Monthly Archives: February 2015

MANURE ABSOLVED, PRUNING STARTED

Horse Manure: Not Guilty, So On To Pruning

    A dark cloud no longer hangs over my horse manure, that is, the horse manure that I occasionally truck over here to add to my compost piles. I wrote a few weeks ago about the possibility of herbicide that, when applied to hay, retains its toxic effect when an animal eats the hay and even, for a long time, after that animal’s manure has been composted or spread on the ground.    My herbicide residue concerns were soothed with a simple assay that showed satisfactory growth from bean seeds in both hay that was suspect and hay of known integrity. Also, the bedding in the horse manure is mostly wood shavings rather than hay.    But another ugly dragon kept raising its head above the manure. Another chemical, this time, Ivermectin, a de-worming medication given to horses (and other animals). Ivermectin or its metabolites …

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FIRST SOWINGS OF THE YEAR, DEADLINE MISSED

 Onions & More, Late But They’ll Be Fine

   I missed my deadline by four days, sowing onion seeds on February 5th rather than the planned February 1st. That date isn’t fixed in stone but the important thing is to plant onions early.    Onions are photoperiod sensitive, that is, they respond to daylength (actually, night length, but researchers originally thought the response was to light rather than darkness, so the phrase “daylength sensitive” stuck). Once days get long enough, sometime in June, leaf formation comes screeching to a halt and the plants put their energies into making bulbs. The more leaves before that begins, the bigger the bulbs.    Plants from seeds sown outdoors — towards the end of March — won’t have as many leaves as plants given a jump start indoors. I like big bulbs; hence the early February sowing.

Fresh Seeds & Mini-furrows in a Plastic Tub

    First step on …

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HOW TO FEED THE WORLD

Perennial Wheat to Save Our Soil, But What About Compost?

    We — that is, almost all of humanity — get all our sustenance from the thin skin that covers out planet, the soil. In appreciation of this, the United Nations has declared 2015 “The Year of Soil.” “Soil is more important than oil,” stated Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute, in his keynote at this year’s recent NOFA-NY  conference. Like oil, soil is a nonrenewable, or only slowly renewable, resource. Centuries go by before rainfall, freezing, thawing, and microbes and plants eat away at rocks to make new soil; on average, it takes a thousand years for the creation of a mere half-inch of new soil.    The problem is that, as with oil, we humans are using up soil faster than new soil is being created — 10 to 40 times faster! Also, as with …

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LUSTING FOR AVOCADOS, HOME GROWN, OF COURSE

A Long Journey to Avocado-dom

This far north, an avocado plant provides reliable entertainment and, less reliably, the makings of guacamole. The entertainment doesn’t compare with the excitement of a car chase on the silver screen; it’s slower but very engaging.

To whit: I’ve been watching roots on two avocado pits elongate and branch. I spend a lot of time with plants; here is my opportunity to spend quality time with their roots. That’s all possible because avocado pits, suspended in water, will sprout roots whose growth can be watched.  (Odd, since wet soils are the nemesis of avocado trees planted outdoors in tropical and subtropical climates, and you can’t get much wetter than water.)

Despite being plants of warm climates, avocados are frequently raised by us northerners, as houseplants. I could have planted the pits in potting soil in a pot, but would have missed out on root entertainment. So I …

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