gabriola garden

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Two Feet of Snow--Tassels and Ears

Just after I went around taking pictures of all things green left in the garden, it started snowing. The kids were overjoyed—the Gulf Islands were hit with two feet of snow—so they immediately rushed out with their rubber tubes and plastic discs to slide down the side of a neighboring hill.

At the same time the temperature dropped drastically, so any plant left standing was not only covered with snow, but also frozen solid. Sara was happy that she had completed dressing the garden with a layer of composted horse manure, before the snowstorm hit.

This was a few days ago. Just as we finished digging out our vehicles and clearing a path to the road for them, a second snowfall happened. In fact, it’s snowing as I write this. Not being a winter enthusiast—unlike Jim and Hedgehog—I escaped to the warmth of my den to check my e-mail.

Sure enough, Eloise sent another long message, describing in detail all their efforts in starting a small organic farm in New Zealand, albeit much larger than our garden. They were inspired by this blog and asked us for further advice with regard to fertilizers, root colonizers, and bloom enhancers.

“The 100% organic Iguana Juice Grow is proving to be a blessing! Neighbors of ours have commented that they’ve never seen corn, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, spring and regular onions, as well as potatoes take off so quickly. The plants are bushy and vigorous.”

“But perhaps I’m wrong in giving Iguana Juice all the credit. As you know, we took your advice and are feeding all our plants with the outstanding root colonizers: Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice, as well as SensiZym.”

“As we explained to our neighbors, Piranha takes care of supplying our roots with beneficial fungi, while Tarantula starts a colony of beneficial bacteria in and around the roots. Voodoo Juice adds beneficial microbes, while Sensi Zym supplies the helpful enzymes that munch on the cast-off root debris.”

“These root colonizers all aid in nutrient absorption and thus help the growth of our vegetables. I had to provide several neighbours with the Advanced Nutrients online store web address, since they were eager to get similar results in their vegetable patches.”

“One of our neighbors, Warren, grows a lot of sweet corn, so he was telling us all about how the plants get pollinated. It seems that sweet corn is a monecious plant, which means that it has a separate male and female flower on each stalk.”

“The male flower is called the tassel. The tassel produces the pollen necessary to fertilize the ear, which is what the female flower is called. Once the silk of the ear has enough pollen deposited on it from the tassel, kernels will form on the ear. Thus the expression, an ear of corn.”

“Usually, the wind pollinates sweet corn, although Warren has seen quite a few bumblebees collecting nectar and pollen from the tassels. It seems that your chances of pollination are greatly improved if you plant a series of short rows, rather than one long row of corn plants.”

“I didn’t know this when I planted, so our rows are neither long, nor short, but somewhere in between. Sweet corn normally produces one or two ears per plant.”

“Warren has a much larger operation than ours and grows his sweet corn for export. It seems that Japan and Australia are the largest customers for New Zealand sweet corn, which is marketed as a frozen product to 30 different countries, enriching our economy by fifty million dollars annually.”

“He was surprised to hear that we found clients who will buy our organic sweet corn fresh off the stalk, so to speak, and not frozen. He figured that the market has changed, since he researched it. He said that if we needed to sell any of our harvest as frozen corn, he could hook us up with some buyers.”

“Warren is a pipe-smoking chap with leather patches on the elbows of his corduroy jacket. I made him promise to visit the Advanced Nutrients website, especially the Advancedepedia section, in order to read all about some of the supplements that you were recommending.”

“He was most interested to find out about Emerald Shaman and Colossal Bud Blast, since he is very interested in ancient Chinese herbal solutions to problems. Since Emerald Shaman involves fermentation and methods that have been used in the Orient for centuries, it peeked his interest.”

“Colossal Bud Blast captured his attention when I mentioned that using it a foliar spray could increase the size of his ears in a measurable fashion. He is always interested in boosting his profits, said Warren, and if he can do it by increasing the yield of his sweet corn, all the better.”

“John and I are forever grateful to you and Sara for providing us with all the information enabling us to get a royal start in the vegetable business. I’ll send you some more pictures, if John ever gets around to developing the roll in his camera. Love, Eloise.”

posted by Tim at 7:25 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pests, Diseases of Sweet Corn--put up a Barricade

While the number of green plants in our garden here in the northern hemisphere are ever diminishing (despite the constant rainfall), south of the equator in Eloise and John’s vegetable patch, the young corn seedlings are standing proud.

