Sunday, July 31, 2011

more zea morphology

( i adore a random photo will have to excuse the fact that the narrative does not match the order of the photos )
the maize in my backyard (photo two) has developed support roots around the base growing from a ring of nodes on the the northern tepehuan teosinte has grown taller ( photo's a bit over three feet tall) it has developed a second and now a third tier of support roots ( photos one and four...if you click on photo four and then enlarge it you'll get the better view) growing form the same sort of nodes around the stem that the maize is exhibiting...this must be standard fare in every basic plant morphology text in the most basic, entry level botany class anywhere you'd care to name...but it's new to me...i never invested much thought into how maize and field corn plants support themselves or where such a trait may have come the four months since i planted teosinte i have gained a better insight.

late july movement

it's still hot here and it has not rained in a few days so i went out o the campus garden to make sure the shallow rooted plants were watered well enough...i don't usually worry too much about the more deeply rooted perennials ( asparagus, the yams, and the gamagrass ) unless it is as hot and dry as it was week before rained pretty well at the end of last week and the perennials are responding...the top photo is of clump of gamgrass that is the farthest west in the garden and it has produced three seed heads ( second and third photos) its neighbor seeded earlier this season which was something of a surprise since my reading was telling me not to expect seeds until the third season...good news...more viable seed to try to establish some stands of eastern gamagrass here at home...the fourth photo is of yet another new asparagus spear emerging...that is two this month i conditions must be fairly optimal for both those perennials this year...the bottom photo is the perennial garden project at about 11:30 this morning...the jerusalem artichokes are blooming (tubers!) the chinese yam vines are doing well and should flower soon...and there are asparagus berries that are maturing and preparing to seed my beds with more plants...the garden never sleeps...changes every time i visit...still geeked.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

pungent pachyderms

a stop by the perennial bed on a tour of the backyard told me that the elephant garlic was ready to harvest (top photo ) so i went downstairs and got the spading fork and popped them up (photo number two)...three nice sized bulbs and thirteen smaller cloves growing off the roots to replant for next season (photo three)...three plants last season produced only three cloves to plant for this year...the current season was far more productive and the only difference i can come up with beyond the fact that i grew it on campus last year and did it at home this, is that the plants on campus were in full sun and the perennial bed on the south side of the house is n partial shade during the day...perhaps they don't particularly care for full sun...with thirteen cloves to plant this autumn i believe some will receive full sun and some will be partially shaded...that experiment may provide some answers...then again perhaps not...won't know for a year...i am learning patience in all this...or maybe it is just a way to get away from the rest of life's little turmoils...either way.

some perspective...

...on how tall some of the plants in the photos i've been posting are...the top photo is of the ( depending on which side of the corn war you're on ) maize ancestors zea diploperennis and eastern gamagrass...second in line is a photo of the jerusalem artichokes that are about eighty-two inches tall (ten inches over my head)...the gamagrass is almost forty inches tall while the teosinte has hit three feet...the bottom photo is the pgp at about nine-thirty this morning...well watered combined with a sunny warm day means they'll be bigger tomorrow.

Friday, July 29, 2011

yams and artichokes

it has rained and thoroughly watered the garden the last few days so the maintenance needs have consisted of a minimal amount of weeding...mostly pulling the crabgrass from the university lawn out and aerating the soil around the plants...the jerusalem artichokes have begun to flower in earnest and will cycle through all the buds over the next month or so...the buds are multiplying and i counted well over five hundred today on the fourteen shortage of big yellow flowers for a while...the second yam has finally reached the top of the trellis post so i put the second one in and strung some mason's twine across for it to spiral around..i also put another line across about mid-point in the trellis posts so the cowpeas will have somewhere to vine besides aruind other plants...the rain has returned the eastern gamagrass to a lush state and the clumps are expanding their nest year i'm thinking the two clumps at the eastern edge of the garden will have nearly met making a gamagrass border on that side as a counterpoint to the asparagus and intermediate wheat grass beds on the western side...with jerusalem artichokes on the north and the other asparagus on the south that will leave only the middle open of new plants...i have requested germplasm for wild potatoes from the international potato institute and dr. david tay tells me that he will happily send it...just waiting for the bureaucracy to process things...wild potatoes are perennials and they are not plant/replant like domestic potatoes so once they go in they will be another permanent denizen along with the asparagus and chinese yams...i will grow potatoes next year on campus as a morphological comparison of ancestor/domesticate much like the teosinte/gamagrass/ maize grouping and intermediate wheat grass/ wheat that was grown this year..the one hundred and sixty square feet are filling up....within another season or two ( providing the university tolerates it) it will be on its way to permaculture with only a ground cover left to be selected ( new zealand or okinawa spinach?)...then the perennial garden project will be living up to its name and the morphological stuff will be confined to my back yard ( wild potatoes will grow here as well)

