Alfalfa Experiment Number One was initially an attempt to grow new alfalfa seeds for making sprouts. The seed source was 15 year (more or less) old seed which was not working out well in the kitchen sprout department. Much of it germinated, but would rot before too long. It smelled rotten, you don't need to know more about that.
The gardener's experimenting spirit, which needs to be reigned in this year, thought that the plants might grow well in an alternate environment, like soil. There were a few unplanted patches in the garden which were immediately sprinkled with alfalfa seed. The plants came up and grew out quickly. So far I don't recall any flowers, much less seeds. (If they had flowers and seed heads, then I'd have to figure out how to harvest and process them.)
Since then, a couple of local gardeners have told me they had difficulty getting alfalfa to start up on their land. It's been going great guns here. This is a little close up of dense and happy alfalfa in my garden.
The gardener really does need to do more research BEFORE spontaneous action, and perhaps, someday she'll learn how, or at least might stop to think first. (Do you really believe that? Not sure that I do.)
Here's what the gardener knows now about alfalfa that she didn't last year:
1. Alfalfa spreads, real slowly, but very fully. Subtly it sneaks over the lines and looks as if its always been there, so bright and healthy that it makes one feel good just to gaze into its greenness.
2. Blister Beetles LOVE alfalfa. What's a blister beetle? You don't know? See, there's often a blessing which is yours of which you are not yet aware. This is excellent example for those in the "Count Your Blessings" School of Gardening. The Gardener didn't know about them until deep into the first Summer of Ozark gardening. A garden friend was visiting. He was new to the Organic Philosophy and had always used something like "Seven", so he'd never noticed the critter before. I innocently asked him what that new bug was. He didn't know, so I let it be. I saw it first on the potato leaves. Then there were more bugs. Many more, and then hardly any potato leaves. The bugs marched on to the tomatoes, the chard, and at last, to the place I couldn't get them out of, you guessed it - the Alfalfa.
There is no native Earth animal which preys upon the Blister Beetle (aka Potato Bug) and nothing likes to eat it either. Sadly, they are very poisonous to horses, which otherwise find alfalfa hay very tasty and good for them. I don't know how one can make alfalfa hay which does NOT contain the little critters. Well, not in my pasture land turned weed fields and garden. (This paragraph contains a clue to what may become Alfalfa Experiment #2. Stay tuned to find out.)
3. Yes, alfalfa roots do grow very deep. That was sort of clear to me before. Its part of what makes alfalfa a good crop to break through clay soil and bring deep minerals to the surface. Well, the minerals come into the plant, the plant goes into the compost or back into the top soil as green manure.
So how does one get rid of the alfalfa? Dig deeply. Oh. More shovel exercise.
Why would one want to get rid of the alfalfa? Oh, perhaps the land is needed. Perhaps it has grown beyond the space allotted to it, and the onions really do have to get planted.
This Spring the alfalfa is happily expanding beyond where it was planted. Below is the area which will be needed for the walkway beside this year's onion bed. It would be very hard to do a good shovel job removing it after the onions have been planted there, so its one more job that must be done while the onions languish in their temporary bed in the greenhouse. They could have been in the soil weeks ago, but that the gardener ... (Pick any excuse you like ... was writing blogs instead of gardening? Who knows?)
Dig those roots. Dig that soil.
Now that's a blessing I've been counting, with gratitude every single day.
(Most Ozark soil is just rocks and pebbles, this however, is a miracle.)
I would have liked, for soil development purposes, to leave the roots in the soil, allowing them to dispense their good nitrogen and feed the worms, etc.. However, I am aware that just cutting it at the stem would encourage it to grow back. Yes, it can be harvested like hay for many uses. But in this small space, I don't want to do that.
Now, what to do with all these uprooted plants? I do have an idea which might be Experiment #2. Perhaps you can tell me something helpful about this idea before I go to all the effort.
I gave away a huge bucketful of the roots and tops to our helper (who hadn't been able to start his own) to transplant in his garden. If that works for him, it will give me a hint if idea #2 will work.
