Saturday, May 23, 2009

Let's Get This Garden Started !

I've been a gardener all my life...pulling weeds, which is a vital part of gardening, was my first job (that I remember) when I was 4, and got paid a penny a weed! Them's some big bucks.
I so clearly remember crawling under the big hydrangeas and the scent of the cool earth....the mystery of being the size of a bug under the big leaves and mop-headed periwinkle violet flower balls.......

so, I used to write a gardening column for Tacoma Monthly, then Tacoma Weekly...yes, that one!
I called it At Last A Decent Plot

I researched this article in the Tacoma Library downtown with child (Annie) in tow...she loved it...being inside the library all day...(no really!)

this was originally published April 12, 1995. I've added some internetz links because that is something one can do...that is not too possible with newsprint...much. Besides, I don't think the Google was invented, 1995. Let's go back to the Clinton days of yore, blue dresses and good wars, when acid wash jeans weren't yet ironic.
Each week I'll try to publish a new/old article from those days...and well, continue on writing, cause I like to do things...

Killer Chemicals

The recent subway poisoning incident in Tokyo may seem to have no relationship to gardening--but there is a connection. Sarin, the deadly nerve gas used in Tokyo, was developed during WWII by the Nazis.

American scientists regarding their own nerve gas during the war discovered that low concentrations of some lethal chemicals will act as pesticides, herbicides, or fumigators.
The end of the war left America's large chemical companies with vast knowledge of chemical killers. Knowledge they kept a top secret, right? Not a chance. Seeing the deadly chemicals as a potential money-making bonanza, they aggressively marketed them as new, modern solutions to the "bug problem".

The result has been that, as biologist Rachel Carson exposed in her 1962 book Silent Spring, chemicals synthesized into unnatural molecular chains have permeated nearly every ecosystem on the planet. Scientists have found post-WWII chemicals everywhere they've looked , including in samples taken from the top of Mt. Everest.

Many garden chemicals are billed as harmless, but don't bet on it. DDT, Chlordane and Dieldrin are "chlorinated hydrocarbons", while Sarin, Malathion and Parathion are "organo-phosphates".
Though anything made from elements native to the Earth is by definition, natural and organic, to make this a badge of harmlessness is deceptive. Chemicals in the DDT family are stored in the body. Both the FDA and EPA have agreed that there is no safe storage level because these chemicals interact with other chemicals, producing increasingly toxic results. Sarin and Malathion work on the nervous system, the effects resembling the alkaloid poison, muscarine.

So what are some chemicals to watch out for? Chemical nitrogens available so plentifully at nurseries -- Nu-Life-- is a common brand--work wonders for your plants. The nitrogen makes your plant's leaves green and encourages them to grow. While the nitrogen itself is a good thing, the concentrated chemical soup used to create chemical nitrogen, including ammonia and chlorine -- wreaks havoc on the environment. It's toxic to workers and the area around the chemical plant that produces it. It's harmful to nursery workers who deal with it. And, it eventually pollutes your local water supply.

Phosphorus is another gardening essential. Chemical companies mine rock phosphate, a wonderful source of natural phosphorus, and treat it with acid to create superphosphate. While your plants will become supercharged with phosphorus, they won't thrive. Why? When the superphosphate is added to the soil, it combines with the necessary micronutrients iron and manganese, making them unavailable to plants. Without iron and manganese, the plants become vulnerable to insect and disease damage. To an unsuspecting gardener, this action can create a vicious cycle.

The bottom line is that there is no need to use chemicals in your garden. Unadulterated sources of nutrition such as manure for nitrogen, crushed phosphorus rock for needed phosphorus, and wood ashes for potassium are available for your organic garden. Combined into rich compost, these sources will provide all the nutrients your plants need to stay healthy as well as capable of resisting insects and disease.

Hundreds of organic gardening books and magazines are available to help with basic information. One of my favorites is Rodale Press The Expert's Book of Garden Hints, edited by Fern Marshall Bradley. I also like Organic Gardening Magazine. Once obscure, it's now available on the magazine racks in most grocery stores. Besides information about organic gardening, you'll learn about the latest research on nontoxic insecticides and techniques to lessen the occurrence of fungus or bacterial attacks.

But what about chemicals used by large corporate farms? A scary example of chemicals resulting in tragedy occurred recently in Olalla. Two horses died from eating hay (grown in Eastern Washington) that had been sprayed with an organo-phosphate pesticide. The pesticide had drifted in from an adjacent potato field, said Cliff Weed, program manager for the State Department of Agriculture compliance division for pesticides.

Now that you're afraid of everything you might eat,
remember that you're not gonna get out alive. Still the best cure for cancer is to try to prevent it. Requiring multi-national corporations to avoid using dangerous chemicals which contaminate our water, air and food should be an obvious step.

What can we do to save ourselves and future generations of children and wildlife? Make a personal committment to stop using dangerous chemicals in our own gardens as much as possible. Just as important, write letters to congress, imploring them to continue enforcing environmental laws. This isn't an issue that is liberal or conservative. Newt Gingrich and Jesse Jackson breathe, eat and drink the same food and water the same as you and I. Remember, the life you save may be your own.

So there ya go....
across the street from the shop is a chunk of land at the top of a parking lot...I"m gonna just go over there and guerrilla-garden it....I suggest you do the same!