The Milkweed Diaries

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Total Garden Immersion

My brain is tired from two days of immersion at the Organic Growers School. We in Western North Carolina are very, very lucky to have this amazing event happening here every year. Somewhere around 1,300 people gathered yesterday and today for the OGS at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and it was fabulous as always.

I always learn so much, and love communing with other growers, plant lovers, garden geeks, and lovers of organic foods and farms. It's always so inspiring to be there, and I find myself scribbling notes to myself the whole time with brainstorms about things we could do in the garden, new plants to grow, little known facts, and resources to check out later. There is also always an excellent seed swap, and I got to meet some of my "internet friends" from the seed and garden world online and swap seeds in person - delightful!

All in all, the OGS contained way too much information and to try to summarize here, so I'll settle for a couple of greatest hits lists.

Top 5 Quotes from the 2010 Organic Growers School:
  1. "Plants' mission is to cover the earth. Plants are the skin of the earth." ~Joe Hollis
  2. "To me it is an ecological crime to heat greenhouses to grow food." ~Patryk Battle
  3. "Clear communication is a learned skill." ~Elizabeth Gibbs
  4. "Future farmers are one of the main products of our farm." ~Tom Elmore
  5. "To me, plants are innocent until proven guilty. Just like every other living organism, they want to be fruitful and multiply. No need to demonize them for it. Outbreaks of exotics are nature's efforts to clean up our mess --plants trying to heal a wound that we created" ~Joe Hollis
Top 13 Things I Learned at the OGS:
  1. How to make a germination chamber out of a bakers' proof box.
  2. To find out if legumes are fixing nitrogen well, you can pull one up, cut open one of the root nodules, and if it is RED inside, nitrogen is being accumulated (the red substance is a form of hemoglobin!)
  3. To cure sweet potatoes for optimal storage life, close them in an 80 degree room at 80% humidity for 10 days.
  4. All grapes in Europe, even in the Frenchest of French vineyards, are grafted onto native American grape root stock.
  5. Rufus Mayhaw is both a productive, hearty, edible variety of hawthorne and a good name for a hound dog.
  6. There are two kinds of creasy greens, and one tastes a whole lot better than the other. The one that tastes good has 6-8 small lobes and one big terminal lobe. When you find the good one (there is some in one of our production beds) you can just let it go to seed and "anoint the soil" with a stalk with a seed pod on top.
  7. Lambsquarter seeds are edible and comparable to quinoa (though smaller).
  8. A single muscadine grape vine can produce up to 100 pounds of grapes in a year.
  9. To get all or most of the nitrogen benefit from a cover crop, the plant has to decompose into the soil.
  10. One piece of science that supports the traditional use of hawthorne for heart medicine is that hawthorne leaves, flowers, and fruits contain high levels of antioxidants, specifically the flavonoid procyanidin.
  11. There is an excellent organic wine made from Baco Noir grapes produced at a vineyard near Boone, available for $18.
  12. How to make a DIY greenhouse heat table with gravel and plywood and heat tape.
  13. Even though there are over 15,000 known varieties of grapes in the world , 99.5% of the world's grape production is from only 100 varieties.
And here's a little photojournal of our DIY greenhouse and germination equipment class building a gothic arch hoophouse on the quad at UNCA:


Aimee said...

fantastic bunch of information! I'm especially glad to learn about the red legume root nodule thing. That's going to be useful.

Thanks for all you do to help us novice gardeners!

Jordana said...

My favorite quote:
"This is Radical Horticulture!"
-Chuck Marsh
re: planting fruit trees with the graft below the soil

silver said...

yay for the top 13! re #9, have yall watched the green manure video yet? i think i gave it 2u after solstice? but don't remember fer sure. maybe w the turbo tax. u will like it!

Phillip Townsend said...

It was great having a chance to meet you in person. The school was wonderful.

Some of my favorite tidbits--

There's virtually nothing that can go wrong with traditionally fermented foods that is actually dangerous--just skim any mold off that appears on the top and keep going.

One gram of biochar has a surface area of 1500 square meters, equal to three football fields. Biochar can sequester carbon in the soil for 1000 years or more, and properly innoculated biochar can increase some crop yields up to 22%.

Milkweed said...

I LOVE the additions, Phillip and Jordana! Wow, I wish I could have made it to that biochar class and the one Chuck Marsh did.

Silver, I did watch about half of the video (for everyone else's info: "Cover Crops and Compost Crops in Your Kitchen Garden," Homeplace Earth) sometime in the last few weeks since I am obviously in some sort of garden information-intake overload. It had some good stuff in it, but I thought was poorly organized. (We need to teach a class called "AGENDAS: what they are and how to use them"). I intend to watch the rest soon, as cover crops are my Next Big Thing.

Aimee, thanks for reading. I've been heartily enjoying your photos and writing lately.

Here's to radical horticulture, carbon sequestration, fermented foods, cover crops, and learning in community about growing things!

Amber said...

Wow! I wish I could have gone to that conference, but honestly; I feel quite under-educated to spend that $55 right now. I'm new to the mountains and am only familiar with gardening in a swamp!

I'm doing the master gardeners spring garden class on march 20, and once I have a better grasp of this new-to-me gardening zone I hope to branch out and educate myself more.

Thanks for covering this amazing conference - things like this are why my mate and I moved to the WNC area.

Penryn said...

Hey there.. glad you had a wonderful weekend. Thanks for sharing these tidbits.. makes me feel better for having to miss the OGS. Staying put on the farm did get a new fence and gate installed tho! Maybe next year..... Happy Spring, Penryn

Dana said...

Apparently I really like lists of fact tidbits. I supremely enjoyed this post. As you may have noticed, I did not attend the OGS, so I am glad you went ahead and consolidated the best stuff for me here. I look forward to seeing you fine people soon. I hope you can come over sometime soon-ish to walk at my place. Holler any time. Lots of love

Patryk said...

Thanks for your excellent reporting on the Organic Growers School . I am a concerned however to be quoted a bit out of context about using heat to grow vegetables. I did add the caveat that the exception is growing such crops as tomatoes. My friend and fellow farmer Tom Elmore uses heat to grow tomatoes. He does it with great attention to movable insulation and uses a minimum of heat But he could not grow his crop which (people want and would buy shipped in lieu of getting his) without heat. I do firmly believe that it is an" ecological crime" to grow any half hardy vegetable with heat and I know that many vegetables can have greatly extended seasons even though they are tender vegetables with the use of movable inssullation and wise timing. And for clarity I wish I said fossil fuel generated heat. I think it's probably silly to burn firewood to grow vegetables that can be grown without heat. But I would not judge it and ecological crime.
For the person who spoke to the 55 dollar cost of the school. I hope they go to the growers school site, which is simply you can get on the mailing list and will know well ahead of timew when the early registration occurs. Early registrants paid only $40 to attend the school this year.. Patryk Battle
PS no complaint about being taken a bit out of context. It comes with the territory of being quoted, and I enjoyed all of your quotes

Milkweed said...

Thanks for reading and clarifying, Patryk! Very helpful. I so much appreciated the class! We've been growing in an unheated hoop house and are thrilled to have some methods to get our seedlings out of our kitchen and into the hoop - building a heat table this week!

Dana, I miss you! I love lists too.