Thursday, February 28, 2013

trees are perennials so it's okay

i really had no intentions of starting any more trees this year...five apple trees over the last couple of years seemed to be enough...then at break this afternoon at work i cut open my apple and was surprised to find a seedling in the core...i have seen seeds with roots growing out of them ( and planted them ) but i have never seen one with so much chlorophyll coming out of a co re...i could not bring myself to toss it in the waste basket so i wrapped it in a moist paper towel, brought it home, planted it in a mix of compost and potting soil, and put it under the already crowded grow light ( on an upended box...if it were rummage sale season i would be out looking for a somewhat low table to expand the area...since it is not i will be going to the home improvement store in search of something suitable )...while i was down there i checked on the burgeoning asparagus population and found that another of the older plants has sent up a new spear to feed the expanding roots ( there is another sprout upstairs under the acacia tree so there are twenty-nine separate plants and three with a second spear )...this seems to bear out what i have read about asparagus being reasonably simple to grow from seed as long as the proper methodology is followed ( rich, loamy soil kept well watered for up to ten weeks...i said simple ) apple tree in the yard and a host of seedlings to find homes for...success comes at a price ( as if i had anything to do with the germinating of seeds in apples )...more as it comes up.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

green manures and asparagus after a few years of searching i have finally discovered somewhere besides the usda to acquire seeds for zea diploperennis ( finding the annual variety was fairly simple...just got o native seed search ) at $2.50 a packet they are reasonably priced no matter how many seeds they contain..this site also offers seeds for illinois bundleflower which the land institute says have nitrogen fixing capabilities comparable to soybeans or alfalfa...i have been experimenting with green manure for a number of years, mostly using cowpeas inoculated with rhyzobia and winter wheat as a reservoir for the nitrogen over the winter...this year i am going to try a mix of annuals and overwintering plants including hairy vetch and winter rye ( also inoculated with rhyzobia ) and now that i have found a source i believe i will add the bundleflower to the can see by the nodes on the cowpea roots from last fall that the inoculation does work and the nitrogen fixation is solar and bacteria powered...i am curious to see how the new mix works and it will be going in as the potatoes and maize are harvested and i am thinking of inter-cropping it in the asparagus bed at the iu northwest community garden...and while asparagus is on the menu, it;s getting crowded under the grow light in the least eight of the seeds i put into some old flats i had laying around are up and running bringing the total of plants up to twenty-eight and counting...i am becoming seriously overpopulated in this area and finding homes for them will be a back yard will be seriously stressed for space as it is and the alternate space i have access to has soil underlain with clay which is completely unsuitable for asparagus which needs good month marks the beginning of actual work in the garden as the annual teosinte seeds go in mid-month and the mulch comes off the asparagus towards the end...if all is well the ramps and elephant garlic should come up as well...i have been reading about agroecology and food sovereignty all's time to root around in the dirt.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


"since the 1930s industrialized agriculture has been increasingly promoted by the industrial mind. but now a small but growing minority realizes that high energy destroys information of both the cultural and the biological varieties. this approach not only pollutes landscapes, it rooster-tails the finite supply of nutrients from our agricultural lands into the supermarkets, into the kitchen sinks, onto the chopping boards, onto the tables, and into the human gut, and, once there, more or less head only one way, downstream into the sewers and graveyards." wes jackson. "becoming native to our places"____________________________________________________ entropy has taken on may meanings... in the second law of thermodynamics it is the process by which energy is changed from more to less dense mostly through the process of combustion...the energy source is simplified...goes from more to less extension then i going to say ( as others have said before me...wes jackson included ) that industrial agriculture is entropic in nature in that it simplifies the soil...extracting nutrients that are not returned to the soil but are replaced by anhydrous ammonia which kills earthworms and soil bacteria ( like the rhyzobia bacteria i inoculated my cowpeas with last year and with which i will inoculate my fall planting green manures this autumn ) sterilizing the soil and making it a "growth medium"...the nutrients ( or what's left of them ) disappear into the maw of the food processors never to return...the corn crop behind the big box store is a sterling example...turned into high fructose corn syrup to sweeten the mountain dew or used as a base for the extrusion for hot pockets...( or, possibly. ethanol to power the motor vehicles we all must have to prosper here )...even the stalks are ground into feed for cattle...leaving stubble and the odd ear of industrial feedstock the combine missed to be turned under next spring...cold comfort to starved soil...this is a disheartening picture to contemplate..time to start another compost pile.


the garden may be asleep but another asparagus plant has put out a second spear...there is always movement even when things appear still.