Imagine that strong tap root placed into a gravel-like soil that has weed quality cactus growing on it. Would the alfalfa spread,taking over the light source and overpowering the root room of the cactus and kill it? Wouldn't that be cool?
Imagine this area of cactus and no garden plants attracting all the neighborhood blister beetles away from the garden! Wouldn't that be super cool?
Do you think it might work? Digging little holes to plant these roots in would be a big job. Oh, I still have some of those seeds left. Perhaps I could just plant the stuff out there instead of trying to transplant it! What a great idea!
If I hadn't been sharing this subject with you, that idea might not have come. Thanks so much for listening and sharing that idea with me, bending space and time to bring it to my consciousness. This insight shows me that there is a reason for writing and posting this garden journal. I have been wondering.
There are two other plots of alfalfa going strong inside the garden fence. The one by the onion patch is all removed. One of the others looks like this. It will be good fodder for the compost, or perhaps food for the chickens which the gardener might bring in to eat up the grasshoppers. But that's another story.
Thanks for visiting and sharing.
May all your experiments be Joyful!
Some Ladybugs were shooed out the door, some into the vacuum. Then a neighbor reminded me that these indoor pests EAT APHIDS. The rest of them were quickly swept right downstairs to the greenhouse, and deposited onto the potato leaves.
The Beginning: Healthy happy potato leaves with happy healthy aphids.
Asian Ladybug Beetles on patrol on the potato leaves.
Note aphid farmer (ant) on leaf in lower center part of photo.
Many more ants began to take up residence. I used dry corn grits scattered on the ground and leaves. The idea is that the ants feed on the dry grits and somehow as the grits expand in their body moisture, it explodes them. Hopefully (for sadistic gardeners) the ants take the grits back to their Queen and the grits kill her too. End of ant colony and their tended crop of aphids (in theory).
Undiagnosed disease or other destruction of potato leaf, obviously pretty worn out by continued aphid predation.
Enter intrepid, wonderful hungry Ladybug beetle larvae. They have nothing to do but eat and grow bigger. Unlike their adult version, they can't go flying off. So they walk and eat and eat and I hardly see any aphids on the leaves anymore. Well, there are plenty more on other greenhouse plants.
So gently and tenderly, I've been moving a few to the Carrot leaves nearby which are aphid-inundated. Hopefully they'll find the Salsify next to that which is like an aphid magnet. I'd like to find a way to get the larvae to some of the other plants which are in pots in the greenhouse that need the larvaes' help - but I am cautious about trapping the guys inside a plastic pot. They may not be able to move to get more food elsewhere when they need it.
Kudos to you. Ladybug larvae, you are doing a wonderful job!
Some of the plants where the infestation started were looking pretty bleak.
I don't see any aphids or LadyBug Larvae in the outside garden yet. I'm sure that its too cold and too early in the season for them. I'm just so grateful that when the pests awoke early for the outside world, in the greenhouse warmth, their natural predators also awoke to enjoy the aphid feast.
This proves that it is true, in the natural system of gardening,
if you provide the feast, the guests will come.
So if we wait long enough with a pest in our midst,
a predatory species will be drawn to the garden buffet.
I wish that it always worked as well as in this instance. Remember, I stacked the deck with extra ladybugs. And it wasn't them, but their offspring who are doing the work. Therefore, this year I stocked up on wholesome "organic" type bug remedies, sprays and powders. We'll see how well I'm able to apply them as the season progresses.
May the beneficial insects come to your garden,
even if just for hors d'oeuvres - so you won't have to be overrun by pests
to be helped by Nature's Balancing Mysteries.
So Spreadable - Its Incredible! Raspberries Multiply Like Maniacs.The Gardener had to move the raspberries out from the garden to the yard, way far away from everything. Many viable clumps of roots and shoots were happily given away. Very quickly garden club members and neighbors came by, visiting the greenhouse. They left fresh eggs, tomatoes and peach jam, taking home lettuce and small plants too.
Roots and shoots excavated and placed in a pan.
This photo is among the best from the garden in 2008.
