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August 2008: Agricultural Notes

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Creating Soil : Grain Blog : Plant Life : Perennial Vegetables

Creating Soil

“Creating World Class Soils” by John Todd appeared in the Volume XXV, Number 1, 2007 Annals of Earth. The article is mentioned in the Annals of Earth website but does not seem to be accessible there. We are reprinting the first paragraph and recommend that those interested in learning more secure a copy of that issue. “Soil formation is an extraordinarily complex geochemical, biological, ecological and diverse process. In recent decades new discoveries have made it possible to create rich and fertile soils in relatively short periods of time, measured in years rather than decades or centuries. To achieve rapid soil formation requires a number of concurrent strategies which, taken together, can produce excellent soils that, in turn, can support intensive agriculture, animal husbandry and agro-forestry. These strategies include soil remineralization, composting by utilizing newly discovered nutrient bind methods, the application of compost tea to soils and crops, and the incorporation of terra preta or dark earth techniques into soil building.”


Grain Blog!

This was taken from “Grain growers unite” (a letter to the Editor) by Anthony Boutard, Josh Volk and Nick Andrews in the May 2008 issue of Growing for Market:“Josh Volk of Slow Hand Farm has recently set up a blog which will allow market farmers growing grains, edible seeds and dry legumes, or people interested in the subject, to share ideas and information. The scope of the discussion will include selecting and growing varieties, harvesting and cleaning, as well as marketing and cooking. The blog address is


Plant Life

An excellent article, “Plants-The Inside Story” by Harold Willis Ph. D. gives an overview of the science behind the life of plants. The article was published in the December 2007 issue of Acres U.S.A. This is a short excerpt: “To understand more about how plants function, let's shrink ourselves down to the size of a water molecule (only about a 0.000006 inch) and take a trip through a living plant. A living plant is very much like a bustling city, only much more complex. ... Every farmer or gardener has experienced the fact that when plants do not absorb enough water they wilt and die. But is this always caused by drought—not enough water in the soil? That can be one cause, but the same result can happen when there are too many salts dissolved in the soil water, lowering the relative percentage of water outside the root cells. When there is a higher percentage of water inside the cells than outside, reverse osmosis will occur; the roots will lose water rather than absorb it, and root damage or death of the plant will result. Salt damage is not just a problem in the alkaline and saline soils of the western United States; it can happen anywhere if a farmer applies too much salt fertilizer or manure to the soil (manure contains salt from the animals’ diet).”


Perennial Vegetables

From the November 24, 2007, issue of the San Francisco Chronicle two informative articles were features of a special in the Home and Garden section: “Perennial crops: The Garden That Keeps Giving” and “10 Perennial Veggies to Grow”, both by Deborah K. Rich. “There are a lot of reasons to grow perennial vegetables. For starters, they require less work than annual vegetables. Second, they are already commercially available. Finally, perennial vegetables bring new flavors and textures to the home garden, ranging from the lemony tartness of French sorrel to the creaminess of baked oca, an Andean root crop.” The second related article states, “California, especially near the coast, is blessed with a climate suitable for many perennial vegetables. Many gardeners are already familiar with artichokes, rhubarb and asparagus, but there are dozens more to choose from.” One of the ten perennial crops suggested is “Cardoon: Though it looks like an artichoke plant, cardoon differs from its more familiar cousin in that it is primarily the midribs of the leaves that are eaten, rather than its flower buds. Traditionally, cardoon leaves are blanched by being bent over and buried under the soil, though they don't have to be. Sliced and cooked cardoon midribs taste like a plateful of artichoke hearts. Only one or two plants are needed to produce a pile of midribs.” The articles can be found in their entirety on the San Francisco Chronicle’s website in the full archives search engine.





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