Preparing and Planting a Bed of Sweet Potatoes

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Planting a bed of sweet potatoes is easy.

Preparing a bed for sweet potatoes is a little harder. That takes some digging and loosening.

Fortunately, my trusty Meadow Creature broadfork is always up to the task.

Digging in sandy soil with a broadfork is easy. In rocky clay, it’s not nearly as easy. It’s basically an extreme sport in clay.

meadow-creature-broadfork

It’s not impossible, though. That bed took me perhaps 45 minutes to prepare, mostly because it takes more stomping on the broadfork than I’m used to, plus I had to bust up the big clods.

Sure, it’s work – but it’s work that needs to be done, especially for root crops.

Why Dig a Garden Bed?

The major reason: loose soil. If the soil structure is open and crumbly, plant roots do a lot better. They can dig deep and get the minerals and water they need without having to force their way through hard earth. You’re doing the hard work first to make their lives easier.

Digging garden beds even works well in sand, as I discovered back in Florida.

DoubleDugAbundantBed

When your plants have easier lives, they’ll spend more time making delicious things for you to eat.

The Initial Feeding

When I prepare a garden bed I rake in compost right at the beginning. In the past I’ve also used amendments such as lime, blood meal, bone meal, cottonseed meal and kelp meal – all of which are excellent additions to the soil.

Here, though, I can’t get most of those things, so I stick to compost, biochar and sometimes seaweed.

You can see a recent bit of bed prep in this video:

You don’t need a ton of organic matter in the soil. A few percent is fine. I sprinkle perhaps a half-inch cover of compost on a newly dug garden bed and rake or turn it in before I plant. The plants really appreciate compost and it lasts longer and releases its nutrition over time, unlike chemical fertilizer.

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When preparing this garden bed I used my Back to Eden chicken run compost, which is probably hotter than compost from a typical backyard pile. The plants don’t seem to mind, though.

Here’s how I made that compost:

Simple.

Planting a Bed of Sweet Potatoes

This is easy as shoo-fly pie.

Just cut some vines and stick them in.

planting a bed of sweet potatoes

You can start your own sweet potato slips with store-bought sweet potatoes if you don’t have any vines currently growing on your homestead.

Use the toothpicks and a jar method – or – even easier – start potatoes growing by burying them shallowly in a pot of soil, then cut vines off of those to plant.

I use a stick to dig holes, then plant the sweet potato cuttings a few inches deep into them.

They’ll look like they’re going to die for a few days, then they’ll recover as the vines root. Sweet potatoes are tough.

For more on growing sweet potatoes in Florida and why they’re one of my top crops for the Sunshine State, check out my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening.

For more on sweet potatoes as a survival crop, plus an in-depth look at various garden designs and their pros and cons, get my book Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening.

I’ll post a video update on this bed soon – you’ll be amazed by how good these little pieces of vine look after a week or two.

Planting a bed of sweet potatoes takes some prep work, but do that preparation well and you’ll be rewarded with abundant harvests.

Does Synthetic Nitrogen Fertilizer Destroy Soil Carbon?

DirtBeforeAndAfter

According to a recent article at Grist:

“At a time of climate chaos and ever-growing global greenhouse gas emissions, anything that helps vast swaths of farmland sponge up carbon would be a stabilizing force. Moreover, carbon-rich soils store nutrients and have the potential to remain fertile over time–a boon for future generations.

