I planted sugar snap peas on St. Patrick's Day this year, and four days later it snowed. It wasn't what we'd expect of the second day of Spring, but the weather this year has been anything but common. The pea planting was as much a hopeful gesture as anything else - a way to reassure myself that something edible will indeed emerge from the ground again, just as we will emerge from this heavy dose of winter.
The mailmen may be the only people in Arlington who know it's time to start thinking about the garden, as they deliver seed and garden supply catalogues to frozen gardeners who have probably forgotten how to call a spade a spade. But all it takes is a quick daydream about the taste of a fresh summer tomato with basil to get me to load soil into peat pots and start raising this year's vegetable garden. I claim complete amateur status when it comes to gardening, but that's the main point: it didn't take much effort to get myself up and going and self-sufficient with vegetables for two from June through September. Hopefully it'll inspire some similar experiments around Arlington.
One of the first things I did after moving here a few years ago - long before the furniture arrived - was to dig up the yard. I am not a huge fan of grass and am definitely not a lawn guy, particularly because they require attention but you can't eat them. At first I had plans to turn the entire place into a big terraced garden complete with paths and maybe a fountain or two. Then I discovered how hard it is to dig well-established grass, and my grand visions shrank. A lot. I started with two 11-foot by 6-foot raised beds, which I staked out, dug, and framed with untreated spruce 2X12s from Home Depot. In the second season I added a third.
I filled the beds with a few cubic yards of compost from Boston Bark that were dumped smack in the middle of our driveway. I was pleased until I discovered that the dump truck hadn't been cleaned out before it was loaded with compost, and so right at the center of the magnificent pile was a full two cubic yards of concrete mix. Boston Bark did come back, shovel up the mess, and provide a new load sans concrete but I would have rather seen them get it right on round 1.
The arduous digging of sod.
The compost - with a special concrete filling.
While this was going on, the seedlings watched from inside. Although I'd raised the odd cactus or two in my day, this whole vegetable thing was new territory for me. I tried all sorts of containers, from peat pots to cardboard egg cartons to old yogurt containers. In the end, although they're a one-shot deal, I like peat pots the most because they can be placed in a waterproof dish and watered from below. The peat will soak up the water and dampen the soil, which is a great way to avoid abusing your seedlings during watering.
Another suggestion is to label your seedlings clearly with something other than a post-it note. It's a bit of a surprise when you separate a bunch of tiny tomato seedlings only to find out later that they were actually...basil. In the first year I pre-seeded tomatoes, zucchini, kale, leeks, broccoli, parsley, and basil indoors on April 1st. Later I planted beans, swiss chard, marigolds, and a bunch of salad greens right in the garden. I liked this initial set, with the exception of the leeks, which looked like blades of grass when I transplanted them into the garden and took forever to mature into pitiful stalks.
All of my seeds came from Seeds of Change, which I chose because they are from organic plants. I've generally liked their supply, but their seed packs are pretty expensive and I've had problems with items backordered (summer doesn't wait around for the seeds to arrive) or canceled altogether (a couple of times without any warning).
The first set of seedlings.
A tomato gets a transplant.
All planted and ready to grow (Bed #1).
Tomatoes and salad greens (Bed #2).
My first year was the summer of 2009 when everyone's Ark filled with water from June 1st to July 15th. Irrigation wasn't necessary, and the cool-weather crops such as lettuces and broccoli did well. I did install a soaker hose (seen in the photo) but used it rarely, and found that by September it had rotted and had several holes, making it completely worthless. In 2010 I sprung for a drip irrigation system from a company called Irrigation Direct. The weather was warm and dry and with the system on a timer, all I really had to do was harvest, eat, and repeat. (Less work is always good, because unfortunately I am not a full-time yard gardener.)
I'm a fan of planting densely because it means less weeding, and this appears to work as long as crops are rotated from year to year. I border the beds with marigolds, which help deter pests, and interplant a lot - one plant of this, one row of that, and so on. The only pesticide I use is Bt, which stands for Bacillus Thuringiensis and is a naturally-occurring bacteria that takes care of cabbage moths on the kale and broccoli. In June the basil has been decimated by June bugs (go figure) so I cover them at night - problem solved. I was told that nocturnal investigations are the best way to figure out what's eating your plants, and this has been mostly true. Neighbors come in handy, too: ours told me he spotted a squirrel running away with one of my tomatoes in its mouth. I considered it my contribution to the squirrel fund in exchange for free acorn cleanup services the fellow provides in the fall.
From seedling to garden jungle in a matter of weeks.
Rows offer the illusion of order and method.
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and even though many of my techniques were experimental and haphazard, when the sun shines in Arlington things really start growing. We had more salad greens than we could eat, and managed to can a bunch of tomatoes in the form of salsa. Butternut squash has lasted through the winter in the basement, and I think there's a loaf or two of zucchini bread still in the freezer.
It may seem a long way off, but soon we'll be in shorts and t-shirts and I'll be feeling lucky that there are 200 fewer square feet of my lawn to mow than when I moved in. If luck smiles on me again this year, I'll be feasting on another chaotic pile of plants that are as local as it gets.
1 ½ lbs of zucchini.
A late-season harvest: tomatoes, squash, beets, and everything else.
Summertime on a platter.
