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The Manic Gardener – Kate Gardner
61 minutes | Jul 2, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Energy and Landscaping: Surprising Connections
We’ve all heard this one: to shade your house in summer (and save the energy used to run fans or air-conditioners), plant a tree on the south side of the house. According to my guest this week, that’s not so much a no-brainer as it is brainless. (Though she’d never put it so rudely.) In the course of the show, Sue Reed (http://www.susanreedla.com/)not only explains why that won’t work, she also tells us how to plant trees in order to shade a house and funnel breezes towards it in summer--but also capture sunlight and deflect winds in winter. These and dozens of other tips take the familiar gardening maxim, “the right plant in the right place,” to a whole new level. A registered landscape architect with 25 years of experience in energy-conscious design, Sue is eminently qualified to address this issue. She has taught at the Conway School of Landscape Design, and her amazing, and amazingly thorough, book, Energy-Wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for Your Home and Garden (http://www.energywiselandscape.com/about_author.html)(New Society Publishers), came out a couple of years ago. In the book, Sue actually explains how to take into account your latitude (and the season) in deciding exactly how far from a house to plant a tree that will eventually reach 40’ (or 60’, or 35’), either to maximize or minimize the shade it casts on the house. We don’t get into the math on the show, but Sue does explain how plant transpiration cools air, how to cool house foundations and walls, and where to place hard surfaces such as driveways and patios—and what to surface them with—in order to capture or avoid heat, both in the house and outside of it. But that’s only one part of the show, because Sue talks first about how to save energy while landscaping and building, how to build and landscape in order to save energy during the life of the house or garden, and finally, how to actually generate energy from one’s land. In all of these areas, she goes well beyond conventional wisdom or obvious answers. Her take on generating energy, for instance covers photoelectric cells, of course, but also home use of wind, water, and the ground. So if you were wondering how to use the soil to heat a house in winter and cool it in summer, listen up; Sue Reed will explain it. But even if you’re not looking to replace your furnace with buried pipes, Sue offers an astonishing array of simple steps that can be taken in an established garden that will help
61 minutes | May 7, 2012
The Manic Gardener – A Farmer’s story
When they try to make a movie of Atina Diffley’s (http://atinadiffley.com/)story, some producer is going to reject it as unbelievable. Losing one organic farm to development, okay; but nearly losing a big chunk of the second to an oil pipeline? A pipeline owned by one of the two largest companies in the United States? Start with this setup, and it’s a given that Atina takes them on and beats them. To top it off, she not only protects her own land from the pipeline, but she gets Koch to accept an agreement (at least in Minnesota) that will protect all organic farms threatened by pipelines. Then add that Atina had survived five years in an early, abusive marriage. Isn’t that just a bit much, as plots go? Maybe. But it’s true. Author of the beautiful memoir, Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works (http://atinadiffley.com/turn-here-sweet-corn/), Atina Diffley joins me this week to talk about the double assault on organic farms that she and her husband Martin have endured. She describes the “total ecological collapse” they saw as their first farm was gradually sold off to developers, and the shock when she discovered that their second farm might be subject to a claim of eminent domain by the Koch Brothers, who were planning to lay a pipeline across it carrying oil from Alberta’s oil sands. (No, the Keystone XL pipeline would not be the first.) In part, this is the story of Atina’s transformation, from a battered woman almost devoid of self-esteem, to the woman who took on the Koch brothers and won. But it is also the story of the community she and Martin had built, for Atina stresses, both in the interview and in the book, that she did not win this victory alone. Her intrepid attorney was essential, as was Martin’s support on the home front. But the thousands of letters written by satisfied customers may have tipped the balance, for they made clear to the judge that this farm could not simply be replaced by another. Establishing that fact—that the farm was not fungible—was essential in arguing that Koch should not be allowed to damage it. This saga is rife with smaller anecdotes, often funny ones, for Atina has retained her sense of humor even about some of the most devastating moments in these crises. There’s not much to laugh at when she tells how she and Martin lose an entire potato crop in a single night of rain after the adjoining hill has been stripped bare. But when she adds that the developer—of Irish extraction, no
58 minutes | Apr 9, 2012
The Manic Gardener – More Space Than You Thought: gardening on balconies, porches, and terraces with Fern Richardson
