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Monday, July 15, 2013

Organic gardening, weeds, and wildlife

Here at the ranch we do all of our gardening the organic way. No poisons, chemicals, etc. We have a huge compost heap. I have added about 20 wheel barrow loads of biomass to it in the last 2 weeks. Come spring the compost will be added to the garden where it was not planted this year. I intend to give the alternate rows, those that have this season's planting, a years break. They will get compost, too, but I will leave them alone. I have put a lot of straw down on the potatoes and around all the plants. It holds the moisture in the ground and keeps the weeds down. There will always be weeding, no matter what. I don't like plastic. Plastic is made from oil and you can't tell me that chemicals don't leach out in the direct sunlight and constant moisture. The good thing about straw is it is biodegradable. Speaking of weeds.........
I have noticed that there is an abundance of lambsquarters, Chenopodium album (aka: goosefoot,pigweed,etc.) and redroot amaranth, Amaranthus retroflexus (aka: pigweed but no relation to lambsquarters). Both of these are excellent greens for the table and I love my Chenopodium raw. Some folks cook it up just like spinach. Amaranth on the other hand is good cooked and to me the raw plant has little flavor. These are both good food and full of minerals. I have decided to let the Chenopodium grow and harvest the tops and the Amaranth will be used while its small and tender. I figure these plants are getting nutrients from the garden so we might as well use them for food. I have a few purslane plants that I transplanted. This "weed" is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids which are very healthy for you. Its good raw and in salads. Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, has been grown on purpose by some folks who are in the know. You can buy seeds for it on the net. Good stuff!
Other useful food and medicine plants in abundance are common mullien, Verbascum thapsus, yarrow or millifoil, Achillia millifolium, narrow leaf plantain, Plantago lanceolata, and catnip, Nepeta cataria.
All of these plants attract the local wildlife which is mostly birds. I have seen California quail, robins, western king birds, kestrels, mourning doves and the occasional starling. There's a rooster pheasant who wanders the fields but I have not seen any hens.And of course hummingbirds make their rounds through the neighborhood. We have a small pond full of tadpoles and some frogs have emerged. I haven't seen any snakes yet. The only mammals I have seen is one dead mouse (my trap-peanut butter did the trick) and the darned gophers. I see where they have been mounding and my new .22 pellet rifle will be getting some use if I spot the little devils.
Its quite a bio diverse area and the plants don't seem to mind the alkaline soil except for the peppers. We have squash, tomatoes, potatoes, chard, peppers, beans and corn. Growing throughout the garden are dozens of marigolds. They keep the bugs at bay and I've noticed a lot of ladybug larvae. I hope to see some mantis make their appearance and add to the mix. My only pest so far is squash bugs and I have been controlling them by hand. I squeeze the egg clusters and smash the adults. I think they are transient because I always happen to find some new "tenants" and from what I've read they will come in if there is another patch of squash nearby. I don't know what the neighbors are growing.

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