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Born a Texan, but traveled the US extensively.  Now staying on the East coast.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

and so the question is...

does this post go here?
or in my cooking blog?
or in the environmental blog?

i am clueless so i will start it here.
So many questions asked of me,
so many things i seem to know,
from years of experience,
from work,
from others,
from me just being curious.

My small patch of garden,
has never seen pesticides
or store bought fertilizer.
It was not used as a garden before i came here,
way back in 1991,
but is it organic?
That is a question i ask myself,
often.
Knowledge is a dangerous thing...
i will write in plain language now,
for it seems better to make things clear...

Organic?:

I have had issues with the term "organic" for years and it is not because i am a chemist and was soaked in Organic chemistry from school.
It is because of what i learned while working...
Did you know that DDT is still in soil?
It was banned from use in 1972.
How about the next generation of pesticides, Aldrin (with dieldren as its active component) and chlordane?
Dieldren was banned from use in agriculture in 1974, but still available for use in termite control until 1981.
Chlordane was banned in agriculture in 1977, but permitted for household use and termite control until 1988.
They still can be found in soil and well water and sediment of lakes and estuaries...
Think about it - the "organic label" only requires a farm to have not used "restricted substances" for 3 years...think about it.
My vegetables does not meet my own strict concept of "organic" because i do not know if things were applied in the area before 1991, even though i have a good idea this was only an unused piece of land since 1978.

How i treat the soil:

my house mate raises birds, mostly pigeons, but also doves and occasional chicken.
There is no "organic label" for the bird feed he feeds them, so i can not verify this, yet the cleanings from the coops go into a heap, along with all the kitchen scraps and tree leaves.
This is left for several years.
They turn into dark rich earth, full of earthworms and that is how i replenish the nutrients of the soil. The garden area is very small - maybe 15 feet by 12 feet and i plant things very close together,
contrary to what is recommended and the water is from the tap, which i tested when working and i know it is fine and it is not a worry.

What i plant:

And so i have this garden with many many fruits and vegetables, planted according to season,
peas, radishes and lettuce first
cilantro, dill and anise overwinter in the soil and begin about the same time
then we have cabbage (red and green and savoy), Bok Choy, Napa cabbage, Swiss chard, beets.
Raspberry bush comes up every year, but the fruit does not come till summer.
Potatoes, red, white and sweet.
Beets.
Vaious peppers, sweet, spicy and insanely hot.
Tomatoes of various varieties are next
Finally cucumbers and squash (i do not have much luck with squash).
There is fencing and trees around for the vines to climb and so the garden does go somewhat vertical.
There are many spices, mint basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, tarragon, anise, dill  and cilantro.  These are in pots (clay) and can be moved around.

Pest Control: 

So i have indicated that i do not use pesticides, so with all of this how do i control the pests?
Certain herbs are not liked by pests - basil, rosemary, oregano, mint and thyme and then there is anise and dill, but more on those two in a bit.
marigolds!  a plant and flower that is not well liked by things that like my tomatoes, but there is more!
The flowers of the dill and anise attract bees and wasps and in order to propagate, they want worms to give to their young.  Control!  Balance!  Life!
I am happy and even the most aggressive of the wasps (yellow jackets) are too happy with everything else in the garden to bother with me!

Harvesting and preserving:

The vegetables and fruit and used when they are ready, but it means i do not have lettuce in the summer and only occasional so i have a lettuce and tomato salad.
I can get 2 crops from cilantro and dill and lettuce.
I have "sauced" my tomatoes and used them in the winter.
Peppers (especially the hot ones) i freeze for use in various salsas.
The standard for drying herbs - cutting the stems and shaking the leaves after drying, is easy, but WRONG!
Yea, i did extractions and tests when i was working and found 10 to 50% of the flavor retreats into the woody stems while drying.
So i remove the leaves while they are fresh and dry then in a covered location...
DO NOT PLACE THEM IN THE SUN, the same thing happens).
there are various ways to "extract" the flavors, but leave that to a chemist (yea, like me) to get it done and each herb is different.

Cleaning:

I am weeding all the time, even after the soil is barren.  Weeds take nutrients and moisture from your plants.  Placing hay over your soil for the winter is okay, but i like the idea of planting clover instead,
tho i have not done this yet.

Winter, is of course a difficult time for me, especially when the garden is filled with 3 feet of dirty snow and i enjoy what ever i have been able to preserve for the months i can't get in there.



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