Archive for October, 2014

Residue Problems with Herbicides in Gardening

Residue Problems with Herbicides in Gardening

By George Giltner, MS Biology, Adv. Master Gardener

 

A recent Mercola interview with MIT research scientist, Dr. Stephanie Seneff has raised the awareness of human health problems with glyphosate (Roundup) that has entered the American food supply by genetically modified organisms (GMO’s which include wheat, corn, soybeans, etc.).

 

Everyone has heard the sales pitch of how “biodegradable”, “environmentally friendly”, and “clean and inert” it is for years.  Now biochemical research is painting a different picture that looks more like an evil villain.  Mounting evidence according to Dr. Seneff pictures glyphosate as “the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies”.

 

These chronic diseases are the result of nutritional deficiencies and systemic toxicity caused by glyphosate. Strangely, the mechanism of harm is through intestinal microbes.  Beneficial gut bacteria are preferentially affected (as weeds), causing disruption in microbial functions and lifecycle.  Pathogens flourish and then inflammation causes disease.  For a better description of the mechanisms, please view the hour-long interview: www.articles.mercola.com./sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx.  Note: Some terms are scientific, however concepts are simplified by an interviewer.  Discussions involve biochemical mechanisms related to autism, allergies, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.

 

When you do use Roundup at home treat it with respect. Wear PPE, bathe, wash clothes, and do not inhale spray droplets.  Keep the kids away from spray area and don’t let the dog roll in grass sprayed that will be rubbed off by petting at a later time.  Remember that the half life of glyphosate ranges from 1 to 174 days as water and bacterial action are required for degradation.  In ponds the half life is about 2 weeks to 10 weeks.

 

Another herbicide commonly used is “Sledgehammer”, halosulfuron-methyl. For controlling pesky nutgrass this herbicide will work by systemically destroying the nut tuber and stem.  The question always comes up – “Can I use it in my Vegetable Garden?”  The answer is emphatically “No” or “No Way”.  The reason – The EPA states that it can persist at toxic levels to plants for months or years.  Therefore if you have a garden area that was sprayed with this chemical, and it has not produced vegetables for years, it may be due this persistent chemical herbicide.

 

Yet another herbicide, Tordon (picloram) is commonly used to rid property of tallow trees or to destroy regrowth from stumps. The problem with Tordon is that it also persist for a long time, like several years.  Trees in the vicinity of a treated tree may also be killed as the chemical can be easily absorbed by nearby roots.  Broadleaf crops can be damage for up to two years.  Extension recommends use of Roundup for stumps and root sprouts.  Tordon should not be used for backyard usage.

 

These are just three examples of herbicides with residual or human health effects. Before you use any chemical for gardening, do like our county agent says, “Read everything on the herbicide label”.  Also be sure to wear PPE, and above all keep updated on new research and herbicide safety.

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Drones for Forest Landowners

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Drones for Forest Landowners

By George Giltner

 One of the newest evolving gadgets for farmers is camera drones. The technology has recently changed into “smart” flying cameras that offer a multitude of uses. Even a first glace at a one of these visual choppers scares off many potential users, but the flying has been greatly simplified and is reportedly fun to operate. A quick search on the internet yields numerous videos of instructions, flight trials, and aerial views that seeds landowner’s usage.

drone pic

DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter

Forest landowners need close aerial, visual information. For example – When smoke is in the air, a quick flight of a 20 minute battery operated flying camera could spot the location and extent of a local fire.  Then response time could be minimized to reduce damage and intensity.  With state fire teams stretched to extremely low numbers, a quick response by local landowners equipped with plows, sprayers, and rakes could put out initial small fires.

 

The eye in the sky can also observe suspicious activity. Trespassers, illegal hunters, parked cars around the property boundary, nearby logging operations, etc. can be viewed without risk and the effort of time.  These cameras can range to 300 yards.  Also they can be fitted with wide angle to narrow vision lens.

Some four-legged animals can really be a pest around a tree farm. Feral hogs, loose cows from a busted fence, coyotes, and even deer can be located easily from an above live camera video feed to an iPhone attached to the flight controller.  On the ground this would be impossible, as bushes just a few yards away can hide a piney woods rooter.  However, you would not want to launch a Quadcopter around trees, especially in winds.

