Friday, September 20, 2019

Food Garden Lingo no.1

It's amazing how much food garden lingo there is!  I wrote down a whole bunch of words and terms, and then found out what precisely they mean. How many of them are you familiar with?

This blog post will take you on an interesting tour of food gardening methods and practices. Might be helpful for beginners and be an interesting knowledge test for more experienced food gardeners.

How many will you get right?  The answers are further down the page.
  1. Aerial layering
  2. Alkaline
  3. Biochar
  4. Brassica
  5. Bokashi
  6. Bolting
  7. Bordeaux
  8. Broadcasting
  9. Chill factor
  10. Chitting
  11. Crop rotation
  12. Cross-pollination
  13. Cucurbits
  14. Determinate
  15. Dibber
  16. Dormancy
  17. Espaliering
  18. Foliar feeding   
  19. Fish emulsion
  20. Glyphosate 
  21. GMO
  22. Going to seed
  23. Graft union
  24. Grafting
  25. Green manure


1. Aerial layering
Aerial layering is the technique of encouraging roots to grow from a scarred branch by bringing soil to the branch rather than bending the branch to the ground (hence the word 'aerial'). It is used for a wide range of plants. For a good example see Aerial Layering ABC Gard Aus.

2. Alkaline
A soil with a pH of less than 7.0 is 'acidic', also called ‘sour’. 
A soil with a pH of more than 7.0 is 'alkaline', also called ‘sweet’. 
For more info see blog post Acid or Alkaline.

3. Biochar
Biochar is made by taking charcoal left over after burning a wood fire, crushing it fine, and then adding nutrients by immersing it in a bucket of nutrients (such as water + seaweed extract or worm casting or fish emulsion).  The biochar is then spread over, or better still, dug into soil.  Over time soil structure will improve, and beneficial micro organisms will feed on the nutrients and multiply.
Charcoal is used as the means for delivering the nutrients because it has many small cavities in which the nutrients gather when the charcoal is immersed in a fluid nutrients.  The cavities then make very inviting 'food stores' for micro organisms, and provide attractive spaces for them to develop further.
For more info see Start of Season Workshop 2018

4. Brassicas
Brassica is a genus of plants in the mustard family (Brassicaceae). Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Mustard, Kale, Asian Greens, Radish, Turnip and Swede and many other commonly used food plants are all Brassicas.

5. Bokashi
Bokashi is a Japanese term for 'fermented organic matter'. It is often referred to as a type of composting, but it is actually 'a facultative anaerobic fermentation process', that is a fermentation process that does not use air.  It results in a much different product than that produced via composting. People like bokashi because it is very easy, generally free of bad odours and incredibly beneficial to soils. Find out how to make Bokashi at blog post Microbes in your Soil.

6. Bolting
A plant is 'bolting' when it stops its growth stage and focuses on the production of flowers and seed.  Often plant stems and leaves become more woody.  If the plant was grown for their stems and/or leaves, this means they become tough to eat. Plants may bolt earlier than normal when growing conditions are less than optimal.  'Bolting' is the same as 'going to seed'.

7. Bordeaux
Bordeaux is an old-fashioned copper-based fungicide used to prevent Curly Leaf on stone fruits. It can be cheaply made in whatever quantity you like at home. For more info see: Controlling Curly Leaf.

8. Broadcasting
Broadcasting is the process of random scattering seed on the surface of seedbeds by hand or mechanically. This contrasts with dropping seeds in holes.

9. Chill factor
Many berries, fruit and nut trees have a chilling requirement. This requirement varies between varieties. The chilling requirement for a variety is defined as the number of hours in winter that the variety needs below seven degrees Celsius in order to be productive the following season. There are many berry varieties that are successful in Tasmania, but not on the mainland, because of the chill factor.  We need to hope that the Tasmanian winter climate will not change too much because many of our successful crops need the chill factor.  For more info see for instance Chill factor fruit and nut trees and Chill Factor Guide

10. Chitting
Chitting means encouraging seed potatoes to sprout before planting. The seed potatoes are placed in a tray (for instance an egg carton) in a light and cool place until sprouts emerge and grow. 
It is not essential to chit potatoes before putting them in the ground, but they will take less time to emerge above ground if you do. 
Be careful when planting because the shoots break off easily. 
For this reason some people deliberately don't chit. In areas where a late frost might set an early planting of potatoes back, chitting tubers before the last frosts can be a great way to get a head start on your summer potato crop. Other seeds can be chitted too, ie. sprouted and then planted.

