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Posts Tagged ‘alkaline’

Amendment Biochar Applying

Charcoal-like biochar improves soil hydration and enhances agricultural production while it curtails nutrient leaching, increases nitrogen available to plants and reduces the release of gas pollutants. A new study by researchers at Rice University and North Dakota State University gathers current and potential sources of government support to promote the production and use of biochar. Credit: Ghasideh Pourhashem, from the January 11, 2019, Rice University post. Read more Biochar holds promise for sequestering carbon and cleansing polluted air.

Fans rave about its virtues. Some are skeptical but want to learn more. So, wanting to learn, possibly use, I typed in ‘2018 2019 Biochar pros cons’…carefully read the latest noncommercial posts and their comments threads.

A few years ago a knowledgeable gardener I know raved about biochar. Now, some years later, recently a friend sent an article that turned the tables enough to make me want to check it out. One is how it was compared with natural soil that is replenished with biochar by forest fires. Two is how Biochar has several soil sustainable features, but foremost is how it keeps Carbon in our soil hundreds, maybe even 1000s of years! And that is to say nothing of its water holding capacity! Carbon is the foundation of our soil ecosystem. Three: Also, I recalled how amazingly my winter and summer garden plants grew last year. It started with a collusion of happenstance. I planted quite late, Dec 10, 2018 during the Thomas Fire ash fall. The ground was literally solid white with ash and chunks. But this winter my plants didn’t do nearly as well. Hmm… Granted, the ash is not biochar, but it’s a relative – it came from the high heat of a forest fire.

Right now, planet wide, by many, Biochar is considered crucial to our planet’s sustainability. Using it is a regenerative practice that will help our plants not only weather extreme conditions, but thrive!  

BIOCHAR RESEARCH

There are technical discussions, both pro and con, in a language all their own, to simple explanations for the home gardener. The main research is in consideration of farmers with vast tracts of land that could have significant impact on climate change.

CONSIDERATIONS

Nov 29, 2018 From a field day presentation at California State University-Fresno, here are some points from Suduan Gao, a research soil scientist with the USDA San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Parlier. She talked of the potential of applying a biochar amendment to help in water and nutrient management.

Biochar is charcoal used as a soil amendment. It is made from biomass through thermal decomposition [fire]. Gao said it increases water use efficiency and nitrogen retention, reduces leaching, cuts nitrous oxide emissions and reduces ammonia emissions.

Gao said nitrogen dynamics are influenced by biochar and are highly affected by irrigation levels.

She said ammonia volatilization loss was substantially higher when fertilizer was applied only a few times in a larger amount than when it was applied more frequently in smaller amounts.

“Soil accumulates more nitrogen at lower irrigation levels than at higher irrigation levels,” Gao said. “The accumulated nitrogen, however, can be all leached during the rain system.” [Fertilizing after rains is more better!]

She said there were no significant biochar effects on ammonia, nitrous oxide and soil nitrate concentration, but there was a significant interaction between biochar and irrigation.

PROBLEMS WITH BIOCHAR? Fabulous or Fantasy? Is it too good to be true? There are extensive rebuttals to its use, even warnings that it’s not all the fans say, can even cause harm!

Nov 18, 2010 DR MAE-WAN HO said ‘Turning bioenergy crops into buried charcoal to sequester carbon does not work, and could plunge the earth into an oxygen crisis towards mass extinction.’ She further says: …implementing the biochar initiative could be dangerous, basically because saving the climate turns out to be not just about curbing the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere that can be achieved by burying carbon in the soil, it is also about keeping oxygen (O2) levels up. Keeping O2 levels up is what only green plants on land and phytoplankton at sea can do, by splitting water to regenerate O2 while fixing CO2 to feed the rest of the biosphere.’

  1. She cites: A ten-year trial in Swedish forests showed that buried charcoal appear to promote the breakdown of humus, the decomposing plant matter on the forest floor, thus completely offsetting the carbon sequestered in the charcoal.
  2. She discusses examples of the stability of biochar stating that it isn’t always stable. [In a 2012 Mother Earth News post, Editor Dr. Kehres (Journal “Humus and Agriculture“) summed up a symposium: “Biochar appears over-rated — the biochar claim to 1,000 year stability is revised downwards to 10 to 100 years, roughly the same as compost.”]
  3. She warns that things that happen so fast now that we have the internet and huge commercial organizations, a lot goes on without public awareness or understanding and no testing. Since this one expressly claimed climate change remediation, it was touted to be necessary immediately. Some fads are found to be faulty later.
  4. She gets into comparisons of interest to gardeners, stating that Biochar effects on soil fertility are not always positive. Field trials were conducted on cleared secondary forest with 15 different amendment combinations of chicken manure (CM), compost (CO), forest litter, chemical fertilizer (F), and charcoal (CC) applied once on rice and sorghum, and followed over four cropping cycles. Chicken manure gave by far the highest yield over the four cycles (12.4 tonne/ha). Compost application came second at about half the yield, but was still four times higher than chemical fertilizer. The control, leaf litter (burnt and fresh), and charcoal treatments gave no grain yields after the second season, and were discontinued. Further, in combination with compost, charcoal amendment decreased yield by about 40 percent compared to compost alone, and only improved yield in combination with chemical fertilizer.

Read the comments on this page for rebuttals and further information. It is suggested Biochar is not THE answer, but part of a complex mix of possibilities.

This 2013 Mother Earth News post Biochar: Not All It’s Ground Up to Be? states the appropriate use of Biochar depends first on soil type. Some soils retain nutrients very well without any amendments like biochar. Tim Crews says: ‘If you’re cropping on soil types other than Ultisols or Oxisols and you manage your organic matter (residues, manure, compost, etc.) well, you don’t need biochar. It won’t do anything for your fertility.’

Second, a ‘situation in which biochar could provide benefits is on very sandy soils in arid climates, because of its ability to improve such soils’ water-holding capacity, reducing drought stress on plants. But making biochar requires large quantities of bulk plant material, and the biochar factory needs to be close to the source of that material; therefore, the product would have to be manufactured in or around highly productive lands or on vast areas of unproductive lands, and then be hauled long distances to the arid environments where it’s to be applied.’ Not only is the available quantity of crop residue per acre too small, but to haul residues off of cropland to a biochar plant would be to further rob the soil of organic matter, while paying a price in energy and other resources as well. After all that, some ‘studies that found yield increases with such heavy application found that after a few years, soil carbon was no higher in biochar-treated plots than in control plots.’

Biochar has been under discussion for years! When you are doing your own questing about it online, look for current posts and research. Note whether the post is on a commercial site, a university, posted by a farmer, if the poster is knowledgeable, what their credentials are or aren’t, if they have experience. Remember that universities make money from research grants on popular topics and sometimes the donation is made by a company. Go to permaculture sites for a look at possible long term possibilities, concerns. Look for pros and cons.

In 2018, the agriculture application segment accounted for 71.1% of the total biochar demand. That makes sense because they have the biggest land holdings. [But it also means 28.9% is used by others, including home gardeners! That’s a big % considering the sizes of their small gardens!] Quoted from a Biochar fan, he says ‘However, a large number of farmers still lack in knowledge about the product and its benefits.’ My question back to him was ‘Do you know what % of farmers use biochar?’

Amendment BioChar and Compost + Manure Yields Great Results!

Some say Biochar alone added to poor soil has little benefit to plants, but when used in combination with compost and organic fertilizers, it can dramatically improve plant growth while helping retain nutrients in the soil.

When would you, a home veggie gardener, use biochar?

First, are wood ash and biochar the same thing? Yes and no. Biochar is made at 450 °C/842 degrees F with low oxygen and wood ash is made at 870 °C from the same mixed hardwood. What about BBQ charcoal? Not the same thing as wood ash or biochar! Not recommended for garden use.