Zea diploperennis

just some photos showing Zea diploperennis alternating leaf nodes and my eye field corn resembles teosinte much more closely than sweet corn does.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

food tax

"...heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are all in large part caused by the standard american diet (yes, it's sad )...yet the food industry appears to be incapable of marketing healthy foods. and whether its leaders are confused or just stalling doesn't matter because the fixes are not really their problem. their mission is not public health but profit so they'll continue to sell the health damaging food that's most profitable until the market or another force skews things otherwise."

mark bittman from an op-ed piece in the n y times 7-23-2011

"..our current just-in-time food system and agricultural practices are hugely risky. as the current economic crisis tightens, those involved in food production and distribution strive for further efficiencies and economies of scale as deflation drives their prices down. the lower prices help maintain welfare and social peace, and make it easier for consumers to service their debts, which in turn supports our battered banks, whose health must be preserved or the bond market might not turn up at a government auction. as a result it is very hard to do major surgery on our food systems if doing so required higher food prices, decreased productivity, and gave a poorer investment return."

david korowicz. "on the cusp of collapse: complexity, energy, and the globalized economy."

i'm inclined to agree with bittman that the current food system does little to "maintain welfare" but i think that korowicz brings up a valid point when he says that changing the food system as it stands won't be all that easy...i've heard "tax bad food out of existence" from any number of sources as i have read about agriculture as it stands...the standard american diet may not be healthy but it does have a function is preserving social and junk food are amazingly cheap because of the subsidies the government give to agriculture, particularly corn ( yes i will recommend the film "king corn" once again) and it is no coincidence that those who suffer most from poor diets are the poor...the dollar menu is a staple when that's all you can afford...growing your own food takes time, space, and investment both in acquiring plants and maintaining them...more things poor people don't have ready access to...vegetables aren't cheap no matter how you come by them and i can't help but think that taxing bad food out of existence will not have the beneficial effects that taxing cigarettes to a prohibitive price has ( yes...he does address that) will simply make poor people hungry and that will not aid social peace...the food industry has huge sunk costs in its system of acquiring, processing and distributing its manufactured goods...the up front costs of tearing that system down would inflate the cost of food for at least the time it would take to build a new food infrastructure...does anyone have that sort of cash? i don't think the bond market will fail if people start eating a healthier diet ( it seems to be able to fair badly enough on its own) but i'm not sure a tax that makes cheap food more expensive but doesn't make healthy food more affordable quickly is going to do any good...the change has to start with how we produce and utilize food and that will be something of a drawn out quick fixes here...stroll over to the land institute's web site and check out the "fifty year farm bill" that's will give you a better perspective on the amount of time needed to undo all the interconnectedness that korowicz is on about.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

intermediate wheat grass and wheat

there's been a lot of traffic to this blog the last few days from people searching for information and images of wheat grass, wheat, and wheat morphology...for information on wheat and wheat morphology...or perennials in general i suggest you surf over to the land institute's web site...knowledgeable ( far more so than me) and friendly towards polite inquiry you can probably learn more form for images...those i can provide to some degree...i have a lot of experience in searching for plant images and finding a hodgepodge of photos of seemingly unrealated plants all assembled the top and bottom two are photos i have taken of my intermediate wheat grass bed over that past week as the seeds mature and are beginning to be ready to collect...the middle photo is of a winter wheat seed head on the left, and intermediate wheat grass seed head in the middle, and a spring wheat seed head on the right which could shed a tiny bit of illumination about wheat morphology...hope that least you can be reasonably certain that the photos are what they purport to be.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


took a quick trip out to campus this afternoon...just to check up on things after the last time the maize was leaning over and had to be hilled back upright ( buffalobird-woman says that beyond productivity issues the maize hills needed to be spaced far enough apart that soil could be pulled up around the base of the plants to support them as they grew...another major difference between traditional and industrial agricultural methods)...beyond that i found plants under a lot less stress after some rain and a bit of a cool-off...the jerusalem artichokes are beginning to blossom in earnest and will do so for the next month or an unscientific census i counted four hundred and twenty four blossoms or buds...time to give them all the water they want...last stage of growth = tubers and a dearth of water inhibits their production...the sunchokes here at home are budding ( remember most of then are rouges culled form the campus garden and running a bit behind the campus )but none have sprouted flowers...more as the display develops