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The case for synthetic N as a climate stabilizer goes like this. Dousing farm fields with synthetic nitrogen makes plants grow bigger and faster. As plants grow, they pull carbon dioxide from the air. Some of the plant is harvested as crop, but the rest–the residue–stays in the field and ultimately becomes soil. In this way, some of the carbon gobbled up by those N-enhanced plants stays in the ground and out of the atmosphere.
Well, that logic has come under fierce challenge from a team of University of Illinois researchers led by professors Richard Mulvaney, Saeed Khan, and Tim Ellsworth. In two recent papers (see here and here) the trio argues that the net effect of synthetic nitrogen use is to reduce soil’s organic matter content. Why? Because, they posit, nitrogen fertilizer stimulates soil microbes, which feast on organic matter. Over time, the impact of this enhanced microbial appetite outweighs the benefits of more crop residues.
And their analysis gets more alarming. Synthetic nitrogen use, they argue, creates a kind of treadmill effect. As organic matter dissipates, soil’s ability to store organic nitrogen declines. A large amount of nitrogen then leaches away, fouling ground water in the form of nitrates, and entering the atmosphere as nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas with some 300 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. In turn, with its ability to store organic nitrogen compromised, only one thing can help heavily fertilized farmland keep cranking out monster yields: more additions of synthetic N.
The loss of organic matter has other ill effects, the researchers say. Injured soil becomes prone to compaction, which makes it vulnerable to runoff and erosion and limits the growth of stabilizing plant roots. Worse yet, soil has a harder time holding water, making it ever more reliant on irrigation. As water becomes scarcer, this consequence of widespread synthetic N use will become more and more challenging.
In short, “the soil is bleeding,” Mulvaney told me in an interview.”

 

I don’t worry at all over the spectre of man-made climate change, but the loss of soil potentially caused by synthetic nitrogen directly impacts farmers and gardeners.
We have a rough patch of ground right now that I plan to improve via chopping and dropping biomass-creating species such as Tithonia diversifolia and nitrogen-fixers such as pigeon pea and Leucaena leucocephala.
If I tilled that ground and chemically fertilized it instead, I would get yields at the beginning but would likely burn up what’s left of the topsoil. For whatever reason you decide to do so, getting carbon in the soil is a good idea. I’ve seen soil transformed from sand to rich loam in less than a year thanks to an abundance of organic matter.
I want a rich soil filled with microbial life – not dead dirt shocked to a semblance of life by chemical fertilization.
It seems science is with me.

Time to Prune Grapes (if you’re in a mild climate in the Northern Hemisphere)

time to prune grapes

It’s about time to prune grapes again, at least if you live in a somewhat mild climate.

I made this video a few years ago showing how I pruned my muscadine grapes back in North Florida:

It’s not hard, except psychologically. When you’re a beginner it’s hard to take off that much vine!

Fortunately, I’ve gotten over that and have now pruned hundreds of grapevines, thanks to some work I did with my friend Dave Taylor at Taylor Gardens Nursery.

He’s the guy who explains how to grow muscadine grapes in this video:

There is a single grape vine here on our current property that hadn’t been bearing grapes.

A few days ago I gave it a brutal pruning and also chopped and dropped Gliricidia leaves and twigs around it as a slow-release feed for the roots.

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Actually, around this time of the year it seems like it’s becoming a tradition for me to post grape-pruning videos…

More on Grape Pruning

If you have grapes and live in a warmer climate, it’s time to prune grapes. Get out there and get pruning before the buds break in the late winter and early spring.

UF has this to say about the time to prune grapes:

“Pruning is done in Florida during the following dormant periods: (a) south Florida-January; (b) central Florida-January 1 to February 15; and (c) north Florida-January 1 to March 10.

Vines that fail to reach the top wire during the first year should be pruned back to buds near the ground. “Bleeding” of grape vines is not harmful. Vines that reach the top wire during the first year should be pruned to a single cane of 3 to 5 buds along each wire in each direction. After the second year, leave 4 new wood canes (1 for each direction on each wire) with 8 to 12 buds on each cane. The older and more vigorous the vine, the greater the number of buds that can be left on each cane at pruning time. In addition to the 4 canes, leave short 2 or 3 bud spurs near the points of cane origin (near the trunk) for renewal of canes the following year.

Canes are pruned short (3 to 5 buds), and many more canes are left per vine if the “clothesline” trellis is used.

If vines are not pruned at all, the number of clusters will increase, but the size of both clusters and berries will decrease so that only stems and cull berries are produced. Further, the length and width of the vines will make them more difficult to harvest or cultivate.”