Friday, February 22, 2013

pay it no mind, it never sticks...

it snowed her last night...not nearly as much as the forecast said was possible...nothing new in that...this should help a bit since the palmer drought indices still had my home county in a long term "abnormally dry" climate regime ( which is the best it has been in most of the last year )...temperatures over the next few days are forecast to be in the upper thirties and low forties so the snow won't be here has been cold enough up to this to re-freeze the ground so i don't know how much of the melt will actually reach the water table and how much is going to end up as runoff...even if the drought indices are placated the trees may not be...the cover crop in the field by the supermarket hasn't found any sort of dormancy...either in the photo i took yesterday or today's portrait of plants obscured by snow...neither has the wheat grass from kansas on campus...some of that in my back yard has...some hasn't...harsher climate a few miles east? or just soil structure and content? what is thriving is the asparagus...up to twenty plants in various stages of of the earliest to emerge has prospered under the grow light in the cool of the basement here at the garden's temporary headquarters and has produced a second spear to feed the growing root system...this plant could be seriously pot bound by the middle of april and may have to be hardened off and planted next month ( i will be out in the iu northwest community garden in march anyway, preparing the bed with compost for the asparagus and putting in some northern tepehuan teosinte....which needs a cycle of cold to break dormancy...that i want to use to compliment the hopi blue maize i have earmarked for the center of the aparagus bed )...that would leave it at risk of frost ( unless we have a repeat of last march's weather )but they are cold hardy ( how else could they germinate in the temperatures in this old house ) and i may be concerned for nothing...still if it were as established as the plants in the pgp i would be much less concerned...i am chafing to be back out in the garden and doing something in the soil beyond seed the weather warms a bit i will be clearing out the new potato patch in my back yard ( about a month and a half to planting reds! ) and checking up on the ramps ( due to be up in march if they germinate successfully...they need both cycles of heat and cold to break dormancy..if i remember correctly i planted them in august so i hope they come up...however they can take two years to appear so i will limit my disappointment if they fail to emerge ) and the ginseng that i planted in september...enough of planning and seed accumulation ( the research goes on forever )...i need to act...more as it comes up

asparagus and wheat grass appendix

asparagus under the light...a root but no shoot (yet )...and dormant and not so dormant wheat grass in the back yard

Monday, February 18, 2013

more asparagus

there are now seventeen asparagus plants up and running under the grow light...more than i need for the iuncg but spares never hurt since there will probably be casualties...i am pleased that the seed from the plants in the pgp are so viable and they are much easier to germinate than say teosinte which is picky about conditions...especially ( in my experience ) the annual varieties...these photos were intended to provide some idea of the size the root system of a mature ( five year old ) plant reaches...the seedling in front of my index finger extends barely a quarter inch above the peat pellet it germinated in but the root is sticking out of the bottom of the pellet by about an inch and a half...add in the two inch depth of the peat pellet and the root is somewhere around fourteen times the size of the shoot...asparagus roots extend down from the plant in a conical shape and reach depths of six to eight feet or more...they are heavy feeders and the roots support some rather tall and "ferny" plants that put out multiple spears ( i had twenty-five spears from seven plants last season )...if you're considering growing some good drainage is a must...they need water but don't like having wet feet...the roots will rot if water accumulates so sandy or loamy soil is the environment for these critters...fortunately the campus has sand about eighteen inches down so the plants are quite happy by hawthorn best guess ( and hope ) is that the will do fine in the community garden as well.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

