New vegetable gardeners can gain a lot of information from seed packets, self-help books, a local nursery, and gardening contacts, but may not realize the importance of orienting planted rows of edibles relative to the sun. When researchers in Western Australia compared north-south or east-west orientation on yield of organically grown grain and other crops, they found grain yield improved with east-west orientation. Orientation did not seem to affect other broadleaf crops, such as canola and field peas likely, they say, because crops with large leaves shade out weeds that compete for soil nutrients. Still they suggest that latitudes up to 55 degrees benefit from north-south orientation in the summer and east-west orientation the rest of the year – good to know when considering early spring and fall crops. Don’t know your latitude? Find it through Project Budburst – a fun and worthy program for anyone interested in plants.
Want to be a climate-friendly gardener? The Union of Concerned Scientists offers a guide just for you. The guide goes into the importance of healthy soils, cover crops, and compost; the downsides of chemicals and gasoline powered equipment; and how incorporating edibles into existing garden beds can increase your home-grown food yield. All in all, practices good for everyone with a small plot to plant. I’ve interspersed edibles into my perennial beds with great success – lettuce and Alpine strawberries make great borders, eggplant adds interesting structure, peas and tomatoes add height, chives add spring flower color – the possibilities are nearly endless. Now if we can just increase the use of recyclable plastics for all those plastic pots gardeners use.
Pokeberries to solar is a link suggested by scientists at Wake Forest University’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. They used pokeberry dye to coat inexpensive, efficient fiber-based solar cells. The dye, being a dark color, helps tiny fibers trap sunlight for conversion to power. Scientists suggest the combo may be one way to get cheap power to undeveloped areas.
If you are one of the gardeners/homeowners who grab Roundup or other glyphosphate herbicide at the sight of any weed, the New York Times published debate from a group of biologists, farmers, and agriculture gurus may make you decide to do some hand weeding instead. Common use of this herbicide results in resistant weeds – yes, they do evolve so they can survive. The debate offers insight into why multiple tactics by all – from large-scale farms to home gardeners – are necessary to keep weeds at bay.
We hear a lot about tree loss in the world’s rain forests, but research from South Dakota State University hints that North America had the greatest loss of forest cover between 2000 and 2005. Investigators used images from two satellites to track gross forest cover loss. North America alone accounted for 30 percent of the globe’s total forest loss; North and South America together accounted for more than half. Makes me wonder if Mother’s Day should be re-packaged as Plant a Tree for Future Generations Day. Yes, we have Arbor Day, but it looks like we may need more than one day a year focused on planting trees if we are to stem some of our tree loss.