If you live farther up north, you’re set for a couple more months so take the time to relax and enjoy your seed catalogs.

Termite Nest Potting Soil Insanity

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I read in an ECHO publication that you can use termite nests to feed crops.

Proving that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, that made me decide to do this:

These acts of Termitidae terrorism were perpetrated for the purpose of making potting soil.

I smashed us two termite nests over a tarp, then put the contents into a couple of buckets.

termite-nest-homemade-potting-soil

Looks like good material for a garden… or for potting soil, doesn’t it? I mean, massive swarms of tiny termites aside.

I’ve made/stretched potting soil before and did a video on it a few months back:

That previous batch of potting soil wasn’t totally from scratch. So while looking around for good fillers, my eyes fell on the big conehead termite nests down in the cocoa orchard.

Perfect!

What I didn’t expect was how interested the local wasps would be in these termite nests.

You need to watch the video to see just how crazy things got.

Anyhow, I figured the wasps would clear out after they’d eaten all the termites. I was wrong.

Check out this update video I posted yesterday – the wasps are still at it!

Hopefully they calm down eventually. You can see the various ingredients I mixed to make potting soil, which leads us to

My Experimental Homemade Potting Soil Recipe

 

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Ingredients:

 

Smashed arboreal termite nests

Biochar (mostly from bamboo) charged with urine, seawater and Epsom Salts

Sifted compost

Rotted wood

Cow manure

Sifted grit

 

Directions:

 

Mix ingredients together on a tarp, smashing occasionally with your feet. Try to avoid getting carried off and/or stung to death by the ravenous swarm of wasps eating the termite nests. Wait until night when the wasps go home and pot your plants.

Serves 30 seedlings or 1,000,000 wasps.

 

Final Thoughts

At first I was happy the wasps were eating the termites, as my chickens were too dumb to come when I called.

Now, after a few days, as the crowd of wasps continues unabated, I’m concerned they may be eating up the termite nests themselves. Not sure. I talked to a local farmer today and he said something in broken termite nests always attracts the wasps.

I’m not surprised they keep coming as the termite nests smell surprisingly sweet, similar to a bee colony. That I did not expect.

Anyhow, I’m probably just going to pot plants in the dark if these wasps don’t go away soon. They’re really overwhelming.

Nature is nuts.

Getting the Gardens Going Again

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Howing-garden-bed

I apologize in advance to those of you dealing with January cold. Maybe this will send some warmth your way.

Back on Wednesday I posted that I was going to say “heck with it” and plant garden beds again even if the house sells before I can harvest.

I liked this comment by dfr2010:

Sounds like you made the right choice. Possible outcomes:

1. You get to harvest what you’ve planted, without moving.
2. You have to move, but get to harvest anyway.
3. You have to move, and someone else moves in … you’ve given them quite the potential house-warming present!

Doesn’t sound like there’s any real downside to me.

Heck, I’ve planted fruit trees across multiple previous properties at this point. People are harvesting and enjoying fruit now that they didn’t have to plant. No loss.

On Wednesday after finishing up some office work I took to the gardens and brought the camera with me.

You can see how I use a garden bed as a compost pile for a period of time, then rotate to another bed. I first did this on a lousy, sandy bed back in North Florida. The crops had done horribly in it, so I thought “hey, why not make THIS space the compost pile instead of piling up compost somewhere else?”

This is a crazy idea I like to call

Using a Garden Bed for a Compost Pile

This works great, as I share in greater detail in Compost Everything.

I don’t bother turning compost anymore.

I just pile up compostable materials and let them rot down over time.

If you do this in a garden bed, all the good nutrition that seeps out of the compost goes right into the soil beneath where your crops will find it when you later rake away the compost and plant the ground. Worms are also drawn to that area by the delicious rotting kitchen scraps.

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Look at this beautiful stuff!

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After letting a bed rot down like this for 6 months to a year, you can then plant right on top… or steal some of that compost for another project, making sure to leave a bit behind for the crops to come.

