Does Garden Soil Makes Us Happy + Smart?

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The Buzz around the garden says beneficial soil bacteria increase happiness and cure depression

Bacteria are all around us, and without them, life itself would be impossible.

Eating dark chocolate or working out can trigger the release of “happy chemicals” in the brain; natural anti-depressants that have been shown to elevate mood, enhance pleasurable sensations and create a sense of overall well-being. Now studies are showing similar effects from dirt gardening in rich organic environments and from seeing, smelling and picking home-grown veggies and fruits. A sequential series of studies shows researchers are linking gardening activities with increases in pleasurable brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine.

Back in 1989 Dr. David P. Strachan proposed his ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’ in the British Medical Journal. He observed that allergic diseases were less common in children from larger families because they were more likely to be exposed to a variety of infectious micro-organisms than children in smaller-sized families. Later investigation by immunologists and epidemiologists have championed this theory for the study of allergic disorders and acquired immunity.

Are we too clean?

Fast forward to today, and studies are linking ultra-clean modern homes in rich countries complete with anti-bacterial wipes during childhood with an increase of allergies, asthma (and discussion on the rise in autism). There’s even a new name for too clean: ‘Nature Deficiency Disorder’.

This child is having a great time getting dirty.

This baby is having a great time getting dirty!

Getting dirty is a good idea

Contact with organic garden soils teeming with microorganisms can trigger the release of serotonin in the brain, a natural anti-depressant that also strengthens the immune system. In particular the ubiquitous bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae found in soils around the world has been studied.

In 2000 Dr. Mary O’Brien, an oncologist at Royal Marsden Hospital in London, reported that lung cancer patients inoculated with a strain of M, vaccae exhibited fewer cancer symptoms and improved emotional health, vitality and even cognitive function, caused because the immune response to this bacterium induced the brain to produce serotonin. This molecule is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger between nerve cells) and low levels of it are a symptom of depression, so higher levels contributed to patients well-being.

Other studies continue to link early childhood exposure to common soil-borne bacteria with protection against allergies and asthma in adulthood. A 2004 study by Dr. R. Martinelli in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology assessed the bacteria’s mode of action. In 2007 Dr. Chris Lowry reported in Neuroscience that mice exposed to this same beneficial soil bacterium were less depressed and exhibited a more active coping style than mice lacking the soil bacteria.  This strain of bacteria in the soil was found to trigger the release of serotonin in the brain, which in turn boosts immune systems, elevates mood, decreases susceptibility to depression, and increases neuron firing related to alertness.

Then, since serotonin plays a role in learning, Drs. Dorothy Matthews and Susan Jenks investigated the idea that exposure to specific bacteria in the environment would make mice smarter. In 2010 they presented their findings at the American Society for Microbiology, holding that mice fed M. vaccae navigated a maze twice as fast as control mice (though the effects decreased over three weeks, suggesting the effect is temporary).

Keep on gardening

So all that sandbox play, mud pies, dirt eating, Tonka trucks and Fairy Gardens seem to have been good for us.

Delicious and filled with anti-oxidants and anthocyanins

While peacefulness, serenity and communing with nature all play a role in the natural high associated with the great outdoors, actually picking and harvesting garden fruits and vegetables also has an impact on brain chemicals. Researchers speculate that due to humankind’s long [~200,000 years] history of hunting and gathering, dopamine is released in the brain’s pleasure center when food is located: seen, smelled or actually picked.

“These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health,” Dr. Lowry quipped. “They also leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt.”

This child is getting a great dose of Mother Nature!

Outdoor exploration for a future gardener.

Boost the biological life of your garden soil.

To ensure your soils are teeming with microbial life, a very popular product is Instant Compost Tea Alternative that contains a balanced ratio of biology, humic, fulvic, kelp and molasses. In addition CT-Myco contains proprietary biological ingredients. These products do not require brewing – just mix and go.It is easy to add an instant compost tea alternative with the SoilNoc® family of biological soil inoculants from AgVerra® http://www.AgVerra.com add beneficial biology to soils, vegetable gardens, turf, pastures, cropland, nurseries, container plantings, greenhouses and landscapes. Visit the website to compare and contrast these great products, and purchase the one that can maximize your soil and harvests. See you in the garden! – Geri Laufer

photo credits Wiki Commons and Geri Laufer (blueberry and strawberry photo)

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Building Great Soil Structure

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How do Beneficial Bacteria + Friendly Fungi Help with Soil Structure?