Your investment for a good camera system is usually beyond $1000, therefore having it hung up 100 feet into a Longleaf pine, and then dropping to ground would be a disaster. A cleared out loading zone is ideal for launches and retrievals.  If you drop the controller and the power is lost, no problem – a GPS system like the Phantom 2 goes into auto-retrieve mode and flies back to the launch site for a landing.  This also applies when the limit range is overreached.

With a high visual view, problem bug sites can be identified. Also the quickest route can be determined and saved for an up-close examination of the infection. In years of outbreaks of southern pine beetles, this can be a priceless tool for the landowner.  In two weeks time a 40 acre plot could be destroyed within two weeks time, like in the late 70’s and 80’s.

In our Louisiana woods, slews, creeks, marshes, and other obstacles make havoc of a “quick walk in the woods”. A man plowing fire lanes became lost overnight in a creek bottom as he went for a diesel can ‘just across the creek’.  Other stories were common until the age of cell phones, GPS, and updated aerial maps.

Therefore with a little investment in time and a moderate investment in technology, a modern forest manager can have an excellent tool for aerial observation and historical photography. Beyond the forest business, aerial cameras are used for outstanding photography, hobbies, security, and family fun. They are definitely worth investigating for your use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Keeping a Garden Journal is so Important and, How to Keep it Simple

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Why Keeping a Garden Journal is so Important and,     How to Keep it Simple

By: Emily Shirley, Adv. Master Gardener

We have mentioned the idea of keeping a garden journal and all the advantages of doing so, but we continue to get comments on why people don’t seem to be able to do this, as well as questions about how to organize. Some say they have good intentions and they start, but for several reasons, they don’t keep it up.   It is a good conversation to have, so here we go.

Let’s start with the basics. What is a garden journal? It is a written record of your garden and your garden-related activities. And by “written” we mean hand-written, typed on a computer, and maybe includes things you may want to attach, such as attaching receipts from the store or copies of your seed packets. You can keep your garden journal contents in any notebook, on note cards organized into a file or a combination of a folder with attachments and information entered into a computer journal. A ring binder works best because it allows you to insert sheets of graph paper, calendar pages, pockets for your seed packets and plant tags, and pages for your photographs. Keeping a garden journal gives you a written record of your garden plans, successes and failures.

Sometimes future “plans” become dreams that have to “bake” in my head until at some point they become a reality. The garden journal is a place for me to jot down what I think I may want to do at some point in the future with some small plot for a new garden area. I can continue to think about this area and change things around until I feel that it is ready to be done. (My Garden Journal has a section for “New Plans” and we can talk about that more as we talk about how to set up and divide your journal.)

For vegetable gardeners, an important function of the journal is keeping track of crop rotation. I name the different garden areas on my property so I know what I am referring to when I make note of what is planted where at various times.   We know that planting the same crop in the same location each time you plant depletes the soil and encourages pests and diseases. Many vegetables should be planted on a 3- to 5-year rotation schedule. This is where the sketch of your garden areas, with the names of each area, comes in handy.

A Gardener Rabbit Hole

So let’s get off subject just a minute and go down a gardeners “rabbit hole”. Because crop rotation is so important and is one of the most important reasons you will want to keep a garden journal, let’s talk about crop rotation and the different plant families just a bit more before moving on to the subject at hand.

Different vegetables belong to different families, and different botanical families have different nutritional needs and have different issues.

We learned in our Master Gardener classes about these different plant families:

Solanaceae – The nightshade family is the most commonly represented group in most home gardens. These include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes (not sweet potatoes). There are common fungi that build in the soil when nightshades are planted in the same spot year after year.

Cucurbitaceae – Vining plants produce their fruit on a long vine with seeds running through the center of the fruit and most are protected by a hard rind. Cucumbers, zucchini, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, melons and gourds are included in this family.

Fabaceae – This is the large family of legumes. These are our nitrogen fixers. Peas, beans, peanuts and cowpeas are common vegetables in the legume family.   Gardeners who use clover or alfalfa as cover crops in the winter need to rotate them along with other members of the Fabaceae family, since they are also legumes and susceptible to the same diseases.