I sifted out about 3+ gallons of good compost from this bed using a piece of hardware cloth. You can still see some eggshell pieces, or as Rachel calls them, “slow-release calcium”:

beautiful-sifted-compost

This finer compost gets used when I prepare beds, make potting soil and as food for my potted fruit trees.

The rougher chunks that don’t make it through the screen get thrown into the new compost/garden bed. I also chopped-and-dropped a self-planted moringa tree I’ve let grow there.

new-compost-bed

Moringa leaves can be used as a fertilizer all by themselves, so it’s great to have some growing near or even in your garden area.

As for the previous compost bed, I broadforked it with my trusty Meadow Creature broadfork to loosen the soil for planting.

broadforking-old-compost-pile

Look at me! I’ve literally broadforked my head off!

Man alive, it feels good to get in the dirt again. As for the other beds which weren’t covered with compost, I used my grape hoe to get those weeded, then broadforked them as well.

Now I need to supercharge all these beds with long-term soil-building materials.

…but you’ll just have to wait to see how I do that.

Composting a Rat

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Yes indeed, you can compost rats.

This one made the fatal mistake of irritating my wife by invading the kitchen at night.

Dead-rat

Rat. In. Peace.

That’s what you get for eating my pumpkin seeds, vermin.

And of course, I made a video:

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Though I didn’t build a full “melon pit” with all the trimmings as described in Compost Everything, this rat will still feed the Seminole pumpkins I planted above its corpse.

Don’t let any potential soil fertility go to waste.

Compost everything.

Could You Fertilize After a Collapse?

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I was recently invited by my friend William to post over at The Permaculture Apprentice.

If you’re not familiar with William, he’s a hard-working permaculture-minded market gardener in Europe who shares his abundant knowledge freely on his site. We first met thanks to our mutual friend Justin Rhodes and now we compare notes regularly and have decided to collaborate on a few projects.

If you’re establishing a new homestead or hoping to make some money off your garden, I recommend you hang around William’s site and sign up for his newsletter to get his permaculture farm guide. His posts are very good, very meticulously researched and make for a much more thoughtful place than my slice of gardening anarchy.

Could You Fertilize After a Collapse?

If you can’t fertilize your gardens, your gardens will eventually fail.

There’s only enough fertility in the soil to last through a crop, or a few if you’re blessed with excellent local conditions – but after a time, your roots, grains and vegetables will simply refuse to feed you.

I once planted a row of corn in some infertile sand to see what would happen. The resulting stalks were ridiculous miniatures, looking as if they were created to complement someone’s model train collection. Worse than that, they failed to bear a single kernel. After lifting a few tiny blooms to the sky to scatter a few anemic grains of pollen, they died.

If I had decided to plant a nice big garden in that space, it would have done terribly… unless I had a way to feed it.

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Ideally, a gardener would build up his soil first, then plant later. Sometimes, though, we just want – or need – to obtain a yield quickly.

If the grid collapsed tomorrow and the grocery stores closed, which option would you choose?

Option 1: Take a year to dig beds, observe the land, make compost, sheet mulch and improve the soil… and starve

Option 2: Say heck with the soil, till a huge area, throw down some 10-10-10 and plant a big plot so you can eat

Organic purism often gets thrown out the window when we face a crisis or an economic reason for gardening.

All we really want is food!

Yet the two choices I gave you aren’t really fair. Sure, you can’t build the soil into rich, high-nutrient loam with a perfect amount of organic matter and a wide range of beneficial microorganisms and fungi in a quick period of time… but you CAN feed your crops organically and get good yields with a lot less material and time than you might think…

Click here to find out how over at The Permaculture Apprentice!

Fertilizing 8 Fruits and Vegetables for Outstanding Flavor

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There’s a new post over at The Prepper Project, written by me on a topic of considerable interest: making homegrown food taste better! – check it out:

Fertilizing 8 Fruits and Vegetables for Outstanding Flavor

Fertilizing for growth is common… but fertilizing vegetables for flavor? That’s a different animal, but it’s something we need to consider.

