June 2012 Newsletter

Hi {name},
Here’s the latest growing news from:

THE VEGGIE CLINIC

Home of:

DR. TOMATO

The Doctor is always in! No appointment necessary!
THE PHOTOTRON – SHINING A WHOLE NEW LIGHT ON ORGANIC GROWING!
THE VEGGIE CLINIC – WHERE SCIENCE MEETS THE SOIL!
GREETINGS FELLOW GROWERS:
Well, I think we made it through the season! Since March, it has been 12-14 hours a day 7 days a week. But it was a very successful and rewarding season. Between here at the Veggie Clinic and the Manchester Refugee agricultural program we produced many tens of thousands of organic seedlings. A big THANK YOU to all our retail and wholesale customers here, at Blue Seal in Rochester and Bow, N.H. and in the Manchester/Bedford area. Expansion for next year, both here at the Veggie Clinic and in Manchester, is already in the pipeline. Speaking of the Manchester program, if you didn’t catch the 5 minute segment channel 9 television did on the greenhouse operation, check it out:

Those of you who see me at the Farmers Markets know that I had an interesting variable thrown into the mix this spring. Right at the beginning of May, at the busiest time of the growing season, I broke my arm! Most of you know that I am still a serious athlete and train religiously. During a high intensity combatives training session that I run on Sunday mornings, a close contact drill got a little rough. Soooo………… I had my arm in a cast for several weeks with my thumb immobilized. You never really appreciate an opposable thumb until you don’t have one! It slowed me down a little bit but we still managed to get 12-14 hours a day in. I now have a splint on and need to be cautious for about 6 more weeks but I have my thumb back!! Those of you who know me well also won’t be surprised by the fact that I am still training hard – with a few modifications for the next number of weeks! I think this is broken bone number 20 (yes, you read that correctly). But think of it this way. What an amazing capability the body has to actually mend a bone that has been broken! And what a waste it would be if I/we never utilized that amazing capability! Might it even disappear from the gene pool if it were never used?
Since we were so busy until the first week of June, this past week has been a big push to get the gardens here at Castle Anam Cara planted – vegetable and flower. I had my doubts that it could be done for the number of weeds that had filled in the beds during the busy spring season but as of today we are just about done! The high tunnel is full of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, herbs and strawberries and the outside beds are filled with more tomatoes, peppers, kale, Swiss chard, beets, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, beans, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, onions, garlic and leeks! I/we just about live on stir fry variations and Shiitake mushrooms.
Here are a couple of recent pictures of some of the Manchester refugee farmers during one of their periodic visits/work days here at the Veggie Clinic. Our collaborative ventures has resulted in our spending quite a bit of time together both here and at the Bedford operation. A VERY rewarding experience on many different levels.

For those of you who asked for the link to the blog about the Manchester project, here it is again:
CURRENT GARDEN ISSUES AND CONCERNS:
With the official onset of the summer growing season comes the start of all those problems that can run from slightly annoying to devastating. Let’s look at a few of the issues that are already generating questions from many of the newsletter readers.
If this is the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, this may very well be the YEAR OF THE SLUG in the New England gardening calendar! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a year start with more slugs than this spring. A lot has to do with the warm and wet weather conditions we had this past winter and early spring. They can be seen under virtually every flower pot, under the foliage of most flower and vegetable plants and, this year anyway, just out taking a leisurely stroll across the garden! They do much of their damage during the night which will be seen the next day as big chunks of leaves that have been eaten. They will also munch on things like strawberries and log grown Shiitake mushrooms. Thankfully, they can be controlled without too much angst or cost. There are the tried and true “old time” solutions such as a saucer of beer in the garden which attracts and subsequently drowns the little darlings. Cheap, effective but a little messy and requires a slightly higher level of maintenance. An easier and very effective solution is the use of a product like SLUGGO. This is simply a formulation of iron phosphate which acts as a bait to attract the slugs. When the slugs then eat the bait, the iron phosphate immediately affects their digestive system and causes the slug to stop feeding. The slug then crawls off, never again to munch on your seedlings or fruit! SLUGGO is quite cost effective at only around $10.00 to buy enough to protect your garden for quite a while. SLUGGO is listed by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) for organic gardening and is safe around kids and pets. After you sprinkle it on the area of your garden you want to protect, it will survive for a number of weeks even through rain. This is a good product to have in your organic gardening arsenal. It is available at many locations such as Blue Seal stores.

