Living in Harmony with Nature and teaching others to garden the natural (organic) way, with emphasis on practices that lead to NUTRIENT DENSE produce!
Welcome To Our Site
- Harmony Gardens
- Fayetteville, Arkansas, United States
- Harmony Gardens is the home of Calvin and Doris Bey. As the name implies our goal is to live in harmony with the Laws of Nature. We are concerned about the environment, energy efficiency, organic gardening, alternative health, and sustainability issues. We love our Stitt Energy Systems Inc. energy efficient home, which received a First Place NAHB National Award for 2003. Calvin is a retired USDA Forest Service scientist. Each year he teaches classes in Organic Gardening in February and March and again in September. Doris is a retired RN. Calvin and Doris have put their energy efficient house up for sale (by owner). See first post for description, pictures, and house design.
- ► July (3)
- ► 2009 (11)
August 7, 2011
July 16, 2011
EMERGENCY: Aug 2, 2011. Since writing this article in mid July, the drought (heat/wind/dryness) has become much worse. And it promises to go on for an extended time. I have discussed this topic with many, and one thing seems clear. Gardeners are NOT checking their soil to actually feel the moisture. I strongly recommend: Dig down at least 8 inches into the soil (for garden, shrubs and trees). At that depth, a handful of that soil should be wet enough to not fall apart when squeezed and dropped. Tree tops are turning brown in our native forests --a sure sign of severe stress.
Here in Northwest AR, the hot/dry/windy weather that we are currently experiencing, is ow taking its toll on our shrubs and trees. The low humidity and wind has depleted the soil water to an extent that I have not seen in the past decade. If you have not watered your trees and shrubs, do it now. You could lose them.
How Much Water to Apply? First, here are some facts. A one-inch rain supplies 62 gallons for each 100 square feet. A tree can easily use one to two (or more) inches of rain per week. Consider the watering area for a tree to be at least as large as the the area under the crown. (Just get the average distance in feet across the whole crown and square it). A small tree (5-inch diameter stem) can easily have a crown area of 200 square feet and a mature tree can easily have a crown area of over 600 square feet.
For each 100 square feet, add roughly 90 gallons of water per week. For most small trees (200 hundred square feet of area under the crown), I simply turn on the faucet so that I am getting 1 gallon of water per minute, and let it run for 5 hours. A soaker hose is ideal for getting good distribution. For a large, mature tree (600 square feet of area under the crown), I let the water run for about 15 hours. If you have not watered in the past 8 weeks (with essentially no rain), you should start by doubling these amounts. The soil is gun-powder dry and this amount of water is needed.
I know this may sound excessive, and I understand if you have concerns. However, consider the costs associated with tree removal, replacement, energy savings from shade on a house, and/or losses from fruit or nut production. It will quickly add up, so don’t wait and don’t skimp on the water. Use this as a guide and adjust on the methods that fit your situation. Water at night if possible.
Water Costs will vary by where you live. At Washington Water, without city sewage costs, I pay about $12.00 per each 1,000 gallons. I have 15 trees, averaging about 300 square feet of crown area per tree. At the rate of adding 90 gallons per 100 square feet, that means I need about 4,050 gallons of water per week, at a cost of about $50.00. Even if I have to do that for 6 weeks, i.e. $300.00, that is a real bargain compared with loss of shade, future pecan production, and tree removal and replacement.
Water Conservation. Anything you can do to help the soil hold more water is beneficial. I use a 6-inch layer of mulch of wood chips and leaves around my trees. As the trees grow I make the mulch circle larger each year, up to 8 feet in diameter. As the mulch decomposes, it gets incorporated into the soil, which increases the soil water holding capacity. Through transpiration, trees use a lot of water and there is not much you can do to change that water consumption.
Priorities. You may feel that you cannot water all your trees. If so, select those for watering on the basis of value. Water those Of the trees you plan to save, water those in the driest places (shallow soils) first.
May 13, 2011
Let’s hope that the real cold weather is behind us by April 1, but don’t count on it. Some of you remember the frosty white, 18 degree morning on Easter, April 8, 2008. Remember that our average last spring frost occurs about April 10. If you not yet started, you can still plant all of the spring crops in April. There is also still time to start new beds. One of the first decisions is whether or not to use raised beds.
Raised beds have some real advantages. They are better aerated, they drain better after heavy rains, and warm up faster in the spring. I recommend using 4-foot wide beds, double-dug, with a 2-foot pathway. Coupled with close-spacing, raised beds can make more efficient use of your garden area.
Raised beds are also appropriate if you bring in soil for your stoney site. In either case, you do not need side boards for your beds
(unless the site is on a steep slope.) Raised beds or not, you next need to decide on your method of tilling.
Tillage. After double-digging, and adding a one-inch layer of compost and appropriate minerals (based on a soil test), many gardeners think that the tiller is the next tool to use. It is not necessary to use a tiller and it can be easily argued that it does not fit in the “going sustainable” model. A tiller can actually destroy good soil structure, especially in working heavy soils. In these soils, tilling can decrease the soil water holding capacity. A garden fork is all you need to gently twist-in fertilizers and compost. Using a tiller is somewhat of a guy thing -- a show of macho power and control.
The first question concerning tilling is often, “then how do I control weeds?” Its simple -- mulch and cover crops will take care of most weeds. The photo shows the dense crop of Austrian winter peas and oats, and how it can suppress any weeds. The next question is, “But how do I loosen the soil?” That is primarily the work of of the soil organisms,
I often get calls saying, “I am ready to plant, what fertilizer should I use?” That’s an excellent question, but I can’t answer it very well without additional information. I have seen hundreds of soil test reports and it is clear that that gardens are extremely variable in mineral content. Without a soil test report, adding fertilizer is just a guess. Even with a soil test in hand, my recommendation is always, “go slow when adding fertilizers.” This also applies to the use of compost.
