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Barry’s Gleanings: “Edible Tropical Gardens” by Dr. Kris

Here’s a problem that someone from a hot part of the world might have:

“Hi Kris,

I’ve had a terrible time trying to grow salad greens for the kitchen. The few plants that did survive the onslaught of bugs and pests soon floundered in the heat. I am starting to reconsider if it’s even worth trying or perhaps trying something different, or growing in the wet season? The problem is I don’t know where to start and I am unsure of what to try… any ideas? I would just like to grow some edible plants to supplement my diet as part of a healthy lifestyle that I can eat fresh or cooked. Thanks in advance for any suggestions,” Warren

Dr. Kris, the Garden Doctor, responds: 

Growing traditional vegetables suited to a temperate climate in the tropics is more than a challenge – akin to a snow-flakes chance in hell!

During the tropical wet/dry seasons the climate is either too hot, or there’s too much rain and humidity or otherwise there’s not enough. And then if you can somehow successfully navigate the climate there are a seemingly inexhaustible supply of bugs and sap suckers to deal with that love this new exotic food you’ve brought into their environment.

Some plants that we would all like to grow such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, or lettuce for example simply won’t withstand the heat. Even growing these in a temperate summer climate would fail and run to seed on the first hot day, meaning all winter season crops are out of consideration here in the tropics.

So then, what about summer season vegetables? Well the heat certainly won’t be a problem. It is possible to grow many types of what we would consider summer vegetables in temperate climes – but for the most part it is possible only in the dry season. Avoid the wet season as the high humidity causes all sorts of problems usually staring with mildew and ending in fungus. Your options are limited to growing traditional summer crops in the dry season only.

Here are some suggestions.

Tomatoes will grow well during the dry season. Personally, I would opt for cherry/grape tomato varieties only. They seem to be the hardiest, most prolific pest resistant tomatoes that I know of. What’s the point of growing your own if you have to spray fungicide and pesticide poison all over the place.

Eggplants, chillies and pepper/capsicums will all grow well no matter how hot it gets. Snake beans grow well too, the local markets are often overflowing with them. Asian greens such as bok choi, pak choi are possible, as well as Chinese cabbage or wombok but will probably benefit from some protection from the hottest part of the day. Some varieties of kale may struggle due to the heat. Don’t even bother with broccoli or traditional cabbage, and hearting lettuce varieties are out too. If you really must try lettuce grow an open leaf variety such as oak leaf.

Radishes will do well, plant from seed and they will germinate in a matter of days, you could be pulling them up within 3-4 weeks. They love the heat, and they are versatile. Radishes are best picked smaller and sooner rather than larger and later. The larger, the more bland they become – they lose their peppery zing. Yet on the other hand if you let them go you can just keep picking the leaves for use in salads and soups, and just forget about the harvesting the root. The leaves have a peppery flavour much like arugula. After a few months unpicked radishes will flower and run to seed at which point you can harvest the seed pods or ‘radish peas’ as I like to call them. They are green and juicy, eat them raw straight off the plant or add to salads for a peppery crunch – tastes just like root yet the novelty of snacking on juicy bite-sized radish peas never wears off.

Beetroot is another root crop that will also perform well in the dry season and just like the radishes you can pick the leaves and add them to salads. Sprinkle some fluffy dandelion seed around the garden and perhaps grow some nasturtium, both of which which will take care of themselves and you now have a good mix of salad greens including the radish and beetroot. Even better they are all hardy, relatively pest resistant, full of vitamins and minerals and will taste just as good if not better than any traditional leafy vegetable once tossed and dressed. Dandelion and nasturtium are usually considered weeds but they’re the types of plants I want to grow, the ones that grow themselves. If you can change your perspective, you will reap the rewards!

Really, the easiest way to grow your own food in the tropics is by growing tropical fruit and vegetable varieties that are suited to the climate – as they say….when in Rome!

Start with tropical edibles that are at home in the heat and humidity. Lemongrass, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, galangal, Thai basil and Vietnamese mint for starters.

Vegetables will take off once the humidity hits. Sweet potato, bitter melon, kangkong/water spinach, amaranth/mustard greens and rocket/arugula all grow well. Starchy tubers grow well in hot and humid summers, think taro or cassava otherwise known locally as ‘singkong’. I often see cassava thriving on dusty roadsides. The cassava leaf or ‘daun singkong’ is a mainstay of ‘nasi padang’ and other curries, just be careful to cook it properly and never eat it raw as it can be toxic if prepared incorrectly.