Brassicacae – Also known as the cole crops are members of the mustard family and are used by many gardeners to extend their growing season. Frost sometimes improves the flavor of these crops. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, radishes, turnips and collard greens are mustards grown in home gardens.

Liliaceae – Members of the onion family require rotation just like other families. These include onions, garlic, chives, shallots or asparagus. Asparagus must be life in place for several years.   Also, when selecting a site for your asparagus bed, make sure that no other family members have been grown nearby for several years.

Lamiaceae – These are not really vegetables but are members of the mint family. These include mints, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. These are sometimes inter-planted with vegetables to deter pests.

We are still talking about crop rotation here so stick with me for a minute. When you grow plants from the same family in the same place year after year, they leach away specific nutrients that they need. Eventually, the area will be depleted of the nutrients that particular family of plants need.

Vegetables in the same botanical family will also be susceptible to the same pets and diseases. If you plant the same families in the same spot year after year it is like hanging a sign up for certain pests and diseases. You want to keep them on the run and confused. You will do that with crop rotation.

Some will say, “Wait a minute – this is all too confusing and complicated. I thought gardening was simple.” Well, yes it is simple. All you really have to do is make sure that plants from the same family do not get planted in the same spot for more than three years in a row. If there is a particular pest or disease in one area of the garden, don’t plant the affected botanical families there for at least two years. For example, if you had problems with your tomatoes last year, do not plant tomatoes, peppers or eggplant in that area for at least two years. It is simple but you do have to remember a few things.   This is where the Garden Journal comes in handy.

Every year, before you plant your garden, refer to your journal and make a note of where plants were planted last year and how they performed. If they performed poorly, rotate that family to a different area of the garden.     This will greatly increase the yield of your crop.

Okay, that is the end of the gardeners “rabbit hole” so let’s get back to focusing on the Garden Journal.

There are not a lot of complicated rules that someone else has made up that you need to follow when it comes to keeping a Garden Journal. Keep it simple and try to find time to record something every day or so, and record the important things as soon as possible so you do not forget. Make it your own and make it something that is useful to you.

At a minimum you may want to include:

  • An initial sketch of your garden layout.   (Again, name each different garden area for reference.)
  • Pictures of your garden areas
  • A list of plants you know you will plant each year because these are the plants you know you and your family like. You will want to note plant times for each of these.   You can also make notes to remind you of things. For example: “I plant my Irish potatoes by Valentine’s Day each year.”
  • Any research papers on these plants. (This will be a one-page “cheat-sheet” where you have looked up things about this particular plant such as plant times, fertilizer requirements, watering requirements, etc.
  • A list of plants you would like to try and your research about these plants. (Their growing requirements, when you would plant them, etc.)
  • Resources. (Including favorite seed catalogs, web sites that you typically refer to, etc.) This is a good place to list local businesses that carry the things you typically need each growing season. (For example: “O’Neal Feeder Supply carries the onions I plant each year. I get my strawberry plants and sweet potato slips from Country Gardens.”)
  • Reminders. (For example. “Remember to call Country Gardens around May 15th and tell them how many sweet potato slips I need this year.”
  • Expenses and receipts.
  • Calendar (It is handy to just purchase a refill of the type calendar that fits into a ring binder so you can just make entries each day.
  • Dates to remember. Keep a list of these and then at the beginning of the year, go to your daily calendar and note a reminder to yourself – such as when to divide perennials.