Soil Volume Pie Chart

Not many gardeners have the perfect soil. Both heavy clay and sandy soils are problematic when it comes to growing healthy plants. Picture the ideal soil: by volume it is about half weathered rock mineral particles, 5% organic leaf litter, compost and debris, 25% water and 25% air.  This is an ideal balance because roots need air as well as water for good growth.

The way these components are arranged is known as soil structure, and is important because compacted clays are hard for roots and root hairs to penetrate and because sandy soils allow both water and water-soluble nutrients (which plants need to grow and photosynthesize) to leach away, out of reach of the roots, down through the soil profile. A good loam has variably-sized mineral particles.

Weathered rock mineral particles come in varying sizes. Some of these individual particles fit closely together like stacking playing cards or pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, while others are rounded and do not snug together. This variation creates spaces of many different sizes in the soil. These spaces, known as soil pore spaces are essential for storing both air and water and for providing space for microbes, organic matter and essential nutrients.

Somewhere between compacted clay and loose sand is a loam of good tilth, composed of many soil aggregates. Soil aggregates are individual mineral soil particles that are held together in larger “clumps” by moist clay, organic matter (such as roots), microorganisms, or by organic compounds produced by bacteria and fungi. This crumb structure varies in size from microscopic to up to approximately 2 millimeters across (visible by eye).

“Well-aggregated” soils are more stable and less susceptible to erosion, and have plenty of room for compost and soil microorganisms. Desirable aggregation affects the movement of water and nutrients as well as plant root growth, counter-acts wind erosion and is stable against rainfall and water movement. Far and wide, from the U.S.D.A. to Australia, soil aggregation is valued.

Soil Life

In addition to the above physical components, the soil is teaming with life, from “large” earthworms, insects, mites, protozoa and amoeba, to smaller friendly fungi and microscopic beneficial bacteria. Microorganisms are the hidden magic that allow a healthy soil to flourish. Soil microorganisms produce many different kinds of organic compounds, some of which help to bind the aggregates together and improve the soil structure. Both beneficial bacteria and friendly fungi make important contributions to soil aggregation.

Beneficial Bacteria

One way beneficial bacteria can promote the creation of soil aggregates is by producing organic compounds known as “slime” or “biofilm” surrounding and protecting the bacterial colony that attaches to mineral soil particles, organic litter and roots. Biofilms are glue-like in the way they bind soil aggregates together. Plus, polysaccharides in the bacterial biofilm are more stable than plant polysaccharides, resisting decomposition long enough to prolong the weathering of aggregates.

Friendly Fungi

Friendly fungi also are important in the development of soil aggregates. There are two ways that fungi can be involved in soil aggregation. The first is mechanical.  Fungi grow in long, threadlike structures, called hyphae (pronounced high’fee). Fungi help to form aggregates in the soil by physically enmeshing soil particles with their hyphae and forming a net to hold the soil particles. Mycorrhizal fungi and fungi that colonize fresh organic matter are believed to be the most important for assisting with stabilization of soil particles into aggregates. Fungal mycelial growth has been shown to bind soil particles together even more effectively than smaller organisms, such as bacteria.

The second way fungi can form soil aggregates is similar to the bacterial method, A “bio-glue”called glomalin acts as a superglue, sticking nutrient-rich soil aggregates to the hyphae. Glomalin is formed by mycorrhizal fungi and is found in all soils. It is produced in large amounts and is extremely “tough” in that it does not dissolve in water and is resistant to decay. It functions to coat and protect the mycorrhizae from nutrient loss by gluing together soil particles into aggregates and stabilizing them.

Vegetables growing on well-aggregated soil.

Nutritious vegetables are reaching maximum potential on good soil.

How Gardeners Can Assist in Soil Aggregation

The effects of aggregation are beneficial to horticultural and crop plants because they promote good soil structure, reduce wind and water erosion, increase air infiltration into the soil horizon and increase water retention near roots. Further, aggregation reduces compaction and increases vigorous root systems. Economically speaking, decreased fertilizer and water inputs are necessary with a well-aggregated soil.