Chokos/chayote which grows on a vine is another versatile vegetable that goes down well in a curry, the fresh vine shoots can be added to stir fry’s and curries.

Papaya is a tree that you can grow quickly from seed, potentially bearing fruit within a year of planting. Green papaya is popular as a vegetable in salads, or ‘rujak’. Papaya juice is great, the seeds and leaves have multiple medicinal uses when infused as teas or even cooked and eaten. The seeds can even be dried and used as a pepper substitute.

Edible gardeners in the temperate regions lament the fact that they don’t have the climate for growing exciting exotic edible plants such as ginger, galangal, turmeric, sweet potato or papaya but here in the tropics we have this fantastic opportunity! It really makes tomatoes, cabbages and broccoli seem bland and boring, and that’s without even discussing the possibilities with the plethora of fruits trees and vines available – now that’s a topic for another day!

Whatever you decide on, always plant in a free draining soil for best results, kangkong/water spinach being the only exception. Good Luck.

Dr. Kris

Garden Doctor

Contact: dr.kris@ymail.com

Copyright © 2018 Dr. Kris

You can read all past articles of Garden Doctor at www.BaliAdvertiser.biz

From: https://www.baliadvertiser.biz/edible-tropical-gardens/

Happy gardening now (or planning your future garden) . 

Let’s all work on eating healthy, fresh produce from our local farmers – and growing some of it too.  Aloha, R & B

Banner photo: by Ayda on Unsplash

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Barry’s Gleanings: “The Danger of Glyphosate”

A note to Dr. Kris, the Garden Doctor:

‘Hi, I read about the $289 million court case and the glyphosate Roundup, what are the best ways to kill weeds without weed killer? Seems you just can’t stop the weeds in the tropics, just in the home garden and around the paths. Please help.

Thank you in advance. Lucas, UBUD.’

In August, a US Court ordered global chemical giant Monsanto pay $US 289 million to a former school gardener who is dying of cancer, after a jury in California found Roundup (which contains glyphosate) contributed to his illness. They will be appealing of course.

In 2015, the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the IARC, stated that glyphosate is likely carcinogenic, yet just last year the European Union decided to renew the licence for the official use of glyphosate. In the aftermath of the US court case, Monsanto has maintained that its product was an “effective and safe tool for farmers and others”. Hmmm?

The result of the recent court case and linkages to glyphosate came as no surprise to many.

I wrote an article on the dangers of gylphosate in 2015, which can be found at – www.baliadvertiser.biz/glyphosate/.

Unfortunately, many are still in the dark to the undeniable dangers. Scientific evidence has shown that glyphosate can cause or accelerate cancer rates. People are spraying it around the environment and it is all over your food. Despite the fact that the dangers of Roundup are gradually becoming well-known, uncovered and exposed by various segments of the community – it still remains in heavy use around the world.

Many are still unaware of the serious health issues attributed to glyphosate, although it has been banned in many places around the world.

Roundup in conjunction with science has given rise to a global industry of genetically modified food. GM food crops like corn and soybean have been designed with glyphosate resistance in mind. Fields are sprayed, weeds controlled and at the same time the crop is left standing. It simplifies farming and weed control in exchange for food covered with Roundup. People are also wholesale spraying it around the garden, and local governments around their parklands and public green spaces too.

Interestingly, after sitting on the data from its glyphosate tests for more than a year, the FDA recently or rather finally made the results public. Tests found glyphosate on 63 percent of corn samples and 67 percent of soybean samples. As a further note of interest there were no oat or wheat samples, the two main crops where glyphosate is used as a pre-harvest drying agent, resulting in glyphosate contamination of foods.

The reported health risks associated with glyphosate exposure has farmers, groundskeepers and gardeners scrambling to find alternatives. Glyphosate is so widely used that traces of the of it have been found in breast milk, beer, wine (even when made with organic grapes), eggs, oatmeal and non-dairy coffee creamer, among other products.

There are also environmental impacts on groundwater, rivers, streams, and oceans, glyphosate has even been detected in rainfall samples. Then there’s the issue of poisons in the food chain.

For the home gardener the best alternatives are to pull the weeds, or if it’s a larger area dig out the entire garden bed, turn the soil and start again. If you spray Roundup everywhere you’ll still have to pull the dead weeds out in the end anyway. Mulch garden beds regularly or grow creeping groundcovers. Mulch with cardboard, newspaper, leaves, straw, wood chips, pebbles, stones etc. Use a sharp hoe, garden fork, or shovel to hand weed, or go for the more permanent solution of installing a weed suppressant membrane.

