The CDFA’s Pesticide Theater

In the fall of 2009 a citrus pest called the Asian Citrus Psylid showed up in our neighborhood. It’s a major concern to commercial citrus growers since the pest spreads an incurable and fatal plant disease called huanglongbing (HLB). The California Department of Food and Agriculture commenced a futile effort to suppress the psylid by hiring a contractor, TruGreen, to spray residential backyards in Southern California with a combination o...

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Testing the Lead Testers

...n extractant, AB-DTPA (ammonium bicarbonate Diethylene Triamine Pentaacetic acid). Here’s how Wallace described their lead testing techinique, We use AB-DTPA (ammonium bicarbonate Diethylene Triamine Pentaacetic acid). It is a gentle extractant and it mimics roots in extracting minerals from the soil. Most often environmental tests are made with boiling acids which are more aggressive than roots. The AB-DTPA method is a standard testing me...

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Poison in the Compost

No, not that Poison I’ve blogged about the dangers of  herbicides in compost before, but it’s worth repeating. Mother Earth News has been doing some excellent reporting on two herbicides, clopyralid and aminopyralid, that can decimate your garden for years should your compost get contaminated by them. I received the following note from Mother Earth news: “As the garden season ramps up, we at Mother Earth News want to let you...

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UMass Soil Testing

I finally got around to trying out the University of Massachusetts’ soil testing service and can report that it’s fast and cheap. I tested two areas of my yard for both nutrients and heavy metals and found out, more or less, what I expected, that I need to add a small amount of nitrogen. Surprisingly, for having such an old house, I don’t have a lead problem. It costs just $9 for the basic test and $13 for the basic test + hea...

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Anne Hars’ Top Ramen Keyhole Vegetable Garden

“I call it my Top Ramen garden,” says gardener, Root Simple neighbor and artist Anne Hars, “I planted things that go well in Top Ramen.” Hars is referring to her keyhole vegetable bed that she created this winter. With the keyhole, Hars has made good use of a very small front yard with a dense planting of Ramen friendly veggies including bok choi, three kinds of kale, sunflowers, carrots, peas, garlic, radishes, spinach,...

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Picture Sundays: Harvard’s Glass Flower Collection

...s website: This unique collection of over 3,000 models was created by glass artisans Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolph. The commission began in 1886, continued for five decades, and the collection represents more than 830 plant species. Reminds me of the 3D flower x-rays on display at the Museum of Jurassic Technology. They have to be seen in person to really do them justice, but you can see a selection in 2D here....

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How To Manage a Compost Pile Using Temperature

...t materials, straw and brew waste from a local brewery. The red area on the chart is the thermophilic temperature range (135° -160° Fahrenheit). The dip you see at day 15 is the one time I turned the pile so that I could keep it in the thermophilic range. Using temperature as a clue to when to turn the pile has a number of advantages: You can make sure that the pile does not get too hot. Above 160° F  you start to kill off the thermophilic bacte...

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Straw Bale Garden Part III: Adding Fertilizer

After watering our straw bales for three days our next step is to apply a high nitrogen fertilizer. We’re following West Virginia University Extension Service’s Straw Bale Gardening advice. They suggest a 1/2 cup of urea per bale or “bone meal, fish meal, or compost for a more organic approach.” (I think they mean blood meal as bone meal does not have much nitrogen in it.) Choosing the organic approach, we’re water...

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Farm Hack

Farm Hack is an innovative blog that synthesizes high tech and low tech in the service of growing food and community. The blog is run by the National Young Farmers Coalition. While geared towards agriculture, many of the posts will be of interest to backyard gardeners. Recent subjects include a project to develop an infrared camera to monitor plant health, smartphone tools for farmers and open source appropriate technology resources. It’s...

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