Things that go bump in the night – more from foodgrower

Inbreeding, outbreeding, cross pollination, hybrid regression, organic, inorganic, disease, pests, cultural practices, seed storage – AARRGHH, can’t someone else deal with all this? What ever happened to me just sticking seeds in the dirt?
Well folks, I’m taking some time off later this week to go fly fishing with my son before he heads back to that cultural indoctrination institution known as college. As a result I’m going to take the easy way out this time around and mostly address some of the comments and questions from my first post.
I sent our host an email detailing why I’m doing this (sharing) and my thoughts on personal integrity, I don’t know if he will share that or not. In case he doesn’t I want to share a portion of that here.

I believe if you are going to share information that could affect someone’s life
– you need to differentiate between fact and your opinion
– you need real world experience to back it up
– you damn well better have technical proficiency in what you are sharing
– you need complete transparency regarding your motives and objectives
– everything better be verifiable

As to fact or opinion, all I can do is share what we do, our successes and failures, how hard we have to work to do it and what problems or bottlenecks we run into. If that differs from what you know or believe all I can state is, if I write it, it is because we are doing it and I will let you know when I move from fact to opinion.”
Finally, we are deadly serious about our food growing. We literally depend on what we grow for our very existence. If we don’t grow we don’t eat, it’s that simple.
Ok, with that out of the way –

None of the following is directed at any individual, as such no one should personalize it.

Square foot gardening and raised beds
Our copy of Jim Bakers Square Foot Gardening has been on the book shelf for many, many years. This is an interesting approach and for folks with limited space and a small garden, something that works really well. It does not however, at least for us, scale well (opinion). This is the same problem raised beds have for us. Once you get past a certain size garden square foot gardening and raised beds just aren’t practical. I guarantee if you intend to have a self sustaining garden you will exceed the size where it works well and the reason it doesn’t work well is time.
Organic gardening requires twice as much land or more for same yield.
Our personal experience is different than this. I have stated we grow nearly our entire years supply of food. That is a fact. We currently do this with little more than half an acre in production at any given time. That is a fact. This only applies to garden truck. The meat and poultry are not included in this space.
The two biggest factors in organic production are environment and soil condition. If you feed your soil it will feed your plants and they will feed you. Our compost piles are eight to ten feet wide, three to five feet tall and fifty to sixty feet long. I have three of them going all the time. Talk about a hidden factor in gardening, try turning one of those without the benefit of power tools. We have done it just so we know what we are in for.

Organic vs. modern farming
I don’t want to turn this into a shit storm about which way is better or whether chemicals are harmful to your plants, you and/or the environment. I’ll just put it this way, once it all goes to hell in a hand basket where are you going to get your inorganic chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides? Where is the fuel going to come from to run the equipment?
We have performed comparative analysis of manual vs mechanized performance of several garden tasks. The two biggest time hogs are initial soil prep and irrigation. It doesn’t matter which methodology you use to garden, the need for irrigation is the same and once you don’t have cheap and easy energy available to pressurize your irrigation water you have a lot of work facing you. It takes us the better part of three man days (no I’m not politically correct) to hand water half our garden. In our environment we need to water at least three times a week. You can do the math.
The time to become proficient with a skill, ability or resource is before your life depends on it. If you have to learn as you go, under the pressure of trying to stay alive, you most likely are going to fail. I’ll say it again, if you aren’t already organically gardening you need to start now.