Regardless of many other benefits resulting from the addition of biological soil inoculant to garden or field, the production of excellent soil structure through the development of soil aggregates can be encouraged and maintained by enriching the normal flora/fauna of the soil. Gardeners can help their plants and soils with the inoculation of friendly fungi and beneficial bacteria.

Adding Beneficial Microorganisms for Growth As Nature Intended(TM)

So how can a gardener increase soil aggregation and achieve all the resulting benefits?  Adding compost is one way, as this increases the percentage of organic matter and results in an increase in soil microorganisms.

Even easier is by adding non-toxic, non-pathogenic and environmentally safe SRT (Seed Root Treatment) by SoilNoc® at AgVerra.com, an advanced, broad spectrum mycorrhizal and bacterial root inoculum with beneficial soil biology. As one of its benefits,  SRT jumpstarts and/or restores the beneficial biology leading to great soil structure. The use of other SoilNoc® products such as PTM+Myco (Pasture Turf Managment plus Mycorrhizae) and/or CT+Myco (Instant Compost Tea Alternative with Mycorrhizae) for Growth as Nature intended™ also maintains healthy soil and vigorous root systems on healthy plants.   http://AgVerra.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Great Soil Structure

 

How do Beneficial Bacteria + Friendly Fungi Help with Soil Structure?

 

Not many gardeners have the perfect soil. Both heavy clay and sandy soils are problematic when it comes to growing healthy plants. Picture the ideal soil: by volume it is about half weathered rock mineral particles, 5% organic leaf litter, compost and debris, 25% water and 25% air.  This is an ideal balance for good plant growth because roots need air as well as water for good growth.

 

The way these components are arranged is known as soil structure; important because compacted clays are hard for roots and root hairs to penetrate and because sandy soils allow both water and water-soluble nutrients (which plants need for good growth) to leach away, out of reach of the roots, down through the soil profile.

 

Individual weathered rock mineral particles come in varying sizes. Some of these particles fit closely together like stacking playing cards or pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, while others are rounded and do not snug together. This variation creates spaces of many different sizes in the soil. These spaces, known as soil pore spaces are essential for storing both air and water and for providing space for microbes, organic matter and essential nutrients.

 

Somewhere between compacted clay and loose sand is a loam of good tilth, composed of many soil aggregates. Soil aggregates are individual mineral soil particles that are held together in larger “clumps” by moist clay, organic matter (such as roots), microorganisms, or by organic compounds produced by bacteria and fungi. This crumb structure varies in size from microscopic to up to approximately 2 millimeters across (visible by eye).

 

“Well-aggregated” soils are more stable and less susceptible to erosion, with plenty of room for compost and soil microorganisms. Desirable aggregation affects the movement of water and nutrients as well as plant root growth, counter-act erosion and are stable against rainfall and water movement. Far and wide, from the U.S.D.A. to Australia, soil aggregation is valued.
Soil Life

In addition to those physical components, the soil is teaming with life, from “large” earthworms, insects, mites, protozoa and amoeba, to smaller friendly fungi and microscopic beneficial bacteria. Microorganisms are the hidden magic that allow a healthy soil to flourish. Soil microorganisms produce many different kinds of organic compounds, some of which help to bind the aggregates together and improve the soil structure. Both beneficial bacteria and friendly fungi make important contributions to soil aggregation.

 

Beneficial Bacteria

One way beneficial bacteria can promote the creation of soil aggregates is by producing organic compounds called “slime” or “biofilm” surrounding and protecting the bacterial colony that attaches to mineral soil particles, organic litter and roots. Biofilms are glue-like in the way they bind soil aggregates together. Plus, polysaccharides in the bacterial biofilm are more stable than plant polysaccharides, resisting decomposition long enough to be successful in holding soil particles together in aggregates.

 

Friendly Fungi

Friendly fungi also are important in the development of soil aggregates. There are two ways that fungi can be involved in soil aggregation. The first is mechanical.  Fungi grow in long, threadlike structures, called hyphae (pronounced high’fee). Fungi help to form aggregates in the soil by physically enmeshing soil particles with their hyphae and forming a net among soil particles. Mycorrhizal fungi and fungi that colonize fresh organic matter are believed to be the most important for assisting with stabilization of soil particles into aggregates. This fungal mycelial growth has been shown to bind soil particles together more effectively than smaller organisms, such as bacteria.