Fern Richardson’s (http://www.fernrichardson.com/)balcony measures four feet by ten. On it she grows a fig tree, an apricot, a kumquat, two apple trees, and an abutilon, an ornamental tree with bi-colored leaves and red, hibiscus-like flowers. Of course, she also herbs, succulents, and vegetables, including peppers and tomatoes. In other words, she grows more in her forty square feet than many people manage in a full-fledged, ground-level garden. If this sounds so unlikely as to be impossible, trust me, it isn’t; all you have to do to believe this is to take a look at the lush photographs in her book, Small-Space Container Gardens: Transform Your Balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage & Herbs (http://www.timberpress.com/books/small_space_container_gardens/richardson/9781604692419). As my guest this week, Fern describes the special problems that people gardening on roofs and balconies face (those falling pots, you know), but she then goes on to talk about the many (many) tools and techniques that these folks can use to make the most of their extremely confined spaces. Once one puts one’s mind to it, hanging pots seem fairly obvious, but even trellises anchored in large pots are a stretch for most of us, simply because we don’t think of trellises as belonging on porches or balconies. As for the three or four ways that Fern has for anchoring pots to fences, or for straddling railings with various soft planters or molded pots—my bet is that most of these will be new. Beyond this, there are myriad green walls, including the one she describes in some depth during the interview: the pallet planter, in which an ordinary pallet is transformed into a lovely, vertical display of spring and summer flowers. It seems there’s no end to Fern’s imagination, and her great gift is to liberate our own. She has ideas about how to deal with noisy neighbors (or nosy ones), how to cope with wind, with blazing sun, with incessant shade. The space that was far too small for a “real” garden may have possibilities you never realized. Fern Richardson blogs at Life on the Balcony.com (http://Life on the Balcony.com)
61 minutes | Apr 2, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Turning the Tables, Again
When this show first ran under the title Turning the Tables: Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto, in December of 2011, 83 organic farmers, seed farmers, and organizations that had sued Monsanto were waiting to hear whether the judge would rule for the seed giant’s motion to dismiss the case, or would allow it to advance to oral arguments. At stake in the suit is the question of whether Monsanto would be able to continue to sue individual farmers, both conventional and organic, whose crops were contaminated by pollen or seeds from fields growing Monsanto’s genetically modified crops. This group of organic farmers and organizations is suing to prevent Monsanto from suing them. It’s now three and a half months later, and much has happened. The suit did advance to oral arguments, but at that point the judge ruled for Monsanto. The consortium of plaintiffs, under the leadership of OSGATO, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (http://www.osgata.org/), has appealed the decision. So once again, everyone is awaiting the decision of the courts. My guests here, as in the original show, are Jim Gerritsen, President of OSGATA, the lead plaintiff, and Daniel Ravicher, the lead lawyer in the case. Dan serves as both the Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (http://www.pubpat.org/), a non-profit organization devoted to representing the public’s interests against undeserved patents and unsound patent policy. PubPat is associated with Cardozo Law School, where Dan is also a professor. This is a rerun of the original show, with some revisions. The interview themselves have not been touched, but both the introduction and the conclusion have been revised and updated. Go to The Manic Gardener (http://themanicgardener.com/)blog for more links and information.
58 minutes | Mar 26, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Mixing It Up in the Veggie Garden
Here’s a riddle: how do you grow vegetables without a vegetable garden? Answer: polyculture. Which means that you either tuck the tomatoes and lettuce into with your existing flowerbeds, or you bring herbs and flowers into the vegetable patch. Yes: not only does this method do away with rows, which segregate one vegetable from another; it does away with separate beds, which segregate flowers from herbs from vegetables. My guests this week are David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth (http://ddandkw.com/), who put polyculture at the heart of their latest book, What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden? 100% Organic Solutions for All Your Vegetables, from Artichoke to Zucchini. (http://www.timberpress.com/books/whats_wrong_my_vegetable_garden/deardorff/9781604691849) On the show, David and Kathryn explain the principle of polyculture and its benefits, which range from thwarting both pests and disease, to creating lovely, creative plantings. They describe several uses of polyculture gardens: easy combinations such as the “salad bowls” Kathryn keeps just outside her door, plots focused around carrots, or tomatoes, or melons, and how to integrate various vegetables into an existing garden. Then (we’re not done yet) we move on to organic solutions to pests and problems, a conversation that includes rather more about slugs than you might expect. It’s a fun, lively hour, full of practical tips nested in an easily grasped theory that can be applied to gardens everywhere.
