Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday Morning Aches & Pains

When is having various bruises, bites, aches and pains on a Monday morning a good thing? When you got them spending nearly the entire weekend gardening.

In anticipation of our monthly Community Garden Work Day, I had gone to my plot last Wednesday and ripped out all the vining stuff and the squash and tomato plants. What a fun chore that was...not. I did uncover a 12" zucchini, several cantaloupes and lots and lots of squash bugs. Blech.

The only stuff left in the bed now: Kakai pumpkin, Delicata squash, Burpee eggplant, Ancho pepper, and Lilac pepper. Given that our beds are each 18' x 4', it looks pretty empty.

The work day started bright and early Saturday at 7...and I showed up around 7:30. I spent the entire time removing the old mulch, killing the few remaining squash bugs with orange oil, and adding a fresh layer of compost to my plot. I also worked in 5 lbs. of "Something Special," a really nice soil blend made by the great folks at Rabbit Hill Farm in nearby Corsicana, Texas. It's primarily bunny manure, alfalfa and various rock phospates. Great stuff.

Because we were supposed to get torrential rain and hail on Saturday, I elected to hold off on planting anything. We did get some rain, but nothing monumental, so...Sunday morning I was back at my plot, planting seeds. The air was crisp, cool and quiet. It was sheer heaven.

On the way home, I was a naughty girl. Stopped at Calloway's to see if they had any of the Tiger's Eye Staghorn Sumac. Now, I've had one of these for a year now (I got it from Wayside **cough-ripoff-cough** Gardens) and love it. But Dallas Morning News gardening writer Mariana Greene wrote a great article recently about how this glorious sumac is capturing everybody's heart and well...I decided I needed another one. Plus a couple of cool-looking pumpkins.

The rest of Sunday was spent piddling around outside in the great weather. It was about 80° with a nice breeze - just perfect. I divided a few irises and heucherellas, planted the new sumac and a few other things, put the tomato cages in the attic, and neatened up my potting bench area in the garage. Oh, that every weekend could give me Monday Morning Gardener's Ache...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Letter to the Editor

Here's a letter that was published in today's Dallas Morning News (I've taken out the author's name, although the paper did print it):

Naturally, it's a gamble

Re: "Tainted spinach illnesses grow – 109 E. coli cases listed; mixed greens among more brand recalls," Monday news story.

If the food is naturally grown, it's fertilized only with manure – the prime host for E. coli. So it seems that parasitic poisoning is a risk whenever you buy foods grown organically.

Say what you will about food grown with chemical fertilizers, but they don't harbor E. coli from fertilizer.

Here's the response I just emailed in:

As a Collin County Master Gardener intern and an organic gardener, I was deeply disturbed by XX's letter criticizing the use of organic methods in light of the recent spinach-related E. coli outbreak. My first thought was "Gee, I wonder what chemical company he works for?"

First off, Mr. X is premature in blaming cow manure. On Page 6A of the very same edition in which his letter ran, investigators revealed they still had no idea what the source of the outbreak was. It could be contaminated water in the area, unsanitary harvesting practices...lots of things.

Secondly, the FDA issues guidelines for composting manure before it's used on crops. No organic gardener or farmer in their right mind uses uncomposted cow manure on food crops. Composting, when done correctly, kills dangerous pathogens in the manure.

Lastly, Mr. X's statement "If the food is naturally grown, it's fertilized only with manure" is dead wrong. There are many, many FDA-approved organic fertilizers out there that farmers use, including rock phosphates, fish emulsion, seaweed and more.

For someone so concerned about manure, Mr. X seems quite comfortable spreading it around.

I'll agree that organic farming probably needs better regulations, though. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the farms are neglecting to compost properly or whatever.

And here is an interesting study I found while doing my research. Molasses can make your compost tea grow bad pathogens all over again. Interesting. Howard Garrett's popular product Garrett Juice is a mixture of compost tea, molasses and other stuff. I wonder if he's seen this study.

Lastly, if I was a conspiracy theorist-type, I'd wonder seriously if this whole spinach/E. coli thing was cooked up by someone who wants to either bring down the organic farming industry or maybe deal a blow to Wal-Mart and their recent organic food efforts. Not that I'm a fan of Wal-Mart either.

But it kind of makes you think. Maybe because these organic farms are struggling to keep up with demand, they're not composting properly, workers aren't washing their hands, etc. Who knows? I'd hate to see organic food standards lowered as much as I'd hate to see the organic "trend" stymied.

I just started some spinach seeds the other day. When in doubt...grow your own.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Rainy Days with Annie

Labor Day has been all wet here in DFW...not that I'm complaining. It's been an expensive day, though, as I've been spending this rainy afternoon placing fall plants orders over the Internets like an addictive fool.

Here's my first-ever order from Annie's Annuals:
Verbascum chiaxii 'Album Wedding Candles'
Verbascum 'Southern Charm'
Uncinia uncinata 'Red'
Trifolium rubens
Salvia munzii "San Diego Sage"
Salvia mexicana 'Limelight'
Rudbeckia occidentalis 'Green Wizard'
Papaver commutatum 'Ladybird'
Kniphofia citrina
Delphinium belladonna 'Cliveden Beauty'
Carex testacea "Orange New Zealand Sedge"
Carex comans 'Bronze'
Asclepias speciosa "Showy Milkweed"
Artemisia filifolia "Sand Sage"

Shipping was $42, which is a little high, but I do appreciate the fact they're using 2-day air. It still works out to about $10 per plant overall, and that's not bad.

Annie's has an excellent feedback rating over at Gardenwatchdog, in case you're curious. Will let you know how the plants look when they arrive in a week or so.