Eloise finally sent us a picture. Why only one? I’ll let her tell you herself. “As you know, Sara, John can be very stubborn sometimes. For instance, he refuses to buy a digital camera, since we invested good money in a film-loading SLR a few years ago, so we shouldn’t be wasting money buying a new camera.”

“As a result, I have to wait forever for him to shoot off the roll of film, then drive it into town to the photo developer—who is almost ready to go out of business—then for him to remember to pick up the photos. The clincher is, that not all of them come out, so we’re left with one or two shots that are usable.”

“John is equally stubborn about our sweet corn planting. He read a book somewhere about all the pests and diseases that plague baby corn plants, so now he’s running around trying to figure out how to inoculate them against all sorts of imaginary (and some real) diseases.”

“After talking to the Advanced Nutrients technical guy and finding out that certain products are temporarily unavailable, due to labelling problems, John is now fixated that those are exactly the products that we need and that without them our corn crop will wither and die.”

“He is especially keen on getting his hands on Advanced Nutrients Protector, which is designed to ward off and fight powdery mildew. John is terrified of a fungal infestation, so we were wondering if you had any Protector left over from last season? John is willing to pay good money to get his hands on some.”

“The other products that he would love to get are Genius Oil, a concentrated form of neem oil, and Bug Away, which is an organic insect repellent, NOT an insecticide, as the technical guy made clear. It seems that the Canadian government wants Advanced Nutrients to label it as an insecticide, which they refuse to do.”

“Do you by any chance have any of these products left over? You might be needing them yourself for your next planting season, so I know that it’s asking a lot.”

“John hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. He was told that by using Barricade, a potassium silicate product, he will be able to strengthen each corn cell individually. You feed it to your roots, it is not recommended as a foliar spray. But it DOES protect against fungal invasions, which fact seems to have gone past John’s ears.”

“The silicates are drawn into the plant's roots and flow in the sap, until all plant tissues benefit from their presence. They not only help with the absorption of several macro and micro nutrients, but also contribute to the strength and thickness of cell walls, keeping plants robust and erect, and resisting attacks by fungi and insects.”

“Another Advanced Nutrients product designed to inoculate your plants against many pathogens and infestations, is Scorpion Juice, which can be applied systemically OR used as a foliar spray.”

“The application rate for Scorpion Juice is 10 mL/L and it imparts to our corn plants induced systemic resistance. This is another way of saying that it turns on the immune system of the plants, enabling them to ward off all sorts of infestations, whether fungal, bacterial, or viral.”

“I’m trying to get through John’s thick head, that by regular application of these two preventatives, along with feeding our corn Organic B and Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract, we are doing everything possible to make sure that some pest or disease does NOT wipe out our entire corn crop.”

“It seems that the most common problems associated with growing corn are root rot, wireworms, European corn borers, corn smut, flea beetles, and corn earworms. Not to mention crows!”

“John is especially worried about flea beetles right now, since they attack corn at the seedling stage and can carry Stewart’s bacterial wilt disease. This insidious malady will eventually stunt the growth of young corn.”

“What I tell John is that by using the preventative products available from Advanced Nutrients, we are doing everything possible to ward off these critters. Losing sleep worrying about them won’t do any good. In fact, it will end up making us sick. Who’s going to take care of the corn then?”

“I also urge him to go out and take pH readings on a daily basis. I spoke to the technical guy myself last week, and he told me that if the soil pH is off either way, it increases the stress level of the plants, making them susceptible to pests and diseases. For sweet corn, our soil pH should be between 6.0 and 6.5.”

“Whenever the pH is off in one or the other direction, we use Advanced Nutrients pH Up or pH Down to correct the acid-alkaline imbalance.”

“Could you please be a dear and check to see if you have any of the products I mentioned left over in your gardening shed and we’ll be more than glad to pay for the cost of shipping them to us Down Under.”

“We saw on the telly that you guys are again being washed away by torrential rains. Stay dry and warm and we’ll talk again soon. Love, Eloise.”

posted by Tim at 11:11 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wind Storms and Organic Sweet Corn

As I write this, gale force winds are battering the British Columbia coast. The ferry service has stopped running, so we’re isolated here on Gabriola Island, along with the residents of all the other Southern Gulf Islands. Trees have fallen to block highways and power lines have toppled over, cutting off electricity to thousands of homes on the islands and the mainland.