How do you even know if you need Biochar? Was there a forest fire ever there and you already have it? They say biochar comes from such fires and lasts 100 to 1000 years, or 10 to 100 depending on where you read… That translates to the question whether Biochar is considered to be stable or not and under what circumstances.

Have you been applying wood ash from your fireplace regularly? Some gardeners say Yes, used it for years, readily absorbed, amazing crops! Great substitute for lime to raise pH. Others say it’s grey death. It has a high pH that throws off the balance of your compost/soil, can kill off the microbes that are producing your compost. Poster Mr Bill says: ‘Charcoal chemically functions like a sponge, absorbing many organic compounds. When placed in nutrient rich soil, it absorbs the excess nutrients and traps them in the soil. As the carbon in the charcoal is annexed by fungal colonies, those nutrients are released over time. By tying these nutrients up in the soil with charcoal, they resist erosion and release at regular intervals, rather than the feast or famine spikes in levels that occur with manual fertilization by humans.

However, ‘…added to poor soil, or soil deficient in even one nutrient (which may not be obvious), the charcoal’s sponge-like absorption can compete with the roots of plants for the nutrients, leading to increased disease susceptibility or irregular growth hazardous to the plant.’ So it’s good with good soil, bad with deficient soil.

Lord knows even a 10X20′ community garden plot has varying soil content within the plot for many reasons. In my case, I trench in kitchen waste given to me by neighbors. One eats lots of bananas, hence peels. One is a super juicer, greens, carrots, etc. + lettuce and avocado. Another is a senior tea drinker, so little bags along with old snacking grapes, a few eggshells, a bit of coffee and citrus peels, etc. I get them when they have enough. They put them in a bucket outside my door. I take them to the garden and trench them in where compost is needed most. Sometimes a certain kind of plant never thrives in one area no matter what I do. It would take a lot of soil testing to sort out these small areas. I do my own remediation by adding store bought fluffy compost, and chicken manure in general. Most of the time it works fine.

FYI! If you are using or opt to use wood ash as an amendment, DO NOT mix the wood ash with nitrogen fertilizer; a reaction can occur releasing ammonia gas.

Be careful with your choice to use biochar. Is your garden flourishing because it is high on temporary soil amendments that will be spent this season? Is one area doing great, another adjacent area not doing so well; great for one plant but not another? Does your summer or winter garden do well and the other season doesn’t? Plus, all Biochar is not created equal. Its pH and ash content vary depending on the temp it was created at and the feedstock (what was burned) used, whether that was contaminated or not. In general Biochar raises soil pH. You need to use the right amounts. In a community garden 10X20′ plot, where the soil pH varies within the plot, you don’t have room to test/experiment. The increase in soil pH with alkaline biochar will be higher in acid soils than in originally alkaline soils. However! If a biochar has less ash content it will decrease soil pH because of the organic matter content.

Clearly, fireplace ash that is added every season or spring, doesn’t function the same as biochar that lasts 100 to 1000 years. It is either used up or leached away by watering, otherwise, your garden would have the highest pH in history! If biochar can’t be removed from your soil, and lasts for 100 to 1000 years, and your soil is unfavorably balanced, you may need to adjust your soil for a long time. Ironically, it works best where you already have a super flourishing garden!

Note, the type of fire makes another difference. There is increased growth after a forest fire, but slash and burn techniques have a long term bad effect in just a few years. Definitely not sustainable. Wildfires get much hotter, average over 1600°F, than farmer-made controlled burn fires kept under 1000°F to clear a field. Wood burns differently at different temps; the coals have a different structure. Forest fires burn hot at the center with low oxygen and you get Biochar. Big difference. All fires are not equal.

Mr Bill made a convenient list for us home gardeners!

• Use on rich soil with no deficiencies
• Use to correct acidic soils, or amend the pH of the char before application
• Never use on acid loving plants like blueberries [strawberries, celery, beans]
• Add to compost after composting has finished, not during composting. The recommendation for application is about ½ cup per cubic foot of finished compost. [That’s not a lot!]
• Use in moderation
• Never use char from pressure-treated or painted wood.
• Don’t use petroleum based fire starters or fluids if you intend to use the ash.
• Fires started with alcohol or non-paraffin wax are acceptable for garden use.
• Be mindful of your nutrient levels and pH when using char, test regularly for best results.
• Not all char is equal, refuse from wood gasifiers or efficient wood stoves is preferable to that from your campfire, fireplace or grill, but all are acceptable for use given the correct use of your discretion.

Making Your Own Biochar Amendment in Place!

HOW to MAKE OUR OWN BIOCHAR?! 

Though it’s been many years since the Biochar cure has been offered and raved about, using biochar on a mass basis has not been implemented to an extent that is making a planet wide difference. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use it individually. The simplest way to do it is right where you will use it, just like the Amazon Indians did 2000 years ago.

First check your legal situation before you go for it! Per the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District where I live: A burn permit is required for all outdoor burning activity except recreational (campfires) and cooking (BBQ). This includes: Agricultural Burning (see definition) … Residential backyard burning (permitted only in the unincorporated areas of the Santa Ynez Valley)

Highly flammable gases are released during pyrolysis, so make it outside, well away from buildings, animals and people!

Barbara Pleasant, famed author of 5 garden books, throws in her two cents! ‘Last year, I committed one of the great sins of gardening: I let weeds go to seed. Cleaning up in fall, I faced down a ton of seed-bearing foxtail, burdock and crabgrass. Sure, I could compost it hot to steam the weed seeds to death, but instead I decided to try something different. I dug a ditch, added the weeds and lots of woody prunings, and burned it, thus making biochar. It was my new way to improve soil—except the technique is at least 3,000 years old.’

Barbara words the process more simply… What’s biochar? Basically, it’s organic matter that is burned slowly, with a restricted flow of oxygen, and then the fire is stopped when the material reaches the charcoal stage. Unlike tiny tidbits of ash, coarse lumps of charcoal are full of crevices and holes, which help them serve as life rafts to soil microorganisms. The carbon compounds in charcoal form loose chemical bonds with soluble plant nutrients so they are not as readily washed away by rain and irrigation. Biochar alone added to poor soil has little benefit to plants, but when used in combination with compost and organic fertilizers, it can dramatically improve plant growth while helping retain nutrients in the soil.

She speaks of the Amazonian ‘dark earths,’ terra preta, that ‘hold plant nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium, much more efficiently than unimproved soil. Even after 500 years of tropical temperatures and rainfall that averages 80 inches a year, the dark earths remain remarkably fertile…’ They were produced this very way, burning. …composts and other soil-enriching forms of organic matter last longer. …increased productivity by making nutrients already present in the soil better available to plants. …organically enriched soil retains nutrients for decades rather than for a couple of seasons. This charcoal releases its carbon 10 to 100 times slower than rotting organic matter. See the details  See Twin Oaks Forge for making charcoal in a barrel!

Why buy commercial Biochar? 

Jeremy Menefee says, first, because they use more advanced tools and techniques than the home producer can easily acquire, commercially-produced biochar is usually more consistent in composition and charred under ideal temperatures.

Second, they are able to produce inoculant tailored to specific uses. Vermont Biochar, for example, produces (by hand) several versions ideally suited for either leafy annuals, root crops, or shrub or woody perennials. Each uses a different composition of inoculant to tailor it for the specific application.

Experienced permaculturist Jeremy also says to Biocharge your Biochar! Even commercial biochar producers say their products benefit from being biocharged again once it’s on your property, to tailor it to your site conditions. Here are two easy methods he recommends.

1) Compost charging Even if you buy inoculated biochar, rather than producing it on-site, it will be improved by maturing in your compost. You can use as much biochar as you want, up to about an even 1:1 ratio with the compost, so don’t worry too much about overdoing it. The Biochar doesn’t break down in the process. You may have shorter compost times! Some experts recommend adding both manure and bones.