a green sort of winter

a quick visit to the campus garden shows that the wheat grass domesticates haven't gone dormant yet...not a surprise really...the temperatures here continue to yo-yo...forty plus one day and a high in the twenties the next...the campus lawn isn't dormant either...and for that matter neither is some other plant life...the wheat grass plants have green company in the garden which, for now at least, remains unidentified...they are spread out in the sunny parts of the garden ( which is really almost all of it right now )...staking out turf for the coming spring heat...they will have to go unless they prove to be an edible native species...then there will have to be careful allocation of space ( and which is why i need to try to identify them )...the weather has me hoping that my zea diploperennis will come through for a third season and add some empirical evidence of climate change to go with the usda hardiness zone change we got last if only what burrowed into the yam bed hasn't eaten the asparagus seedlings have grown in number with a population of fourteen plants under the grow light...two new ones from the january planting have emerged also in the fifty day range of time between planting and germination...there will be extras apparently so if anyone nearby is interested in establishing some drop me a line.


new life and the old gang down under the grow light...gearing up for transplanting.

Friday, February 15, 2013

food vs. commodities

"rates of profit for agribiusiness have soared. for example in 2007 cargill's profits rose 36 percent, adm's 67 percent and bunge's 49 percent...meanwhile seed and agrochemical corporations reported unusual profits for 2007:monsanto 44 percent, dupont 19 percent, and syngenta 28 percent . rising prices for inputs like fertilizer, seed, and chemical sprays explain why most small farmers have not benefited from rising food prices." the world food crisis in perspective.philip mcmichael. "u.s. corn ethanol explains one third of the rise in the world corn price according to fao, and 70% according to the imf. the world bank estimates that u.s. policy is responsible for 65% of the surge in food prices..." jaques berthelot "the food crisis explosion: root causes and how to regulate them."kurswechsel 3 (2008):26 "...the homeland of corn had been reduced to a corn importing economy by free market policies promoted by the international monetary fund, the world bank, and washington..." walden bello and mara baviera "food wars"_______________________ so by turning the farmer into a consumer of gmo seeds, fertilizer, herbicides, and fuel for farm machinery the agribuisness companies turned them from producers of food into producers of industrial feedstock that passed through ethanol refineries, cafos, or industrial food packagers and decoupled food from farms and made it a commodity subject to free market principles that destroyed traditional subsistence agriculture ( and so the cultures it supported, emptying the countryside into mega slums that held a gigantic pool of cheap labor to be used to leverage the export of living wage manufacturing jobs from the west to the sweat shops of the east )and by mandating minimum ethanol content in fuels the u.s. government initiated a world wide spike in food prices that has destablized a good part of the is no longer food in a cultural is a product and a lot of it is fungible and most of it is unhealthy...who is it that profits form all this? monsanto seemingly and all at the expense of cultural diversity and the health of those whose diet is being "westernized"...we're exporting diabetes and cancer and heart disease with those commodities that have so undermined the farmers of the global south...these may not be the only reasons i took up organic gardening, heirloom seeds, and seed saving but they are part of the explanation and are gaining in prominence as i do more research and read more ethnographies...the system as it stands is not sustainable...small scale organic farming of diversified crops is the only rational response...more worms...more compost...more native perennials...more work on campus and in my back yard...all in an effort to make my food whole again.

Monday, February 11, 2013

perennial populations II

another asparagus plant has popped up...nine in all now and all from the planting on the sixteenth of came to my attention yesterday making it fifty-six days from has joined last weeks three under the grow light in the basement...all are doing well although two are intertwining themselves as they grow and will be difficult to separate at planting so i am assuming i will be leaving them conjoined in the garden...the program has proved successful so far and i only need two more to fill my space at the iuncg...year old crowns are reasonably inexpensive and easy which is why i used them to start the bed at the perennial garden project but my inclination is to try to save seed and propagate my plants in a more traditional manner ( the row light being one of many exceptions to a traditional form of gardening )...i want the experience of starting from scratch and defying the seed patenters out in the agribiusiness world...round up ready soy beans or liberty-link corn aren't something i want to deal with...i also don't want to be dependent on energy intensive technology...worms, manure, seeds. and rhizobia are all i want to use.