Saturday, July 23, 2011

home garden I

"several thousand years before european colonists and african slaves would make that region an integral part of the capitalist western world, the indigenous peoples of the eastern seaboard grew corn as their dietary mainstay."

"traditional european crops and agricultural techniques had to be rejected as unsuitable. indigenous techniques and plants were used instead because they allowed the land to be used immediately. these methods relied on fire in order to clear the forrest and allowed for sowing crops between the stumps without uprooting them first."
Corn & Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to Global Dominance" [warman 2003]

"it was easy to make a hill in the ashes where a brush heap had been fired, or in soil that was free of roots and stumps; but there were many stumps in the field, left over from the previous summer's clearing. if the planter found a stump stood where a hill should be, she placed the hill on the side of the stump or beyond it, no matter how close this brought the hill to the next in the row. thus, the corn hills did not stand at even distances in the row in the first year..."
Native American Gardening: Buffalobird-Woman's Guide to Traditional Methods. [wilson 1917]

traditional maize needed room to be had a high ratio of grain returned for grain sown...around 150:1 compared to 9:1 for wheat ( this is traditional, pre-industrial agriculture we're talking here not transgenetic industrial stuff )european colonists turned to maize as a staple because it was adapted to the environment producing more grain than european imports could...much of the genetic changes made to industrial corn have been geared towards increasing its ability to grow closer together and still produce large returns of grain...that's why the corn you see in the fields is spaced a foot apart by the mechanical planters while buffalobird-woman made her corn hills at least three feet apart..." i would plant six or eight grains in a hill"[wilson 1917. p22] to insure at least on germinated plant per hill...even spread out across a field ( wheat, oats, or rye were simply broadcast into the field ) maize out produced the crops europeans brought with them until both the crops and techniques were adapted to the american environment.

the top photo is of the maize ears on campus.
the second photo is of maize support roots.
the third is of northern tepuhan teosinte support roots.
the fourth photo is of a maize ear that is just emerging from a plant in my back yard.

home garden II

the apple trees are doing well...all exhibiting new growth...i have been keeping them well watered ( even before the current blast of summer heat ) and they receive full sun most of the day...i haven't had time to do much research about the number of years it takes for an apple tree to produce fruit...for now i am simply occupied with keeping them healthy through the first year...fruit is an issue for the future...the bottom photo is the perennial bed on the south side of the house...i had fits and starts with the yams but they are coming along now...the vines are winding their way up the trellis and should be feeding an expanding root system to carry the plants over to next year...the elephant garlic has begun to die back and will be harvested soon...hopefully with enough viable bulbs to allow another planting...the jerusalem artichokes at the back have begun to form buds and will flower soon...they are running a bit behind the plants on campus which are already flowering but they are in shade part of the day as opposed to full sunlight which may explain the gap in behavior in plants that sprouted at virtually the same time.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


clearly i do not yet understand how firefox interacts with blogger's photo frustration is as boundless as a politician's arrogance...but anyway...the top photo is of the zea diploperennis plant that is in full sun all day...its leaves were curled again this evening and the ground that i soaked after i mulched it was bone i soaked it again and the bottom photo is the same plant at pretty much the same angle about forty minute later...the curling was much less pronounced as the plant once again displayed its powers of recovery...the second photo is of some decidedly distressed jerusalem artichokes curling their leaves away from the sun...when the native plants are showing signs of unhappiness you know something is up...i soaked them as well...the third and fourth photos are support roots on northern tepehuan teosinte in the back yard...the morphological proof of a familial relationship with maize could not be clearer to's still in the 90s out there ( it was 84 at 4:00 am) and i hear thunder in the distance...i can hope for rain, but i will plan on a trip to campus tomorrow to soak the roots again.