Reading and Seeding

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Photo credit: Carmel Bella Farm

I received my copy of the quarterly magazine, Heirloom Gardener, in the mail a few days back. I look forward to it as it has a meditative quality to its essays, rather than a tactical approach to gardening that many other periodicals on the subject have.

Some ideas from these magazines inspire me while others give me a chuckle of incredulity. As an example, there was a short write-up of an farmer-artist that creates beautiful pictures of produce she grows on her farm (www.CarmelBellaFarm.com), worth a look. On the other hand there is an advertisement from a company selling 4-inch diameter plastic disks to be inserted around the stem of vegetable plants. These shiny disks are supposed to give shade to the area around the roots and thus drop the soil temperature there, prevent weed growth and retain more moisture. Having spent years gardening, I see dubious value of such a device. Most plan roots go beyond 2 inch in length to get water and nutrients; the usual tilling cycle helps get to the weeds while giving an opportunity to check on plant health and add organic material to the soil, and a few weeks into its growth most plants provide enough shade to their own root area. I would think evolution has taken care of some basic plant needs such as these already.

With great interest, I read the article explaining photosynthesis at a slightly non-technical level. I had studied this in my advanced Biology course last year. The several layers of reactions that make photo-synthesis possible never fails to impress me. One of the new ideas I came across is the fact that plants absorb only a limited part of the light spectrum falling on them – basically blue and red parts of the spectrum. Plants look green because this part of the spectrum is either reflected or transmitted through the plant. With some assumptions, the author shows that plants absorb only 26% of the energy falling on them and only 3% energy falling on leaves is actually converted to stored energy in the plant. Thus, the author summarizes that the plant kingdom is rather inefficient, or as he puts it, ‘nature is only as efficient as it needs to be given the current environment.’ The bottom line that the author makes is that Nature has been able to get this much efficiency after all these millennia of evolution, so if environment changes significantly over a short period of time the plant kingdom may not adapt quickly.

There is an exciting announcement for the National Heirloom Exposition (www.theheirloomexpo.com) coming up in September not too far from where I live. I will try to go up there this year.

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