Quick tip: If you have time, a great way to get the most out of your biochar is to spread it an inch thick or less into your farm animal bedding. Then, when the bedding is spent, add it to the compost pile. [LOL Black Sheep?!] The biochar is essentially ‘double-charged’ in this way. Also, in addition to stacking functions of your animal bedding, this can help reduce odors. Anecdotal evidence suggests it can also reduce illness among your animals!

2) Rapid Charging! The other way to inoculate your biochar is a bit more labor-intensive, but you can complete the process in hours or days, not months. First, fill a 55 gallon (210 litre) drum with fresh water and biochar. If you are using municipal treated water, let it sit for a couple days to remove any chlorine. Then add compost tea or worm castings and leachate to the barrel with some soil from the area where you will use the finished biochar. For example, if you are going to apply the biochar to your fruit orchard, add some soil from around a robust and healthy tree in that orchard. This will help charge the biochar with the ideal microbiology for your specific orchard.

Once everything is well mixed, insert a long tube such as a length of PVC pipe into the barrel and direct air from a blower into the tube, or use a pond aerator and air stones. Aeration supercharges the inoculant and gives the beneficial microbes a massive head start, and helps them adhere to the biochar. Continue this for 12-24 hours.

Safety when applying Biochar amendmentBe careful when applying dry Biochar!

Wear a dust mask such as the 3M™ 8511 Particulate Respirator – N95 to protect your lungs. Moistening biochar can help a lot with dust control. Some Biochar is shipped with about 30% moisture content to help with dust control. Protective eyewear will reduce the chance of getting dust in your eyes. Wear gloves! Wear rubber boots that can be cleaned easily! Apply evenly on a dry, windless day. Mix thoroughly into the soil before planting.

How much do you apply? Doing it right depends on what kind of soil you have and it’s tested content, its pH, how much you want to raise the pH if at all. And, of course, none, if you don’t need it or your situation isn’t right for it!

There are different answers!

  • A company says: From everything we have seen in our own use and through the research of others a good “rule of thumb” is 10% of the planting area should be biochar. If your soil is absolutely horrible you should probably start with a 50/50 mix of biochar and compost and apply about 1/4 lb per square foot.
  • Typically home gardeners use 5-10% biochar in the top 6 inches of their soil.
  • A gardener says: If bought, follow the instructions on the bags, but I would suggest 50/50 with soil and the same for containers, and see your results the first season before you adjust quantities.
  • Farmer Jeremy Menefee says: It takes about 10 pounds of biochar to properly cover 100 square feet. For potted plants, use pure biochar at a ratio of about 1:16 with your potting soil – about ½ cup per gallon of soil. This ratio is good for raised beds as well, one gallon of biochar per 16 gallons of soil. If you inoculated your biochar in compost (at ratios up to 1:1), just apply compost as normal – the presence of biochar doesn’t change the amount of compost used.

How to apply? Simple!

  1. Made your own in place? Just add amendments of your choice, especially compost, and till it in.
  2. Purchased, preferably inoculated? Lay on about 1/4″, amendments and till it in. If you don’t have much, spread it out and add more each time you amend.
  3. If you’re not able to till, spread out your inoculated Biochar, cover with mulch to hold it in place, let Nature do the work for you.

Coast of Maine Biochar Amendment raised bed mix

Biochar IS big business. There is university research devoted to it for sustainable reasons. They make huge grant monies from it. Yale and Cornell, Ames Iowa, Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota, Rice U in Houston Tx to name just a few schools. Government is in on it too, for example the USDA’s Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans. There are subsequent conferences, magazines, books, products at your nursery.

USBI Biochar 2019 – is the largest event in North America dedicated to advancing the sustainable production and use of biochar through scientific and engineering research, policy development, field practice, and technology transfer. It will focus on bridging scientific, industrial, practitioner, and policy gaps in biomass utilization for biochar and bioenergy production. June 30 – July 3 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins Colorado.

BIOMASS Magazine – Beyond the Hype

Check out the BioChar Journal …we want our readers to be confident that what is written in the Biochar Journal is based on sound science and practicality.

Local gardeners might see various products at their nursery. A blend in snowy Maine might be quite different than in SW SoCal droughty areas. Before you order up online, take this into consideration. When buying locally, look on the package to see where it was made, then check out those ingredients. The bag shown here is definitely intended as a pH raiser; it has biochar and lime!

For those of us gardening at community gardens, we need to think of what the next gardener’s soil needs might be after you leave. What if they primarily want to plant acid loving plants, those blueberries, strawberries, celery or beans? In keeping with rotating crops, planting in a different place each year, to avoid soil diseases various plants are susceptible to, we may need to stay flexible – amend each season or year with regular or acidic compost per patch as we go.

If you have a good size parcel of land for veg gardening, that you plan to keep for many years, soil test different areas. You might coordinate your Biochar choices with the land’s own natural flow, plant accordingly. Some sites say it takes about a year for the Biochar/soil relationship to be fully established. If you are planting in raised beds/containers, where soil is leached of nutrients due to higher soil temps, drying, in those structures and frequent watering to compensate, replacing spent soil/compost each year, Biochar isn’t going to work for you.

Making your own Biochar is cheap, but a lengthy process you hope you do right. Probably wise to have someone experienced with you when you do your first processes. First there is gathering the right materials, selecting the right place and technique for the kind of results you want, doing the burning. Then there is the biocharging process for it to do its best work. Buying Biochar can be pricey if you get the best, inoculated. If you put it where it can be used to best advantage, that is worth the one-time expense.

Your final decision to use or not use Biochar may be based on your instinct. You may decide not to use it at your current location or in a specific area of your garden. You might move, or be visiting in another gardener’s location and feel it is the right choice for that place. Maybe you will decide to wait and see. Honor your feelings. You might not save the planet today, or maybe you will by using succinct educated choices.

Bless you for being a garden guardian, a caring Earth Steward.

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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Veggies pH Scale. Alkalize Your Body for Top Health!
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Soil pH is important for your soil, the health of your veggies. Your body’s pH is vital to you! Too much, too little are not fun. Acid forming foods drop you down. Alkalizing foods bring you up! Simplified, foods high in protein such as meat and cheese, and cereal products are acidifying. Fruits and veggies alkalize. If you are well, keep well. If not, shift your diet to get better sooner! In 1931, Dr Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize for proving that cancer cannot survive in an alkaline, oxygen-rich environment. Seriously, an acidic balance will decrease your body’s ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, decrease the energy production in the cells, decrease its ability to repair damaged cells, decrease its ability to detoxify heavy metals, make tumor cells thrive, and make it more susceptible to fatigue and illness.

One site says: Experts recommend a diet of 30% acid forming foods and 70% alkaline forming foods to maintain health, or a diet of 20% acidic and 80% alkaline foods if you are trying to recover your health. Others contend that while this a good ratio for active people (exercise creates a lot of acid), less active people can handle a diet with a ratio of two parts alkaline to one part acid.

An odd little bit about this process is that it’s what the food does in your body that makes the difference. Meat is alkaline, but acidifies your body. Lemons and vinegars, are acidic, but alkalize your body!

The pH graph above will give you ideas which are best of all. In the top category, #10, it is all veggies, including that cute little radish, with one fruit – a Lemon! At #9, Avos rank high, along with celery and grapes. Nanas, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries are on the good side.

There are wonderful lists online with some that give the exact pH. See Medinat for example. Some rank the items listed, others alphabetize, but all will get you started. The lists include Fruits & Veggies, Nuts & Seeds, Beans/Peas, Grains, Seasonings/Dressings, Oils, Meat/Dairy, Beverages and others! Some specify Highly Acidic or Alkaline foods. That can be a quick help.