Manual removal with a shovel, hoe or other tool is an effective spot treatment for most weeds. They may come back and need to be dug out again. When young weeds are caught early and thoroughly dug out, they won’t be able to re-seed and rapidly reproduce.

Experiment with dense ground covers which can naturally prevent weeds from growing underneath. Get creative and use dense low growing flowers or even herbs as ground cover. Culinary herbs such as parsley, mint, thyme or oregano are useful choices which can effectively form a carpet around the base of plants in sparse garden beds. If you’re battling weeds in your lawn, make sure you use grass varieties appropriate for shade, drought or other difficult areas where a conventional lawn might not grow well.

For weeds growing in pavement and cracks, boiling water poured straight from the kettle usually does the job. For any other general weed killing areas using commercial strength vinegar is a proven effective. Commercial grade would normally come with an acetic acid concentration of 20% strength. Normal household vinegar at 5-10% will usually do the job on smaller weeds, but for an effective job on larger hardier ones you’ll need a commercial grade vinegar at around 20% min.

The vinegar will probably be more effective on a hot sunny day. It biodegrades easily, effectively a non-toxic approach to spot killing weeds in opposition to commercial, synthetic and chemical formulas. Vinegar still always needs to be handled with care, so avoid inhaling it or getting it in your eyes. Don’t stand on the wrong side of the wind!

In addition to avoiding toxic sprays, by growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs you will be feeding yourself with the healthiest produce possible free of potential toxins. Buying organic or growing your own is always going to be the best choice when it comes to your food and avoiding toxic chemicals.

Key findings of an Investigative Report into pesticides and produce from EWG (source: www.ewg.org) found that:

  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce.
  • A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides.
  • Single samples of cherry tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides a piece.

It was reported in August 2018 that tests commissioned by EWG found glyphosate residues on many popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars. Almost three-fourths of the 45 samples tested had glyphosate levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health within an adequate margin of safety.

All you need to know is that glyphosate has been linked to cancer by California state scientists and the World Health Organization.

 

Dr. Kris

Garden Doctor

Contact: dr.kris@ymail.com

 Copyright © 2018 Dr. Kris

You can read all past articles of Garden Doctor at www.BaliAdvertiser.biz

https://www.baliadvertiser.biz/the-danger-of-glyphosate/

Aloha, Renee

“The Benefits of Trashing the Garden”

What’s an easy way to get nutrients to your plants? How can you avoid chemical fertilizers?

The Garden Doctor’s suggestions will help you get rid of yard and vegetable waste – and make your plants happy and healthy.

The Benefits of Trashing the Garden

‘Dear Garden Doctor,

I want to use natural fertiliser [sic] but don’t have the patience for a compost, do you have any ideas for other easy ways to give my plants a natural kick with organic fertiliser. I’ve heard that banana peels can be used in the garden from vegetable gardens to flowers, palm trees and even thrown in the tops of staghorn ferns. Do you have any other easy ideas for natural fertilisers that can be made from ordinary household scraps that would otherwise end up in the rubbish bin?

Rafa from Ubud’

Adding any sort of organic matter to the soil to will improve the nutritional content and vitality of the soil whilst also inviting worms and all sorts of other beneficial micro-organisms to move in. A living soil that is teeming with life will always show the results by producing a lush green garden.  The easiest place to start is to re-use waste that you find within the garden.

All of the leaves that fall, the pruned offcuts, and the flowers that you deadhead contain vital nutrients that have been drawn up from deep within the soil. That’s why composting is so beneficial, it’s all about recycling the nutrients back into the soil. If you don’t have the patience for composting, then do it nature’s way and cycle the nutrients directly back into the soil.

Leaves and Garden Waste

Raking up old leaves and spreading them around the garden as a layer of mulch is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get started. Leaf mould or decaying leaf material is so simple, yet extremely beneficial. It’s one of the most readily available amendments you can add directly into your soil to improve it.

The benefits are twofold, not only will the soil benefit from the slow release of nutrients, it also retains moisture within the soil or can prevent moisture loss from evaporation if layered on as a mulch. Alternatively, you can dig it into the soil, where it will aerate the soil and improve drainage in combination with the action of worms, insects and microbes working to break it down.