57 minutes | Mar 19, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Minding Your Manure
Some organic gardeners swear by manure. Others swear they’ll never touch it. To the first group, it’s the ultimate one-stop soil conditioner, complete with built-in fertilizers. To the second, conventional manure is contaminated with hormones and antibiotics, and even organic manures can contain human pathogens. Both groups are right, and the only way to make an informed decision about whether or not to use manure is to become better informed about it. So just how wonderful a conditioner is manure? What problems can it cause? And how can they be managed or avoided? My guest this week is uniquely qualified to answer these questions. He’s Frank Larney (http://www4.agr.gc.ca/AAFC-AAC/display-afficher.do?id=1181849355568&lang=eng), a soil scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada (roughly equivalent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture), where he specializes in soil conservation, including feedlot manure composting and soil restoration with manure. With Frank’s help, we’ll take a quick tour of the various problems that manures can cause, from air and water pollution to soil degradation, before turning to some of Frank’s research. He has done studies on how many pathogens disappear during composting (99.9%) and how long this takes (one week), and on how composting affects pharmaceuticals (they drop to undetectable levels) and again, how long this takes (six to eight weeks). He’s also been involved in long-term studies that measure for how long a single application of manure to degraded soil can improve crop yields. Want to know the answer? Twenty-two years. And counting. In the end, each gardener will have to decide for herself (or himself) whether or not to use manures. This program doesn’t try to direct that decision. But it does provide some information that might help. This week’s Gardening Tip draws on the interview to suggest how back-yard gardeners should and shouldn’t use manures. The parallel post on the blog, The Manic Gardene (http://themanicgardener.com/)r, will include links to some of Frank Larney’s papers for the intelligent layperson.
52 minutes | Mar 12, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Landscaping for Wildlife
Doug Tallamy (http://udel.edu/~dtallamy/)is not an idiot, so when he talks about a new national park that extends across the entire continent, he’s not proposing to bulldoze cities or tear up freeways. No; he’s talking about converting half the space that now goes to lawns to more productive plantings—plantings that attract insects, especially native ones. And what plants attract native insects? Native ones, of course. As the chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, Doug knows whereof he speaks. And he’s got the relevant statistics at the tip of his tongue. How many spicebush leaves does the larvae of a spicebush swallowtail need to become a butterfly? Three. What percent of a black bear’s diet is insects? Twenty-three percent. How many caterpillars do a pair of bluebirds feed their young each day? Three hundred. Doug may be most widely known as the author of the tremendously popular book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife With Native Plants (http://www.timberpress.com/books/bringing_nature_home/tallamy/9780881929928). As my guest this week, he explains both why we need more native plants and more varied ones in our gardens, and also how we can go about the initial steps of landscaping for this change.
