27 October, 2008

Tomatoes and Snapdraons Combine to Fight Cancer

British researchers have used genes from the snapdragon flower to increase tomatoes' cancer-fighting powers.
When the genes were added, the tomatoes ripened to an almost eggplant purple. They contain very high levels of antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins. Cancer-prone mice fed the altered tomatoes lived significantly longer than those that didn't get them.

This is according to an article in USAToday. It seems that lycopenes found in tomatoes are enhanced and actaully strenghtened in their cancer fighting properties when crossed with genes from snapdragons.

According to Science Daily: Anthocyanins offer protection against certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and age-related degenerative diseases. There is evidence that anthocyanins also have anti-inflammatory activity, promote visual acuity and hinder obesity and diabetes.

26 October, 2008

Jail Time for Brown Lawn?

I am all for a green lawn and nice plantings but the horticulture police have struck in an upscale moronic decision in Florida. The community is the Beacon Woods Civic Association. There they have taken to court and imprisoned a sixty six year old resident who let his front and back yard become brown because he could not afford to fix his sprinklers.Here is what the moronic board president wrote in a letter to the local newspaperThe St Petersburg Times:Dear Editor:"In these hard economic times, our deed restrictions staff works hard with numerous owners to assist them with their need to comply. Our entire board has addressed these issues on a case-to-case basis to enable compassionate resolve acceptable to both parties.................."I have written the board president and the public affairs director about their ridiculous move.Get ready folks.........fiefdoms like these are all over the country and usually start with school boards...........Remember the people on these boards are our neighbors and they are now telling us how to grow our gardens. Imagine what they are doing to our kids in schools!

20 October, 2008

Warm Up by The Compost Pile

Well here we are late October and you what? It actually feels like October! have actually October has been teasing us with a week of above normal temps followed a week of temps ten degrees below normal. It was 21* this morning and a killing frost did in my plants. I was hoping to get to bring in my Lemon Verbena but getting up at 4AM to catch a flight home from Atlanta put me to bed at 9:30 forgetting about my Verbena amongst other things. The last 150 or so of my bountiful crop of chilies succumbed to the frost on Friday night. I could not have done anything to save them since I was 900 miles away in Atlanta

Take notice that the colder than normal temperatures are not news worthy unless you are a gardener or winter sports enthusiast. Be prepared to hear for the next few months how October was abnormally warm. Meanwhile wet snow is predicted for my part of the region Wednesday this week.

I use obscure econometrics principles in my garden. One that always works is the chile pepper plant and composting corollary. This connection simply states that when your chile plants succumb to frost your plumbing goes haywire. No that’s the “away on business trip chile plant corollary”. The chile plant composting pairing simply states that when your chile plants are done in by frost your compost pile stops working as well. Meanwhile there is all that plant debris and leaves to get rid of.

Enter indoor composting. The garden debris leaves and such will have to remain outside and wait until spring to compost but you can still get rich soil indoors. Home made indoor composters are easy to build out of plastic storage bins. Ready made bins are available specifically for indoor composting but are quite expensive for what you get.

They major difference in composting indoors is the composting “agent” itself. Outside one can simply pile up any organic matter and worms, bugs, beetles and other creepy crawlers will find it and digest it. I don’t know many gardeners who wish to have creepy crawlers all over their house looking for something to eat. “Hey beetle, I am not done with that salad yet do you mind?” Indoor composting agents of action are red wiggly worms. They resemble small night crawlers or large earthworms. These hungry tilling machines have been bred especially for eating garbage.

A perfect sized container for housing your worms is a plastic storage bin measuring 1’ high, 2’ wide and 2-3’ long. Any plastic container with similar dimensions will do fine.
Plastic storage containers with lids are perfect because they balance strength of the plastic with light weight thus being easy to move around. Next punch a series of holes along the lower sides of the container. Measuring about one third of the way down from the top punch holes through the container with sharp scissors and continue all the way around.
Two rows of holes should be enough. These holes will supply oxygen to the worms and are small enough to prevent them from escaping.
Next take shredded newspapers and wet them to the consistency of a damp sponge. Line the bottom half of your container with the shredded paper. You can also add shredded card board like toilet paper tubes to change the texture of the bedding. Now spread the little red wigglers over the newspaper bedding. After they get accustomed to their new home which should take about two milliseconds cover them with another two inches of all the news that is fit to print.