 

The second way fungi can form soil aggregates is similar to the bacterial method, A “bio-glue”called glomalin acts as a superglue, sticking nutrient-rich soil aggregates to the hyphae. Glomalin is formed by mycorrhizal fungi and is found in all soils. It is produced in large amounts and is extremely “tough” in that it does not dissolve in water and is resistant to decay. It functions to coat and protect the mycorrhizal hyphae from nutrient loss by gluing together soil particles into aggregates and stabilizing them.

 

Conclusion

The effects of aggregation are beneficial to crop plants because they promote good soil structure, reduce wind and water erosion, increase air infiltration into the soil horizon and increase water retention near roots. Further, aggregation reduces compaction which makes for vigorous root systems. Decreased fertilizer and water inputs are necessary with a well-aggregated soil.  In conclusion, the production of excellent soil structure through the development of soil aggregates can be encouraged and maintained by enriching the normal flora/fauna of the soil with the inoculation of friendly fungi and beneficial bacteria.

 

Adding Beneficial Microorganisms for Growth As Nature Intended

How can a gardener increase soil aggregation and achieve all the resulting benefits?  Adding compost is one way, increasing the percentage of organic matter and resulting in an increase in soil life.

 

Even easier is by adding easy to use, non-toxic, non-pathogenic and environmentally safe SRT (Seed Root Treatment) by SoilNoc® at AgVerra.com, an advanced, broad spectrum mycorrhizal and bacterial root inoculum with beneficial soil biology that jumpstarts and/or restores the beneficial biology leading to great soil structure. Continue to maintain healthy soil through the use of other SoilNoc® products such as PTM+Myco (Pasture Turf Meadow plus Mycorrhizae) and/or CT+Myco (Instant Compost Tea Alternative with Mycorrhizae) for Growth as Nature intended™.  http://AgVerra.com

-Geri Laufer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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30 Benefits of Mycorrhizae to Green Plants for home gardens + landscapes

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A without B withDid you know? Myco (fungi) and rhizae (roots) have enjoyed an ancient symbiosis between higher green plants and friendly fungi for about 460 million years.  This perfectly safe and all-natural relationship of plant roots with friendly fungi, plus beneficial bacteria, benefits both and includes 85-90% of all higher plants.

Green plants photosynthesize and provide sugars and carbohydrates for the fungi to use as an energy source.

In return, the fungi provide a plethora of benefits to the plants in your gardens and landscapes, including:

  1. Up to 1,000 times better absorption of nutrients needed for plant growth and health (!)
  2. Non-toxic, biodegradable, natural
  3. Provides a “secondary root system” that supplies extra water and nutrients
  4. Especially beneficial to plants in nutrient-poor soils; improves uptake of ions
  5. Increases plant establishment in questionable soils
  6. Improves absorption of nutrients in acid (low pH) or alkaline (high pH) soils
  7. Increases water uptake and water holding capacity
  8. Improves drought tolerance and decreases drought stress
  9. Improves resistance to insect pressure; healthy plants have long been known to survive attacks more easily
  10. Improves resistance to soil pathogens; some of the Friendly Fungi (Trichoderma) naturally out-compete soil-borne fungal diseases
  11. Friendly Fungi trap harmful nematodes
  12. Eliminates or reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and saves money
  13. Eliminates dangerous pesticides
  14. Improves seed germination
  15. Improves survival rates in pots, planters and plant nurseries
  16. Improves transplanting rates and decreases transplant shock for landscape plants
  17. Increases productivity and yield at harvest
  18. Produce healthier, safer foods due to improved mineral uptake
  19. Increases mineral nutrition available to your family in harvested crops
  20. Improves soil structure and reduces soil compaction by increasing friability, aggregation, flocculation and porosity
  21. Restores ruined soils (e.g. strip mines) and helps plants to grow in barren soils
  22. Helps plants survive soils contaminated by salts and heavy metals
  23. Enhances the plant’s ability to utilize water and fertilizer, significantly reducing the ever-rising cost these elements
  24. Reduces carbon footprint for landscaping and greenhouses because inoculated plants require less water, nutrients and actually sequester carbon
  25. Reduces plant warranty replacements
  26. Reduces usage (and costs) of irrigation
  27. The death of Friendly Fungi releases nutrients contained within them to the rest of the microcosm
  28. Friendly Fungi supply phosphorous in an available form and excrete nitrogen as NH₄ ¯
  29. Friendly Fungi lock away nitrogen and other nutrients that might otherwise enter and pollute the groundwater
  30. Some Friendly Fungi are on duty in hot summer soils, others work best in cold winter soils

Research (approximately 48,000 articles) in the public domain has demonstrated these benefits.

