@Mother Earth News: Five Tips on Gardening With a Living Safety Net

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I’ve got another post up on the Mother Earth News blog. Are you dealing with pest issues? This one’s for you.

“Many people have seen my gardens and said “Whoa, you don’t have any pests, do you?” I hate to disabuse them of that pleasant notion, but I do indeed have pests. I just don’t have nearly as many as a lot of other local gardeners. I have a few explanations for that…”

David-the-good-books-revised

Growing Pineapples Outside the Tropics

PineapplesInPots

Growing pineapples outside the tropics isn’t only possible… it’s actually pretty easy. Did you know you can grow pineapples up north and just about anywhere with a little bit of work? Here’s my latest post for Mother Earth News:

 

“Down in South Florida (and Hawaii), gardeners have all the luck. Roughly 1.5 zillion amazing tropical species grow there, including pineapples. I used to cut the tops off and plant them here and there around my landscaping. In North Florida, where I now live, it’s not nearly that easy.

You’ll do great until the temperatures drop into the 20s, then your pineapple plants melt. The cold is insurmountable here. You may do good for a few years … then BAM! Dead bromeliads.

Fortunately, they’re easy to grow in pots. The picture in this post shows one of the many pineapple plants I inherited from my grandfather when he passed away a couple years back.

Before I go further, I have to tell you about him. His name was Judson Greene and he was a sailor and a brilliant carpenter. When I was a kid, he stood ten foot tall. If you dropped him on a desert island, he could build a sloop from laminated twigs, find a way to varnish it (twice), then sail back to home port before dinner. He had traveled about the tropics in the Navy, done scientific research, and still managed to raise five children, the oldest of whom was my mother.

Grandpa was also an inveterate experimenter, which is perhaps where I get my own exploratory drive. He planted a rubber tree in his back yard, grew a mahogany in the side yard, and was always toying with the idea of converting his whole house to solar power.

When he discovered in his 70s that you could grow pineapple plants from the tops of store-bought pineapples, he hatched an idea. Visiting the local grocery store, he asked the woman behind the food prep counter what she did with the pineapple tops that were removed when they made fruit salads. When he found out they were being thrown away, he asked if she’d save him some. She did – an entire black trash bag full.

Grandpa called my younger sisters and their friends together and made them an offer: for each pineapple top they planted in his back yard, he’d pay them a nickel.

Pineapple plants were soon scattered here and there all through the backyard landscaping. About two years later, the bounty started trickling in, and wow – those pineapples were the most delicious golden fruits. The ones the coons didn’t steal were shared regularly with visitors, who were all amazed to realize they were homegrown. For the next decade, until his death, Grandpa had pineapples … and his army of young planters grew up enjoying the fruit.

Though you may not live in the right climate to grow pineapples unprotected, they’re remarkably easy to grow – even outside the tropics.

When I inherited as many of Grandpa’s as I cared to dig up, I took them up here, potted some and planted others up against the south wall of my house. I now have at least five blooming, both in pots and against the wall … and the frosts have only claimed a few test starts I put out in the yard.

The key to growing pineapples is two-fold.

  1. Don’t let them freeze!
  2. Don’t over water them!

That’s the basic formula. You can plant pineapple tops in cheap potting soil and water them as you remember… and they’ll grow. Pineapples, like all the bromeliads I’ve ever handled, have limited root systems. They feed primarily through their leaves.”

(CLICK HERE to keep reading at Mother Earth News!)

 

I’m a big fan of zone-pushing, as I’ve written before. Pineapples are one of the easiest plants to do this with – much easier than key limes or papayas. They’re tolerant of abuse, can be grown in small pots – and they taste a lot better when you grow them yourself. Go buy a pineapple. Eat it. Plant the top. Enjoy the awesome.

 

David-the-good-books-revised

Growing cassava, a reliable staple for subtropical gardeners

CassavaHarvest2012

Here’s my latest entry for Mother Earth News – an ode to growing cassava:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/grow-it/cassava-subtropical-gardener.aspx#axzz2KdXyIQsL

As a side note on today’s article: one thing people always worry about with cassava is the cyanide.

Relax. Take a deep breath. There’s cyanide in a lot of different plants, including some of our most common edibles. With proper preparation, there’s no need to worry. It’s not like you’re going to kick off like a double-crossed super-villain if you eat a piece of raw cassava, either. It’s not that toxic. Also – the leaves are safe for your compost. During fermentation, boiling, composting, or even drying, the cyanide precursors off gas harmlessly into the atmosphere.

I’ve also fed limited amounts of cassava leaves to goats as a de-wormer. Amazing stuff.

For a a look at growing cassava as a survival crop, click here.

David-the-good-books-revised

My letter to the editor on Aminopyralids at Mother Earth News

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I wrote Mother Earth News a letter to the editor a few months back and I see it’s hit the website:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/modern-homesteading/dear-mother-february-march-2013-zm0z13fmzhir.aspx#axzz2JwOI92D2

They’re doing a great job covering the contamination of manure and compost by toxic herbicides.

UPDATE: I might as well drop the news now – I’ve been invited to start as a blogger with Mother Earth News. This is quite an honor for me since they are the premier source for all things homesteading. I’ve also read MEN for years and gotten plenty of ideas from the magazine and their website.

My first post for their blog should be going up later today – I’ll post a link when it’s there.

UPDATE II: My first blog for Mother Earth News is up:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/grow-it/survival-gardening-deep-south.aspx#axzz2JxjHxDXI

David-the-good-books-revised