Several sites show these three lists, Extremely, Highly, and Moderately:

1) Extremely Acidic Foods to reduce or eliminate…

Artificial sweeteners, beef, beer, breads, brown sugar, carbonated soft drinks, cereals (refined), chocolate, cigarettes and tobacco, coffee, cream of wheat (unrefined), custard (with white sugar), deer, drugs, fish, flour (white, wheat), fruit juices with sugar, jams, jellies, lamb.

Liquor, maple syrup (processed), molasses (sulphured), pasta (white), pastries and cakes from white flour, pickles (commercial), pork, poultry, seafood, sugar (white), table salt (refined and iodized), tea (black), white bread, white vinegar (processed), whole wheat foods, wine, and yogurt (sweetened).

2) Highly Alkaline Forming Foods to keep you healthy, restore your health…

Baking soda, sea salt, mineral water, pumpkin seed, lentils, seaweed, onion, taro root, sea vegetables, lotus root, sweet potato, lime, lemons, nectarine, persimmon, raspberry, watermelon, tangerine, and pineapple.

3) Moderately Alkaline Forming Foods to choose…

Apricots, spices, kambucha, unsulfured molasses, soy sauce, cashews, chestnuts, pepper, kohlrabi, parsnip, garlic, asparagus, kale, parsley, endive, arugula, mustard green, ginger root, broccoli, grapefruit, cantaloupe, honeydew, citrus, olive, dewberry, carrots, loganberry, and mango. Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Butter, Apple, Apricot, Banana, Blackberry, Blueberry, Cranberry, Grapes, Mango, Mangosteen, Orange, Peach, Papaya, Pineapple, Strawberry, Brown Rice, Oats, Rye Bread, Wheat, Wholemeal Bread, Wild Rice, Wholemeal Pasta, Ocean Fish.

Take a good look. You may find some surprises! There are differences. For example, some bread is badder than other bread. Whole wheat is 1.8 acidic; white is 3.7. Sprouted grains are alkaline! White rice is 4.6, while brown rice is 5.12! If you gotta have your bread or rice, make the better choice if it is important to alkalize your body. In general, increase use of the more alkaline one. Comparing citruses, oranges don’t rank well because of all their sugar. Bananas and lots of fruits are high in sugar! See more about sugary fruits and combining them with healthy fats in smoothies.

There are contradictions about some foods on the net and right here on this page! Some sites put an asterisk by the item in question. Just make sure a good percentage of the foods you eat are for sure alkaline. How it affects YOU is what is important. If your health is at risk, choose the more dependable options. Here are foods that are questionable:

Brazil Nuts
Brussel Sprouts
Buckwheat
Cashews
Chicken
Corn
Cottage Cheese
Eggs
Flax Seeds
Green Tea
Herbal Tea
Honey
Kombucha -probiotic
Lima Beans
Maple Syrup
Milk
Nuts
Organic Milk (unpasteurized)
Potatoes, white
Pumpkin Seeds
Quinoa
Sauerkraut
Soy Products
Sprouted Seeds
Squashes
Sunflower Seeds
Tomatoes
Yogurt – probiotic

Happily for us gardeners, all vegetables are alkaline forming, just some more than others! Alfalfa, Barley grass, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, garlic, green beans, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, peas, peppers, pumpkin, radishes, sea veggies, spinach, sprouts, squash, sweet potatoes, wheatgrass, wild greens!

Salads may be high on your list! They can be loCal and delicious all year long. The general dressing recipe is to use an alkaline oil, citrus juice of your choice, a tad of sea salt (alkaline) plus the veggie or fruit of the day! Feel free to adjust these recipes to your needs or taste…

Lemon Vinaigrette
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. of sea salt
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of one half lemon
1/4 tsp fine Himalayan sea salt
1/4 avocado
2 tbsp sunflower seeds, soaked for 10-15 mins
1 cup Mango, chopped
1/4 cup Grapeseed Oil
2 tbsp. Lime Juice
1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
1 cup Cucumber
1/4 cup Avocado (Oil)
1 tbsp. Lime Juice
2 tsp. Agave
2 Plum Tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp. Sesame Seeds
1 tbsp. Agave
1 tbsp. Lime Juice
Lemon, crushed garlic, mustard (a little) and olive oil (mixed together)
Olive oil, lemon juice and pomegranate Surprisingly, stirring an alkaline hummus through a salad makes a great thick and creamy dressing

Holidays, special events & parties, traveling are vulnerable times when we often have more stress in our lives. Sometimes we just eat what we eat out of habit and how we did growing up with our family. Perhaps pop a list or small card, your own personal pocket guide, of your best choices and foods to avoid the most into your pocket, with your credit cards. Before you go out to eat, take a look at it to remind yourself. Ask your server if you can substitute one for the other. Choose places that generally serve more alkaline foods or take them with you to the potluck!

And it’s not just your food! Your mental and spiritual health literally affect your body’s pH too!

Take good care of yourself and your garden!

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward! 

The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Lettuce Red Leaf
Beautiful, nutritious, tasty Red Leaf Lettuce

Companion planting is not hard and fast science, but try it for yourself! The luxury of home, or personal gardening, is you can plant as you wish! Rather than row planting, pop lettuces between your Brassicas – that’s broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbages! Lettuce is said to repel Cabbage butterflies. While you are at it, throw in some Cilantro seeds! Cilantro repels aphids from Brassicas. Great threesome! Lucky for us, lettuce has few pest problems, so plant, plant, plant!

In winter, especially remember to plant tallest solid leaved plants, ie big brocs, to the back, feathery leaved Cilantro next, short Cabbages and then lettuces, so they all get plenty of short days sun. Plant the lettuce on the sunny side of the biggies. Remove some of the lower leaves so the lettuce get sun too.

Lettuces thrive in cool winter temps. This is the time to plant heading lettuces and delicate thin leaved varieties that you wouldn’t dare plant in summer! Plant flavorful Radicchio now to get the best heads.

Try colorful and different shapes! If you like colors, try Ruby Red or Yugoslavian Red Butterhead that has touches of purple! Bronze Mignonette is lovely! Red Velvet is curly and Red Romaine is gorgeous! Flashy Trout Back is a freckled tease! The names alone make you want to plant them!

Transplanting gets quick results and is easiest, but growing by seed gets you the varieties nurseries don’t carry! Sometimes the nurseries will have something special in you might like a lot. Keep those nursery tags with the name, or make notes in your garden journal, so you can order seeds in case they don’t carry it again.

Growing from seeds! Lettuce seeds have a short shelf life, a year or less. Be sure your seed is fresh! They have two planting depths depending on the variety you choose. Some need a bare covering, strictly no more than 1/8 inch deep. Deep is not quite the word here! Some people don’t bother covering them, but religiously keep them moist until sprouted and rooted! If you have the patience, presprout and head to the garden with tweezers to plant them. And do be careful not to break those tiny roots! Jeepers. Takes a saint and steady hands and eyes! The other varieties require a whole 1/4 inch deep! That’s a little easier on some of our souls. But, they still need to be kept moist, not swimming. Watering tiny lettuce seeds is truly an art. Very light sprinkling. No floating away to low spots. Over seeding lettuce is never a problem. Let them grow a bit, then thin carefully with scissors, don’t pull and disturb the remaining plant’s tiny roots. Eat!

NOTE 1! Dying parts of the brassica family of plants produce a poison that prevents the seeds of some plants from growing. Plants with small seeds, like lettuce, are especially affected by the brassica poison. So keep your Brassica leaves cleaned up, maybe don’t put them in your compost. Plant from transplants directly under Brassicas!

NOTE 2! Put down Sluggo or the cheaper house brand equivalent when you plant! Nothing like thinking they never came up when the slugs had gourmet eating the night the sprouts arrived! Also, if you have birds, install a raised cover of something like aviary wire to keep the birds from snatching them.