If you were to spend a year eating potatoes, corn, beans and cabbage – without much in the way of seasoning – I’ll bet you’d be longing for some good chicken curry or a plate of fettuccine Alfredo at the other end.

Heck, I want both of those right now and I had eggs, bacon and fried plantains for breakfast.

In a survival situation, we may not have the luxuries or even the common spices we desire. You may, Lord willing, be able to grow all the best survival food you need for the table – but you also might get very tired of bland food over time.

Let’s face it: some vegetables just aren’t that exciting. I’m not going to name names, but…

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Fortunately, there are ways we can improve the flavor of our food without stockpiling gallon-jugs of Texas Pete and Adobo.

The key? Fertilizing for flavor!

Fertilizing Vegetables for FLAVOR? What?

Let me start by telling you a story that I’ve told before.

One year I dug a new garden bed on unused ground at my old house in Tennessee and planted a bunch of potatoes I “reclaimed” from a grocery store dumpster. I wondered how they would do in the hard, red clay, but I knew that the woods nearby and the wildflowers were always abundant, rich and green so I guessed the soil was fertile.

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I was right.

When we later harvested those potatoes and prepared them in the kitchen, I was amazed. Unlike the potatoes I’d been eating all my life, these had a rich potato flavor that had to be tasted to be believed.

The mashed potatoes were heavenly.

The French fries were gourmet.

My wife’s stew was divine.

Yet remember: these were grown with boring old grocery store potatoes as the seed spuds. There was nothing special about them genetically; they had the exact same genes as the run-of-the-mill potatoes I’d been eating for years. It wasn’t like an old, half-blind farmer in the Andes had handed me an ancient heirloom variety and as I took it from his trembling hands I felt the weight of history.

No, these were just boring potatoes that had somehow turned into superb potatoes.

The key was the soil.

If there’s a proper spread of micronutrients in the ground…

(Click here to read a whole lot more of this post over at ThePrepperProject.com!)

Does Biochar Really Work?

BiocharPile

does biochar really work?

Does biochar really work?

I’ve asked that question and have been asked that question many times. But I never bothered giving biochar a real test. I threw some into my gardens and some into my compost but never really made a lot, added a lot or paid any real attention to the long term pluses or minuses.

Fortunately, I have friends that do conduct experiments… like Steven:

It’s interesting that his lettuces died… and then in a subsequent year, the leeks went nuts.

Raw charcoal/biochar does seem to have a negative effect when first used as it sucks up the nutrition in the soil.

Later, however, it acts as a soil reserve for those good things as well as in-ground condo developments for beneficial bacteria and fungi.

Biochar Plans

I plan on making a big batch of biochar and then soaking it in my anaerobic compost tea before adding it to some of my struggling garden beds.

Alternately, I’ve heard you can soak biochar in urine to turn it into a long-term fertilizer. Or just use urine right in the garden, as I demonstrated in yesterday’s video:

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Throwing biochar in a compost pile and then later applying the finished compost to your garden gives your plants both the benefits of biochar and the benefit of compost. This is a method I know many gardeners practice.

Simple Biochar Making

Though you can create special biochar kilns and really geek out about making biochar, I approach it more like I approach most composting and just light a big fire, then let it burn a bit, rake it around, then water it out with the hose and gather the charcoal.

Steven has a nice trench method for making biochar I would try if it wasn’t so devilishly hard to dig holes here because of the clay and rocks:

Biochar, no matter how you make it, has promise as a long-term soil amendment. Steven’s experimentation is pushing me to try some experiments of my own. It’s monsoon season right now so I haven’t gotten together enough dry wood to really make awesome biochar, but one of these days it will be clear for a few days in a row and I’ll get to light up a nice fire.

Then it’ll be time to start some crazy biochar action in the garden. So, to answer the question “does biochar really work,” it seems the answer is “yes” based on Steven’s research. More testing is in order, however, as these is a wide range of application amounts possible and great differences in soil and crops.