When you go to purchase your SLUGGO to help you control slugs and snails munching on your garden, you will see another product right beside it – SLUGGO PLUS. Made by the same company, it is a combination of two different ingredients. The first is obviously iron phosphate and is exactly the same as the SLUGGO we just looked at. The second ingredient – the PLUS – is called SPINOSAD. SPINOSAD is composed of spinosyns (there is a spinosyn A and a spinosyn D) which are compounds formed by the fermentation of a rare bacteria found in the soil behind a rum distillery on a Caribbean island in 1982. SPINOSAD activates the nervous system of the targeted insect and literally causes it to die of hyperactivity exhaustion after a couple of days. It is considered “organic” and allowed by the National Organic Standards Board. As always, if you are a “certified organic” commercial producer and choose to use such a product, make sure to check with your specific certifier to assure its acceptability. Its prime targets of efficacy are leaf eating caterpillars, some beetles, some flies, and some thrips.
Here is where, as usual, the waters can get a little bit cloudy. Why put it in regular SLUGGO? Well, because the SPINOSAD, when it is released into the soil, will also kill several other pests that can plague the home (and commercial) grower – such as cutworms, earwigs, sowbugs and pillbugs. A good thing if you have ever come out in the morning and seen your pepper, tomato, eggplant, lettuce etc. seedlings laid right over on the ground as if some miniature Paul Bunyan had mistaken your newly planted seedlings for some virgin forest waiting to be clear cut! After all the science articles I have subjected you to, I can hear you asking the next logical question – does it affect the earthworms? Research at this time indicates that the answer is minimal to no affect. As to the impact on the other thousands of micro flora and fauna – the jury is still out as more research is done. Initial indicators for the small number of species investigated is again minimal at worst.
So, SPINOSAD is “natural” and “organic” therefore totally safe and neutral to “good” organisms – right?!? Well, yes, no or maybe. As you search the “organic” insecticide section of your garden supply store, you will notice a wide range of “organic” insecticides now available using a SPINOSAD formulation as their effectiveness platform. Many of them are in the form of spray on formulas. Perhaps the best known at this time is the Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew. Although it dries on the plant leaf quite rapidly and then is toxic to leaf eating insects (primarily caterpillars) but minimally toxic to non-leaf eating insects, when it is still wet on the leaf or suspended in the air it can be toxic to non-leaf eating insects such as honey bees and trichogramma wasps and other predatory wasps (insects you WANT in your garden). As with ALL insecticides and fungicides – YOU are responsible for the actual safety of the product and its actual effect on the myriad of good and bad bugs in your garden. Do not spray when honey bees are foraging or there are predatory wasps in the area. Use the least amount that will do the job. Dispose of the container wisely. In other words – READ THE DIRECTIONS THAT COME WITH THE PRODUCT.
SPINOSAD is a good product that has a definite place in your organic garden. I know you guys like to dig a little deeper into the science of these issues so I am including a good link here. It is to my favorite group of agricultural scientists – the Cornell plant pathology department. Do yourself a favor and read this one page analysis of SPINOSAD. SPINOSAD products are everywhere now and they are getting more widely used (and sometimes abused). Your plants and the environment will thank you!
BIOLOGICAL ADDITIVES TO GARDEN SOIL:
In the last newsletter I told you that I would get back to you with more information on the effectiveness of the seemingly endless line of products coming out with things like “pro-biotic” formulas to “inoculate” your soil with micro-organisms. I am working on the article as we speak. This has become a line of investigation that has many twists and turns and there are a LOT of grey areas and holes in the research. As I put what is out there together, I will relay it to you.
CAN I SAVE MY SEEDS FOR A YEAR?
This is a question that I get asked all the time. The answer is a definite YES. Cool and dry are the watch words and many sites and articles will give you suggestions on how best to gather, dry and store your seeds. But remember, we are talking about OPEN POLLINATED seeds to save for the next year. When you save seeds from open pollinated plants you grow this year and then plant them in your garden next year, they will produce virtually the same plants as the ones you saved them from this year. If you save seeds from HYBRID plants you grow this year and then plant them in your garden next year – they will produce something totally different. Go back to the PAST ARTICLES header and look up the article I wrote (I think last year) on open pollinated, hybrid and GMO seeds. It will answer most of your questions about why this is so. Several months ago I heard a fascinating story on a science show and then, as I was reading the April 2012 issue of Science News, I found an article about the same story, written by Devin Powell. Check this out!!
A flower that last bloomed while mammoths walked the earth has been reborn, generated from a piece of fruit frozen in Siberian permafrost.
It’s the oldest flowering plant ever grown from preserved tissue, scientists report in the March 6 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. David Gilichinsky, who led the team at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ research institute in Pushchino, died just before the paper was released.
The fruit, radiocarbon-dated to about 31,800 years ago, came from a recently excavated cache of provisions that a squirrel stuffed into a burrow 38 meters underground. Tissue scraped from the fruit and bathed in nutrients grew into fertile plants with healthy seeds that sprouted in soil.
“It’s remarkable that under deep freeze, fruit tissues…can remain viable for such a long time,” says UCLA biologist Jane Shen-Miller. “This is like regenerating a dinosaur from tissues of an ancient egg.”
The hardiness of an ancient plant’s frozen tissue is good news for Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault and other projects freezing seeds to safeguard against the extinction of modern plants. “No one knows how long [frozen seeds] are viable for, but freezing is basically the format for all seed conservation attempts nowadays,” says Sarah Sallon, director of the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center at Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem. Several years ago, she helped grow a date palm from a 2000-year-old seed unearthed in Israel.
So don’t hesitate to try saving seeds for a year – or maybe even two!
DR. TOMATO ON THE ROAD:
Remember, I am at the Northwood Famers Market at the junction of Routes 4 and 202 every Thursday afternoon from 3:00pm until 6:30pm. Then, I am usually at the Newmarket Farmers Market Saturday mornings from 9:00am until 1:00pm. Come talk gardening, ask questions, talk science or, oh yes, buy some mushrooms!
Speaking of questions, remember that you can write to me and ask any gardening questions you might have. If I don’t know the answer off the top of my head I will get it for you (and me).
YIKES!!
This from an article written by Annie Murphy Paul in the April 2012 issue of GOOD HOUSEKEEPING magazine:
The average American between the ages of 8 and 18 spends more than seven hours a day looking at a screen of some kind, reports a Kaiser Family Foundation study….The more hours teenagers spend using a computer or watching TV, the weaker their emotional bonds with their parents, reports a study of more than 3,000 adolescents published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. On the other hand, teens who spend more time reading and doing homework reported feeling closer to their moms and dads. “Strong attachment to parents” – a bond of understanding, trust, and affection – “is protective against poor psychological health and participation in risky health behaviors,” the study’s authors note, so “concern about high levels of screen time is warranted.”
TO PONDER:
As a horse when he has run, a dog when he has tracked the game, a bee when it has made the honey, so a man when he has done a good act, does not call out for others to come and see, but he goes on to another act, as a vine goes on to produce again the grapes in season.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
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