54 minutes | Mar 4, 2012
The Manic Gardener – From Seed to Seedling
People in northern climes, with their short growing seasons, often try to get a jump on the season by starting their plants, especially their vegetables, indoors—on a windowsill, or in a greenhouse, a cold frame, or a basement. But though many of us start our own plants, a lot of us don’t do it particularly well. Many seeds refuse to sprout, while others get off to a terrific start, then keel over, victims of the dreaded damping off disease. Judy Owsowitz (mailto:email@example.com)sells both seedlings and vegetables, and she starts thousands of them herself and the rest with the help of her six interns. She does all this starting in early February, in the relatively inhospitable climate of northern Montana. So she seemed the ideal person to tap for advice about starting, tending, and transplanting seedlings. Owner of Terrapin Farm (http://www.facebook.com/TerrapinFarm), Judy has been farming in northern Montana since the seventies, using draft horses for years, but more recently and reluctantly, tractors. She sells vegetables, herbs, flowers, and edible flowers, as well as seedlings and seeds for many of those plants. She has also developed a number of cold-hardy vegetable varieties, and at the end of the show she tells us about a few of those. Though she has a full-fledged business including a greenhouse, Judy can provide plenty of useful tips for backyard gardeners. Amongst other things, she explains how to get artichokes, usually considered a biennial, to produce in their first season. In cold climates. From seed. And her methods will suit the thrift-minded as well: for several weeks before she opens the greenhouse, her seedlings are housed in her basement under florescent lights. Not fancy grow lights; not even full-spectrum florescent bulbs; but the cheapest of the cheap, common florescent bulbs. So if you’re wondering about the perfect consistency for potting soil; or about which flowers, herbs, and vegetables to seed first; or about how to water seeds or seedlings, tune in. Check The Manic Gardener (http://themanicgardener.com/)for further background and links.
58 minutes | Feb 26, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Potless Plants: Starting seeds with Soil Blocks
When you first see them, soil blocks are both unremarkable and fantastic. They’re just cubes of dirt, after all—big deal—but they function like a pot of earth twice their size or more. In fact, the headline could read: Pots Obsolete—Soil Blocks Replace Plastic. Implausible? Perhaps. Impossible? No. Unlikely as it sounds, a cube of free-standing soil can sprout a seed, support a seedling, even grow a full head of lettuce. How is this possible? And why don’t the darn things just fall apart, without any container to hold them together? Jason Beam, of Potting Blocks (http://pottingblocks.com/), sells soil blockers, the presses used to make soil blocks. He joins me this week to answer these questions and many more. Here’s a sample of some of the topics that arise in the course of the conversation: Why is transplanting a seedling several times a good thing? Which holds heat more effectively, air or water? Is peat moss a renewable resource? Just how many grades of coconut coir are there? I won’t claim that we answer all these questions definitively, but it’s a lot of fun. And the central questions about soil blocks—what they are, how to use them, and why they’ll give you increased germination rates and sturdier seedlings—these do get answered. Check The Manic Gardener (http://themanicgardener.com/)for further background and links.
60 minutes | Feb 19, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Where it All Comes Together—Or Falls Apart
Most of us are familiar with the term “food security,” meaning simply that people should have enough to eat. But Charles Levkoe, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, explains why this term doesn’t go nearly far enough in defining people’s rights in the realm of food. “Food security” does not ask us to consider the wages or welfare of the people who work in the fields and factories that produce the food; it does not address the quality or cultural appropriateness of the food for the people to whom it is “given;” nor does it deal with their dignity, nor their right to make choices or exercise some control over the food they eat. Food security goes no further than a full belly. Enter food justice, a term that encompasses all these issues. People who work for food justice are looking at the entire food production system, and the lives and welfare of all involved in it. Charles helps run a local community garden (organic, of course), and he has served on the Board of the American Community Gardening Association; he has worked with The Stop (http://www.thestop.org/home), Toronto’s all-in-one food bank, community garden, and all-round center for food-related activism. He has written numerous articles (http://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/author/levkoe-charles-z) on food movements, including several on The Stop. My second guest, Lena Miller, founded and is now Executive Director of Development of Hunters Point Family (http://www.hunterspointfamily.org/home.html), a non-profit that works with at-risk youths and families in one of the poorest areas of one of America’s richest cities. Lena was born in Hunters Point, and she is raising her daughters there, but in between she earned a B.A. at Berkeley and an M.A. at San Francisco University. While Hunters Point Family runs numerous programs, one closest to Lena’s heart may be its organic gardens, for she believes profoundly in the healing power of digging in the dirt. She also believes that to heal themselves, people must return to basics, including to that most fundamental relationship between ourselves and food. These two guests come to Food Justice from very different backgrounds, but they are equally passionate about its centrality to human dignity. This is where organic gardening meets social activism.