-Geri Laufer

Posted in Gardening for Beginners | 2 Comments

Instant CT Compost Tea Alternative “Q-U-I-C-K + E-A-S-Y”

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Compost, called the “gardener’s gold”, is a great additive for soils for many of the important reasons considered in our previous bloghttp://agverra.com/blog/making-compost/

But perhaps you’ve wondered about the “magical” effects of adding an aerated brew made of finished compost and water called Compost Tea (CT)? Aerated Compost Tea encourages the build-up of large populations of friendly fungi and beneficial bacteria, and is said to be easier than adding compost to the garden. However, an entire series of steps must be accomplished before finished aerated compost tea is ready to pour on plants and soils, making it both time-consuming and costly.

 

Expensive pumps need electrical outlets.

First, plants, leaves, weeds and so forth must be harvested and composted, with the compost finished successfully using the optimum ratios of green and brown organic matter in about 12 weeks or more. Not too moist and not too dry, not too hot and not too cold, the ideal compost is sometimes achieved. Next, an aerator and reservoir must be purchased and set up with an electrical source. After the compost and water have been added and the aerator run for 24-48 hours, then the tea must be transported from the aerator to the plants, sometimes involving extensive logistics, and distributed immediately, before the populations of microorganisms start to die off.

 

As the old adage goes, “there’s many a slip betwixt cup and lip”; and if the compost had turned anaerobic along the way, or if the aerator had failed to work correctly,  or if there was too long a delay after brewing, this complex operation might not have met its intended goals. Would it have been better to simply fork in whatever compost developed and get the benefit of the organic solids and related microbes than to attempt aerated compost tea?

Introducing VerraEasy® Instant CT Compost Tea Alternative!  To avoid all that lead time and expensive equipment, Instant CT Compost Tea Alternative is a premium-grade soil and foliage conditioner that contains select blends of naturally occurring, stabilized bacteria and multiple friendly fungi species, along with an ideal ration of molasses, kelp extract and humic and fulvic acids that plants need for good growth.

 

Utility sprayer can apply Instant Compost Tea Alternative to foliage, or just pour on soil and roots.

Now here’s the quick and easy part: just mix Instant CT Compost Tea Alternative with water and it’s ready to use. That’s it. Just run a hose right to where the plants are growing, put the powdered formula in a bucket or sprayer, fill with water and you are good to go. Pour or spray the mixture on plants and roots right away. No waiting. No 12+ weeks of composting. No expensive aerator. No lag-time. No guessing.

 

Instant CT Compost Tea Alternative contains carefully selected synergistic natural soil bacteria and fungi including Trichoderma. These microbes break down insoluble organic molecules and make them available to plants for easy absorption. What’s not to love?

To purchase, visit http://shop.agverra.com/instant-compost-tea-alternative-ct/

-Geri Laufer

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Fertilizer 101 – The Basics of Feeding Your Plants

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feeding plants

Plants are living creatures, and living creatures need proper nourishment to survive. Feeding plants, however, isn’t just about dumping fertilizers on your garden beds.

If your plants are well-fed, you’ll know. You’ll see verdant leaves, sturdy stems, colorful blooms and healthy fruits. At the same time, plants become more disease resistant.

If your plants are famished, you’ll know it, too. Usually, you’ll see yellowed, mottled, shriveled or rotting leaves; plants are stunted; fruits don’t mature (or they don’t fruit at all); and flowers are ugly, disfigured or drop before setting fruit.

What to Feed Plants

But what do we feed plants? Compost, after all, isn’t a fertile source for nutrients unless it’s vermicompost.

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6 Composting Methods You Should Know About

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3 Compost Bin

My apologies, guys, for this very delayed post on the different composting methods and techniques that I promised in my Composting Basics post. One of the hazards of the writing life and gardening is carpal tunnel syndrome…and I’ve just had a surgery to rid me of that problem.