Feed? Like many winter crops, lettuce is a hardworking leaf crop. If you harvest the lower outer leaves cut-and-come-again style, it will produce for quite a time! Likely you gave it well manured, composted soil. If it starts to slow down, leaves yellow, it may need a small feed. If you don’t have digging type predator visitors to your garden, give it some fish & kelp liquid. If you do have ground predators, lay off the stinky fish and use something else. Liquid feeds are best because they go right into the soil where the roots need it now! Don’t put manure or dead fish stuff on leaves of plants grown for their leaves! With manure, scratch it in the top 1/4″ of soil around your plant. But don’t do an entire circle and break all the tiny lateral feeder roots. Just do only a part of the arc. If you plant more in the same spot, add more manure and compost. Keep your soil light with a good water holding capacity.

Lettuces thrive on water. Again, not swimming, but kept moist. It keeps them growing fast and the leaves sweet!

Lettuce - Mesclun Mixed Baby Greens

Container - Salad Table, Mesclun, Successive Plantings

Growing Mesclun! Grow it in the ground or up on a table if you have a bad back or predator problems! Build your own? For example, lay out some boards with space between for drainage, or plywood with drainage holes, over saw horses. That’s a height you can live with for harvesting! Grow in flats lined with fiberglass with drainage holes, landscape cloth to keep the soil in, a layer of gravel, then your grow mix. Or order up a readymade raised bed! End of summer you can get great buys! The one above is planted in three successive sections, one after the other. As one is done you plant some more. Steady supply intended! If you put it out in the garden somewhere, you can grow other tasty salad fixings like radish, bunch onions, your favorites, even beets, right under it!

When your lettuces grow to the height you want, 3″ to 6″, cut them off. Let them regrow!

Lettuce Green Star Heat Tolerant, bolt, tipburn and mildew resistant!Summer Lettuce Varieties: In summer you want a stronger lettuce, heat tolerant & slow bolting! Lettuce Leaf and Red Sails are good. Jericho from Israel is great. Sierra, Nevada. Parris Island is slow bolting. Green Towers Romaine tolerates moderate summer heat and has some resistance to tip burn and bolting. Green Star, at left, claims ‘superior tolerance’ to heat, bolting and tipburn, plus resistance to downy mildew races 1-18. And, it wins the beauty award!

Lettuce is a super food! It helps with weight loss since it is low calorie and the fiber content gives a feeling of fullness as well as being heart-healthy! Lettuce protects your eyesight! It is high in Beta-carotene and regular consumption of beta-carotenes is known to lower risks of macular and degenerative eye diseases. It is highest in Vitamin K for your bones and blood. Lettuce is alkaline forming in your body promoting good energy levels, clear thinking, good sleep and youthful skin!

Yes, red varieties have advantages! Per HeathWithFood.org: Red oak leaf lettuce has been shown to possess exceptionally strong antioxidant properties. A group of scientists from Spain found that the red-leafed lettuce varieties (red oak leaf and lollo rosso) had the highest antioxidant activity among the tested cultivars. The red-leafed varieties also had the highest total phenolic content, which may explain the extraordinary antioxidant properties of these varieties. This study covered five varieties of lettuce (iceberg – the LEAST nutritional value overall, romaine, continental, red oak leaf, and lollo rosso) and one variety of escarole (frissé).

Organic, home grown is best, of course! Commercial lettuces typically have high levels of pesticides. Leaves start to lose nutrients as soon as they are harvested. Wash, refrigerate, eat ASAP! Don’t store lettuce near fruits that produce ethylene gases (like apples). This will increase brown spots and speed up spoilage. Cut-and-come-again gardeners are doing the right thing! Outer leaves have the highest phytonutrient content and antioxidant properties. Oh, and use oil-based salad dressings to make the fat-soluble carotenoids in lettuce more available to your body.

Commercial FYI Lettuce is the third most consumed fresh vegetable in the United States, behind tomatoes and potatoes. California accounted for 71 percent of U.S. head lettuce production in 2013, followed by Arizona producing nearly 29 percent. These states also produce over 98 percent of the leaf lettuce in the U.S. The California drought may cause some changes in those figures…. The most important vegetable crops grown in the state are lettuce and tomatoes.

In your kitchen…. Truly, when it comes to salads, the only limitation is your imagination. Use a variety of lettuces, add your favorite foods – vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, grains, croutons, meats or cheeses! Put nutritious red romaine lettuce in your green smoothies. Lettuce is the most beautiful garnish, laid under and around just about any cool dish! And, it is a superb sandwich layer peeking out, just inviting a bite!

In the interest of world peace, a Thich Nhat Hanh quote: When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for our SoCal Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Choose the right manure for your Veggie Garden!

Manure is an organic amendment. Organic matter improves soil aeration, water infiltration, and both water- and nutrient-holding capacity. Well aged organic matter is an important energy source for bacteria, fungi and earthworms that live in the soil. All your soil needs is 3% organic matter! You can see how adding too much manure can upset your soil balance really quickly. Sometimes soils are ‘poor’ because they are over amped!

Fresh manure is a no, no! Ammonia is not good for your plants. A minimum of 6 months to a year of aging is recommended. Composting manure changes it – ammonia off gasses, there is less Nitrogen, but more phosphorus, potassium, and salts. If salt levels are high in your garden, no adding manures! Home composting simply doesn’t get hot enough to get rid of pathogens. That’s why manures are not recommended for veggie gardens, especially for soil touching root crops like carrots, radishes, and lower lettuce leaves. Yet manures have been used for centuries for growing veggies. But, be warned, ok? Organic farmers follow strict guidelines when using manures. If you have plenty of time, in winter simply till it into the soil and wait for Mama nature to do her work; plant in spring! The exceptions are rabbit or goat, sheep that compost in place quickly. Dig ’em right in.

Manures and grass clippings decompose quickly, days to weeks. Compost takes longer, 6 months, depending on the system you use and how you do it. When applying to your garden, a combination will give immediate and long term improvement. Sheet composting can be speeded up by using THIN layers of chopped green wet materials in combination with straw brown dry layers. Remember, manures and compost are not quick fixes for ailing yellowing plants low in Nitrogen. If you need quick, blood meal and fish emulsions will work faster.

The word on Cow Manures! Hold your nose. They contain methane. What goes in comes out, that could be hormones, chemicals. That’s not organic. It’s less ‘hot’ than chicken manure. Dairy cow manure is more water holding than steer manure. Ask if there is straw or sawdust mixed in. That’s good for composting, but not if the nutrient content is reduced by waste water and urine also mixed in.

Buy manures bagged, or find a SAFE local source.

  • Ask what the creature has been eating. If a horse, you may get lots of weed seeds if they field forage. They only digest about 1/4 of all the grass and grains they consume. Cows, on the other hand, have 4 stomachs, so their manure is more digested, equals less seeds.
  • Ask if the animals or chickens have been given any hormones or drugs like antibiotics.
  • Has any of their food or bedding had an herbicide used on it?
  • Ask if the manure pile has been sprayed with insecticide to kill flies or keep them away.
  • Are the animals healthy?

Rabbit or goat, sheep? Rabbit! It’s twice as high in Nitrogen, 3.5%!  Work any of these three manures, these fab little pellets, fresh right into the top 2” of your soil! All that area that’s exposed makes them compost right in place quickly, and they don’t burn your plants! With bedding they are great in compost piles!

Cat, dog or pig manure are not good. They can have infectious parasites. Cat manure can be harmful to unborn babies.

One of the oldest, safest sources of Nitrogen, urea breaks down fast in your soil, compost pile or compost tea. The human NPK ratio is almost 45-0-0!  Be careful, it’s potent. Dilute it, a lot, unless you use it along perimeters to discourage predators or gophers.

