gabriola garden

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Winter on Gabriola, Summer Down Under

Our Christmas wreath is still on the door as the mild, drizzly Christmas weather is slowly being replaced by some freezing Arctic air. The Butterfly Bush thinks it’s spring, and is putting forth new shoots on its severely pruned branches.

Some herbs and weeds are still green after that last frost, and Hedgehog’s goose has found a new home in the courtyard, after being in our bathroom for so many years.

I was visiting a neighbor for a few minutes, put down my heavy winter coat on a chair in his kitchen, and one of his unneutered male cats sprayed on my coat in that short a time. I had to empty all my pockets when I got home so Sara could throw the coat in the washing machine.

In the meantime, I’m wearing a much thinner coat and I definitely feel the chill. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a winter enthusiast. In fact, that invitation from John and Eloise sounds better and better each day.

Even though their corn is still young, I don’t think we’ll wait for harvest. Since we’re homeschooling both Jim and Hedgehog this year, taking the kids to New Zealand for a few weeks would not be a problem. In fact, it could be a marvellous learning experience for them!

I have to discuss this plan with Sara. Also, it somehow has to fit the family budget, which right after Christmas won’t be easy. Four tickets to Down Under can cost a fortune, unless I’m able to find a super deal on the Internet.

I escape once more to the warmth of my den and check my e-mail. Our New Zealand family is being active as ever. Eloise is worried about the watering regimen for the sweet corn that they’re growing organically down there.

They’ve taken our advice and are using 100% organic products from Advanced Nutrients, absolutely the best plant nutrient company on the planet. Their basic ferts are Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom, which fed Sara’s beautiful flowers, pictures of which can be viewed in the archives of this blog.

Sweet corn grows best when the soil pH is between 6.0 and 6.8. According to Advanced Nutrients, the preferred soil pH is 6.3. Eloise says that John measures their soil pH every day, sometimes twice a day. If it’s off even by a tad, he adjusts it by adding pH Up or pH Down, two very handy Advanced Nutrients products designed for that purpose.

Eloise writes: “Even though we planted our corn on half an acre only, we have about 7,000 plants. We planted deeper than what the guide book says—they recommend an inch down for the seeds—because it gets quite windy around here and corn plants have shallow roots.”

“We heard that it got quite windy in British Columbia, as well. Lucky that falling tree on your property was leaning away from your house. It’s not that bad here this summer, but the windstorms usually happen in July.”

If you’re doing a double take while reading this, you have to remember that the seasons are exactly the opposite Down Under to ours. Right now they’re going to the beach to celebrate Christmas and New Years.

Eloise continues: “Corn requires about an inch of water per week. I mentioned that we have good draining soil, and our watering tank is hooked up to hoses attached to a pump. We mix all our nutrients and additives in a pre-mix tank, then we pour it into our main water tank.”

“Although our summer is on the cool side—temperatures around 18° Celsius (64° Fahrenheit)—thanks to your nutrient suggestions, our corn and vegetables have been growing faster than anything we’ve grown in the past. Our corn is up to my waist and I’m nearly six feet.”

“My concern about watering is that with all the precipitation we’ve been having, are we watering too much. The Advanced Nutrients chap told us—when in doubt, let it dry out. So we’re trying to follow his advice, but at the same time make sure that our plants are getting their weekly inch of water. Corn does not relate well to drought conditions.”

“We’ve also had some deer jump our deer fence at its lowest point—the fencemaker couldn’t make it any higher on an embankment. So we’ve hung some sacks of blood meal on the fence posts. That’s supposed to deter them.”

“The crows are bad enough, we don’t want to lose any of our crop to the deer. John has purchased a contraption from a catalogue that has a motion sensor and makes a noise and shoots water at the crows if they come around.”

“I’ve been cultivating like crazy around the corn to remove the weeds, which can attract parasites of every kind. As I mentioned before, we’re using Barricade continuously and John never stops spraying with Scorpion Juice.”

“Knock on wood, so far we’ve managed to avoid the common problems associated with growing corn. We’re inspecting our plants on a daily basis to check for root rot “

“BTW the root colonizers you suggested have doubled the size of our rootballs—we’re following the Nutrient Calculator in administering Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice every third week only, during this vegetative stage of our vegetables. We know that these Advanced Nutrients additives ward off many of the pests and diseases that corn is vulnerable to.”

“We also have to keep an eye out for wireworms or white grubs, but these are usually found in soil that had been planted previously with alfalfa, which ours hadn’t been.”

“Once the tassels pollinate the mature ears, we’ll have to be aware of Corn Smut, an insidious fungus that causes swelling in the kernels and evil looking color changes from yellow to grey to black.”