So, delivering on my promise, I’ll be discussing six different methods of composting this time. All will involve either aerobic or anaerobic composting.

In aerobic composting, we’ll need microorganisms that thrive on air and oxygen to break down organic material. Anaerobic composting, the opposite of the aerobic process, makes do with microorganisms that don’t need oxygen to survive.

Before I dish out these six composting techniques, keep in mind that the ideal ratio of organic materials for a useful, mature compost is 8 parts “brown” matter, 3 parts “green” materials, and 1 part soil. Of course, don’t leave out water, warmth and depending on the type of organism, air and oxygen.

Plain Vanilla Composting

I call it plain vanilla composting because this is the straightforward composting method that we all know. It involves designating a 25 sq. ft. (or smaller) area in your garden for a compost pit. It shouldn’t get any larger than that because then it’ll be difficult aerating the pile.

Layer organic material according to this order: the browns at the bottom, followed by greens, then topped by soil. If you want to add calcium, phosphate and potash to your compost, you can sprinkle limestone, granite dust and greensand over the soil. And, if you’re in a bit of a hurry, you can also add AgVerra’s professional-grade Compost Activator to speed up composting time.

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Travel Garden Notes/Yikes! Call the Bush Hog!

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Weeds!

Where’s the garden? Did you ever feel like that after neglecting your garden for a time? Since I was only there to prepare the soil before I left, I had no idea what to expect. My husband did the planting and watering.

(This is the second article in the Travel Garden Notes series. See the first one here.)

What Should You do When Overrun with Weeds?

I would have loved to call someone with a bush hog, but the budget’s tight. So, I took out my scythe and started searching for the garden by slashing weeds, some that had gotten up to 1 inch thick, and well, at least one looked like it was 8 feet tall. (Well, maybe two…or more.)

I had prepared square foot gardens because I knew my husband wasn’t into pulling weeds, and really didn’t have the time to weed. There were very few weeds in the gardens themselves, but where were the gardens?

Trees or weeds?

Explanation Please?

The weed eater went on the blitz, and well, he didn’t know we had a scythe. And he forgot to tell me about the problem. (Just to be clear, he has a two hour, twice a day commute. I’m not complaining!)

I wasn’t born in Southeast Ohio. I didn’t grow up in Southeast Ohio. I’m a transplant. But it seems to me that weeds in this part of the world are somewhat virulent. There are lots of them and if you don’t have a bush hog and a tractor, a pasture turns into a forest in no time.

How Does One Weed a Garden?

If you’re a beginner, you may have heard about weeding, but you aren’t really sure how it’s done. You may even be unsure which seedlings are weeds and which are the garden plants.

The best time to weed is when the sun is hot and the weeds are small. Take a hoe and slice the new leaves from the stem, rake the weeds into a pile to bake in the sun. It’s simple at this stage. If you allow the weeds to grow for a week or two, more desperate measures become necessary.

Depending on the type of weed, it may need to be fully uprooted.With some, just a tiny piece of root left in the ground becomes a new plant in itself. It’s just like an old episode of the Twilight Zone–where you thought you uprooted one plant, up comes one hundred, and almost overnight.

Weeds are Like Monsters

Don’t believe me? It happened to me one year when I had a new patch of garden plowed. I didn’t get to the soil for two weeks. I woke up one morning and it looked like the brown rectangular patch had a snow cover. On closer inspection, I found that a plant that looked similar to white morning glories had taken over. I tried my small tiller but the vines kept getting tangled in the blades. So I weeded it by hand until my hands were numb from pulling.

What Happens When Weeds are Given a Chance

See, it doesn’t take long for weeds to become established. Some are quite beautiful; some ugly.

Poke root is a beautiful weed.

Some have long and powerful taproots. Some creep along the ground, climb and wrap around everything in its path.

Some are poisonous. Some sting through the thickest garden gloves. Some, like multiflora rose, will climb, sting and choke out everything in its path.

Finding burdock will make any gardener despair after several attempts to eradicate it.

Sleeping Beauty Syndrome

Left unchecked, virginia creeper will give your home the sleeping beauty syndrome.

Everyone knows how it wasn’t just Sleeping Beauty that fell asleep, but the entire town–including the gardeners and landscapers. And of course we all know that virginia creeper or something closely related, wrapped itself around every square inch of that town. We also think it took the whole of 100 years to accomplish that. But the truth is that it only takes two years for virginia creeper to engulf one building.

