Pesticides Found On “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold At Garden Centers

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“Here’s just another reason to start your plants from seeds and cuttings and bring them on yourself rather than buy from Garden Centers and Supermarkets. You could always buy them from a local guy you know and trust and keep the money in the community. Also buying organic certified plants may reduce your chances of pesticide exposure for you and the wildlife.”

Gardeners Beware (2014): Bee-toxic pesticides found in “bee-friendly plants sold at garden centers across the U.S. and Canada

Many “bee-friendly” home garden plants sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart have been pre-treated with pesticides shown to harm and kill bees, according to a study released today by Friends of the Earth and allies.

The study, Gardeners Beware 2014, shows that 36 out of 71 (51 percent) of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides — a key contributor to recent bee declines. Some of the flowers contained neonic levels high enough to kill bees outright assuming comparable concentrations are present in the flowers’ pollen and nectar. Further, 40 percent of the positive samples contained two or more neonics.

The study is a larger follow up to a first-of-its-kind pilot study released by Friends of the Earth last August. The new study expanded the number of samples and number of locations where plants were purchased, and also assessed the distribution of neonic pesticides between flowers and the rest of the plant.

“The high percentage of contaminated plants and their neonicotinoid concentrations suggest that this problem continues to be widespread,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Food & Technology program at Friends of the Earth-U.S. “Most gardeners have no idea that their gardens may be a source of harm to bees. We’re calling on retailers to get neonicotinoid pesticides out of their plants and off their shelves as soon as possible. Until then, gardeners should buy organic plants to ensure the safety of bees.”

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Study Says Allotment Soil Is Better Than Conventional Farm Land For Food Growing

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Soil report shows we should all grow more of our own – New research confirms that soil in allotments and back gardens is richer – and more productive – than on farms

Soil is one of the great failures of modern intensive agriculture. Healthy soils, beneath natural grasslands and – especially – woodlands, contain lots of organic matter. This organic matter holds onto nutrients and gives the soil structural stability, allowing it to resist damage by, for example, heavy rain, thus preventing erosion. There’s also plenty of life in a healthy soil, lots of burrowing earthworms, and so lots of pore space too. A healthy soil is basically a giant sponge, which fills up with water after rain, gradually releasing that water to plants in dry weather.

When land is cleared for agriculture, and especially for arable crops, all that goes out of the window. The organic matter in arable soils is lost to the atmosphere as CO2, and the soil loses its structure and strength, leading to compaction and erosion. Arable soils also lose their ability to hold onto water, nutrients and pollutants, leaking nutrients into groundwater and lakes and rivers, causing eutrophication and, if the water is for human use, the need for expensive water treatment.

Although this is all depressingly well-known, the conventional view is that all this soil degradation is the price we have to pay for the high yields of arable crops on which we all depend. But, says new research just published in the Journal of Applied Ecology [Urban cultivation in allotments maintains soil qualities adversely affected by conventional agriculture], gardening proves the conventional view to be completely wrong. The researchers looked at the properties of soils on allotments in Leicester, along with those from other urban sites, and compared them with soils beneath arable fields and pasture in the countryside around Leicester.

The arable soils showed all the usual symptoms: compacted, lifeless and low in organic matter. Allotment soils, by contrast, were more open, more fertile, and higher in organic matter, in fact they weren’t all that different from soils beneath woodland. The reason isn’t hard to find: composting of allotment waste is virtually universal among allotment holders, most also import household green waste as well, and use of manure and other kinds of commercial compost is widespread. In short, soils on allotments are healthy because allotment holders go to a lot of trouble to keep them that way.

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Allotment 2014: Potato with Weed Suppressing Foliage and Blight Resistance

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Next summer as part of my plan to deal with my perennial “weeds” (out of place invasive plants) is to plant a cover crop of potatoes on the allotment, my main aim really is for it to act as a weed suppressant throughout the year by crowding out (blocking light to) the weeds.

The variety I’ve chosen is ‘Sarpo Mira’ for it’s continual proven excellence with it’s Blight resistance. Considering that something as devastating as blight could completely destroy my efforts to keep the weeds down I recon doing one variety is my best option, I need to maintain good dense foliage for as long as possible.

Under normal conditions I’d say grow more than one variety of potato, as in don’t put all your eggs in one basket. One year one disease or pest may be prevalent and the next another, in my opinion to ensure and maintain a good healthy overall yield it’s best to have a diversity of them, each with their own merits. Also to help us eat seasonally I’d say plant one’s that you can harvest over a longer period. Obviously I’m ignoring all that kind of sound advice here in favor a dense foliage, even canopy and it being harvested over a shorter period to minimise the ground being left exposed to the elements and to benefit me in the future “digging in” of the Green Manure crop I’ll be following the potatoes with.

This allotment site I’ve been given has been left for so long it’s literally had a huge network of perennial weeds growing throughout and although I’ve done a relatively good job of digging a lot of them out in parts I’ve still got a huge way to go. The pulling and digging out will be a constant battle for a number of years but I’m not complaining, they are not all bad, often they are Dynamic Accumulators of nutrients too (more on that in the future).

My plans are in Feb to put in a mulch of Pine Needles (from friends/family Christmas trees) to try and acidify the soil a little bit. I’ll be doing a lot more digging out of weeds in the early spring, put in a ton of compost I’ll get at very low cost, it’s made locally from wood on the dairy farm (not organic unfortunately). I’m also going to put down half a ton of excellent quality ‘Virgin Top Soil’ (enriched with organic compost) that I’d got for almost nothing as part of a deal on some Biochar I purchased in bulk. I do have a problem with a bit of a Alkaline leaning soil and adding things like “Rock Dust” or “Biochar” makes that problem worse but these were products I had before getting the land. That all said I think I’m going to brave it and add them both in repetitively small amounts with the compost and topsoil and hope it evens it’s self out a bit. It’s a bit experimental (risky) in a sense but the added benefits of each of these products I think is worth chancing it on.
I will then plant the seed potatoes and along the way “earth up” (cover tubers) with the other half ton of that Topsoil. Come the end I will then basically harvest them from the point of view that I’m firstly weeding and secondly picking those tubers out, so kind of ‘killing two birds with one stone’.
I’ll then be lightly cultivating the soil, working it to a fine tilth, adding the worm casts I should have made in bulk by then PH and Nutrient testing the soil and adjusting were needed/possible. Finally planting a mixed Winter Green Manure crop to protect, rest and prepare the ground for next years harvests.

I’m be practicing “crop rotation” principles and not be planting potatoes in this ground again for another 4 years which is a bit disappointing in a sense but there are other parts of the garden for that as well as containers and even things like yams etc. I think crop rotations merits speaks for it’s self though so it’s a no brainer (makes sense).

I think that’s about it for now, hope the posts aren’t too long or anything, just thought I’d let you all know what my plans are for 2014. Let me know what you all think if if you have any idea’s for me.

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Perennial Edibles Bed

Perennial Edibles Bed

Showing a Perennial Edibles Bed with things from Artichoke, Sweet Potato, Horseradish and Asparagus! An example of what can be grown. Great book by the way.
Photo Credit: Christopher Shein in Vegetable Gardeners Guide to Permaculture