When tidying up the garden recycle the garden off-cuts, making sure that they’re pest and disease free. Old dry palm fronds can be cut up and reincorporated into the soil. If your off-cuts are green, leave them in a pile out in the sun for a few days so that they dry up, turn brown and then can easily be shredded and reincorporated into the soil. Dead or dried up flowers can be pruned and scattered around the garden beds. Dried grass clippings are also one of the best nitrogen boosts you can give to your garden. Collect all garden waste, and cycle it back into the garden, it is full of the nutrients that have been sucked up from deep within the soil.

Kitchen Scraps

 They are great for the compost, but can also be incorporated directly back into the soil, decomposing rapidly and releasing nutrients for your plants. Fruit peels such as banana peels, mango, papaya and avocado skins will decompose quickly when lightly dug into the soil, alternatively simply just throw them around the base of your plants and cover with a layer of soil and leaves. Peels will provide potassium, phosphorous and calcium as well as many other trace minerals which will promote root and flower development and overall plant health. If you are concerned about attracting pests or animals, dry the peels in the sun before adding them into the garden or liquefy the peels in a blender with water before pouring it on to your garden.

Coffee Grounds and Tea Leaves

Coffee grounds and tea leaves are a source of nitrogen for the garden. You can either scatter coffee grounds around the base of your plants or fork them into the soil. With the teabags I normally collect a few then tear the paper and throw them in a bucket with water and pour the onto the soil. Coffee grounds and used tea leaves will give nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium. The same goes for herbal teas, the green tea, rosehips or whatever sort that you drink can be poured out onto the garden or around your pot plants.

Eggshells

They consist of over 90% calcium carbonate and contain small amounts of other trace elements that make them a beneficial fertiliser. Collect them, wash and crush them, and then sprinkle them around the garden. They will add a hit of calcium and other minerals to the soil. Spread them around pot plants, your vegetable garden and outdoor trees. If you are growing an edible garden crushed egg shells sprinkled around plants will discourage snails and slugs, as they won’t crawl across the sharp jagged shell grit. Not only are you providing a natural fertiliser but also protecting your plants from slimy pests as well.

If you like boiled eggs, save the water until it cools and pour it on the garden as it will contain calcium and other minerals. Eggshells can also be used as seedling planters. With a pin make a few drainage holes in the bottom of an empty eggshell, add soil and then put them back into the old egg carton. Sow the seeds and care for them as you would any other seedlings. When they are ready to transplant into the garden, squeeze the shell gently to crack it and then place it in the ground. The roots will push through the cracks in the shell which will eventually decompose naturally, the best bit is… no transplant shock!

Eggshell+planters+seedlings

Start seedlings in egg shells

Starchy Rice Water and Other Sugars

When you wash your rice, instead of wasting the starchy water by pouring it down the sink, water it around your plants and flowers. Just make sure to pour it directly onto the soil and avoid getting it all over leaves and flowers. The starches will promote beneficial soil bacteria, whilst also adding nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and other trace elements to the soil. Empty or near empty drink containers can also be used to water to the garden. If I go to the fridge and find the last remains of a milk or fruit juice container I fill it up with water to dilute the contents and then pour it straight onto the garden. Milk diluted with water is a well known fertiliser for the garden. The same goes for any drinks that have passed their use-by.

Simply dilute old containers with water and pour the contents around the garden. Even old bottles of soda can be rinsed and poured onto the garden, the microbes and plants will love the sugar hit. The added benefit is that you will have clean rinsed containers, instead of smelly sticky ones filling up the rubbish bin.

On a final note, the napkins, paper towels etc used at meal time are also thrown into the compost along with the old newspapers – the worms absolutely love that stuff. Who would’ve thought that trash could be so useful in the garden!

Dr. Kris

Garden Doctor

Contact: dr.kris@ymail.com

Copyright © 2017 Dr. Kris

You can read all past articles of Garden Doctor at http://www.BaliAdvertiser.biz

 

Happy gardening – and getting rid of waste.

Aloha, Renée

Article from: Go to – https://baliadvertiser.biz/the-benefits-of-trashing-the-garden/

Images from: <http://www.17apart.com/2012/01/how-to-plant-seeds-using-eggshells.html&gt; and  the egg shell heads from:  The Bali Advertiser, p. 7.

Thought for the Day: Our Farmers

Since President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863, those of us in the United States have been celebrating Thanksgiving  Day on the final Thursday in November.   We give thanks and count our many blessings – and usually eat too much with family and friends.

pumpkin1

One important blessing is our many farmers who provide the food we eat.

A way to become more conscious and make more informed choices about the food we have offered is to get to know our local farmers and their concerns.