Do Weeds Have any Redeeming Value?

As I mentioned earlier, there are some that are beautiful. Some of these weeds actually have redeeming medicinal and/or food value.

First year burdock really messes up the lawn.

For example, the root of the burdock is a staple Japanese vegetable and is used as an immune boosting herb. It’s actually very tasty during its first year of growth.

However, if it is not grown in cultivated soil, it is extremely difficult to dig up its long tap root (which can grow to be two feet long). Leaving part of a root in the ground will give it a chance for a second year.

First year burdock has large leaves. The second year of growth is when it grows to be 6 feet or more and when the flowers and burrs appear.

Second year burdock can grow to be 8 or 9 feet tall, and these burrs will appear on its branches.

 

Dandelions are high in calcium and have other medicinal and nutritional benefits.

Many weeds, like the dandelion, are edible and highly nutritious.

Our five foot iguana loves dandelions. So I made sure to pick some for him between swings of the scythe.

When I went home two months ago, I saw that the weeds were beginning to take hold. When I was needed to do other things, I held out hope that my husband would get the relatively benign situation under control. But just in case, I asked him to plant my comfrey root inside a tire.

Comfrey is an herb I planted on purpose.

 

Need fiber? Look no further than your lawn.

Need fiber? Did you know that psyllium seed grows on your lawn?

Recognize the leaves from your lawn?

 

Large Piles of Weeds Vanquished by the Scythe, and Lots of Beauty

I finally found the gardens and found that there was a good harvest thriving under the shadow of the weeds. Fortunately, well prepared soil saved the day.  For a few cents per plant, you can infuse your soil with live microbial helpers (mycorrhizae) that will keep on giving. It’s the only soil amendment that replicates itself. It’s such a no-brainer, I wonder how I ever did without them!

Subscribe or come back in a day or two and I’ll talk more about how to deal with individual types of weeds. For now, check out the pictures below of my gardening adventure at home:

Pile of weeds almost to the top of the trash barrel. I forgot to take a picture when I was done!

 

Tomatoes doing just fine.

 

I placed newspaper over the soil to protect it from cats...

 

Between weeds and cats, I could have been in deep despair!

 

Very sweet grape tomatoes!

 

Peppers!

 

No virginia creeper on this side of the barn!

 

Volunteer peach tree bearing fruit.

 

Roses

 

First two grape tomatoes

 

Copyright (article & images) Christiane Marshall
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Travel Garden Notes–Gardening on the Road

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You can garden anywhere!

What if you had to leave your garden behind in the early Spring–and you had to stay away for several months? Would you survive the trauma?

How would you nurture your well developed need to cultivate earth space and watch the miracles of life unfold?

Here are notes on my travel garden journey, complete with resources and suggestions for any traveling gardener or gardener with a small space.

My Travel Garden Notes

I had to leave my garden behind in the early spring–just when the gardening bug is at its strongest. It’s bad enough I have to stop gardening during the winter. A greenhouse is on my “want” list!

One of my daughters was about to have a baby and her husband was leaving on deployment. I did what any mother would do–packed my bags, left our 173 acres in Southeast Ohio and headed out to San Diego.

Although my husband loves to have a garden, he really doesn’t have the time to give a garden very much attention. My trips home were discouraging–well, only in the gardening sense. I had to let go of my gardening dreams for this year. I did have a beautiful grand daughter to nurture, so it wasn’t traumatic for me in the least!

The Need to Dig–Gardening in Small Spaces

But when her beautiful little self dozed–or her mommy was home from work, I still needed to dig, plant, prune, and step back to observe. My daughter lives in a gated apartment complex. It’s well landscaped and very beautiful. But there was no soil, no patch at all that she and her husband had any control over.

She wanted to have plants on her patio, so that gave me the chance I was looking for. I researched patio gardening and learned a lot about innovative gardening ideas being developed in urban areas.

Another daughter lives in Tucson, Arizona. She has asked me to “stop by” once my son-in-law arrives from deployment. She has requested that I help her create a garden on her porch. She isn’t talking about flowers, but about edibles!