Crop Rotation
Different plants have different nutritional requirements. If you grow the same plant in the same place year after year you run the risk of depleting the soil of the nutrients it requires and its performance will suffer as a result. You need to rotate your plants through your different plots.
Another problem with growing the same plants in the same place is disease. Potatoes for instance are what I call a particularly dirty crop. They suffer from and transfer lots of problems to the soil.
I’ll tell on myself. One year I had this phenomenal red potato harvest. Better than thirty percent of the crop was so big I could barely cup half the potato in my hand and I have good sized hands. We noticed maybe five percent of the harvest suffered from a light case of potato scab.
Considering the incredible harvest we had, and me being lazier than shit, I decided to plant in the same place the following year hoping for the same result. We lost over eighty percent of the crop to potato scab that year. Peeled they were still usable but they had no storage life.
On the topic of crop rotation there are a lot of crops you don’t want to rotate on top of one another. Potatoes can suffer from verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt. These are diseases affecting the vascular system of the plant and block its ability to uptake water and nutrients. If you plant next years tomatoes where the potatoes were, you’ll most likely end up with the tomatoes contracting the same problem. The same goes for your peppers and eggplant. There are over a few hundred host plants for verticillium wilt so once you get the pathogen in your soil it’s almost impossible to get rid of it. The pathogen can remain viable for seven or more years in the soil. You’ll you need to find non host plants to rotate through the area hoping to get rid of it.

Whole tomes have been written about bees and I won’t bother to duplicate that effort here. I will agree with the comment that having bees will improve your garden output. We realize as much as a forty percent increase in yield with having bees on site. One other thing, if you set up a beehive, set up two. Having two lets you compare their performance and if something is going wrong you’ll pick up on it quicker.

Seed Storage
Right now, having power, we refrigerate and freeze our seed. We have found the order to be important. They will go in the refrigerator for about a week. After that we put them in a freezer and hold them at about five degrees F. We place them in paper envelopes, then in cardboard boxes with partitions. Then we cover this with a black trash bag that is not closed tight.
I had fairly good germination results this year with seed that was from 2004. Even with proper storage seed viability will vary by species and age. If the power ever goes out then we’ll go with the dry, cool, dark place and will not be able to store seed for as long. Do not store your seeds in small zip lock bags or any container that is absolutely air tight, your seeds are a living organism.

Cross Pollination and Inbreeding depression
Cross pollination occurs when the blossoms on one plant are fertilized by pollen from another. Cross pollination is a benefit and great curse when it comes to your garden efforts. Most plants will benefit with better and larger yields when they are cross pollinated.
Cross pollination of heirloom or open pollinated plants, with the same species of plant, is good for you.
Cross pollination of said plants with a close relative might yield undesirable traits in F2, F3 and so on offspring (F1, F2, F3… refers to subsequent, sequential generations). An example is a sweet pepper crossing with a hot pepper. This years yield (F1) will still be a sweet pepper. Plants grown from F1 seed however may not breed true and the yield from these plants may have undesirable traits. Plants grown from F2 seed may exacerbate the problem.
Not all cross pollination of different species is bad, that is how we develop hybrids (which is different than GMO’s).
Monoculture planting is an effective means of dealing with undesirable cross pollination, the problem with this approach in small size operations is many plants will cross with close relatives. Do you really want to only grow one variety of pepper, either sweet or chili or only one variety of tomato in your entire garden?
Inbreeding depression, in this context, is a different issue. Inbreeding depression occurs when you collect seed from a narrow spectrum of your plants. Now when you grow plants using this collected seed, you most likely only use only a few seeds.
When mature, you then collect seed from only a few of your plants again. This cycle, repeated over time, continually narrows the genetic variability of the parent plants and subsequent offspring (yield). Unchecked this narrowing of genetic variability can increase the odds of problems ranging in severity from germination issues to total crop failure.
We carefully control the pollination of our seed plants utilizing hand pollination and isolation bags. These bags are made from summer weight floating row cover material and vary in size from very small (individual chili pepper) to quite large (corn plants). Think of pillow cases of varying size with a curtain loop sewn in one end. We put a small ribbon in the loop and pull it tight. In some cases we will bag an entire plant and tie the opening closed around the lower portion of the stem. This prevents insects and wind blown pollen from getting to the blossom or plant.

Have a good week, I might even share some fishing lies, err, I mean stories when I come back.

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10 Responses to Things that go bump in the night – more from foodgrower

  1. Sanders says:

    I usually raise a fairly successful little vegetable garden.

    Not this year.

    Corn came up – but most of the sprouts were eaten by something. I had 3 stalks survive, but none got over 3 ft. tall. They were from the same seed I used last year that had a 100% success rate with all stalks over 6 ft. and some were 8 ft. I had the sweetest, best tasting corn I ever raised last year.