“European Corn Borers are perhaps the best-known pest of sweet corn. Believe it or not, the cream-colored larvae are about an inch long! They start by chewing their way into the stalks and weakening them until some of them break. Then they wind up in the corn cob.”

“Thank goodness, so far we’ve managed to avoid these parasitical pests for the most part, although our peppers had a brief infestation of spider mites. Out came the spritzer with the Scorpion Juice, and the mites were history.”
“Must sign off now, before John comes in from the fields asking for his supper. No matter how advanced we get in New Zealand, it’s still up to the wife to feed her husband. I know that you do a lot of the cooking in your family, Tim. We must bring you over here to give John lessons.”

As I’ve said, her invitations sound more and more enticing.

posted by Tim at 9:25 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Garden Santa, Phytochemistry, Global Warming

In the past week, we had another sprinkling of snow, torrential rains, and one more windstorm. This afternoon we even had thunder and lightning. David Suzuki was on CBC radio the other day talking about the Al Gore film and global warming. Isn’t it funny how the weather is finally waking people up about this problem?

Thousands of trees were toppled in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, some of them hundreds of years old. Mother Nature is giving us a warning cry—it’s up to us whether we hear her or not.

Our garden is looking green again, because of the milder temperatures and all the rain. It also has a festive look on account of some Christmas ornaments that Sara purchased for the family.

Got another e-mail from Eloise. Their vegetables are growing nicely, she says. Everyone in New Zealand, it seems, is on the phytochemical bandwagon. For the uninitiated, phyto- is a prefix meaning “plant” and of course, chemical is self-explanatory.

Certain phytochemicals are manufactured by plants in order to ward off attacking microorganisms. When some grapes on the vine are attacked in this way, they secrete a large quantity of a substance that acts as a fungicide. Thus the parasitical microorganisms are defeated by the victim plant itself.

Advanced Nutrients Barricade, for instance, stimulates the immune systems of the plants themselves in order to ward off pathogens and certain insects. Eloise writes that they’ve been using Barricade religiously on their sweet corn and other vegetables, and so far have been able to keep parasites at bay.

Another product that interacts phytochemically with their vegetables is Scorpion Juice. When applied as a foliar spray (5 mL per Litre of water) it imparts what used to be known as Systemic Acquired Resistance, but more recently has been referred to as induced systemic resistance.

Either way, Scorpion Juice was developed by the legendary Dr. Hornby at Advanced Nutrients, to act as a vaccination for plants, by stimulating their own complex defense mechanisms, i.e. their ability to produce phytochemicals to ward off a diverse variety of pathogens, including viruses, fungi, and bacteria.

Eloise writes that they have to keep re-ordering the stuff, John is so enthusiastic about spraying it on everything they grow.

But it isn’t this aspect of phytochemicals that excites New Zealanders in general. Rather, it’s the effects that certain vegetables have on the health of the humans who eat them.

For instance, people are being urged to eat more yellow vegetables, such as sweet corn, for the beneficial properties of the phytochemicals that they contain.

For a healthy heart, healthy vision, healthy immune system it seems that the more carrots, yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, and sweet corn you consume, your chances of getting them are increased.

In fact, the anti-oxidants in some of these vegetables have been linked to a lower risk of certain cancers.

So the molecular structure of plants—or phytochemistry—still has many secrets for us to discover. Researchers are scouring the rainforests, for instance, for plants that are potentially the sources of miraculous medicines.

According to Eloise, sweet corn has beta-crypthoxanthin (200 mcg in a 1 cup serving) which is a phytochemical similar to beta-carotene, the effects of which are well documented.

Maybe it’s because New Zealand is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, our friends there are very keen on using Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract, which has many beneficial vitamins and plant hormones, natural antibiotics, and cytokinins, which are phytochemicals beneficial to cell reproduction.

They use Seaweed Extract in addition to their basic fertilizer, which is Iguana Juice, Grow and Bloom. Eloise is ecstatic with the results and John couldn’t be happier. Many of their neighbors have commented on how lush and prolific their vegetable garden has become, since they started using these Advanced Nutrients products.

Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid and Golden Honey Fulvic Acid are rich in phytochemicals, as well. They are both derived from a vein of hardened organic material known as “leonardite,” which is mined from deep within the earth.

“Everyone knows that humus is the best type of growing soil for vegetables,” writes Eloise. “These two wonderful Advanced Nutrients products contain the acids obtained from humus, one a rich black, the other golden yellow in color. They each impart increased cell division, better root formation, and overall improved growth to all of our vegetables.”