We’re lucky, we still have power so we listen to the radio to get a grasp on the situation. Over 100 km an hour winds with more rain and storm to come. This is about as bad as it gets on Canada’s western coast. No hurricanes here and hopefully no tsunamis. But tell that to the couple down the road whose house was just about cut in half by a fallen cedar.

Fall and winter are the seasons when we value evergreens. Our garden has been levelled and copious amounts of composted manure have been applied. This past week Sara bought more soil, since she is planning to replant her Butterfly Bush (freshly pruned) into a larger container. We’ll need to assemble the neighborhood brigade to do that monumental job, to be sure.

A late blooming flower stands guard over the mostly brown garden. By contrast, things Down Under are just getting started. We got another e-mail from Eloise and John. Their sweet corn growing operation is picking up speed and they report fast germination and growth, after applying the Advanced Nutrients products that we recommended to them.

“In addition to treating the soil around the roots of our young corn plants with Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice—in order to colonize their root systems with beneficial fungi, bacteria, and friendly microbes, respectively—we are also starting to feed our seedlings with Iguana Juice Grow.”

“We noticed on the Advanced Nutrients website, that the application rate for Iguana Juice has recently been reduced from 15 mL/L to 3.5 mL/L. This makes it much more economical, without losing any of its nutrient value and growth enhancement potential.”

“We had to do our homework very quickly in a race against the clock. We learned that there were three basic types of sweet corn to be had: SH2 or supersweet, SUSU or normal sugary, and SESE or sugary enhancer. Some traditional growers still use the old classification of white, yellow, and bi-colored.”

“We chose a yellow corn variety, a SESE or sugary enhancer, called Maple Sweet, in honor of you guys. It takes only 70 days from seed to harvest (some other varieties take as long as 86 days) and it grows large cobs that are resistant to disease. We can attest to its delicious flavor, since friends of our have grown this variety and had us over for dinner last year at harvest time.”

“We decided to grow just one variety since we have limited space and it’s not a good idea to plant different varieties right next to each other. Cross pollination has to be taken into account.”

“It is recommended to plant the corn after all danger of frost has passed. Corn requires at least 8 hours of sunlight per day, at a soil temperature no lower than 60-65º F. Soil pH should be around 6.0 or 6.5. If this needs to be raised, we’ve stocked up on Advanced Nutrients pH Up; if it needs to be lowered, we have pH Down on hand.”

“We’ve planted fairly deep, about a foot apart, in well-drained soil. Since we’re an island, New Zealand soil is quite sandy, but we’re far enough away from the ocean, that salt is no problem. We’ve been composting all winter in preparation for this, so we’ve added a thick layer of organic compost to provide the rich loam necessary for good horticulture.”

“The compost wasn’t quite enough, so we replenished it with quite a bit of composted horse manure from a nearby farm. I got the idea from you, Sara, I hope you don’t mind.”

“The Genetic Engineering controversy is raging here right now. It seems that the successful use of Bt sprays in organic gardening gave the idea to the genetic engineers to add the genes that produce BT toxins to the corn plants. Millions of hectares in North America are planted with corn that is genetically engineered to kill corn borers with Bt toxins.”

“Then we read elsewhere that a large percentage of consumers in France have stopped buying corn, because they’re afraid that it is genetically engineered. New Zealand consumers feel the same way. That’s why organic produce is so popular here right now.”

“We’ve talked to the technical guys at Advanced Nutrients and commenced a regimen of Barricade, and Scorpion Juice. The potassium silicate in Barricade literally makes the cells of our sweet corn plants resistant to diseases and pests from the inside out.”

“By spraying with Scorpion Juice, we provide our corn plants with induced systemic resistance, to many pests and pathogens. We’ve read about Protector, and wish that it would also be available, but the tech guys explained that until the labelling argument is settled, Advanced Nutrients had to stop selling it.”

“We spend every night reading the entries in Advancedepedia very carefully, in order to find out about all the wonderful products available from Advanced Nutrients.”

“Tim and Sara, you know that you’ll have to pack up your two wonderful kids and visit us at harvest time, now don’t you? There’s nothing like the taste of freshly picked sweet corn as the kernel explodes on your tongue.”