62 minutes | Feb 13, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Seeds for the Season
It’s not yet spring, but with days growing perceptibly longer, the season of the seed catalogue has arrived. Many backyard gardeners still rely on packets from the grocery store or from the gardening center at a big box store, where all the carrots are orange and all the beans green. But there’s an extraordinary array of gorgeous, enticing flowers, herbs, and vegetables out there, specially bred or else researched and saved by heirloom and organic seed growers. On today’s show, I’m joined by representatives of four seed companies that offer largely or exclusively organic seeds: Jim Weinburg, who owns Organica Seeds (http://www.organicaseed.com/)(Massachussetts), Tom Stearns, founder and owner of High Mowing Organic Seeds (http://www.highmowingseeds.com/) (Vermont), Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (http://www.southernexposure.com/)(Virginia), and John Pederson from Seed Savers Exchange (http://www.seedsavers.org/)(Iowa). Each one tells us a bit about their own company or organization, and then shares with us a few of the most interesting, undervalued, or popular seeds they carry. Finally, they talk about some of their own personal favorites. From Jim, you’ll hear about cotton that grows in different colors, and from Tom about melons that are “eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head” sweet; Ira mentions in passing that Southern Exposure carries twenty different kinds of okra, while John touts a potato that tastes as if it’s already buttered. Before any of these folks even get started, however, I grab the chance to hold forth on some of the terms and categories that sometimes confuse beginning gardeners: Heirloom, hybrid, GMO, and “treated,” in reference to seeds. If this dash through the pollination and politics of seeds doesn’t leave you so breathless your mind quits on you entirely, it might help you make sense of the occasional jargon that creeps into the interviews. All of the links, along with pictures of many of the vegetables mentioned and links to others, can be found on the blog, The Manic Gardener (http://themanicgardener.com/).
63 minutes | Feb 5, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Water-wise gardening
We all know that Texas is in the midst of a terrible drought with no end in sight, so it makes sense that irrigating lawns and gardens is restricted there. But in fact water is running short in areas far wetter than Texas. Aquifers are depleted and water tables have dropped in states as damp (and as far apart) as Florida and Oregon. Are we going to lose our gardens—and our lawns? Thomas Christopher, an expert on sustainable gardening, says no—not if we plant wisely and water as if it mattered. In his introduction to The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening, (http://www.timberpress.com/books/new_american_landscape/christopher/9781604691863) which he edited, Christopher reels out some pretty frightening statistics. But overall his is a hopeful vision, because he believes in our ability to change, and he knows how we can do it. Join me as he talks about the water shortage we face and the ways that gardeners can contribute to a solution. At the end of the program, Edwin Beck, a consultant with EarthMinded Rain Station (http://www.earthminded.com/consumers/products/), explains how Rain Station water barrels avoid the flooding caused by others, why they cost less to ship, and how you can link two together. These barrels really are different. They contain 30-85% recycled material, their lids lead double lives, and hey—they look pretty classy, too. Bring your water-saving tips and your water-wasting horror stories to the blog, The Manic Gardener (http://themanicgardener.com/).
58 minutes | Jan 29, 2012
The Manic Gardener – The Way It Works: Compost Science
January is a not the best time to start a compost pile, but it’s a great time to learn about how compost works. This week I talk with two experts at the University of Pennsylvania, Tom Richard (http://www.abe.psu.edu/fac/richard/overview.htm)and Rick Stehouwer (http://cropsoil.psu.edu/directory/rcs15), about some of what goes on inside a compost pile and what happens when you add the stuff to soil. Tom and Rick give understandable explanations based in solid science to questions like why compost is the same all over the world, why it helps to tear newspaper up before composting it, and why it is that compost not only adds nutrients to soil, but helps soil hold onto them. Check the blog, The Manic Gardener (http://themanicgardener.com/), for more links and resources
56 minutes | Jan 22, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Going Native: why and how to garden with native plants
Some people think this: Native plants are tough, hardy, drought-tolerant, and easy going, free of those picky preferences that plague domesticated garden plants. Stick ‘em in the ground and they’ll grow. Others think this: Natives are messy, unkempt, overgrown, weedy, undisciplined, and invasive. And they lower property values. Still others believe this: Natives take too long to become established: if you go down that path, you may as well declare your garden a bloom-free zone and have done with it. These aren’t the only myths to go down before this week’s guests as they talk about the benefits and the challenges of gardening with native plants. Tim Lewis, President of Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes (http://www.for-wild.org), explains why native varieties are good for you, your garden, and the planet. Donna Van Buecken, Wild Ones’ Executive Director, gives essential practical advice about getting started without getting overwhelmed. Along the way, you’ll get tips about how to use natives to filter and reduce run-off, how to avoid that bare look in a new native garden, how to plant on a slope, and a dozen other topics. For books on native planting,* see The Wild Ones Bookstore. (http://www.for-wild.org/store/bookstore/) For more links and resources, see the blog The Manic Gardener. (http://themanicgardener.com) *(And other stuff. One is called Sex, Death, and Fly Fishing. Hmm.)