11. Crop rotation
Crop rotation means not having the same plant variety in the same spot for more than a year. It also means not having other members of the same plant family in that same spot either.  Rotating crops is  important because by rotating crops .....
  • You do not allow soil-borne pests and viruses associated with a crop to get established.
  • You avoid depleting your soil of nutrients that a particular crop uses.
  • Plants can derive maximum benefit from each other.
  • You can more deliberately apply compost and organic fertilizers to certain crops and withhold them from others.
For more info read The Importance of Rotating Crops.

12. Cross-pollination
Cross-pollination is the process whereby pollen is transferred from the stamen of a flower of one plant to the pistil of a flower on another plant. This can be done by insects, by the wind, or by you.  For more about this read blog post Successful Seed Saving

13. Cucurbits
Cucurbits are a plant family (Latin name Cucurbitaceae) that consists of many species.  The best known Cucurbits are squash, pumpkin, zucchini, watermelon, cucumber.

14. Determinate
I know that the words 'indeterminate' and 'determinate' have to do with tomato varieties, but I find both words so obscure that I can never remember what they actually mean. Turns out that ....
Determinate tomato varieties are bush tomatoes that don't need stakes and that produce their entire crop within a one or two-week period. Most determinate tomato varieties are hybrids and were developed for growers, so they can grow tomatoes with a minimum amount of work and harvest them all at the same time.  Determinate tomato varieties are also ideal for home gardeners who want all their tomatoes at the same time for making pasta sauce.

15. Dibber
A 'dibber' or 'dibble' or 'dibbler' is a pointed piece of wood for making holes in the ground for large seeds (for instance broad beans, peas), seedlings (for instance leeks) or small bulbs (for instance garlics).
A 'dibber' or 'dibble' or 'dibbler'
16. Dormancy
Dormancy is the state in which many cold-climate plants spent winter.  When temperatures at the end of autumn go down the sap flow in these plants slows.  They stop growing.  Deciduous trees lose their leaves.  This state of hibernation ends when temperatures go up again at the end of winter.  Plants that go dormant in winter are best transplanted when they are dormant.

17. Espaliering
Espaliering is a technique that encourages trees to grow flat along wires or along a frame. Trees are espaliered so they take up less space, for ornamental reasons and for easy handling.

18. Foliar feeding
Plants are able to absorb nutrients through their leaves. Foliar feeding is feeding a plant through its leaves by spraying the leaves with a mix of water and fertiliser. The fertiliser can be seaweed solution or any other plant fertiliser that is water-soluble. Foliar feeding can be an effective additional way of feeding plants. Foliar feeding can not completely replace the need to feed plants through their roots.

19. Fish emulsion
Fish emulsion is an organic garden fertiliser that is made from fish leftovers. Fish emulsion feeds soil microbes resulting in an increase in the activity and diversity of the resident microbial communities in the soil which make nutrients available to plants.

20. Glyphosate
Glyphosate is the active element in commonly used weed killers such as Roundup and Zero. There is a lot of controversy around Glyphosate as producers claim it is harmless, but good evidence is emerging that it is harmful, especially when used by farm workers over a long period of time. 
On this blog the subject was discussed here: What is the fuss about Roundup?