With weather like this, a trip out of here sounds more and more tempting each day.

posted by Tim at 10:32 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Torrential Rains and Genetically Modified Insanity

The hollow-eyed pumpkins are still staring at visitors to our front door and a few brave flowers open their petals above the severely pruned garden. The Butterfly Bush is but a collection of woody stems aimed at the sky, while strategically placed yoghurt container-crowns circle the placement of future gladioli, in order to ward off the slugs of spring.

The scarlet runner bean house is but a pile of bamboo rubble, while on the back steps our malva issues forth yet another bloom to remind us of its former beauty. It’s time to move the garden indoors, except in the southern hemisphere, where Sara’s brother John and his wife Eloise are heroically struggling to start a much larger gardening operation than ours.

The Pineapple Express from Hawaii has brought us torrential rains here on Canada’s Wet Coast, so we fired off an e-mail to New Zealand—“How’s the weather Down Under, you guys?”

“The organic sector of New Zealand’s agriculture is growing by 20 to 30 percent a year,” came back the reply, “so John and I decided to go organic. We visited our favorite garden store and managed to find most of the Advanced Nutrients products you mentioned. The rest we ordered from their handy online store.”

“Our base fertilizers shall be Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom, since we’ve been looking at your wonderful flower pictures, Sara, ever since May. We’ve also been convinced that Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice are necessities for our root systems, since the logic of using beneficial fungi, bacteria, and microbes to colonize them seemed crystal clear.”

“They not only aid the growth of our plants underground, but above ground as well. We administered these wonderful products during the first two weeks of planting. Then we'll replenish the soil with them at three-week intervals.”

“John is a firm believer in vitamins, so we decided on giving our corn, tomato, onion, cucumber and chilli pepper crops Organic B as well as Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract. The first one has B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, B-7, and B-12 as well as 3-unique yeast extract hydrolysates that help feed our plants these essential vitamins, along with proteins, peptides, free amino acids, lipids, minerals, trace elements and cytokinins.”

“This comes directly from John, who claims that it is by far the best plant vitamin in the marketplace. In addition to some essential Bs, Seaweed Extract also has Vitamin C, two vitamin A precursors, vitamin E, vitamin K, and other growth promoting substances. ‘It acts just like a multi-vitamin,’ says John.”

“You asked about the weather? Our late spring temperatures are fluctuating between 7º C at night and a max of 16º C in the daytime with a rainfall this past month of around 44mm. More rain is forecast for the coming weekend. Our UV forecast is very high at 8, so we’re asked to seek shade between 11am and 4pm.”

“If you remember, that famous hole in the ozone layer is right above Australia and New Zealand. We’re more worried about the accidental introduction of genetically modified corn into 94 fields on the South Island. As you know, we’re on the North Island, so it’s far enough away from us, but our government is opening the door to GMO agriculture, I’m afraid.”

“People are really afraid that the large agro businesses are going to be given the green light to bring their copyrighted seeds into our country then charge us when the wind blows them onto our property, like Monsanto did in Canada.”

“Right now only ten percent of growers are organic, but more and more are deciding that it’s the only way of the future. In five to ten years, 40 percent of New Zealand’s farmers have the intention of going organic. This is absolutely the right time to start growing pure foods, since the GMOs are contaminating the world’s food supply.”

“Our clients are willing to pay premium prices for certified organic produce, so we’re meeting the challenge of supplying them. Then during our winter we’ll be teaching our school children the importance of keeping our food supply pure. It’s up to the future generations to make sure that greed doesn’t triumph in the agro area.”

“A spokesperson against the introduction of GM organisms into N.Z. asked the rhetorical question—‘Have we as a society not learned anything from nuclear power and DDT, both of which have a half life. Genetic engineering does not have a half life, whatever effect it has will only be compounding.’”

Eloise promised to send us some pictures of their corn any other veggies. They’re growing a sweet corn variety, which seems to be a favorite with customers at the dining table. Organic corn is too expensive to feed to livestock.

We know that much of North American corn is susceptible to an insidious fungus, so we wrote back and suggested to them to inoculate their plants with the Potassium silicate of Barricade, and the induced systemic resistance of Scorpion Juice.

The latter contains a proprietary hormone-like substance, as well as a protein derivative, which help make your plants resistant to diseases—whether bacterial, fungal or viral, and pests of many different varieties.

posted by Tim at 11:54 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Freeze and Gardening Down Under

The deep freeze has finally hit Canada’s warmest coast. We had the coldest Halloween in recent memory. Hedgehog picked a strapless costume and refused to put on a coat to warm her shoulders. She was dressed as some space alien, with her magic wand and cat’s ears. High red boots, ruffled choker, and long red gloves completed the outfit. I was impressed, but was totally afraid that she would catch a death of cold.