    Turnips – something ate every single sprout.

    Onions did well, until one of my turkeys got in and trampled them. The cat killed and ate a rabbit that had made its home in the onion patch, too.

    Sweet potatoes seem to be doing well in their tractor tire. I learned they will overrun your garden if not contained.

    Lots of green beans.

    Lettuce (4 types) did very well.

    Tomatoes – always get blighted. There are some resistant varieties, but even they are not immune. I did get enough tomatoes for a few salads, though not enough to do any canning with.

    Lots of beets and carrots.

    Chile peppers did so-so. I only planted jalapenos, ghost, and Scotch Bonnets. I don’t know if the ghosts and Scotch Bonnets will make it before the first frost. (I’m at almost 7,000 ft. ASL)

    While I think the rabbit may have eaten the turnips and corn, I don’t think it was responsible for that. I believe it was a damned peacock that roams the neighborhood and can fly over any fence. My garden is fenced by cattle panels, with 3/4″ chicken wire around the bottom of them. Then, the main vegetable portion is also bordered by 2″x12″ boards because I add soil/compost every year.

    The peacock is living on borrowed time. All I need is one shot with my air rifle and it will be roasted.

    I will argue that Sevin can make or break your crops when the bugs move in. I had a bad hornworm infestation this year. Even the chickens got tired of eating them. So, then I dusted one morning and my hornworm problem was gone the next day.

    • Wirecutter says:

      Peafowl ain’t bad eatin’.

    • Angel says:

      I would love to send you some tomatoes. I’ve got them running out my ears.
      Put up 18 quarts, given away a buttload, sold some and still have green ones on the vine. Had 3 whole cucumbers. Everything else was meh, enough to put up a few quarts.

      • Exile1981 says:

        I had crappy tomatoes but a massive zuccini harvest and huge potatoes this year. Beans were good but winter squash were a little small. Cherries and plums both are great as well.

  2. Angel says:

    I love these posts!
    Great addition.

  3. gamegetterII says:

    Good stuff,thanks for posting.
    It’s always better to learn from those who are doing or have done what is being shared.
    Compost is the only way to go,the Miracle grow,and 50# bags of ammonium nitrate for side dressing the rows of corn won’t be available any more.
    We’re in NE Ohio,have a 1,000 gallon cistern that collects the rainwater from the gutters on the house,along with a couple rain barrels where it’s not possible to run pipe to the cistern.
    We also have chickens,the manure is great fertilizer,as long as it’s been composted.
    The 3 compost pile system is what we use as well.
    I usually till the gardens after everything’s been harvested in the fall,then spread a fairly thick layer of compost over them,in spring,I till them up twice,once to till the fall layer of compost into the soil-I till that as deep as possible. Then I spread about a 2″ layer of compost over the gardens,and till that in with the tiller set as shallow as possible.
    That system has been working out fine for us the past 10 years-after the initial soil amendments,peat,perlite,compost,manure,etc.
    I also mix some horse manure in the compost when I can get it.
    You’re way ahead of me on identifying the plant diseases and the effects on rotated crops.

  4. cwac says:

    I would gladly have traded cucumbers for tomatoes, Angel. I was picking them by HEB bags each time. Lots of bread and butter pickles.
    This is a great series from foodgrower. I would add mulching is very important also.

  5. uh_oh says:

    Grow certain crops here in Nebraska and the wind blows in GMO pollen and you go to jail for stealing patent crops when you try to replant the seed. The same all over the US.

    All of my state represantives voted for the DARK Act ((Denying Americans the Right to Know) parrot Obama Care) of which 93% of we the people were against it. Google it, you will be shocked.

    • Tom says:

      Uh oh. Nice post. I was not up to speed on that. I know the nazi’s are out there trying to ram frankenfood up our asses but that bill right there is another stunning example of the abdication of duty by “duly elected” asshatz. Wow. Thanks again for the post.

      Thanks for this post in general. Very important stuff.

  6. pdwalker says:

    Great information foodgrower.

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