The raspberries were packed as bare root, wrapped up in newspaper envelopes and kept damp. The paper is about torn through now, but fewer packages are left. Hopefully they will be all gone soon to good homes and can quickly take over the world.
Raspberry flowers and leaves
This gardener's sense of "right to life" is lovingly granted to almost all plants, save weeds in the garden. Sadly, she still practices preemptive attacks on plant-eating bugs.
The raspberries are fall bearing, sweet and delicate. The books say they are best for eating when ripe, without trying to save or put them up. The plants could use a little support and reportedly like a little potash (wood ashes). They expand exorbitantly through the root system. Give them lots of room, far away from every other plant!
Bugs that bothered these raspberries in 2008 included some kind of red-headed black-bodied cut worm (I think), grasshoppers, blister beetles, and a large two-legged fructivore that stopped by between garden jobs to graze.
But let's not think of frost
or a season time has lost
as we eagerly coax seeds to sprout
hoping soil will dry out.
And for you who plant a tree to fruit
in five years or in ten,
Radish will adorn your salad sooner
than a dream of future "when" ...
Who was the culprit who ...
Made holes in the greenhouse soil bed?
Made holes and trails in the greenhouse soil bed?
The spinach looked lovely on February 13. I could not figure out what was making these holes. I dug and wondered.
The post on Zaatar on February 14, came about through digging it up, in the hopes of finding the culprit in that process.
I'd been seeing a lot of crickets and cricket young in the greenhouse, moving into and out of the soil near the very thick foliage of the zaatar. I thought maybe the crickets were the problem and the zaatar was their hiding place. I did not find any cricket creche in the soil. But come to think of it, I did find and destroy a couple of grubs then. I didn't consider that they may be the source of the holes. Not being familiar with the growth rate of spinach, I didn't know if it was growing slower than it should have. Now, I believe that even in the winter light, it might have developed faster if its roots had not been eaten away. It is kind of like spending principle - it doesn't leave much for later meals. But I'm getting ahead of my story.
Below, on Feb 19, before harvesting, the spinach was as good as it got. I also had to trim it back to almost nothing as aphids spread to that bed.
After the spinach was trimmed back I knew things had gotten way out of hand with my mystery bugs. Spinach is near the top of the photo below. Some of the little ones survived and began to green again. However, many of them just disappeared, right through into the hole that they had been growing in. Then one dear one with new leaves on it seemed to be sinking deeper into the soil than it had been. Gingerly I reached to see if it would pull back up into place. Alas, the whole stem came up, nibbled away from any roots it might have had. That does it! Forget the all the other jobs that need to be done! 1. Put amendments on the new area opened up for bramble transplant. 2. Cover the new flower garden area with paper and straw so weeds don't take over. 3. Set up the new potato patch. 4. Process finished batch of compost. 5. Process finished batch of worm castings. 6. Start more seeds! 7. Tear and soak newspaper for new worm bedding. It's time to deal with this urgent problem NOW.
I removed the herbs that had been growing in that bed (zaatar and french tarragon) and potted them up. Also the remaining spinach and lettuce plants from half the bed were potted. The soil was combed through, all the worms were saved. I wondered if the destroyers could have been the red wigglers that were dropped into the bed. Did they run out of debris to eat and were they starting on the good plant roots? It seemed far fetched, but I kept exploring.
There had been an explosion of sow bugs on one of the shelves, but as far as I knew, they only ate rotted stuff. And I'd seen (and squished) only three or four as I moved all the soil, digging through the bed.
The answer appeared as a bug that has the same shape and size as the holes and tracks I'd seen. In fact, when I watched them march on the concrete floor after being removed from the soil home in which they were illegally squatting, their movement pattern did seem to match the form of the tracks. Ah ha. Gotcha!
And I kept getting them. About 25 large hungry grubs came out of half of the four foot by seven foot bed with 10" of soil. Tomorrow I have to get into the other half, pot up the two chard and many lettuces that are doing well there (so far) and clear out the grubs that have been making holes in that part of the bed too.