Anyone else feeling like making a fire? I’m psyched.

This compost will destroy your garden!

GrazonDamageAminopyralids5

I’ve written many times on Aminopyralid contamination in compost, on herbicides in manure and on the danger of bringing amendments from outside on to your property. Unfortunately, Karen Land didn’t find out about me until it was too late. After posting a heartfelt YouTube video (subscribe to Karen’s gardening channel here) on her ruined plots of tomatoes, Karen discovered a video I’d done and contacted me personally about the issue. After hearing her terrible story of killer compost, I asked Karen if she would share her story here. This is a serious problem and I don’t want any of you to go through what she went through or what I went through a few years back.

-David The Good

Karen’s Story

 

Karen Land got hit by aminopyralid

Karen Land

Many of us have heard the term “herbicide drift.”  Some of us have experienced it.

Herbicide drift is when a neighbor or nearby farm sprays an herbicide like Round-Up or 2,4-D on a breezy day, and some of that herbicide gets picked up by the wind and lands on someone else’s innocent plants. The result is herbicide injury, which can cause deformed leaves and even death of the plant.

Not cool.

There’s something even less cool lurking in our midst.

Unfortunately, most people have never heard of it. This thing that’s even less cool than herbicide drift is compost contamination. Specifically, herbicide contamination of compost.

This just happened to me, and I’m not happy about it.

My main garden consists of six 4×24-foot raised beds. This year, I needed to raise the soil level about 4-5 inches, so I ordered 7 yards of compost from a local supplier and had it delivered to my house.
My awesome neighbor then spent hours moving it, tractor scoop by tractor scoop, from the front of the property to the back, and into my raised beds.  The next day, my husband tilled the new compost in with my existing soil.  It was a beautiful sight!!

Contaminated-compost-Aminopyralid-Karen-Land

A few days later, I began planting out my tomatoes (which I’d been growing from seed in my house since January).

Tomatoes-ready-for-planting

I got about 20 plants in the ground and for the first week or so, everything was fine.

After a week or so though, I noticed some slight distortion on the new growth on the plants. I tried to ignore it and pretend I didn’t see it, but that became increasingly impossible.

Contaminated-compost-aminopyralid-effect-on-tomatoesSo I began researching and Googling every tomato virus I could think of, and comparing hundreds of images to my plants’ new “look.” I finally decided my plants had sadly suffered herbicide injury from herbicide drift. But because my knowledge of herbicide names was limited to Round-Up and 2,4-D, I spent another few days trying to decide which of the two was the culprit, and finally decided it was 2,4-D.

In this midst of my obsessive researching, I was also continuing to plant out my other tomato plants. About 50 more plants went in.

(Can I rewind my life at this point?)

Unbelievably, after about two weeks, every single plant had the same deformed new growth.  And I was pretty much freaking out.

Here are some of the possibilities I contemplated during that time:

Tomato Mosaic Virus

TMV causes new growth to come out deformed and curled up beyond recognition (that symptom, by the way, is impossible to differentiate from 2,4-D damage).  Check!  However, TMV also causes other symptoms, like, you guessed it, a mosaic pattern on the leaves.  I don’t have this on a single plant.  Moving on.

Nitrogen Toxicity

With nitrogen toxicity, while you may have some burnt leaf edges and that sort of thing, you’ll also have a massive blast of new growth.  My plants are completely stunted.  Not that.  Moving on again.

Some Other Virus Spread by Bugs

I will begrudgingly say this is “technically” possible, but with viruses that need to be spread by a bug (in other words, not a virus that can spread by contact or soil splash), it’s not very likely that all 70 of my tomato plants would simultaneously fall victim to such a disease.

The Answer Appears

At this point, I’d done as many different Google searches, rearranging words and phrases as many different ways as I could think of, but I still really didn’t feel I had a definitive answer.

Leaning toward 2,4-D, I finally called on my local extension office to get their take on the situation.

