Thursday, December 3, 2009

KUOW's Weekday with Steve Scher: Food Shortages and Rebellions: Eric Holtz-Gimenez

KUOW's Weekday with Steve Scher: Food Shortages and Rebellions: Eric Holtz-Gimenez

I've just listened to this program and I have to say it's another reason to start working the soil you have (composting) and take up gardening if not go all out and plant your own food forest. As much as I poo pooed the book Gaia's Garden I only did so for the plants the author recommends and lack of info he offered on those he did recommend. The concept has been proven to work time and time again but I emphasise the use of as many native plants as possible.

This is an excellent book as to why native plants should be used but offers no information on Food Forests. His emphases is more on supporting ecosystems but I can tell you a few of our native trees are excellent food crops. Native Plums, Prunus americanus, and several others in the Prunus genus, support more then 450+ species and make lots of fantastic tasting golf ball sized fruit. There are thousands of Apples, Malus sp., though originating in Kazakhstan they're an odd exception. Regardless of the origin they all seem to have the same pests. There are dozens of varieties of Blueberry and Cranberry, Vaccinium. Walnut and Butternut, Juglans, support 100+ species. A few other native fruits worth mentioning are Passionfruit, Paw Paw, Persimmon, and Black Elderberry (Note the Red Elderberry is poisonous).

Even some nonnatives support the environment but on a lesser extent. Tomatoes, Tobacco, and Egg plant are all host plant to the Tobacco Hornworm. Parsley, Carrots, Dill, and a few similar plants are used by a few of our Swallowtail Butterflies. Cabbage gets cabbage worms, and so on.

So you get the idea that if it has a "pest" basically it's supporting life. In a balanced ecosystem there are birds or bats or other predators or some parasite who will take care of the problems for you. And hopefully prevent the need for you to use chemicals. I do advocate the use of Round Up though on invasive plants such as Japanese Honeysuckle. The use of "organic" chemicals such as Bt I don't advocate though. Use them if you really have an unbearable problem doing serious damage but remember Bt attacks the larval form of all insects. I don't know if Bt harms baby birds but I wouldn't want to spray that on my children, not that I have any.

A number of herbs and other plants also do great that on their own will attract not only pests but the beneficial insects needed to combat them. For example earlier in the year all of my trees were having aphid problems, which I did nothing about. By May though I started seeing swarms of lady bugs (I didn't buy) as well Hoverfly larva consuming the clusters. By June I stopped seeing aphids on all of those trees. Others showed up later in the year though but on entirely different plants.

Composting is just as important and needed for most food plants. It's incredibly easy and can be done in a trash can, or wire hoop or anything really. Even just laying lawn clippings and leaves in a pile against the fence will work. There are things you can do to speed everything up of course, I believe full sun or the hotter the better. One tip I would suggest is to place the compost pile on something. Over the year nearby trees will start sending roods up into the good soil you're creating. Turning the whole pile once every so often will help mix it all together and provide some much needed air. Basically populations of microorganism are eating away at the plant matter and mixing the pile up will allow new clusters to form.

Once ready you can place it around the plants that need it most or pick an area to do each year. The organic matter remains active in the soil for years and continues to break down overtime.

And it's just that easy to give Monsantos the middle finger.