Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hudson Valley Seed Library

This past weekend I went to Accord, NY, to the Hudson Valley Seed Library, 
a farm that specializes in growing organic and open-pollinated heirloom seeds 
( http://www.seedlibrary.org/about-us-hvsl/ ) that was started at the site of old 
camp resort in 2004.  This is the time of year when plants are harvested for seed
or have already been harvested.  It was odd, from a gardener's perspective to see
so many of these plants gone to seed! It is always an embarrassment to me to see
lettuce, for example, gone to seed in my garden!  And, of course, I try to pick 
my veggies at the best point for eating, which is usually far earlier than the seed
production stage!
In the photo collage above: red zinnias going to seed, center top (counter clock-
wise): red lettuce seed heads, de-seeded squash in the compost pile, onions drying and
eggplants being allowed to mature to form seeds.
This company also sponsors a yearly contest for artists to design some of their seed

This might inspire me to use more open-pollinated plants and save my own seed!
Happy gardening!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Commercial Potting Soil

I know, a very exciting photo, of dirt!  This is a nationally-available brand of potting soil with fertilizer and I have finally gotten fed up with it.  I am now starting to make my own.  Why?  Mushrooms.  Huh?  I have been using this and similar soils for outdoor container plants and house plants.  Lately, my house plants have been sprouting various fungi!  Which I think is not so good for indoor air quality, especially for those with allergies.  Why is this happening?
Well, turn over the bag and read the ingredients.  Many of these potting mixes list "forestry by products" " forestry products" or "wood chips."  You can even see some in the photo.  Wood chips take awhile to decompose and often sprout mushrooms and fungi in order to break down.  They provide zip in regard to plant nutrients, except, perhaps, over the very long haul.  They are there so the forestry industry can get rid of excess, undesirable wood waste.
Another reason to dislike these products is the harsh, chemical salt fertilizers they contain.  These are like feeding your kids on white sugar, not healthy at all.
I am now making my own potting soil, a mix of worm compost (other well-aged compost will do), peat or coir fibers and perlite.  I think my house plants and I will be the better for it!
Happy gardening!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Carnivory in Action

A wasp stuck in a pitcher plant.
I sometimes see small insects stuck in the pitchers of these carnivorous plants, but seldom ones as large as this wasp.  I watched him for awhile, and he (she?) just cannot get back up, the feet keep sliding down, towards the pool of digestive enzymes at the bottom.  However, bees and wasps are often able to chew right through the side of the pitcher and effect an escape that way.
It's a plant eats insect world out there!
Happy gardening!  Though the heat and drought are pretty bad here in my part of central Virginia...