How did they get in there? Why didn't they show up earlier? Can I keep them from "reseeding"? The soil has been there for almost a year. I didn't see them as the soil went in. These are questions that you the reader may be able to answer. Or more research in the grub life cycle may answer them.
As the other beds get harvested out, I will have to comb through them as well.
This discovery leaves me feeling a tad more grateful to the armadillos and skunks that paw through my yard eating grubs.
Below is one of the grubs on the concrete floor before his execution. So much of gardening, here in the buggy Ozarks, seems to be about killing, it is spiritually painful that my gardener's instinct and what seems to be necessary is killing.
Oh, just squash it.
(The shadow says that the gardener ate too much cheese and pasta this Winter.) Oh no, its just the late afternoon angle of the sun.
Below is the little rabbit sheltering under the steps, as seen through the green house window.
After my greenhouse chores, bringing fresh lettuce upstairs, I dropped some (literally) off for the bunny. When I got too close, he flinched, like a previously abused dog might from an unwanted advance. I didn't want to chase the bunny back out into the cold. But I wondered why not hole up in the shed (it has many open doors) and might be better shelter than where he was. Perhaps a less peaceful animal is making the shed their temporary headquarters? I'm not going in to check - at least not until this snow melts off, which may be a couple of days.
More Snow on a "Weed Stalk"
Do you know what this bug is?
Rather large, about 1 inch long (bigger?) It appeared trapped in the bottom of a pail in the greenhouse.
That's it for now. Exciting review/comparison of two fine-spray watering cans coming soon!
May all your plants grow ever more joyful!
A Great Gardening Day Delayed in the Wake of Two Cute Strays
What is the inner function which causes the hand to unconsciously move to an unseen, unfelt spot on the body and begin to pick at it? No noticeable sensation, no direct command of the mind - yet it is an action of higher intelligence. One for which I am very grateful.
I picked, and grabbed hold, not having a feeling of picking off an extension of my own skin. That satisfying sense of completion when its removed. Then the slow horror as the mind begins to wonder - what is that which was attached to me?
I remembered-- the dogs. Adorable loving strays, bright intelligence in their eyes, hopeful joy wagging their tails. Animals smelling of skunk, running wild through the woods and fields and ticks. TICKS!
So I captured the little speck, like a tiny crumb and placed it on a white paper under the light of my desk. So tiny, I had to find the magnifying glass. The word “seed tick” came to mind. But I thought that seed ticks were smaller than this little hard-shelled dot. Weren’t those legs seeming to stick out from the oval lump? Yes, I think it was. And I’m glad that it was removed so easily, not ingrained, imbedded or really stuck too deeply into my neck. Gone now, flushed away.
Normally I am very careful about bugs, how did this one get to me? Through the very cute strays that appeared today, opened my heart, and let the tick get under my skin.
The dogs were first spotted through the garden-facing windows. At first I thought she might be a fox with a short body, reddish fur, fluffy tail, and up-pointed ears. She was eagerly sniffing the ground as she wandered around the garden fence. Her friend, a beagly-looking mix with a white and black mottled coat, ranged through the field. Next time I looked, Foxy was settled down, curled up as if at home, near the door to the greenhouse.
Gingerly I opened the door to the deck above her spot. Usually I expect a stressful response from a stray, but she heard my movements and looked up with her tail eagerly waving, and jumped up to greet me. They both came to me like I was a favorite playmate, their joy wagging them, wanting to jump up and lick, with unbridled expectancy. Oh dear, I couldn’t help putting my hand on their heads, responding lovingly.
I knew they’d be carriers of bugs, and they’d been too close to a skunk fairly recently too. But their joyous loving beings could not be ignored. I wanted to keep the puppies. I wanted them to chase away the skunks, hedgehogs, snakes, rats, mice and armadillos, and keep me company around the yard. I could hardly let those little girl wants come through when my adult was cataloging the responsibilities. Shots, flea & tick combing, training, caring, poop patrol, water, food, oohh - there’s so much already on my to do lists.