21. GMO
GMO means Genetically Modified Organism. The DNA of plants can now be genetically modified in a lab to improve or add useful characteristics.
One can argue that there is nothing wrong with mankind changing the DNA of plants. For many centuries hybridisation, spontaneously happening in nature or done by mankind, achieved the same.
GMO technology, however, goes a step further than hybridisation.  It allows mankind to add to DNA 'bits' that are not part of the genus of the organism, and that therefore can't be added through hybridisation.
This is where problems can occur.  For example, the DNA of many food plants has been modified so these plants do not die when they are sprayed with Glyphosate.  Farmers using these GMOs, can pray Glyphosate on them to kill weeds.  The plants don't die, but the weeds around them do.  As a result many GMO food crops contain considerable amounts of Glyphosate residue, and so do the soils where these plants grew.  The availability of these GMOs encourages the use of Glyphosate, no worse, the liberal use of Glyphosate, with many consequences (see Glyphosate above).  This example illustrates why GMOs have become a contentious subject.
Tasmania has just adopted another 10-year moratorium on the use of GMO crops. The fact that Tasmanian produce continues to be GMO-free is very attractive to many consumers worldwide

22. Going to seed
A plant is 'going to seed' when it has stopped its growth stage and is now focusing on the production of flowers and seed.  Often plant stems and leaves become more woody.  If the plant was grown for their stems and/or leaves, this means they become tough to eat. Plants often go to seed earlier than expected when growing conditions are less than optimal. 'Going to seed' is the same as 'bolting'.

23. Graft union
A graft union is the spot on a stem of a plant where a cut has been made to add plant material of another variety.

24. Grafting
Grafting is adding a growing part of one plant to another plant of the same family.  It is done to combine the good characteristics of one plant with the good characteristics of another. In case of fruit trees grafting is done to combine the vigorous growth and good quality fruit of one variety, with the vigorous root system and disease resistance of another.
For more info about grafting see blog post A Look at Grafting

25. Green manure
One technique of improving soil in food gardens is to grow plants from seed, then cut them up and dig them in.  The young plants are 'green' and digging them in will improve the soil, so in that respect they can be seen as a 'manure', but the term is rather misleading because animal manure is not part of this process.  When legumes, grains and even common weeds are used this way soils will benefit.  
For more info about green manure see blog post Why Green Manure?

A second blog post with another bunch of food garden words and terms will follow.





Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Look at Grafting

In days gone by mankind developed many creative techniques to manipulate plants into producing bigger or better crops. Grafting is one of these techniques and it was developed over many centuries.  This is an introduction to grafting fruit trees.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Fruit - Apples and Pears

Introduction

Apples and pears are available at supermarkets throughout the year at reasonable prices, so why grow your own? Well, commercial fruit farmers focus on varieties with middle-of-the-road tastes, that will appeal to a wide audience. A variety that has great taste, but looks unattractive, or does not store well, will simply not be grown commercially. Growing your own apples and pears gives you access to varieties that are seldom or never available in shops.

This is a blog post by ‘Max and Max’. Together they tapped into Max’s decades of professional fruit tree experience and documented what might be helpful to home gardeners who grow apples and pears. One Max learnt a lot. The other Max is thanked very much for his time and sharing his knowledge.

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Blank Canvas

Developing a new property from scratch is both an exciting challenge and a daunting experience.  This blog post summarises a brainstorm session of Food Garden Group members that recently took place during a visit to a rural property where new owners are starting with a blank canvas. It may assist others in the similar circumstances.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Complete Organic Fertiliser - Suppliers

Complete Organic Fertiliser (COF) is the name given by Steve Solomon (former seed farmer and publisher of food gardening books) to a mix of organic ingredients that he tailor-made to improve  Tasmanian soils.  This blog post documents some of the Tasmanian businesses that sell ready-made COF in  February 2019.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Avocados in Tasmania

The popularity of avocados has gone through the roof in Australia in recent years. Tasmanian home gardeners are now buying young avocado trees, but there is not a lot of local knowledge that tells us how to grow them in often-cool Tasmanian conditions.  I tried to find someone who grows avocados successfully locally, in the hope to learn a trick or two.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Vegetables this Winter

It is December - early summer! Why would you think about your winter garden at this point in time? It’s because some winter vegetables are best sown now. It’s also because starting on time will be a key to success!