All raw bird manure is premixed with urine and manure.

  1. That would be bat and seabird guanos. Bird guanos are not a quick fix; they take awhile to break down in your soil. Adding guanos high in P, Phosphorus, at planting time is perfect timing for when your plants are ready to bloom! Some say they are better applied as foliar teas, but still, the release time per Colorado University Extension is FOUR MONTHS even for powdered guano! Know your guanos! Guanos vary hugely in NPK percents! Mexican bat is high N (leaf growth, plant vigor) 10-2-1. Jamaican bat is high phosphorus (blooms) 1-10-0.2. Peruvian seabird is high in N and P (leaf and bloom) 10-10-2. Jamaican is your best choice. Bone Meal gives early blooms. Add Jamaican for late season blossoms!
  2. Chicken! Besides eggs, they make grand hot manure for the dollar! Perfect for high production leaf crops like lettuces. And, it suppresses nematodes.  3-4-2 Be very careful using it. Nursery bags are composted at the right ratios, ready to use.  Strawberries don’t like the salts in chickie manure.
  3. Pigeon?!  Yes, prized in Europe as super manure!  It’s the winner at 4.2-3-1.4  And, if you find it available, it’s likely free! From Compost This: ‘…only compost it from healthy, captive birds (such as racing stock), as poop from wild birds may contain harmful diseases or pathogens.’ It needs composting, is highly alkaline, so don’t use it with acid needing plants like strawberries, beans, celery. See more

Vermicompost – worm manure!  According to Rhonda Sherman, North Carolina State University:

‘Earthworm casts are covered with mucus from their intestinal tract; this layer provides a readily available carbon source for soil microbes and leads to a flush of microbial activity in fresh casts. Vermicompost improves soil structure, reduces erosion, and improves and stabilizes soil pH. In addition, vermicompost increases moisture infiltration in soils and improves its moisture holding capacity.

Plant growth is significantly increased by vermicompost, whether it is used as a soil additive, a vermicompost tea, or as a component of horticultural soilless container media. Vermicompost causes seeds to germinate more quickly, seedlings to grow faster, leaves grow bigger, and more flowers, fruits or vegetables are produced. These effects are greatest when a smaller amount of vermicompost is used—just 10-40 percent of the total volume of the plant growth medium in which it is incorporated. Vermicompost also decreases attacks by plant pathogens, parasitic nematodes and arthropod pests.’  The Soil Ecology Center at Ohio State University is the leading vermicomposting research laboratory in the United States. it includes scientific papers on vermicomposting.

Worms are easy to tend, use your green waste, you know what they have been fed.  The more quality stuff you feed them, the more quality comes out!

Green Manure – Grow Your Own! Over winter, or when you soil will be unplanted for a time, legumes, like favas and clovers, and blue lupines, peas, clover, buckwheat, Lucerne, oats, broad beans and wheat, are perfect to plant. Not only are they a living mulch, but legumes feed your soil, gathering N from the air, depositing it in little nodules on their roots! Chop and drop your crop, let it lay on the surface 3 or so weeks, dig it into the top 6”, leave all those nodules right where they will do the most good! Presto! Plant your crop in about 2 to 3 weeks!

Pellets or piles, be knowledgeable in your choices. A combination works best, providing the various nutrients your plants need for their overall health! Sometimes FREE is not a good choice.  Ask questions and if you still don’t feel right about it when the ‘right’ answers are given, trust yourself. Could be the stuff is good but not the right thing for your plants right at that time. Or maybe the answers weren’t completely honest. Wait. Do something else. Or nothing. Your plants’ lives depend on you.

Last updated 4.23.20

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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Mediterranean Understory & Guild Plants for Food Forests – Part 2

Please SEE Part 1 before you read this list!


Here is what a young Food Forest can look like in a part of your urban yard!

Linda’s List here is intended for a Mediterranean climate like coastal Southern California has, one of only 5 in the world. The list in your area may be different. Check out your local gardeners’ successes, check with your local nursery. This list is not tree specific yet. We’re working on that!

More than a list of plants, Linda’s List gives tips for good growing, eating, and usage!
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Once our fruit trees are planted in their water-saving basins in a budding Mediterranean food forest, it’s now time to think about what else to plant in these usually moist wells and swales. Or up the trees? Or nearby? We need these companion plants to increase our food and medicine yield, and also to enrich the soil, provide habitat, pull up minerals and other nutrients from deep in the earth, draw nitrogen from the air and bring it into the soil, attract beneficial insects to control pests, create shade for delicate roots — and to provide beauty, a critical psychological and spiritual yield in every garden.

Thanks to the members of the Permaculture Guild of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Organic Garden Club for their ideas and input. Additions and corrections are welcome.  Please email lbuzzell@aol.com. Especially welcome would be input on what plants do best under specific fruit trees – so far I don’t have much information on that.

BERRIES
Blueberry. To grow well here, they need acid soil, so a container is often the best solution, since Santa Barbara soil and water tend to be alkaline. One gardener we know waters hers with a very dilute solution of white vinegar, plus puts pine needles, coffee grounds around the plant. Best in Mediterranean climates are the low-chill varieties like ‘Misty,”O’Neal,’ ‘Sharpblue’
Cane berries. Upright cane berries are fun to pop in here and there as understory plants and they take some shade. But we found out the hard way that you probably don’t want to put in sprawling, thorny berries (especially blackberry) that sucker underground – they pop up all over the yard and are hard to eradicate. When we buy new berries we limit ourselves to thornless varieties and our current favorites are ‘Navajo’ and ‘Apache,’ although the thorny varieties that still linger in our garden – and will probably be there for hundreds of years as they’re ineradicable – taste best. So we live with them and enjoy the berries.
Elderberry. Shrub. There is a California native variety. Produces edible fragrant white flowers (used to make elderberry syrup and wine) and edible small blue berries that the birds love. Ripe berries are safe to eat but leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots are toxic. Has medicinal uses. We use our elderberry as a sacrificial plant attracting birds away from other fruit trees.
Lemonade Berry (native). Rhus integrifolia. Can also control erosion.

BULBS AND ROOT CROPS
Placement of these may take special care, as you don’t want to plant them too close to delicate tree roots.
Carrots
Edible canna. Canna edulis –Achira. Flowers are smaller than most cannas and the root is edible, can be chopped and sautéed like potato.
Onions
Potato and sweet potato

EDIBLE FLOWERS (note: most fruit trees, veggies and herbs also have edible flowers. Always triple check the safety of any flower before eating!
Daylilies. Hemerocallis species. Buds are used in Chinese stir fry, Petals in salad.
Nasturtium (flowers, young leaves and buds that may be pickled like capers) Let the plants die back in place. They will reseed and form a straw mulch.
Roses (yield petals for salads, sandwiches, syrups, desserts; rose hips for tea, syrups, jam)
Scarlet runner bean
Scented geranium

HERBS (most have edible flowers in addition to other uses)
Borage
Chili peppers, including tree chili
Cilantro
Garlic
Italian parsley
Lavender
Lemon balm
Lemon verbena. A drought tolerant shrub with delicious leaves for tea.
Mint. Some fear its vigorous, spreading roots, but we welcome it into drier areas as ground cover, autumn bee food and a source of fresh leaves for cooking and tea.
Mustard (young leaves can be stir fried, flowers are edible, plus seeds for making mustard)
Pineapple sage (leaves and flowers make delicious herbal tea)
Oregano
Rosemary
Sage

SHRUBS/Understory trees
Guava. Psidium Tropical shrubs native to Mexico, Central and South America that yield white, yellow or pink fruit. Not to be confused with Pineapple Guava (Feijoa) Psidium guajava (apple guava) is one tasty variety. Also try lemon guava and strawberry guava.