 

If you live in Hawaii, a great way to do that is to join the Hawaii HFUU 2016 colored w microns Farmers Union United, a vital community group.  Whether you are a family  farmer, an avid backyard gardener, or just like to know where you can get good local produce, HFUU offers wonderful workshops, informative meetings, and works on important agricultural concerns.

For more information and to join, go to: https://hfuuhi.org/

Current President of Maui Farmers Union United and Vice President of Hawaii State Farmers Union United, Vincent Mina says about the challenges of farming (and everything else),

“If you do anything substantive, it will be hard.  Just get on with it.”

vincentmina-newphoto

Vincent Mina – from the HFUU home page.

Wherever you are in the world, check out what your farmers are doing.   “Get on with it.”

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family — and all who provide for you.

Aloha, Renée

 

Barry’s Gleanings: “Beautiful houses can’t hide hollowed-out villages” by Ding Jun

Barry in Shanghai with Dean Mao

Barry reads extensively and often shares articles he finds fascinating in our search to figure out China.  So our new idea for this blog is to pass along articles we think you too might find interesting and perhaps help change stereotypes about ever-changing China.  This first article is from the April 9, 2012, Global Times. 

  “Beautiful houses can’t hide hollowed-out villages”

The countryside has become increasingly empty thanks to urbanization and the huge flow of migration.

I went back to my hometown of Dafa village in central China’s Hubei Province recently and made a surprising discovery.  The houses there were decorated beautifully, but many of them were locked and deserted.  Some courtyards were even full of weeds.

The only busy period is Spring Festival.  Many migrants come home for a short period of reunion.  But once the festival ends, quietness comes back as all the migrants fly off again.

In the old days, the houses were almost all one storey and built with mud bricks.  And usually, several family members shared a house.  But now it’s totally different.  The houses usually have two to three floors and the rooms are large.

Without tap water, they drill wells in their courtyard and draw water into tanks to introduce running water to their newly-built house.

On the house roof, they have set up solar heating systems.  In the houses, the bathrooms have flush toilets.  Household appliances like refrigerator, washing machine and even air conditioner are commonly installed.  The windows are aluminum framed double glass, the exterior wall is covered with white ceramic tiles, and the burglar-proof gates cost from 4,000 yuan ($634) to 10,000 yuan. [6.3 yuan = $1U.S.]

If such houses were in Beijing, they would be luxury villas and cost several million of yuan.  But here, building a three-storey building takes about 200,000 yuan.

About 20 years ago, the farmers expanded or built houses for their sons to marry and build a new family.  But now the farmers have one or two children who are either studying, live or work in urban areas and rarely come back.  And there’s nobody looking to rent.

People between 15 and 45 years old are rare in the villages.  They’ve either migrated to coastal cities or nearby townships or are engaged in non-agricultural work outside the countryside like building, catering, sales and driving.

The only people left are children, the elderly and middle-aged women.  The last two have become the major force in agriculture, known as the “3860 troop,” which refers to women and old people above 60.

Farmers still grow rice and cotton.  But the previous double harvest of rice has been merged into one harvest, midseason rice.  In [the] busy season, the hosts have to hire people to finish the farm work, [at] about 80-100 yuan per day.  Most of the hired are seniors.  The young would rather work in an indoor plant even [if] they can only earn 70 yuan per day in the coastal cities. In their opinion, those jobs are better than sweating in the sunshine.

When the rice is ready for harvest, farmers need to pay for harvest combine drivers.  Scenes of starting farm work at sunrise and returning home at sunset have become a thing of the past.

Some farmers simply contracted their farmland to large-scale grain producers.  The output is good.  Agricultural department workers will also make regular field inspections on whether the land is properly farmed.

Farmers, especially young people, prefer to buy apartments in local towns, even though they have newly built houses in [the] countryside.

As for girls at 16 or 17 years old, if they aren’t doing well in their studies, they drop out of school before graduation.  The clothing plants reserve them as laborers by giving their parents advanced payments.  Then they meet their Mr. Right in cities and marry guys from far away.  After that, they almost never come home.

It is always the middle-aged women who stick to their positions.  Some die from illness, some become widows as their husbands haven’t shown up for years after they went out to look for work.  The newly built houses are empty most of the time.  They’re a consolation for those who stay behind.  In the countryside, what you still see is that the old weather-beaten wrinkled people are sitting in the sun, while their grandchildren are playing or doing homework.

Nevertheless, such scenes will not last either.  In five to 10 years, when the old people pass away, their grandchildren will grow up and go to coastal areas, and what’s left in the deserted countryside may only be loneliness and emptiness. (15)

by Ding Jun

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