Saturday, November 30, 2013

opened and shattered

a few more seed ears opening and in various stages of shattering...finding seeds on the ground around the plants...seeing fat little birds when i look out the kitchen window too...there may be more impediments to a self-sustaining stand.

backyard update

a brisk and sunny end of november morning for a tramp around the back yard to have a look at what is going on...the yellow peas ( top photo ) in the green manure mix in the old potato patch don't seem to be doing any better than the ones in the community garden...annuals will do that when the weather turns...the winter rye right behind ( second photo ) it is just fine and there seems to be a bit of dixie clover tucked underneath it that is still chugging along...that probably can't last...but i am open to another interpretation should events prove me wrong...the winter wheat in the third photo shows some continuing signs of dormancy while the wheat in the ground ( fourth photo ) does not...perhaps the container vs. ground is the key here...then again the winter wheat in the beds at the community garden seems ready to declare's in the ground as more on this as it emerges, winter isn't even here yet...the terminal spears on the intermediate wheat grass ( bottom photo )have died back but the plants don't seem to be in any more of a hurry to go dormant than their descendants...we will see how the members of the triticeae tribe do over the next couple of could be an endless season...or, at least one that bleeds over into another...annual or perennial, native or immigrant we have continuity here if take the time to look.

Friday, November 29, 2013

post-holiday campus trip

early morning on the day after the holiday found me home alone and with some spare time so of course i went to check on the gardens...there was frost on the green manures again this morning and the yellow peas would seem to have seen better days...the winter rye is going strong and there is still some clover tucked away in there as well as the hairy vetch...we will be looking in on them all winter to see what's up...i can see some yellowing in the winter wheat though...surely a sign of the onset of dormancy...there is wheat going dormant in my back yard as well so i am wondering if the wheat knows something we don't...the overwintering plants we had last season showed no signs of dormancy and if i am not mistaken i was still harvesting brussels sprouts in january of this year ) admittedly small, salad sized ones but sprouts none the less...they were good too ) i am wondering if this winter will be different...we shall surely see...the bottom photos are of the community garden around eight o'clock this morning...the mulch covers all look good and we are buttoned up for whatever winter brings...more in a week or so as the maintenance trips will continue until we begin to plant.

post-holiday campus trip II

i made a stop at the pgp while i was out there and autumn is advanced there as well the gamagrass looks dormant from a distance and pretty much is...but there's still some green in there along with a few seed heads that haven't shattered yet...they were the really late bloomers and i doubt that the seed is very four months the gamagrass will start "greening" for a new season as chlorophyll returns to some of the old growth from last doesn't entirely regenerate new foliage so i'd call it dormant, not dead...a hardy native perennial it will be back in 2014...the seed heads that i left on the northern tepehuan teosinte have begun to open and shatter like the ones in my back yard and i have found seeds on the ground...they will overwinter there and i will be interested to see if this plant ( not a "stand" really since it is one plant ) becomes self-generating...i will be watching that particular area of the garden as closely as i will be looking in on the stand in my yard...the mulches in the pgp are holding up as well...i really didn't expect any issues...the process that i used has worked for several years without a hitch so i think both gardens are good to go through winter...another look at seed heads and dormancy sometime next week.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

teosinte seeds

the seeds on the left in the top photo came from the remnants of northern tepehuan teosinte seed heads that had already shattered on plants in my back yard...the seeds on the right are ones i have collected from the pots containing the indoor teosinte in my basement...the seeds along the top are ones i have purchased from native seeds...obviously the seed heads in the back are shattering more profusely because the plants out there have completely died back while the ones in the basement are going more slowly and will be shattering all three groups there are lighter and darker seeds and when i did a float test the darker seeds in each batch were the ones that sank...moot really since i segregated and planted only dark seeds last spring and the plants produced a wealth of seed heads and i will be planting only the denser dark seeds next march...after some of the other projects become better established i am planning to do some test germination of seed i have collected from this past season's plants and i will be replanting some of those seeds outdoors as well...although surely a multitude of seeds from shattered heads have hit the ground out there to overwinter in the will be interesting to see if the stands of annual teosinte that performed so well this past year re-establish themselves by self-seeding...that would make my day and it would surely find its way into this blog...a self-generating stand of teosinte would leave me geeked for years to come.

harvest data

"while it costs next to nothing to garden, the average urban garden produces about 540 pounds of food a year. if purchased in a grocery store , the fruits and vegetables grown in the average garden would cost $500. But many community gardens to day are more than just sources of almost free food...many observer shave noted that community gardens are a way for people to work together, socialize, and talk with their neighbors. users plan, construct, and maintain the space, thus building community relations..." "civic agriculture" thomas a. lyson._____________________________________________________ looking back at the past season in the community garden i realize that we did not keep very good records in terms of what we actually produced and utilized...with an expansion in the works this is an area that needs some improvement if we are going to get a handle on the process and results..i got a garden journal for my birthday ( thanks again coach! it will be dust will settle )and it will be a good start for data collection...with natives planted around the garden to monitor reaction ( if any ) to a changing climate some greater attention will need to be paid to weather over the 2014 season as well...system deepening is on the march along 35th avenue and we want a better understanding of it...planting day is fun and exciting and most people like some fresh between the beginnings and the results are the nuts and bolts of everyday functions and maintenance that make up the human intervention in the lives of plants that constitutes gardening...we can mimic nature with intercropping and green manures but results depend on acting and understanding what actions to take need some sort of data-based framework..we will do better...have a grand holiday everyone...the feast celebrates the harvest and all the work that founds it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

