September 2009


Just a quick link to an article from Reuters about a California federal court’s decision to block commercial release of Monsanto’s GMO sugarbeets pending a more in-depth USDA environmental impact study.

I’d like to believe this is the beginning of something, but knowing the USDA  and the government’s friendliness toward Monsanto, I’d bet that this is merely a small bump on an otherwise smooth road to approval and release.

Who knew that beets were such a staple crop they were worth this kind of investment?

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There’s a lot going on right now in the world of food and food production, and there are some really good articles out there to help you navigate the murky waters. Check these out:

An informative, well-written analysis of the late blight problem for this year’s tomato crop. I’ve heard a lot of fellow gardeners bemoaning late blight this year. But my tomatoes are going strong, and I haven’t seen this problem. After reading this article, I realized why: I started the majority of my tomatoes from seed. Most of the late blight has been caused by commercially produced tomato starts. Score one for the seed savers!

You may have heard rustlings about the new food safety bill. While few would deny that our food system needs some major safety checks, the food safety bill that recently passed the Housedoes very little to regulate the industrial farms. Whether small farmers have as much to fear as they think they do remains to be seen. This bill has yet to pass the Senate (they will vote when they re-adjourn this month), so let your voice be heard by contacting your state senators.

If you’ve been reading the Exchange this summer, you’re aware of some of the issues surrounding Monsanto. Now comes an interesting look at the evolution of coca plants in South America. Glysophate, which is the herbicide Monsanto developed and sells under the Round Up label, has been used in the war on drugs to kill coca and poppy plants. As with the so-called super weeds that have become resistant to Round Up, a new strain of the coca plant has emerged (or been developed) that is unaffected by Round Up. Governments, in their quaint governmental ways, are refusing to talk about the issue.

Ah, money. I love the way you pervert everything you come in contact with.

Around this time of year the exhaustion starts to set in. I’ve saved the majority of my seeds. I can’t bear to look at too many more tomatoes or eat any more kale, and the basil stares longingly, accusing me of neglect. In fact, the riot of vegetables ploughing into one another accuses me.

I’ve canned all I’m gonna can. The freezer is full. My trips to the garden are fewer and fewer.

After a week’s absence, I journeyed out to the garden only to discover that the raccoons had finally shown up. The squash that were supposed to keep them out of the corn had been pulled because they were infested with the vine borer. The raccoons had been pulling the corn stalks down, peeling back the silks and husks and completely eating the corn from the cob.

My beautiful corn. I thought that it needed another month, but as I began to pull the husks back from the ears, I discovered they were mostly ready. So I pulled them. I harvested maybe 15-20 lbs of corn that is now drying. Soon, I will remove the kernels, grind them up, and we will have corn flour.

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At this time, we’ve only harvested five small butternut squash. We’ve one more on the vine. The rest of the squash were a failure.

The beans were beyond failure. We might have harvested one cup of bingo beans and, no lie, a total of three fava beans. Three. Favas are obviously not meant to grow in the Kentucky summer. Lesson learned.

On the whole, I’d say the three sisters was a failure. When you don’t really get two of the three crops, can you call it anything else? What would I do next year? Grow greasy beans (or some other bean suited for Kentucky’s climate), grow only butternut squash, grow a corn that is shorter by a few feet.
I may also let this bed rest, dump my compost into it for a year, and try again in earnest the next.
Is there anything else a gardener can do?