensure that I planted my cold-weather crops on time. What good is it to plant peas by St. Patrick's day when April 1st looks like this?

Yesterday, the high was in the low 80's and today, April 1st, more of the same. Sure, my tomatoes and peppers are doing cartwheels but it looks like another year without peas. Sigh...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heirloom seeds to Terminator seeds?

The whole of Seed Saving Exchange's seed collection is now part of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an act that apparently gives biotech companies access to them so that they can make derivatives that they can then patent. This sounds alarming but I confess that I still don't understand how we could ever keep a biotech company from doing this in the first place.

Rather than rehash the whole thing, go to this post and read the letter from Seed Saving Exchange's founder Kent Whealy. It's a long letter full of ugly business but it is worth reading.
Now, I wonder how many of the heirloom vegetables I am growing fall into this.

One new thing I learned by reading Kent's letter is the concept of Terminator Seeds. The sci-fi geek in me perked up and I immediately pictured a tomato from the future sent back to kill my Brandywines! Seriously though, the concept of a Terminator Seed stinks of Big Business. A Terminator Seed is the seed from a plant that has been genetically modified to kill the embryo in the seed so that you and I cannot save the seed. Basically all the seeds in the plant are duds, blanks, sterile.

Another neat thing I learned about by reading the letter is the concept of Sacred Seeds. Apparently Native American nations have collections of seeds that have been preserved by them. Now these seeds are also part of this complicated Global Crop Diversity Trust deal.

Ok, so I am being a bit paranoid about this but don't underestimate the things that people will do for money. After all, this has happened before when genetically engineered pollen blew over to farmers' fields and then they got sued (this is alluded to in the letter). I'd hate to go to jail because I saved some seeds.

And you thought Blight was your only gardening problem!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

First tomato plant out the door

Today I put the first tomato plant outside. It is a Nepal tomato plant in a sub-irrigated planter (SIP). Since our nights are still in the low 40's (Fahrenheit), I decided it was time to try the Wall o' Water.
That green piece of plastic with the water pockets sitting on top of the bucket SIP is the Wall o' Water. It functions as a greenhouse of sorts. The water in the cells transfers heat gently to the plant. I visited a website a while back for a tomato farm where the farmer swore by these things. Now I am going to try it and let you know if it works. The Nepal tomato plant is only 3 inches tall so I did not fully fill the cells with water, maybe I should have....hmmmmmmm.

I washed four of the 18-gallon tote SIPs in preparation for planting some pepper plants. Last year the pepper plants did very well on these so I am using them exclusively for peppers. These four will hold Bell peppers; California Wonders of course, but also Sweet Chocolate, Red Bells, and Sunbright. I will plant 4 plants per tote.

The Oregon Spring tomatoes HAVE NOT germinated in the Winter Sowing milk jug yet. The temperatures are expected to rise around the high 70's (Fahrenheit) this coming week so maybe they will germinate then.

Over and out.