The easiest soils to adjust are those where the original mineral contents are slightly low. This is likely to be the case with our native prairie/pasture soils that have not been fertilized. The hardest, and sometimes nearly impossible adjustments, are those soils where the gardener has added excessive amounts of compost and/or certain minerals.
The goal in gardening is to slowly raise the soil organic matter to about 5 percent, and get all of the minerals to an acceptable level. Once you get to that level, high quality compost may be all you need to add to your garden. Your compost quality will only be as good as the material from which it is derived.
Organic fertilizers are available in the area (Nitron Industries and others) and you have options for what to use for the various elements needed for good plant growth and production. Here are some fertilizer recommendations for nitrogen-N, phosphorus-P, potassium-K, calcium-Ca, and boron-B. The percent of the mineral in the fertilizer may vary with source of material. It will specify the amount on the bag. Unless
specified otherwise, the ratios indicate the percent N, P and K in the fertilizer.
Nitrogen: Use alfalfa meal (3-1-2), fish meal (10-2-2), or feather meal (14-0-0).
Phosphorus: Use soft rock phosphate (0-5-0). The 5% is available the first year, and more each year, up to 22%. Soft rock phosphate also contains calcium.
Potassium: Use greensand (0-1-5) or kelp (1-0-8). Many local soils have a near-adequate amount of K.
Calcium: Use high quality calcium carbonate or lime (0-0-0-38 percent Ca). Most local soils will need additional Ca.
Boron: Use Borax, which is 10% boron. Remember this mineral is involved in the plant’s ability to use calcium. For local soils that test zero for boron, add 4 Tablespoons of Borax per 100 square feet.
The advantages of these fertilizers are: (1) they are slow release and provide long-lasting nutrition for good plant growth; (2) they are not detrimental to soil microorganisms, as is the case with some high-salt fertilizers; and (3) they are mostly single element fertilizers, which can be tailored to the specific needs defined by the soil test.
For those wanting information describing how organic systems build soils, check out the recent March 2011 USDA Organic Farming Systems Research Conference. Evidence from long-term studies shows the values of the organic approach for the health of the soil, the plant and the consumers.
January 11, 2011
January 3, 2011
The Roundup Story
Calvin F. Bey CFBey1936@cox.net
Few things in life are simple and gardening is no exception. Answers to questions on garden design, plant selection, soils, fertilizers, mulches, compost, cover crops, and rotations can become complex. To help simplify, I promote practices based on ecological rules. None of us would knowingly consume arsenic, simply because we know that poisons are bad for our health. A similar guiding ecological rule exists for gardening. “If a substance is toxic, i.e. not healthy for the soil, do NOT use it on the garden.”
What about the use of Roundup? Chemically known as glyphosate, Roundup kills almost anything that is green. Lawn, horticulture, and agriculture folks debate whether Roundup is safe.
At the recent AcresUSA meeting, Dr. Don Huber, spoke on the topic, “Understanding Glyphosate.” Huber is a retired Purdue University pathologist, who has researched the effects of Roundup for 20 years. His findings, and that of many others confirm the fact that Roundup is toxic and not good for the health of the soil or the plants.
Roundup was patented in 1974. The same product was patented 10 years earlier as a simple chelator, i.e. a substance that immobilizes or grabs and holds other compounds. So Roundup gets into the soil and grabs the elements, especially manganese and other micro nutrients.
Monsanto, the manufacturer, claimed Roundup was biodegradable. Oops. You don’t see that on the label anymore. In a French Court, it was proven that it did not fully degrade in the soil. Studies show that the negative effects of Roundup last for more than 10 years.
Worse than that, research studies from many places are showing reduction in vigor and yield, increased chlorosis, mottling, leaf distortions, bud and fruit abortion, plant infertility, increased attack by insects, and more. Other key consequences of using Roundup are:
1. It robs plants of nutrients, i.e. reduced uptake of manganese and other nutrients. This effect carries over to animals that consume the plants.
2. It reduces nitrogen fixation.
3. It increases the virulence of some pathogens and makes crops more susceptible to disease.
4. It kills beneficial soil organisms, and poisons the soil for all plants.
5. It increases lodging in crops.
6. It produces unfilled kernels in corn.
7. Weeds are becoming resistant and super-weeds are developing.
Huber showed examples in commercial production where glyphosate damage was severe, including crops where Roundup had not been applied for several years. In MN, 1000 acres of seed potatoes could not be certified because of excess glyphosate in the tubers, that came from growing Roundup Ready soybeans and spraying with Roundup the previous year. Lawsuits against Monsanto are in process in MN and ID regarding potatoes.
History teaches us that where societies have not taken care of the soil, the civilization fails. I don’t see the use of Roundup as a debatable issue. It is bad for the soil, our environment, our plants, our domestic and wild animals, human health, and our future. It’s a serious threat to the sustainability of agriculture and food production.
So what is the solution? We know Roundup should not be used! We know it is a serious matter. We know too that the answer begins with what we do in our own back yards. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do what is right.
Have questions? Check out “Roundup” on the net and see for yourself. Read the 2010 Institute of Science in Society report, “Glyphosate Tolerant Crops Bring Diseases and Death.” It is replete with up-to-date references.