a broader spectrum

"crops are both cultural and biological entities that have been shaped by hundreds of generations of farmers. in turn, crop plants have shaped cultures and landscapes." stephen b. brush from "farmer's bounty"____________________________________________________well...i'm not a farmer...and i sometimes wonder if you can call the social system i live in a culture...but i am what i eat for sure and i am trying to shape some plants as well so i have at least a tenuous connection to folk taxonomies and organic methodologies that brush writes about...the new, broader spectrum, grow light bulb i ordered came in today's mail and i didn't waste any time in installing it...i had one with a narrower spectrum and one bulb like the one that came today...the plants in the second photo were under the narrower spectrum bulb and are about eighteen inches tall and they were hugging the bulb in an attempt to get more light...they were spending energy to grow taller and expand their photosynthesis area rather than focusing on the work at hand, setting tubers...the plants under the broader spectrum bulb are shorter ( a foot or less ) have larger leaves and, on the whole, are healthier looking...hopefully the new bulb will slow down the taller plants and let them produce some spuds...the storage project is doing further losses..the ollala (fourth photo ) early blue ( fifth photo ) and the roja narino ( bottom ) are solid and sproutless...there may indeed be something to adding some lavender to the storage boxes...still a long way to go and it will be done day by day tuber by tube and plant by plant...losses are to be expected and's part of building a culture.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

wild potatoes round II

the cold start-up for wild potatoes downstairs under the lights is a pretty clear i have decided to try one of those jiffy tomato starting trays and some natural light to see if that has any took about four cups of water and about ten minutes to expand the peat pellets to a workable size and then the issues began...anyone who reads this blog with any sort of regularity is aware that i am more than capable of making multiple typos and even deleting entire sentence phrases making deciphering a train of thought here a challenge at times...chalk it up to extremely clumsy stubby pudgy uncooperative fingers...these are really tiny seeds folks...i was forced to procure a set of tweezers to have even the remotest possibility of any control...i managed to retrieve seeds from the small baggies and plant them in each pellet without any horrible disasters but was hard pressed to do so...after planting and cleaning up i put the lid on the tray and set it in what passes for a sunny spot on this overcast day...within ten minutes or so condensation had already begun to form on the inside of the lid...hopefully this cookery will be a success and i will be able to show you sprouts soon...more as it comes up.


there were a few flurries in the air and ice on the puddles left from yesterday's rain when i left to check out the garden this morning...this season is all but done ( more on that in a minute ) and there's time to ponder imponderables among the beds...i read a lot about transition and localization and food security and sustainability and i wonder at times where this fits in...the garden isn't really about food is too small to feed many people ( as it stands today...that could be changing )but it's a pretty good workshop to work with some of the other topics i listed...sustainability is one...we are trying to close nutrient cycles with green manures and i would like to see a seed saving program in the near future...a small-scale seed bank would be a step in the food security direction and easily affordable and it would create a local resource that could go on for some time...two bird with one stone... there are exactly 1 1/2 native food plants in the garden...the jerusalem artichokes are truly local and the strawberries half that...but cultural diffusion has spread food crops from both hemispheres world wide, so what's local? local is what we can do with the climate and resources at hand to make ourselves a bit less dependent on a social and political center that seems to be driven by expedience and wishful thinking with a perverse touch of greed thrown into the mix...the more irrelevant they are to our lives the better off we will be...they seem determined to do things the same way they always have...i am afraid the result they reap in the future will be drastically different that those of the past...the garden is small but it can teach us a lot of valuable lessons...we really need to slow down, get out from behind the tv and computer screen ( yes i get the irony there...but i was just out at the garden...this is a tool, not a lifestyle ) and give what it has to say a listen...we might even rediscover conversation...we need to talk....we need to listen...we need one another. frost on the green manures this morning...but not on the winter wheat...defiant and hardy i will be watching for dormancy all winter...the mulch covers are holding up well..i have fabric in reserve for repairs if necessary but so far the new stuff seems good...the last photo is the autumnal garden at about 7:10 this morning...we are to get after those wild potatoes...more on that later.

Friday, November 22, 2013

a shade more than 66%

that's about how much of autumn has elapsed already and temperatures here are forecast to be below freezing from tonight through sometime i am happy all the mulch is was warm enough the past couple of weeks that i thought i might have been a bit premature in doing that but it seems that early november is an auspicious time to bed down the perennials...still, the green manures in the past season's potato patch are still hardy and green...they were booming along in the community garden earlier this week as well...there are even yellow peas trying to blossom...optimistic is the word that leaps to mind...the winter wheat in the containers ( third photo ) is showing signs of going dormant...the wheat in the ground is not any more than the green manures are...a mixed bag of reactions...teosinte ears continue to open revealing seeds that don't quite look mature to least not judging by the coloration of seeds i have purchased...still the indoor project goes on and i am collecting seeds from both indoors and outdoors to try to germinate over the next month or so using the hydrogen peroxide soak method to break dormancy as a test run to see how they might fare if i introduce them into the wild in march...the last photo is of a teosinte ear that has opened and shattered...something its descendant maize could never do...tomorrow a trip out to the community garden to check on things and a new approach to germinating wild potatoes ( since the first effort seems to have failed ) it would be great to be able to produce some tubers before spring since this is one of the rare instances where direct seeding isn't that effective and wild potatoes have a role to play next season...more on that tomorrow after i run down some supplies.