Description of an ideal Garden Journal:

  • A three-ring binder that is three inches thick
    • Sheet protectors
    • Large envelopes with holes punched in order to put in the binder
    • A three-ring calendar refill to make daily entries
  • A designated “In-Box” to drop things into until you have time to put them in the binder.
    • A set of dividers with tabs.   Tabs will include:
    • Calendar (goes as the first thing in the journal because you will open up to it almost daily.)
    • Garden Layout – layout of your garden areas (with the names of each area noted.)
    • My plants – list of plants you typically plant each year, with a note of when you typically plant each of these.
    • Plant Research – file your research paper here.
    • Resources – Behind this tab is a sheet that lists all your resources, including people and telephone numbers. Sometimes you need to call others for help. You can include a “Reminders” page in the resource section.
    • Dates to remember
    • Future Plants – list of plants you will try at some future date.
    • Garden Design Ideas – Put sheet protectors behind this tab to hold pictures of design ideas that you cut out from magazines, etc.
    • Expenses & Receipts (put a sheet protector or envelope behind this tab to hold things in as you get them.)
    • Pictures – you may need sheet protectors to hold pictures if you do not just print them out on regular paper.
    • Equipment — If you have a lot of gardening equipment, you may want to include a tab on garden equipment, or make a separate binder for information on your equipment. (For example: I have three tractors, a weed-eater and a mower.) I need to keep up with when everything is serviced and making a note in my garden journal, and then transferring that to a permanent “equipment’ journal is easy since I am making entries in the garden journal daily.)

 

Keeping a garden journal is fun and fulfilling.   It is something “garden related” that gives you something to do on those rainy days when you cannot get out in the garden. Start by having a designated gardening “in-box” where you drop things such as receipts, articles, research papers, seed packets and plant tags. Keeping a Garden Journal is THE way to learn from your successes and mistakes and improve your gardening skills. And, you don’t have to remember a thing – it is all there in your Garden Journal (binder)!

 

 
Each of us has an opportunity to support a healthier, sustainable food system through the choices we make every day.
 
 

 

Basil helps tomatoes to overcome insects and disease, also improving growth and flavor. Since it is a small plant, one to two feet tall, grow it parallel to tomatoes rather than among them. It repels mosquitoes and flies, and when laid over tomatoes in a serving bowl will deter fruit flies.

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Chasing the Rose

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Book Review: Chasing the Rose

By: Emily Shirley, Adv. Master Gardener

Chasing the Rose

Because people that know me know that I love to read, I am often asked “What are you reading?” At the moment, I am reading a book titled “Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside

This book is Andrea di Robilant’s quest for the name of a rose that grew on his family’s former estate near Venice. His journey took him from the wild overgrown park on the estate that had left his family decades before, to Eleanora Garlant and her rose garden, the largest in Italy with 1500 roses, as well as tales of his great-great-great-great grandmother Lucia with her love and knowledge of roses, the Empress Josephine and the histories of many individual roses.

For centuries people have considered the Rose a romantic flower, inspiring poets, artists and rose hunters who dared the treacherous and distant mountains of faraway China. Di Robilant’s researches are a romantic quest in themselves, and while his explorations and discoveries are fascinating to a rose gardener and lover, there is an enchantment in his travels, captured by Nina Fuga’s simple and graceful watercolor illustrations.

“When I planted my first old fashioned roses I chose Madame Hardy, Comtesse de Murinais, Konegin von Danemark and Madame Plantier and other lady roses who were famous enough or loved enough to have a rose named in their honor. When I walked past these roses early in the dewy morning I imagined us all primping and preparing for the day together. My reaction to the roses is very similar to di Robilant’s in Signora Galant’s garden. “When I saw the ‘Empress Josephine’ spread out against Eleanora’s corner pergola, I inevitably conjured up the real Josephine. And so it was with the other roses arrayed around it. I was no longer simply walking along a path looking at the roses on display; I had stepped into a crowded, lively room filled with roses that were looking at me.”

Although di Robilant sometimes writes of the gardens of the wealthy, it is the stamina and resilience of these old roses that fascinate him, and me. I was moved by the amazing story of Pierina, a teacher who married a civil engineer and followed her husband to Irkutsk in Siberia where he was overseeing the building of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. There she continued to teach school, and wrote about conditions for labor organizations. She survived the Russian Revolution and many other trials until at age 74 she walked to Vladivostok, and from there made her way home – and continued to teach!  Stamina and resilience. Signora Galant named one of her new hybrids Pierina.

This is definitely a book for anyone that loves roses. I almost felt as if the roses discussed were people that I got to know through the book.  Would I recommend this book to others, especially gardeners, and especially to rose gardeners?  YES!

Emily Shirley

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