Then there’s my sister’s trip to China. She lives with my elderly mother and that helps everyone rest easy. But her job was taking her for a three week trip to China. I took two of those weeks. This was not a babysitting enterprise. Our mother can take care of her own needs. It was a “peace of mind” enterprise! Instead of going home in July, I spent the time with her in Connecticut. That led to a big surprise in Ohio during my August trip home.

What are some ways of nurturing your gardening needs both off season and when necessity takes you away from a garden for a time?

Ways to Nurture the Gardening Need

  • Ask someone if they’d like help in their garden.
  • Visit a botanical garden.
  • Visit a community garden and offer to help out.
  • Ask if anyone near you would like help in starting a garden.
  • Staying with a friend? Ask if you can grow two plants (minimum for a gardener’s sanity) in the yard, patio or porch.
  • Call a school and see if there are any gardening tasks you can volunteer to help out with. (Keep in mind you will need to get a background check.)
  • Carry a packet of magic with you when you travel! For a few cents per plant, you can infuse the soil with live microbial helpers (mycorrhizae) that will keep on giving. Read more about the magic.

You might also be interested to know:

Stop by soon or subscribe to find out what state I’m in and what I find to do in a garden.

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Where to Buy Vegetable Seeds in Late Summer

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Do the plants you want to grow have enough time to mature?

You may be wondering where to buy vegetable seeds in late summer. A seasoned gardener usually buys all the seeds he or she needs to use throughout the growing season.

But what if the gardening bug hit suddenly late in the planting season with enough time for a harvest–you may have found the seed shelves empty. Most garden stores or garden sections run out of seeds or put them away mid-summer.

Sources of Seeds

If you have decided to plant for the first time late in the season, don’t give up. There are many sources of seeds and other supplies you can tap into. For example, you can purchase online. You may also be able to find some “hidden” local resources. Here’s how.

Seed Savers is a non-profit seed saving and exchange organization in North America.  “About Seed Savers” will give you an overview. Aside from being able to purchase seeds from the Seed Saver website, you may also be able to find a member listed on the site who lives nearby. There is a search feature to find addresses of stores locally that carry seeds from Seed Savers. Sometimes these are nature food stores, not garden or farm suppliers. While searching for their web site, I also came across Seed Savers Australia.

Family, friends and neighbors may have more seeds than they need. They’d probably be glad to pass them on. They may also have purchased too many plant starts, so be sure to ask about those as well. Discount stores sometimes sell a limited variety of seeds all year long.

But, if local sources disappoint you, try online seed suppliers or even auction sites or listing sites like Craigslist.

How to Determine if There’s Time for Plants to Grow

Check your planting zone to see when your planting season ends. Seed packages will tell you how long the plant needs. I have a radish packet that tells me it takes 24 days to grow a radish. Do you have at least 24 days left in the planting season?

The asparagus bean seed packet states 67 days to harvest. Suppose I have 68 days left in my planting season. That means I would be able to pick beans for only two days. That isn’t really enough time. With a plant like beans, you will want at least one or two weeks of beans to make it worth your time.

You may also be able to extend your growing season by building simple structures. Check back soon (or subscribe to the blog) for more about Fall and Winter gardens and season extenders. In the meantime, you could begin seeds for dark leafy greens as these are good winter planting vegetables. Also, be sure to purchase soil amendments to give your late growing plants a head start.  For a few cents per plant, you can infuse your soil with live microbial helpers (mycorrhizae) that will keep on giving.

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What is a Recipe Garden? Beginning a Garden

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I invented the term “recipe garden” to refer to a small garden focused on the ingredients for one recipe. It’s a great way for new gardeners to get started. Instead of being overwhelmed with planning a garden for the first time, simply plant the items needed in a recipe you will make a lot of. For example, make a salsa garden; a tomato sauce garden; an eggplant parmesan garden; or a green salad garden.

When to Plant a Recipe Garden

Always plan according to your planting zone. To confirm your planting zone, you can also check with your local agricultural extension agent. There are factors other than location (such as elevation) that can affect your planting season. This is especially true in the western part of the United States. Check out this post if you’re having trouble finding seeds in late summer.

Check Back for Details

Check back soon or subscribe for more specifics on a salsa recipe garden–including the recipe! While waiting be sure to prepare your garden spot and buy soil amendments. Microbial helpers (mycorrhizae) won’t cost much but will keep on giving.

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