About one week later begin feeding your friends food scraps. The rules for indoor composting are exactly the same as for outdoors. No meat, fish or dairy. Egg shells are permissible as long as they are rinsed off before adding. They should be crushed as well.

Red wiggly compost worms are voracious eaters and you can easily add one to pounds of scraps per week for each pound of worms you buy. Plan on using one-half-pound of red wigglers for each cubic foot of worm bin; (one-half-pound of red worms is about 500 worms, depending on their size). A 1’ x 2’x 3’ bin is six cubic feet. So you will need three pounds of worms for optimum resource recovery. One thing to keep in mind is these worms cost on average twenty five dollars a pound. They also reproduce fairly quickly. If you think that spending seventy five dollars on worms is a bit steep purchase half as many and let them fill in the gaps for you.

After several weeks the newspaper and food you have added will turn to rich dark soil.
Harvesting the soil is simply a matter of moving all the newly created humus over to one side of the bin. Add newly shredded bedding and food scraps to the other side. Bury it deeply within the new bedding. A while later all your wiggly friends will have migrated out of the finished soil and over to the new food supply. The New York City Compost project web site says this migration can take four weeks. This little waiting step is a real time saver. This way you will not have to pick the worms out of the fresh compost you made. Do not wait too long to harvest the fresh soil however. As strange it may seem fresh compost becomes toxic to compost worms over time.

06 October, 2008

Woody Wood Pecker Comes A Knockin

Who Is That Pecking at My Door? The Strange Behavior of Woodpeckers These Days

Of the 21 or so woodpecker species in the United States four are common to our Hudson Valley backyards. The red bellied woodpecker whose head is redder than his belly, hairy and downy which look alike except hairy woodpeckers have longer beaks and are slightly larger. The last common member of the woodpecker clan is the northern flicker. Woodpeckers are often welcome at backyard feeding stations where their antics delight young and old alike. Woodpeckers are opportunists in their eating habits. They survive on tree nuts, seeds and suet. Placing a suet feeder at your feeding station almost insures a welcome chant from the woodpeckers in the neighborhood.

However as their name suggests they do peck on wood. They probe dead trees, fence posts and even your house. A growing problem locally is complaints from home owners about large gaping holes in cedar siding or any wood covering the sides of houses. The reasons behind this new phenomenon vary but include the following. Habitat destruction, woodpeckers need dead trees in which to nest and search for food. New home construction, urban sprawl and logging contribute to habitat destruction. Woodpeckers are then forced into populated areas to continue doing what they do naturally.

Wood peckers rhythmic rapping repetitions are called drumming. Preferring cedar siding they drum to establish territories during mating season. It is the male that destroys your siding. A northern flicker has for the past three springs chosen the metal flashing on my chimney to announce to the ladies his intentions. Amusing yes but not at five in the morning! Wood peckers are also searching for food when they drum.

Therefore the first line of defense is to have your siding inspected for insect damage. Wood peckers are adept at listening for insects munching on your wood. An obscure but reasonable cause may be a clock hanging on a wall. The ticking of the clock sounds like an insect to the wood pecker.

As to stopping these red bellied Bob the Builders there a few options. First is to caulk and repair damage right away. Bird netting is very effective as it presents a barrier the bird won’t cross. If the bird moves to an unprotected spot simply move the netting. ¼ inch hardware cloth provides a more durable barrier as well as aluminum flashing. Aluminum flashing can be painted to match the stain of your siding. Sooner or later the wood pecker gives up.

Reflective holographic tape is another effective repellent. The thin strips of tape shimmer when agitated by a slight breeze. This sudden “action” scares away the wood pecker. These tapes are available in a roll or precut with brackets from which to hang them.

Finally borrowing from the nursery rhymes is the “Little Miss Muffet” method. Available on line is an activated by the wood peckers’ motions. A spider like object is then lowered down on a line to scare away the wood pecker. High tech comes to wood pecker deterrence!

Wood pecker are amazing acrobats with whimsical calls and fluttering flight patterns. They bring beauty and animation to backyards feeding stations. But they can cause significant damage to wood siding. Stopping damage and repairing damage as soon as discovered are the best bets to limiting or stopping their destructive behavior.