Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Go Canada!

I haven't seen much bee activity yet this season. Has me worried. However, here is the first recorded instance of a ladybug visiting my teeny tiny bee sanctuary!

And here is the second recorded instance of a ladybug visiting my teeny tiny bee sanctuary:

I headed over to Kris' world to check on her bee activity, and found that she is on hiatus from blogging right now (I knew she was overdoing it!) While I was there, I found out about the Great Bee Count on July 16, 2011 and I picked up a pretty good Mother Earth News article that encourages wild gardening in order to help bees.

Meanwhile, good news from Beyond Pesticides about lawn care in much of Canada (I'm so happy!):

"During the past decade, over 150 municipalities and several Canadian provinces —Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick— have banned the use of 'cosmetic' lawn care pesticides because of health and environmental concerns. The bans have had the support of the Canadian medical community, including the Canadian Cancer Society and the Ontario College of Family Physicians. Similar legislation banning lawn pesticides is being considered in British Columbia and Manitoba."

Background info:

"There is a large body of scientific literature that outlines numerous risks of 2,4-D. It has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, kidney and liver damage, is neurotoxic and toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2,4-D than those who don’t; dogs whose owners use 2,4-D on their lawns are more likely to develop canine malignant lymphoma than those whose owners do not. Despite the known health and environmental effects of 2,4-D, it is the top selling herbicide for non-agricultural use, such as lawns, in the United States." (emphasis added)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beyond Pesticides Podcast

Sorry I missed April. Doing a lot of work in the garden!

I've been following Beyond Pesticides for quite a while, mostly via feeds from their Facebook page, so I was really interested in this interview with Executive Director Jay Feldman.

Listen to internet radio with The Organic View on Blog Talk Radio

From the introduction:

"There are a myriad of theories about the actual cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. Each cause is beginning to fit nicely under the effects of a new family of pesticides. For the past 3 decades, an organization called Beyond Pesticides (formerly National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides), has been diligently addressing the impact of these chemicals and the process by which they are allowed registration. The organization's primary goal is to effect change through local action, assisting individuals and community-based organizations to stimulate discussion on the hazards of toxic pesticides, while providing information of safe alternatives. Jay Feldman, the Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, has a 30-year history of working with communities nationwide on toxics, organic policies, and agricultural practices that maintain ecological balance, biodiversity and avoid reliance on toxic chemicals. Jay dedicated himself to finding solutions to pesticide problems after working with farm workers and small farmers, who suffered adverse health effects and property damage associated with pesticide use, through an EPA grant in 1978 to the national organization Rural America. Since that time, he has helped to build Beyond Pesticides' capacity to assist local groups and impact national pesticide and organic policy. He has tracked specific chemical effects, regulatory actions, and pesticide and organic law. Jay has served on EPA advisory panels, spoken to groups across the country and worldwide, contributed to the development of federal policy advancing chemical restrictions and green technologies, and was appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture in 2009 to a five-year term on the National Organic Standards Board. In this segment of The Organic View Radio Show, host, June Stoyer will speak to Jay Feldman, the Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides ( to talk about this controversial subject. Stay tuned!"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Low-Maintenance Dwarf Fruit Trees III (FINAL RESULTS)

OK - I've finally narrowed it down to three top contenders for low-maintenance, productive, non-towering species to plant in our common space at the Community Garden (only my opinion, of course). For my earlier research processes, geeky gardeners can look here and here. Meanwhile, the post that you are reading contains the best of the best.


There is a variety of dwarf mulberry - Morus 'Gerardi Dwarf' - that might be available at Whitman Farms (they have a website, but buyers must call.)

From GardenWeb in 2008:
"Mature size 6-8ft tall and spread. Berries are excellent and bear longer than most. I wouldn't think there would be much mess because it's more like a shrub with no canopy. I just planted 1 bareroot from Burnt Ridge Nursery, and the little thing already has a couple fruitlets. In fact all 3 of my mulberries have been in the ground less than a year and all have fruits forming. Great low care fruit trees! Oh, and try Burnt Ridge (as of spring 2011, no hits), Edible Landscaping (Spring 2011=not available right now), or Whitman Farms for Gerardi."


The Honeyberry is extremely pest and cold resistant. Because it originated in Siberia, some (but not all) varieties might prefer shade in our Connecticut climate. It requires a companion pollinator planting.

The Honeyberry (aka Haskap) is a non-vining (read non-invasive), bush honeysuckle which puts out edible, blue fruits with a yummy taste.

"An attractive small bush, it produces tasty small fruits about the size and flavor of blueberries....Very easy to grow with no pest or disease problems." (quoted from Edible Landscaping Online.)

Currently available at Logees - $29.95. Good growing information here (from Shallow Creek Nurseries, a company which recently stopped selling plants.)