Youth is much more resilient than I thought, because today she’s fit as a fiddle. Obviously, the sugar in all the chocolate and candy she ate kept her warm. Jim was a pirate, and Sara and I had to dress up as King Arthur and Merlin. That’s right, I was the king and Sara pasted on a long white beard with a wig as the most famous magician of them all.

Luckily, we also dressed the garden before this cold hit. A good six inches of extra compost went on top of everything, and higher around the base of the pruned Butterfly bush and the other plants that were cut back to wood. The spring bulbs were put to bed underground, with a layer of soil, then some sprinkled fertilizer on top. I used Heavy Harvest Spring for this purpose, although I could have used Iguana Juice Grow.

The two hanging pots of Christmas cactuses (or is that cacti?), which were outside in the courtyard for spring, summer, and most of the fall were brought indoors and immediately started budding. I think Christmas is coming early for them this year. I fed them with Iguana Juice Bloom, just in case.

Some of the unpruned plants were heroically struggling to stay alive, despite the thermometer’s plunge. The two Malvas in containers on the back steps still had open flowers on them last time I checked, and some lonely Petunias and the Geraniums that were left outside hadn’t lost all their petals yet.

The jack o’ lanterns are going into the compost in a couple of days, following their innards that were scooped out to make way for the tea light candles. Some of our Tomatoes on the window sills turned bad, but most of them are zesty, tasty, and delicious. We gave away bunches of them to friends and neighbors. Harvest is the time to cement friendships.

We’re also communicating with family more often. Sara’s brother and sister-in-law live in New Zealand, near Hamilton. His name is John and hers, Eloise. Eloise wants to start up a garden, now that she’s been reading this blog. So they e-mailed us for advice.

As you know, things down under are a total opposite to ours, so they’re just heading into their summer season. Christmastime for them, is like our July. They go to the beach, put the shrimp on the barbie, and go swimming after they sing Christmas carols.

Sara told them to visit the Advanced Nutrients online store, which ships all over the world. In fact, their products are very popular in Australia, and we’re doing our best to equal that popularity in New Zealand.

“If you decide to grow organically like we do,” said Sara in her e-mail, “the best possible products to use are Iguana Juice, Grow and Bloom. You can go back through the archives of our blog to see the results. Your flowers bloom more vibrantly and your vegetables are large, crisp, and tasty.”

“Ours is a very small operation. If you have more land (which they do) and more time to devote to gardening, you may want to use Heavy Harvest Spring, Summer, and Fall. This is a time-release, three-part synthetic fertilizer that is expertly designed to fit the individual season, and is more cost effective when you’re factoring in volume usage.”

John and Eloise are both schoolteachers, but they get summers off. They plan to grow several acres of corn, as well as hot chilli peppers, onions, and cucumbers. The tiny ones, called gherkins, which they plan to pickle with spices. It seems that spicy foods like salsa are very popular now in New Zealand, so they’ve figured out a market to sell their produce.

Sara’s e-mail continues—“You should have started back in the spring, but you can still plant your seeds now and hope to get a harvest before the frost hits during your late fall period. You can also accelerate your growth by using products such as Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice, which make your roots stronger, increase plant vigor, and promote faster growth, both under and above ground.”

“By using Heavy Harvest, Spring, Summer, and Fall, you’ll be feeding your plants all the macro and micro nutrients they need in the exact ratios they require for the seasons. It is pH buffered, it uses pharmaceutical grade precursors and reagents (assuring its place as the highest quality product available worldwide).”

“This wonderful Canadian company backs up all its products with a money-back guarantee. It uses 2-4 of the highest quality chelators per micronutrient. You only have to apply Heavy Harvest three-times, each application corresponding to the stage of growth that the plants are going through.”

“And the most convincing argument for using this synthetic fertilizer is that it is cost-effective and it is designed to increase yields. Less money to spend with more profits to look forward to.”

This message was sent to New Zealand two weeks ago and John and Eloise are already hard at work planting their crops (albeit a bit late) and using the Advanced Nutrients products that Sara suggested to them. We’ll keep you posted regarding their progress.

posted by Tim at 10:53 PM | 0 comments