55 minutes | Jan 15, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Botany for Backyard Gardeners #1
Sure, you know the difference between a perennial and an annual. But are you aware that perennials, unlike diamonds, are not forever? Some only live for a few years. And a perennial in the south may be an annual in the north. So—are you sure you know the difference? If you have any doubts about your command of this or other common botanical distinctions, check out today’s show with Toby Day, Extension Horticulture Specialist at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. In this first of an occasional series, Toby not only explains the difference between monocots and dicots, and between annuals, biennials, and perennials, but also makes it clear why an ordinary gardener might care about such things. He then goes on to define the three basic functions of plant physiology—photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration—and the relations between them. Finally, he discusses the plant growth that these functions make possible—where in the plant it occurs, and how these locations affect practices like pruning. This isn't botany made easy—it's botany made practical. This is the first in a series that will air from time to time—one of which will be a stump the chump session where Toby tries to field whatever random gardening questions we can throw at him. Add yours to the comments on the post about this podcast episode at The Manic Gardener (http://themanicgardener.com/) blog.
59 minutes | Jan 9, 2012
The Manic Gardener – 99.9% Gone: Prairie and Savanna Restoration
We’ve all heard of habitat restoration. But how do you do it? What is actually involved—and why would anyone bother, if it takes years of strenuous work and pays little or nothing? Most of the savanna and prairie native to the Midwest are gone. But native plantings are being re-established by many private landowners, my father-in-law Rick Durbin among them. Three generations of Durbins are currently working on the project, so for years I’ve been hearing about prescribed burns and battling buckthorn from Rick, his son Jeff, and my son Jesse. But this New Year’s was the first time I could see a real change in the land, and the first time I helped scatter seed on the prairie. Clearly, it was time to find out just what these guys have been up to. Since Jesse was off for El Salvador by the time I whipped out my microphone, you’ll only hear two guests on this show. Rick, a plant pathologist and author, is the project’s main mover. My brother-in-law Jeff, a writer and naturalist, participates in every facet of the work, from cataloguing plant species to cutting down trees. In talking with them, I learn about such things as why they’ve planted their wildlife refuge as a circle, and why it’s important to leave dead trees standing in a wood, and why most North Americans have never seen the open woodlands of a savanna. The details are fascinating. But Rick and Jeff also explain why this work compels them: why it is not merely sentimental to mourn the loss of the prairie. Check out Jeff's website at jeffdurbin.com (http://jeffdurbin.com), and see the blog The Manic Gardener (http://themanicgardener.com)for more links and information about prairie and savanna restoration.
43 minutes | Jan 1, 2012
The Manic Gardener – Kitchen Composting: Bokashi 101
If you live in North America, chances are that you’ve never heard of Bokashi. Yet it may be the answer to your composting prayers. It’s cheap, easy, and so small-scale that you can do it indoors, all winter, in a bin under your kitchen sink. Jenny Harlen of Jenny’s Bokashi Blog (http://bokashiworld.wordpress.com/)joins us from Sweden, a veritable Bokashi hotbed, to explain how it works, how to do it, and how it benefits you, your garden, and the environment. If this sounds suspiciously upbeat, it only gets worse (or better): Jenny also recounts how the Efficient Microorganisms (EM) at the heart of the Bokashi process have also been used to restore degraded agricultural fields, clean up contaminated sites near Chernoble and Fukashima, and rejuvenate polluted waterways. Too good to be true? Maybe. But maybe not.