Food is a really big issue. Many people around here are letting go of pets as they can’t afford to feed them - maybe not even themselves or their families. As the economy tanks, and supply lines fray, would we be able to get food for them? They are less likely to be vegetarian than us. I’m only growing vegies, not ready for the farm animal protein cycle of work. That is, chickens for eggs and meat, dog to protect the chickens, rabbits to feed the dog, cats to catch the mice that like the chicken coup. More grain to grow for everyone, and I would be a slave to my desire for protein meals, and a slave to the needs of my dog - which I wouldn’t want to touch because of insects.
Another awareness came which tipped the scales away from having a dog, when I saw the beagle-mix standing on top of my open compost bin, helping himself to the half rotten produce. Yich. I took big sheets of cardboard to cover the compost piles. I knew I wasn’t ready to have dogs. We like a simple, unstressed quiet peaceful life - which is not what dogs are about.
Then came dog noise. I had given them water and enjoyed my little fantasy of giving them the loving care they needed and their wonderful hearts deserved, when neighbors drove by and the barking noise began. I shut up my heart as best I could and let the little dogs know that NO was the word for the day. GO was the other word. It broke my heart to say it and try to mean it.
I’m sure they could tell I was giving them mixed messages. I had to go back inside so I wouldn’t be in range of their wide-eyed exuberant loving joy. I missed out on a warm and cloudy day which would have been perfect for weeding the garden, opening some ground or starting another project in the garden, because I couldn’t face their desire and my own. So I worked inside, my spirit sagging with sorrow. Later in the afternoon I noticed that they were gone.
I missed Foxy then. Now I know the other one’s name, Bobby McGee. He’s lookin’ for that home and I hope he finds it.
And I found the tick they left with me, soaked my fears of ticks off in the bath, and all is peaceful quiet here again. And I have a bitter sweet story to share.
The greenhouse spinach was cut down to the bone to remove aphids (aphids again!) I’m wanting to be in the kitchen preparing spinach and eggs, yum. But I’m glued to the screen of my computer, working on communications to people I’ve met on a gardener blog community. I’ve spoken to many people in the past who are devoured by “social networking” on the web. But this great place, www.blotanicals.com is more than social, it ties in to my strong focus on growing food.
See, the title indicates I’m going to tell you about the new sprouts that came up in the last two days and the cool tools that came by UPS, but no, I’m getting right to the blotanical focus, so just to proove I can, I’m signing off Blotanical and going to the kitchen, n o w.
Global Growing Inspiration and Information in a friendly sharing web environment is a reality in a network of garden bloggers called Blotanical.com
Its such a delight to connect with gardeners who love to grow from myriad perspectives, flowers, food, native biospheres and suburbs. All supporting and communing and reading each others’ blogs.
An example of how much I am enjoying this creative web family is what happened when I returned home from a long day trip to the nearest city. I left garden and greenhouse supplies in the car and brought inside the edible delights. In the hallway was a big box containing long awaited garden tools. The box label read “Haws.” Wow, my watering can and garden knife. And for the last 3 hours, the box is unopened!
I went right away to the computer, opened my mail. I was faved! (That means a reader on Blotanical wants to continue reading my posts. I feel very honored and excited.) Soon I was deeply involved with editing and publishing today’s blog. Then I remembered that there was an excellent snack which I’d brought from town. Blotanical is so delightful I forget to eat my goodies, that’s quite amazing.
All gardening friends are invited to check it out. Its a safe, well-lit place for the plant oriented people. Welcome!
This struggling, weightlifting beet seedling from last year didn’t make it to adult beethood. It was never able to cast off its seed hat. I’m sure that I didn’t give it what it the light, soil or understanding it needed. This year, I’m trying to do better.
When the seedlings first appear through the starter mix and have been lovingly welcomed, they are placed in the window light of the sunny upstairs room. Once all or most of a tray are up, they are moved down to the greenhouse. There’s artificial light there on a timer for cloudy days, and a heater for colder nights. Its on now, keeping the air at 50 degrees when its below freezing, with clear sparkling skies.