I told them the whole story and sent in pictures. Within minutes, I received an email telling me it was definitely herbicide injury, but not from 2,4-D. Instead, they blamed it on a word I’d never heard before: Aminopyralid.

I wish I could go back to never having heard this word.

What is Aminopyralid?

 

Aminopyralid is a broad leaf herbicide. David the Good goes into this issue in multiple posts on this site.

In a nutshell, if it’s sprayed where livestock grazes, the manure from said animals is not to be used as compost.

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Why?

Because the herbicide goes straight through the animal and into their poop. It doesn’t break down or deactivate at all. So it goes into the poop, and there it stays for years. Yes, even in aged, fully composted manure.

St_Petersburg_Garden_SquashSidebar: Not all plants will show signs of aminopyralid damage.

 Plants like squashes and cucumbers will likely appear just fine.

 My tomatoes and potatoes were the canaries in the coal mine. The sacrificial lambs. If I hadn’t planted them in that compost, and only planted less sensitive plants, I would be feeding all of that poisoned food to my family.

 So, in a bittersweet way, I’m grateful I put my beloved tomatoes in first.

So let’s say you’re lucky enough to be BFFs with a super cool farmer who you KNOW doesn’t spray herbicides on their pastures or fields, and he’s offering to give you composted manure for your garden.

Think you’re safe? Think again.

Unless your BFF farmer friend is BFFs with his hay supplier and knows for an absolute FACT that that hay was never treated, you’re really not safe. And, even if your BFF farmer friend is super great and never sprays herbicides, and knows for an absolute FACT that his BFF hay supplier doesn’t treat their hay, what if you super cool BFF farmer friend lets his cows graze all the way down to the ditch on his property, where herbicide has been carried down to from the not-so-cool farmer next door who sprays herbicides?

Guess what you have… herbicide laden manure.

So what’s the answer?

 

Compost_960I have no flipping idea.

Oh wait, yes I do. Read David’s book  Compost Everything and stop buying compost from outside sources.

One last little shove of info for those still skeptical that this was herbicide-contaminated compost.

Remember my initial theory of herbicide drift?

Well, guess what: my potatoes have the exact same deformed new growth.

Here’s the kicker . . . my potatoes are nowhere near the tomato beds. In fact, the potatoes are on our deck in pots, about 50 feet from the tomato beds, and are among a myriad of other sensitive nightshade plants (tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos), and none of those plants have any issue.

(Ed. note: look at how Karen’s potatoes exhibit the same deformed growth as the tomatoes pictured above):

Contaminated-compost-aminopyralid-effect-on-potatoes

Herbicide drift would not come onto my property, only land on the tomatoes, ignore the cucumbers that are four feet away, then hang a left and make a beeline for my deck, but then ONLY drop into my potato pots and spare every other plant.

How could this be, you ask?

Because the potatoes are the only thing on the deck that were planted in the same compost as the tomatoes.

So this probably isn’t the most uplifting story you’ve read today. But don’t worry.  I haven’t wasted this enormous learning opportunity. I’ve not only learned about this herbicide and how to avoid it, but I’ve also learned how to improvise and grow in containers.

On three-quarters of an acre, there aren’t many reasons to learn how to in containers, but now I am! I had a few pots of tomatoes that hadn’t yet gone into the raised beds, so I potted them up!

I’m also growing peppers, rat’s tail radishes, bush and pole beans, lettuce, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, and a few different squashes… all in containers!

It is my dearest hope that my story will help you avoid having this issue yourself, and to show you that, even when really bad things happen in the garden, you can always plant another seed somewhere.  Soldier on and keep growing.

~Karen Land of Love Your Land

 

Karen is an accomplished gardener and highly knowledgeable on a wide range of horticultural topics. Despite her catastrophic encounter with aminopyralid she isn’t giving up. Subscribe to Karen’s YouTube channel here and visit her Facebook group here.

Get my FREE booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost – click here to subscribe to the newsletter!

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