57 minutes | Dec 25, 2011
The Manic Gardener – A New Kind of Seed Bank
Why would an organization dedicated to preserving our seed-saving heritage not save seeds? And why would such an organization concentrate on developing new seeds? And why, oh, why would a graduate program in breeding plants focus so exclusively on genes that most students in it can’t tell a rutabaga from a dandelion? My guest this week is Jared Zystro, who describes how a catastrophic fire helped the Organic Seed Alliance (http://www.seedalliance.org)realize that the best way to preserve seeds was by teaching others to save them. The fire may or may not get credit for the Alliance’s decision to fill the widening gap between gardeners raising heirloom varieties and farmers growing GMOs, but out of the fire arose, phoenix-like, the OSA’s new mission: to develop seeds for organic and sustainable agriculture. But that’s just part of the program. Jared starts by talking about his subversive role as an organics-booster in a traditional plant genetics graduate school program, and ends with some seed-saving advice for the back-yard gardener. We’ll hear also from Josh Kirschenbaum of Abundant Life Seeds (http://www.abundantlifeseeds.com/), which was originally the commercial division of Organic Seed Alliance, but which has become the organic arm of Territorial Seed Company. (Yes, it’s confusing.) Josh personally starts every single seed for Territorial’s extensive seed farms and eats vast quantities of vegetables in the process of choosing which should go into their catalogues.
60 minutes | Dec 18, 2011
The Manic Gardener – Turning the Tables: Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto
Imagine this: Your neighbor invents fire and patents it so that you can't have any unless you obtain a license--for a fee. Furthermore, your license requires that you put your fire out each morning and buy new coals from your neighbor each evening. Or you get sued. Bad enough? It gets worse. One day, his fire escapes and burns your house down. Then he sues you for patent infringement. After all, you now have fire not covered by your license. Absurd? Yes. But there's a close (and disturbing) analogy here to a practice the seed giant Monsanto has been using for years: suing farmers for having Monsanto's patented genetically modified material in their fields, even when that material is unwanted and diminishes or destroys the value of the crop. Now organic farmers are suing Monsanto, arguing that a farmer whose fields are unintentionally contaminated by Monsanto's GMOs shouldn't have to bear the worry and expense of being sued, on top of losing their crop, their organic certification, and possibly years of work developing a line of seed. This week I'm joined by two people at the forefront of this effort. Jim Gerritsen, President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (http://www.osgata.org/) (OSGATA), talks about what it's like to be an organic farmer, constantly worried about contamination and lawsuits. And Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (http://www.pubpat.org/) (PUBPAT) and lead lawyer for the suit, explains some of its legal ins and outs—including the environmental basis for the argument that GMOs serve no social function. Check The Manic Gardener (http://themanicgardener.com/) blog for more about this topic.
49 minutes | Dec 11, 2011
The Manic Gardener – The Next Organic Fertilizer: Insect Poop?
If you thought worm castings an odd fertilizer, brace yourself: the new kid on the organic fertilizer block is insect castings, or frass. Daniel Jazvac, one of the co-founders of Prime Nutrients Ltd (http://www.primenutrients.ca/index.php)., calls this fertilizer the “missing link” of organics. Here’s why: insects play a crucial role in recycling organic matter everywhere, and some species produce clean, rich castings, yet they have been almost universally ignored by organic researchers and companies. Jazvac also describes how regulations tend to favor producers of pure, synthetic fertilizers but work against companies that make complex, organic fertilizers. Most of us know nothing about this and other hurdles faced by developers of organic products. Here’s a chance to learn about some of what was involved in the two and a half year journey of bringing this one to market. Weekly Gardening Tip — Want to keep your hot compost pile cooking for a couple more weeks? Insulate it! Better World Plant Food is available by mail order (http://www.primenutrients.ca/pagesDetail.php?Ready-to-buy-6)now, and will be carried by Whole Foods starting early in 2012.
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