Category Archives: Plants

Tulle – A Cool Tool

September 3, 2018

Stretching the parameters of our climate is part of gardening. We add row covers or netting to keep out a pest or alter sunlight transmission. But it’s not that simple is it? These tools can affect soil and air temperature, humidity, wind, light penetration, pollination, and productivity. Did you know red shade cloth can increase productivity of tomatoes.

For example, installing a row cover with a mesh size to keep the white fly off your Brussels sprouts will most assuredly cause a decrease in sunlight and wind, and a mid-day increase in humidity and air and soil temperature.

The impacts that row covers and netting have on plants are significant. Seeds need a certain soil temperature to germinate successfully(1). Better ventilation helps reduce air temperature and humidity and improves the evapotranspiration process for crops (plants sweat through their leaves).

In short, well, there is no “in short” to this topic. It’s complex. Try figuring out how to relate the Frazier measurement of air permeability to the discharge coefficient. Note the gaps in my chart!

Sun, Sep 9, 10-11, Intro to Qi Gong
Sun, Sep 16, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Oct 6, 2-5, Cider Fest!
Sun Oct 21, 2-4, Work Party

I had to call an engineer, who settled the air permeability issue for me. “Just take your shop vac, put the hose on the other end so it blows out and hold the fabric up near your face. You will feel which fabric has better permeability.”

By the way, if you get stubborn and want to figure this stuff out, know that there is a pretty good relationship, with very thin fabrics, between porosity and air permeability. And, there is a pretty good relationship between water permeability and air permeability. Try putting the fabric in your coffee filter holder, run water through and time each fabric.

For an overview, here’s a link to a general article about agrotextiles from Textile World, http://www.textileworld.com/textile-world/nonwovens-technical-textiles/2005/09/agrotextiles-a-growing-field/ However, there is nothing in the article about Tulle. Tulle?

Rhode Is Sch of Design

Netting is a nylon fabric in which the warp (vertical lines) and weft (horizontal lines) yarns are looped or knotted to create open spaces in the fabric. Tulle is essentially a special type of netting with a lower denier, which means the individual fibers are finer. Tulle is lighter than netting, and the spaces between threads are smaller.

You can Google Tulle and turn up tutu designs but, if you want to know about the fabric characteristics you end up reading medical studies. You can use it to repair a hernia!

I decided on Tulle for my Brussels sprouts this year. Why? Because it comes in lavender!

Important note – Row covers or netting need to be removed from some plants to allow for pollination. Most vegetables that produce flowers before they make a crop, such as squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers, require visits from insects. Root crops and leafy greens need no pollination, so they can live under covers until they are ready to pick.

Ruth

(1) Cold Crop Vegetables – Tagawa Gardens

In Praise of the Power of Pollinators

August 5, 2018

Gardening is hard work. It is rewarding, but the task is never over. That’s why we should always remember to give thanks to all the help we get at the orchard. Our wonderful volunteers help keep us going. But our hardest workers are some of our smallest. Without our pollinators, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the bounty from our gardens. We rely on plants to power us, and our plants rely on them. They help keep our flowers, fruits, and vegetables strong.

Christine Ranegger came out to the orchard on July 21st to teach us about our six-legged volunteers. Christine is a neighborhood captain with the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association, and her expertise and passion for the bees is clear. I and the other lucky attendees learned a lot.

Sun, Aug 19, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Sep 1, 10-noon, Work Party
Sun Sep 9, 10-11, Intro to Qi Gong
Sun, Sep 16, 2-4, Work Party

We learned about three different types of bees from our capable instructor. One of the most surprising facts I took away was that bumblebees and honey bees were two entirely different species! The honey bee is the bee most of us think of. Large nests, bee dances, and a painful stinger left in your skin are all hallmarks of the honey bee. Honey bees also have a further range than bumblebees, sometimes traveling two miles away from the hive in search of nectar. While bumblebees create nests and create complex social structures, they don’t have some of the same interesting behaviors and dynamics as honey bees. When a new honey bee queen is born, the old queen peacefully leaves the hive with a set of worker bees. If you ever see a swarm of bees, don’t hesitate to contact your local bee-keeping association or fire department! The bees might find a home with a local beekeeper, instead of in the siding of a home.

We also learned about mason bees. These bees prefer solitude, and typically range only a couple of hundred feet from their home base. They like to nest in blocks with tubular holes in them. The females are usually placed near the back of the hole, while the male cocoons are placed near the front. This strategy allows the males to hatch first and protects the valuable, pollinating female cocoons from hungry woodpeckers!

The weather was perfect, and I left inspired to seek out my apian friends the next time I walked past a lavender bush. It didn’t hurt that I was able to walk away with a jar of Christine’s delicious honey!

Max

Water Conservation in 2018 – Is It Working?

August 2, 2018

Please visit us this Saturday, 10-noon, for a tour of our new watering system. We will have signage throughout the orchard and we will be anxious to get your ideas about how we can manage water even more efficiently.

Our system begins with our three cisterns, which catch 4,000 gallons during winter rains. Our human-powered treadle pump pushes water into barrels that are five feet above the garden beds. We have three different gravity-fed drip irrigation systems that do the work of spreading the water from the elevated barrels to the plants.

We are also using 1/4″ poly line siphoned from 5-gallon buckets for trees, clay ollas matched with perennial and annual vegetables, perforated pipe (bamboo) for our vertical garden and for edible shrubs.

Sat, Aug 4, 10-12, Open House/ Work Party
Sun, Aug 19, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Sep 1, 10-noon, Work Party
Sun Sep 9, 10-11, Intro to Qi Gong
Sun, Sep 16, 2-4, Work Party

Come, review our watering log, our water measuring tools, and find out about mistakes we made, needed improvements, and how we managed to keep clam during the two weeks with temperatures near 90 degrees.

Questions we are expecting on Saturday:

● Is rainwater running off the polycarbonate roof better or worse than tap water?
● Would you stand under the water barrels that weigh 400 pounds?
● Which drip irrigation system can best usher water to specific plants?
● Do the drip systems allow for cleaning and storage in winter?
● How does the rate of water discharge through a drip system affect the percolation depth?
● Can perforated pipes be installed subsequent to planting?
● What are the factors that influence how quickly water will seep from the olla?
● Does cistern water contain bacteria and algae and, if so, will it adversely affect plants?
● What’s the difference between soil moisture based irrigation and crop demand irrigation (evapotranspiration)?
● Are some crops better at using water than others?

More questions? We will soon have a page on our website dedicated to the details of this project. In the meantime, enjoy the marvelous brochure produced by Dylan and Luke (Spellebee Space) on our Library page – Documents of Interest (under photos).

Stay tuned for a celebration if we make it through the summer without turning on City water. Perhaps a water balloon fight!

Ruth