I was initially interested in hazel nuts (aka filberts), because rumor has it that they are bush like. The downside is that the nuts take a long time to cure. They must be harvested before they are ripe because they attract squirrels. One source noted that the harvested nuts are typically ready to eat by December. I think that the Honeyberry or the dwarf Mulberry would be a better choice because of the immediate gratification factor (once they are established), especially for kids!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Low-Maintenance Dwarf Fruit Trees II (revised)

I promised some thorough catalog searching at the end of the previous post, but I hadn't gone very far before I came to the conclusion that any and all varieties of apples, cherries, peaches and pears all look like a real pain in the butt-ew-ski no matter how you slice them (pardon the pun.)

So, I left the realm of fruit trees and broadened out to all types of edible landscaping (and didn't we all know that this was where we would end up?) I got some great hits paying special attention to species that the Edible Landscaping plant finder rated EXCELLENT in most of these categories (extra points for "Adaptable Soil Type):

*Pest Resistance

*Disease Resistance

*No Spray

*Fun For Kids

Unfortunately the links in the plant finder, as great a tool as it is, proved to be less than permanent, so I lost quite a bit of my original research. At any rate, here are some of the runners up in my search.

Goose Berries!

The variety that I found might not have been particularly cold hardy. Need further research.


Geraldi Hybrid is a dwarf variety only seven feet tall with EXCELLENT pest resistance - try Burnt Ridge, Edible Landscaping, or Whitman Farms for Geraldi. One consideration - I think that Geraldi is a purple mulberry which the gardeners might not appreciate because of the messy factor (not to mention staining of EVERYTHING.) I couldn't find a dwarf white mulberry, but that might be something worth waiting for.

The American types (as opposed to the Asian types) are best for the northeast. Excellent pest resistance, but no dwarf varieties found.

(aka Hazel nuts)
There is a variety that averages a little over nine feet high. I think it needs companion plantings for pollination.

Elder Berries!
Points lost for lack of kid-fun factor and need for pollinator plantings.

No foolin'. There is a non-vining, Siberian (I think) honeysuckle which puts out fruit that tastes like blueberries. I'm thinking this might be the winner.

On to another post!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Low-Maintenance Dwarf Fruit Trees I

I just attended the annual meeting of our local community garden and was sent home with the task of researching varieties of low-maintenance dwarf fruit trees for possible plantings in the common area at the center of the garden.


So I'll deposit some of my findings here, just for convenience. In keeping with my personal mission of examining social alternatives to pesticide use, I'm interpreting "low maintenance" as "pest resistant". Basically, I'm looking for varieties of dwarf (or ultra-dwarf!) fruit trees that lend themselves to being grown organically (and maybe neglected a bit.)

First I found an older article from Mother Earth News, excerpted from Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape — Naturally , by Robert Kourik (copyright © 1986 by Robert Kourik). Good for background, but not too specific about modern varieties available.

Next I'm going to spend some time here. OK-not so useful.

University of New Hampshire makes pear trees sound a bit dicey, but I need to go back and read their paper on home-grown dwarf apple trees.

Here is a short, but specific article with a very few dwarf varieties, plus notes detailing hardiness zones and pest issues, courtesy of The most useful information here was about an apple tree:

"Dwarf Apple ‘Thornton’ Starkspur Winesap
‘Thornton’ Starkspur Winesap is a dwarf apple (Malus pumila) hardy to minus 20 degrees F. A hybrid from Missouri's Stark Brothers, it stands between 8 and 10 feet high and wide. Its showy, fragrant white blooms appear in May, attracting bees and butterflies. The red fruit on trees in the coldest parts of its hardiness range--USDA zone 5--ripens in mid-October. While ‘Thornton’ is relatively resistant to common apple diseases and insects, it may require spraying to prevent pest damage, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. This tree needs full sun and prefers well-drained, acidic (pH below 6.8) deep loam. Good fruit production requires pollination from another apple variety."

We should look through some catalogs, of course. As usual, real people seem to be the most helpful source of practical information for each other. On the Garden Web forum, brandon7 recommends a whole slew of fruit tree suppliers that have all have excellent or very good Garden Watchdog ratings. Hmmm....never heard of that...

So-I think I'll save these last two hits for further investigation. Until next time!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Organic & Local

Dr. Joseph Mercola, physician and author, writes in the Huffington Post for today:

"Making sure your vegetables are pesticide-free is especially important.

"Did you know the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic? Most pesticides can damage your nervous system and are associated with numerous health problems such as neurotoxicity, endocrine dysfunction, immunosuppression, impaired reproductive function, miscarriage, and even Parkinson's disease.

"This information alone should be an impetus for buying local, organic produce. But there is another important factor to consider: Organic vegetables are more nutritious than conventionally farmed vegetables."

Read more here >>

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I visited my garden on New Year's Day. All the plots were beautifully bathed in white after the recent Boxing Day Blizzard. My composter appears to be giving off enough heat to melt the snow surrounding it, which means that all those microorganisms are still doing their job and converting all that organic matter into soil - yay!