I delight in checking on the plants. Tonight I noticed that the lettuce is growing into heads, holding the leaves close together. The spinach raises its leaves up into a bouquet. Are they hudling for warmth or seeking upward toward the sun? Or is this a maturing development, like the head-making of the lettuce. I don’t know. There are the first tender greens I’ve raised that humans are getting to harvest before the bugs. All part of the luxurious wonder of growing before the critters wake up.
I’ve learned my lesson about using those peat containers shown below for starting seeds. Now, I’ll never let the edges of the little cup protrude from the soil (after planting) or they’ll leech all the moisture away from the plant and back out to the air. And I’ll always remember to tear apart the bottom of the cup too, to let the roots escape!
Below are some more seedlings that look like bean-poles. These are the red and green cabages that you saw being planted with the Widger tool from the Wonder Tools post on 2/16/09. I’m betting that these will make it. In this photo, just transplanted to the six-pack, they are resting under the soothing lamp which may well help them to grow up to be big and strong. Tonight, they looked very healthy and strong.
Stay tuned and we’ll see what happens to them!
The photo below shows one of the greenhouse beds denuded. The Chard plants (from last Spring) had aphids, so all the leaves were harvested and the remaining plant well watered and then sprayed with a mix of bug stuff I made up, stronger than necessary for aphid, but I believe multi-purpose. It has garlic, onion, red pepper, mineral oil (from some professional anti-bug bottle) and dish soap. Mixed 1 ounce per gallon and sprayed on everything. The rate that I’ve been getting bugs in the greenhouse, I am trying to do it every week. I like grazing while in the greenhouse, but can’t do it when the plants already have the soapy salad dressing on them!
Filled with tenderness and joy in the happy growth of the plants and the lovely atmosphere they create,Wishing for All, to Grow Ever More Joyful!
Here’s that spindly seedling again from the post on the Widger, which is shown in all its glory tucking a red cabbage into its next home. We addressed the plight of the stretched out little plant in the previous post Leggy Spindly Seedlings.
Now, lets explore what might happen to these guys that could distress them long before they enter the brine for sauerkraut, or are thrown in the steam heat before freezing. Oh, its horrible what I plan to do to these plants I really love! I can’t help but give thanks for the fact that I didn’t have children in this life. Imagine how I might treat a child I loved if this is what I plan to do to the plants I nurture even from seed. Its a horrible thought, worthy of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”. If you don’t know the essay, or have a strong sense of moral outrage, or a weak sense of humor, I don’t suggest you go there.
I find the awareness of love, nurturing and tenderness for these green beings and my hungry plans for them once they reach the fullness of their lives a bit duplicitous. However, I recall, at the end of the growing period, the plants and I have such a loving regard for each other, and the awareness that the purpose of the plant is to give its fruit (or vegetable), that at the time of harvest I feel only gratitude rather than guilt.
Also, I try to save seed, and in this way, contribute to the continuity of life of these generous and beautiful plant creatures.
We’ll see how these cabbages will do, even with their stretched out beginning. They have yet to withstand the onslaught of hungry catepillars, the ravages of intense sun, pounding of fierce rain and all the gentle blessings that Nature gives when she is nurturing to growth, not just to toughness. So I hope that they will make it to fertile ground and that the care given to them sustains them throughout their season.
I’ll give you a foretaste of one of the challenges to come: the bug situation.
It may be that last year was a plague year that no one else around here mentioned. I didn’t hear anyone else saying that there were multitudes of grasshoppers afflicting their gardens. It was the first time in many years that the yard which is now mine had not had a flock of chickens eating everything that moved. This means that everything that moved converged on the first plants I had out there - the cabbages and broccoli in 2008. This is how it looked:
And I still don’t have a flock of chickens to feast on these critters. I’d need to have more fencing first; know that I could grow feed for them; want to get out at the crack of dawn to care for them, and have every plant I care about behind fencing. In other words, I’m not ready for chickens. But will my garden thrive without them?
I’m hoping that last year was an aberration, and this year will not find waves of them fleeing as I walk across the yard or through the garden.