California Energy Commission Awards Nearly $70M to Replace Diesel School Buses with Electric School Buses Throughout StateClimate Change News Jul 17, 2019 | 04:30 am
The California Energy Commission approved nearly $70 million in funding to replace more than 200 old diesel school buses with all-electric buses that will reduce school children’s exposure to harmful emissions and help the state reach its climate and air quality goals.School buses are by far the safest way for kids to get to school. But diesel-powered buses are not safe for kids’ developing lungs, which are particularly vulnerable to harmful air pollution. Making the transition to electric school buses that don’t emit pollution provides children and their communities with cleaner air and numerous public health benefits. —Energy Commissioner Patty MonahanThe Energy Commission’s School Bus Replacement Program is providing more than $94 million to public school districts, county offices of education, and joint power authorities to help transition from diesel school buses to zero- or low-emissions vehicles. Together with the newly approved funding, the Energy Commission has awarded $89.8 million of the program’s funds to schools in 26 California counties. The electric buses approved today will eliminate nearly 57,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides and nearly 550 pounds of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions annually. Diesel buses emit harmful pollutants, including fine particles that can lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream. Because children’s lungs are still developing, and due to their faster breathing rate and other factors, children are more susceptible to the adverse health effects linked to air pollution including lung damage and asthma attacks. Scientists have found that these fine particles can cause asthma in healthy[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Jul 17, 2019 | 04:00 am
Even regions of the U.S. where extreme heat and humidity have been rare should expect significant increases in the number of hot days by mid-century. Nearly every part of the United States will face a significant increase in extremely hot days by mid-century, even if some action is taken to reduce greenhouse emissions, a new study says. If nothing is done to rein in climate change, it warns, the impact will be worse. Large parts of the Central and Eastern U.S. will get a taste of what that feels like over the coming days as a muggy heat wave settles in. The study, published in a peer-reviewed journal and as a longer report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, used 18 climate models to predict changes in the heat index—the mix of heat and humidity that reflects how hot it feels—across the contiguous U.S. as global temperatures rise over the coming decades.Read more at Days of Extreme Heat Will Become Weeks as Climate Warms, U.S. Study WarnsRead more...
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Climate Change News
Jul 14, 2019 | 23:04 pm
Thwaites glacier is likely to thaw and trigger 50cm(1.6ft) sea level rise, US study suggests. An aerial view of Thwaites glacier, which shows growth of gaps between the ice and bedrock.Antarctica faces a tipping point where glacial melting will accelerate and become irreversible even if global heating eases, research suggests. A NASA-funded study found instability in the Thwaites glacier meant there would probably come a point when it was impossible to stop it flowing into the sea and triggering a 50cm sea level rise. Other Antarctic glaciers were likely to be similarly unstable. Read more at Glacial Melting in Antarctica May Become IrreversibleRead more...
Climate Change News
Jul 14, 2019 | 22:43 pm
The climate change policy with the most potential is the most neglected. The leading international body of climate change researchers released a major report [last] Sunday night on the impacts of global warming and what it would take to cap rising temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels — a goal that’s exceedingly difficult, but not impossible. The report is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international consortium of hundreds of climate researchers convened by the United Nations. Authors presented their findings in Incheon, South Korea after a week of discussion. Why examine the prospects for limiting global warming to 1.5°C? Because under the Paris agreement, countries agreed that the goal should be to limit warming to below 2°C by 2100, with a nice-to-have target of capping warming at 1.5°C. The report finds that it would take a massive global effort, far more aggressive than any we’ve seen to date, to keep warming in line with 1.5°C. Without such effort, we will continue at our current trajectory toward 3°C of warming. What’s more, even if we hit the 1.5°C goal, the planet will still face massive, devastating changes. So it’s pretty grim. But the report is also a thunderous call to action, laying out what tools we have at our disposal (we have plenty) to mitigate global warming and to accelerate the turn toward cleaner energy. Let’s walk through the basics. Read more at Public Clean Energy R&D Is Overlooked and Underfunded.Read more...
- Climate Change News Jul 14, 2019 | 22:32 pm Read more...
Climate Change News
Jul 13, 2019 | 04:33 am
With climate change loading the dice for disaster, a storm fueled by warmer-than-normal Gulf water is headed for a Mississippi River already swollen with floodwater. The Gulf Coast is about to be pummeled by a three-punch combo: Flooding from heavy rains over the winter and spring has been sending record floodwaters coursing down the Mississippi River, pushing the river close to the top of its protective levees in Louisiana. Now a cyclone fueled by warm offshore waters is threatening downpours in the same area and a storm surge up the bayous at the river's mouth. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned residents this week to be prepared for flooding from two sides—both the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. It's the kind of compounding of risks that scientists have been warning about as the climate changes. Climate change has loaded the dice for this kind of coincidence, scientists say. It was the water, rather than the wind, that was causing the most intense concern as Tropical Storm Barry gained strength and disaster declarations and evacuations began. Like Hurricane Florence in North Carolina last year and the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, which sat over Houston for days in 2017, Barry was moving slowly, creating a threat of days of heavy rainfall and flooding on the coast and lower Mississippi Valley, the National Hurricane Center wrote on Friday. In Louisiana's rivers, with water levels already high, Barry's expected storm surge of 3 feet or more would push the water even higher. Read[…]Read more...