VEGGIES (there’s no way to name them all – it’s fun to experiment to see what likes the soil under and around your fruit trees. Our favorites are those that overwinter and/or reseed themselves)
Artichokes. Plant away from tree roots, in baskets as the gophers love them.
Brassicas like broccoli, kale, collard greens.
Chard.
Dandelions. Leaves are great in salads and so good for us. Small birds like the seed heads.
Fava beans and other beans.
New Zealand spinach.

VINES
We often forget about vertical space in the garden, but it’s nice to increase your yield by growing edible vines up fruit trees, on walls and over arbors, fences and hedges.
Grapes. Note: the Permaculture Guild of Santa Barbara has a separate list of recommended table and wine grapes for our area. Contact lbuzzell@aol.com for details
Passion Fruit. A garden member says “mine is simply rampant, productive and trouble-free; gets little to no supplemental water.” The juice can be used to make a spectacular salad dressing (served at Los Arroyos on Coast Village Road in their tropical salad).

MISCELLANEOUS
Bamboo. Use clumping instead of running kinds to avoid it taking over your garden. Bamboo shoots are a delicacy in Asia.
Pepino melon.
Sacrificial plants. In permaculture designs we often plant trees, shrubs and other plants that are nitrogen-accumulators, “nurse” plants or fruit-providers for animals that might otherwise eat our crops. When they have performed their function, we “chop and drop” them around our fruit trees as a nutritious mulch.
Yucca. We’ve read that yucca yields edible fruit and flower buds. Anyone have more info on this?

BENEFICIAL ATTRACTORS AND NUTRIENT ACCUMULATORS
Ceanothus. Shrubs and ground covers that fix nitrogen in the soil.
Salvia, ornamental. These are treasures in the Mediterranean forest garden.
Tagetes lemmonii. Golden color is lovely in fall.

GROUND COVER
Easy-to-grow succulents can provide temporary ground cover for delicate roots. They can act as a living mulch until other plants take over that function. This crop is often free, as gardeners who have ground-cover sedums always have too many and are glad to share.
Pelargoniums and lantana are other easy, colorful ground cover that can be removed as needed.
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#1 Home Permaculture book in the world for seven years!

Per PatternLiteracy.com, Toby Hemenway’s home site, Gaia’s Garden has been the best-selling permaculture book in the world for the last 7 years. The enlarged, updated 2nd edition is the winner of the 2011 Nautilus Gold Medal Award.

The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.

Treat yourself and your land to this incredibly efficient way of gardening. Wisely use ALL the space available to you in a good way. Nature is the Master Gardener – follow her lead.

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Adult Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens

Maggots. Icky.  Ewww!  Yuck.  Ok, got that out.  Did you even know this could happen?!  Have you been afraid to ask about, admit to it, because it’s so ugly? Ok, gardener therapy time…. Maggots are really nothing weird, they are the larvae of black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens), often referred to as BSF, a native-to-the-Americas fly whose amazing environmental usefulness is now known. In fact, you may already know BSF as Phoenix Worms, sold in Pet stores as food for fish, birds and reptiles. They became the first feeder insect to be granted a U.S. registered trademark in 2006!

They don’t look like I expected, and, instead, are rather interesting and polite! Adults do not sting or bite, don’t carry diseases, do not feed at all. They mate, look for a place to lay eggs, die within 2 days! There are a lot of different ones and the males differ from the females. If you see pale yellow or cream colored eggs in masses that contain as many as 500 eggs, my response now is Thank you! Some wonder if they’re cockroach eggs. They’re not, thank goodness! The grubs, maggots, or larvae, can be anywhere from white to a dark brown. More about them

Answer ONE!  Maggots are not going to hurt your compost, but they may be a sign that your balance of green materials/brown materials is off. Make sure you are adding enough (but not too much) brown stuff like straw. Also it may be too moist; it should feel like a wrung out sponge. If it is too wet or has too much green material (food waste, grass, fresh leaves) in relation to brown, it can become slimy and rotten smelling and attract lots of maggots. If you really can’t stand them you can get some lime (this is organic) and dust your compost with it. It will deal with the maggots and you will still have good compost, but it will increase the pH of the compost.

A word about LIME – Liming

It is normally not necessary to add lime to your compost pile to improve the breakdown of most yard wastes. Finished compost is usually slightly alkaline. If you add lime during the decomposition process, it will probably be too alkaline when completed. If your pile contains large amounts of acidic materials such as pine needles or fruit wastes, you might add lime, but no more than one cup per 25 cubic feet of material. Excessive lime application can lead to loss of nitrogen from the compost pile.

Black Soldier Fly larvae

Black Soldier Fly Larvae – Maggots!

Answer TWO! OR, decide to HAVE maggots!!!! You’ve seen the dead dry ones in your garden many times. Alive they make compost in record time! The material they are working fairly seethes. Here is a fab SFGate link all about them: Yucky but useful: Maggots make compost by Maria Gaura, Special to The Chronicle  Saturday, July 26, 2008. It’s a read for the brave, but believe it or not, it will make you laugh! And change your ways of thinking about your compost! Did you ever think you would see these words? ‘While we’re waiting for our first shipment of BSF larvae to arrive

I first posted this August 19, 2011. Per the London, Jan. 15, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — According to a new market research report titled “Black Soldier Fly Market by Product Type (Protein Meal, Whole Dried Larvae, Oil, Biofertilizer, Live Insect, Chitin/Chitosan), Application (Animal Feed, Agriculture, Pet Food, Pharmaceutical, and Cosmetics), and Geography- Global Forecast to 2030”, published by Meticulous Research®, the global black soldier fly market will grow at a CAGR of 33.3% from 2019 to 2030 to reach $2.57 billion by 2030! See more details

BSFs are big business! Besides food for you fish, pet reptiles and chickens, they are sold to compost making businesses as well as the gear sold for those businesses. They’re also used in forensic entomology to clean bones bare. At your garden, what the maggots leave, your red worm casting making worms can eat! And, btw, maggots have no gentile needs like your delicate worms. They will eat anything biodegradable, even mountains of orange peel from the juice industry!

BSF larvae convert biowaste to protein! When they are done with your compost, they can be ground up into protein powder to feed other animals like fish you may be raising! As of Dec 2019 Forbes called BSFs The New Superstars of Sustainable Aquaculture and that they are revolutionizing the Aquaculture industry, Aquaculture production has more than doubled in the past 15 years!

There was a blog called Black Soldier Fly Blog?!?! Sure! It featured a sophisticated DIY specialized composter, with how-to image after image and videos!  The page had no less than 188 comments!

Here is a Houzz page with a LOT of great comments, and it explains and debunks myths about BSF! Especially read comments by Kelly_Slocum.

So how do you and I, home gardeners, use BSFs in our humble little gardens?

Of first importance is having enough for them to eat! Worms are much slower and may be perfect for your needs. See more Grow Garden Worms, Harvest Castings! If you have a big family and a lot of scraps, access to a grocery store waste or restaurant scraps, consider trying maggots. Soldier fly bins can be sized for a backyard or scaled up for a commercial operation.

On the flip side, you can’t fill the BSF bin full over and over because in time trying to get compost – you only get a little volume at a time, the acidity increases too much. The pH is thrown off with over-feeding. It’s going to take a little trial and error. Slower is probably better to start.

If your worms are in a container,  do not  combine the grubs with your worms! Alison Collin, Master Gardener of Inyo/Mono counties threw rotting windfall apples into an open stock tank. When she needed the tank, she was shocked to find it full of maggots! She advises: …though Black Soldier Fly larvae and red worms both like the same food, the fly larvae are extremely active [crowd out the worms and leave no food for the worms], like warm, moist conditions, and their leachate makes the soil acidic which is not good for worms. So if you have worm bins it is prudent to check them from time to time and remove any Black Soldier Fly larvae that may be present.