I’m thinking that John and Eloise would make great spokespersons for Advanced Nutrients. I can just see them on a poster—standing proudly in front of their mature sweet corn plants with big smiles on their faces, the corn high enough to dwarf both of them—with a caption that reads “We couldn’t have done it without Advanced Nutrients!”

Hey, maybe I should write to them and suggest that they get in touch with the company. If any customers need gardening advice, on the other end of the Advanced Nutrients toll-free line they are sure to find an expert who can help them.

And they don’t have to go through an electronic maize to get to a live person. In my experience—a knowledgeable person can be reached almost immediately. Or you can leave a message, and they’ll return your call promptly. A refreshing change from the approach of the impersonal, huge corporations.

Hedgehog and Jim are tugging at me to go help decorate our Christmas tree, so I’ll sign off for this week and wish all readers of this blog a very Happy Holiday, whatever your festive preference might be.

posted by Tim at 8:52 PM | 1 comments

Friday, December 15, 2006

Snows melting, Winds blowing, Trees falling

The snows have melted and the rainstorms have arrived. Then on the heels of the rainstorms came the high winds. Overnight, we had gale force winds up to 120km per hour raging through Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

Major bridges are closed and power has been cut to thousands of homes. Sara said to me this morning that she counts us lucky that we are still able to make our morning coffee and have electricity to heat our home.

A neighbor of ours lost his pickup truck when a large tree fell on it. We have a tree teetering on our property, and it is going to have to come down. Luckily, it is leaning away from the house.

Escaping the stormy ambience and forgetting about trying to figure out our budget given the kids’ Christmas gifts list, I zone out on my e-mail and some jokes that a friend sent me. It is amazing how humor can improve our outlook on life, sometimes instantaneously.

Eloise and John are very enthusiastic about the Advanced Nutrients Nutrient Calculator. This is a device on their website that allows you to punch in your particulars in terms of the kinds of nutrients you use and the additives suggested by this very knowledgeable company, then get very specific mixing instructions with regard to the amounts to use in your watering regimen.

Our New Zealand friends have decided to feed their vegetables, including their sweet corn, with 100% organic nutrients. So on the top line of the Nutrient Calculator they had to select “100% Organic” under Nutrient Base.

Since all of their vegetables are still in the vegetative cycle, under Formula they chose “100% Organic – Vegetative Growth.” Then under Reservoir Size they wrote in 50 Litres, which is how much liquid their watering tank holds.

Under Output Units they left the selection at “Metric,” since they are comfortable using this international standard. For those who prefer the US and British measurements (i.e. fluid ounces) the other choice is ‘US” in this category, which when selected will instantaneously switch all the measurements to those units.

The solid bars underneath the top line show how many parts per million (PPM) of suspended particles are contained in their nutrient solution, provided they follow the suggested ingredients below.

The PPM for John and Eloise progresses from 498 for week 1 all the way to 745 for week 8. It actually goes up by increments to 745 in week 5 and stays at that level for the rest of the vegetative growth.

The other number is EC, which stands for electrical conductivity. This goes from 0.71 during week 1 to 1.06 during week 5 and stays at that level for weeks 6, 7, and 8. You can buy an instrument that measures the EC of your nutrient solution and it is very meaningful to horticulturalists.

(I’ve never been able to figure out its significance, and neither has Eloise or John.)

The most important part of your nutrient calculations should be the exact amounts of each ingredient that you need to blend into your nutrient mix, week by week.

Their base nutrient at this point is Iguana Juice Grow (which 100% organic fertilizer has given Sara and I incredible results with our flowers and vegetables). They have to pour in 52.5 mL in week 1, progressing by increments to 77.63 mL in week 5. Weeks 6, 7, and 8 stay at that level.

Grandma Enggy’s Humic and Fulvic Acid are virtual staples of organic gardening. Both of these miraculous products are derived from a rich, humus laden deposit called “leonardite,” that has to be mined from deep within the earth.

Both of these additives are mixed in at the rate of 37.5 mL in week 1, up to 56 mL in week 5 and each week thereafter.

Carbo Load (powder) is to be mixed thoroughly. 4.5 grams during weeks 1 and 2, 5.5 grams weeks 3 and 4, and 6.5 grams during weeks 5 to 8.

SensiZym, used to cleanse the root structure from debris and enable it to absorb nutrients more readily, needs to be added 123.5 mL during week 1 up to 185 mL during weeks 5, 6, 7, and 8.

The root colonizers, Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice have only to be added during weeks 1 and 2 and weeks 6 and 7, and not in between. This is because they grow on their own as soon as they are applied, spreading their beneficial fungi, bacteria, and microbes throughout the root systems.

The rate for Piranha and Tarantula is 4.5 g each time they’re added, while Voodoo Juice, which is a liquid, stays at 67.5 for each application.

Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract, whose praise I sang in last week’s posting, should be mixed in 67.5 mL during weeks 1 and 2, 103.5 mL during weeks 3 and 4, and 123.5 during weeks 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Finally, Organic B, which I also mentioned with high praise last week, needs to be applied at the rate of 82.5 mL in week 1 to 123.5 mL in weeks 5, 6, 7, and 8, at essentially the same rate as Seaweed Extract.

I’m still awaiting some more pictures from New Zealand, but I found this great shot of some sweet corn on the Internet, so I decided to borrow it.

Sara took Hedgehog and Jim into Vancouver yesterday for the Aquarium’s annual Christmas party. They braved the winds and had to take the late ferry back home. Now I hear that Stanley Park (home of the Aquarium) is closed to the public because of fallen trees.

We should count ourselves lucky, once again.

posted by Tim at 10:41 AM | 0 comments

Friday, December 08, 2006

100% Organic Sweet Corn, Christmas Cactus Blooming Forth

While we here on Gabriola are still covered in snow, Eloise and John are reporting from New Zealand that their young corn is growing like a bag of popcorn in the microwave.

In addition to their base nutrient, Iguana Juice Grow, which is a 100% organic fish-based fertilizer, they are also using root colonizers, as mentioned last week. These don’t have to be applied every week, rather every third week, since the beneficial fungi, bacteria, and microbes in Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice grow and multiply on their own, increasing the size of the root ball and helping with the absorption of vital nutrients.

Eloise writes that they also started using Organic B on all their vegetables, including the sweet corn. In addition to the usual B-complex vitamins (Thiamine, Cobalamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Panthothenic Acid, Pyridoxin, and Biotin), Organic B delivers these using three unique yeast extract hydrolysates, and also contains proteins, peptides, free amino acids, lipids, and cytokinins. The application rate is 5 mL/L, based on standalone feeding.

All that technical stuff adds up to stress relief and vigor for all of Eloise’s vegetables. She finally sent us a picture of the young corn growing in their fields, and the stalks certainly look healthy. She reports that all her neighbors envy their vegetable garden and are using their computers to visit the Advanced Nutrients online store to purchase some of the same products that they are using.

Since John and Eloise are mixing quite a few ingredients into their watering tank, we directed them to the Nutrient Calculator at the Advanced Nutrients website. They have to punch in “100% organic” in the Base Nutrient category, and “100% organic – Vegetative Growth” in the Formula slot.

The default reservoir size is 100 L, so they had to change that to the size of their watering tank (in which they mix all these ingredients), which is 50 L. Even though diehard New Zealanders shun Metric, John and Eloise are progressive souls, so they have adopted the international standard.

Their ppm was 496 ppm in week 1 and it will go up to 745 ppm in week 8 of the vegetative growth. For the uninitiated, ppm mean parts per million, and it means the particles suspended in the watering solution.

This week I only have time for a short posting, so I’ll explain further John and Eloise’s use of the Nutrient Calculator next week. Suffice it to say that Advanced Nutrients suggests nine supplements to the basic fert, which is Iguana Juice Grow, for organic gardeners.

In addition to the basic fert, Grandma Enggy’s Humic and Fulvic Acid, Carboload Powder or Liquid, SensiZym, Piranha, Tarantula, Voodoo Juice, Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract, and the aforementioned Organic B are mixed to form the incredibly effective 100% organic grow cocktail, suggested by Advanced Nutrients.

Sara and I advised John and Eloise to follow their suggestion, since gardeners the world over are using Advanced Nutrients products successfully. This is due to the company’s impeccable record of scientific research and ability to manufacture products with superb, quality ingredients, as opposed to the cheap stuff, that their competitors try to get away with.

A final word about Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract, which is like a multi-vitamin for plants. In addition to some B’s, it contains vitamin C (ascorbic acid), two vitamin A precursors, folic acid and folinic acid, vitamin E (tocopherol), vitamin K, as well as other growth-promoting substances.

As an added bonus, it contains natural antibiotics and natural chelates to help the uptake of nutrients. Seaweed Extract increases cell replication, stimulates the metabolism of the plant, and accelerates growth.

Next week I’ll get into the exact amounts of all these ingredients that you need to mix into your watering tank or reservoir (all these products can be used either for growing in soil or in any hydroponic medium). John and Eloise are very happy with the progress of their vegetables, and promise to send more pictures as soon as John learns how to use their camera without getting a whole bunch of rejects on each roll.

Back here at home, our Christmas cactus is just starting to flower, and Hedgehog and Jim are looking forward to presents under the tree.

posted by Tim at 12:02 PM | 0 comments