If your worms are in an outdoor compost pile, Anne Baley has some common sense advice: Encourage them in your compost pile by keeping green material, kitchen waste, near the top of the heap instead of burying it underneath dry leaves. Water the pile a little more than usual to help keep the moisture levels up. If soldier fly larvae seem to be taking over and crowding out the regular earthworms in your compost, bury kitchen waste under at least 4 inches of leaves, paper and other brown materials, and cut back on the moisture available to the pile.

How do you get your Soldier Flies? Australian Gavin Smith encourages using a purpose-built black soldier fly farm with images, instructions and explanations! This special home attracts them naturally. Or you can order them online! Or like Alison, throw some rotting apples where you want them and they will come, LOL! Sally G. Miller at Dave’s Garden says ‘BSF love coffee grounds. Collect a gallon or two of used coffee grounds and put them on the compost. Make sure the grounds stay moist. Dig into the grounds after a week and check for small tan wriggly “worms.” ‘

The Seasons: In the Pacific Northwest, it is recommended to ‘continue fueling the composting process for about nine months out of the year! Farmer Scott Olsen says ‘It will be warm and humid in there [the building] with lots of light because that’s what they like. … We’ll have to figure out how much energy we have to add to keep it going during the wintertime. We might be able to do that with solar or compost heat.” ‘ In our home gardens, adult soldier flies become inactive during cold months. Pupae can overwinter.

You chicken owners can be happy to know there are special growing chambers for BSFL [larvae]. When the larvae are mature, they crawl out of the food source, are channeled into a collection bucket right in the hungry chickens’ foraging area!

After eating their fill at your compost pile, soldier fly larvae crawl away to virtually disappear. The cycle continues. Along the way they become a food for birds and small creatures.

As a veggie gardener you can be glad they do not carry pathogens from manure to food items because they make great compost posthaste!

The physical reality dilemmas! A thread writer posed this comparison. ‘Most journals I’ve read say bsfl leave behind around 5% solid material, of course it depends on the food source. This seems to be pretty accurate. You can put literally hundreds of pounds of waste in a bin and have a few inches of substrate. It’s like I tell the people I teach this stuff to, if you want fertilizer and waste disposal, go with red wiggler worms, and if you want waste disposal and animal feed, go with BSFL. 

The questioner replied that she also didn’t get enough grubs to feed her chickens. She said bsfl are super at waste disposal! ‘I wouldn’t be able to compost everything from a restaurant with worms because of space considerations or because worms can’t be fed all that fat, meat and dairy that a restaurant will naturally produce.’ Bsfl have no problem. She’s considering keeping worms in a greenhouse over winter because she wants soil… Maybe she could do both?

Finished bsfl compost looks the same as other finished compost but it has one important difference! Devin Gustus at DenGarden says black soldier fly larvae compost can stunt plant growth if applied before further composting, to consider that frass “half-composted” material. Worms can easily digest the frass further, creating high quality vermicasts. Depending on who you talk with, there is a bit more to the process than what is thought at first. If you are purchasing bsfl compost, ask how it has been processed.

So here are some pros/cons. If you go with bsfl, be ready for a fast game!

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & pollinator food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

 

 

 

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Foliar plant care is so easy!
Use a
Dramm Can, the Perfect Foliar Machine!

Worm Castings, Compost, Manure Tea, Fish Emulsion/Kelp for FEEDING – All in ONE!

You can easily make this tea!  A handful of castings, a handful to a cup of compost, handful of manure, stir and let them soak overnight in a bucket.  In the morning, swoosh it around in the bucket one more time, let it settle, then pour the top liquid into your watering can, the one with the up turning rose.  Add a Tablespoon Fish Emulsion/Kelp, mix, and drench your plants in the morning!  Yum!

Epsom Salts, Magnesium Sulfate, Your Solanaceaes, Peppers especially, and Roses!

Magnesium is critical for seed germination and the production of chlorophyll, fruit, and nuts. Magnesium helps strengthen cell walls and improves plants’ uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.  Magnesium deficiency in the soil may be one reason your tomato leaves yellow between the leaf veins late in the season and fruit production slows down.

Sulfur, a key element in plant growth, is critical to production of vitamins, amino acids (therefore protein), and enzymes.  Sulfur is probably the oldest known pesticide in current use. It can be used for disease control (e.g., powdery mildews, rusts, leaf blights, and fruit rots), and pests like mites, psyllids and thrips. Sulfur is nontoxic to mammals, but may irritate skin or especially eyes.  Sulfur has the potential to damage plants in hot (90°F and above), dry weather. It is also incompatible with other pesticides. Do not use sulfur within 20 to 30 days on plants where spray oils have been applied; it reacts with the oils to make a more phytotoxic combination.

Epsom Salts are easy to do!  Buy some Epsom Salts, what you soak your feet in, at the grocery store, mix a tablespoon per gallon, foliar feed!  Foliar feeding is simply sprinkling leaves with your solutions, and works better than applying to the soil!  Get a Dramm 5 liter long snouted watering can that has a turnable sprinkler head.  That long spout comes in handy, reaching well into your plant!  Turn the head so the water shoots up under the leaves then falls back on the tops!  The long arc of the handle gives lots of maneuvering ability!  Feed your plants once when they bloom, and again ten days later. The results, attributed to magnesium in the salts, are larger plants, more flowers, more fruit, thicker walled peppers!  I use this mix on all my Solanaceaes: eggplant, pepper, tomato, tomatillo.  Roses love it too! 

Baking Soda & Nonfat Powdered Milk for PREVENTION!

The bicarbonate of soda makes the leaf surface alkaline and this inhibits the germination of fungal spores. Baking soda prevents and reduces Powdery Mildew, and many other diseases on veggies, roses, and other plants!  It kills PM within minutes.  It can be used on roses every 3 to 4 days, but do your veggie plants every 5 to 10 days, or after significant rains, as the plant grows, because these new plant tissues are not yet protected yet by your fungicide.  Irrigate well 2 days before use; on a sunny day spray off as much of the PM as you can from plants in sunny locations.  A heaping Tablespoon baking soda to a gallon of water, with a 1/2 Teaspoon of a surfactant – insecticidal or dish soap or salad oil, does the job.  It is not effective without the surfactant to spread it and make it stick.  You can add a liquid fertilizer with it if you want.   Cautions:  1)  I have had no trouble using it on my veggies, but it may burn the leaves of some other plants, so try it on a few leaves first.  2)  Don’t apply during hot midday sun that can burn the leaves.  3)  Avoid over use – it is a sodium, salt.  For a definitive discussion of Baking Soda usage and research, see https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/bakingsoda.html.   The article is an easy read, nicely summarized, has references, includes cautions and info on commercial preparations.  Best of all is to plant powdery mildew resistant varieties:

  • Cucumber:  Diva
  • Yellow Summer Squash:  Success, Sunray, Sunglo
  • Zucchini:  Ambassador, Wildcat
  • Pumpkin:  18 Karat Gold, Gladiator

Add nonfat powdered milk to your Baking Soda fungicide!  Powdered milk is a natural germicide, boosts your plant’s immune system!  Apply right away on young bean plants, all your cucurbits – cukes, zuchs, any mildew prone plant.  A 1/4 c milk in your gallon of water.  Get under those leaves, early morning so the leaves dry and the habitat is less humid.

Also add Salicylic acid, an aspirin to the mix! It triggers a defense response in tomatoes and other plants as well, and stimulates growth!  One regular strength dissolved/gallon does the job.

Healthy plants and abundant production are so rewarding!  Just take a few minutes to give your plants a boost with these simple treatments!  Whether Dramm, or another can, get yourself a good one!  Make it easy to get up under those leaves!  Otherwise, you are treating only 1/2 your plant!

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