Libra: Today is a semi-fruitful day, best for planting fragrant flowers, vines and herbs.
Though passé in our modern, scientific world, farmers have been farming based on the moon's position in the sky for millennia. For those of you who skip the horoscopes in the newspaper, here is some background.
Astrology divides the night sky into 12 30-degree segments of which a constellation is assigned. The twelve constellations are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Leo, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Each sign is associated with one of the classical elements: Air, Earth, Fire, and Water.
When the moon is waxing, going from a new moon to a full moon, and in a favorable sign, it is good to plant above-ground crops. When the moon is waning, going from a full moon to a new moon, it is good to plant root crops.
The water signs are the most favorable for planting, these are: Cancer, Pisces, and Scorpio. The moon's gravitational power has the strength to affect the tide; this power is thought to also assist plants in pulling water up and growing.
The earth signs are also favorable for planting, these are: Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn.
The barren signs are the fire signs: Leo, Aires, Sagittarius, and the Air signs: Gemini, Aquarius, Libra. Libra is thought to be an exception. When the moon is in these signs it is best to harvest, till, prune, and weed.
Planting by the signs originated in ancient times, but Appalachian farmers from the country’s founding to modern times prominently practiced it. I first stumbled upon the concept while reading The Foxfire Book and then noticed The Farmers' Almanac had an astrological symbol listed for each day in the column right before the Sun Rise Time.
Though, obviously not scientifically proven or supported, it is important to note. Many factors affect our gardens and lives that we cannot see with our eyes. The moon and stars are always moving, unworried if we are looking up at them.
And now you know!
Have you ever heard of The Farmer's High School? In 1855 in Centre County, Pennsylvania it was opened to educate the state's young farmers. In 1863 it was chosen to be Pennsylvania's Land Grant University. Today it is called The Pennsylvania State University.
Land Grant Universities were established in 1862 under the Morrill Act, which gave every state 30,000 acres of federal land to fund a university that promoted Agriculture and Engineering for the state's population. In 1887 the Hatch Act started a partnership between the federal government and state governments to establish agricultural experimentation stations. These stations lead state specific agricultural research.
After this educational foundation was set, in 1914 The Smith-Lever Act sought to disseminate the information of the experimentation stations to farmers and homemakers in the state. Extension has evolved to include the 4-H program as well as the Master Gardener's program.
Extension is important because it keeps normal people up-to-date with current issues. They disseminated the information on the emerald ash borer that was affecting Pennsylvania's woodlands and helped Pennsylvania avoid the Avian Influenza that caused some states huge losses in their chicken flocks. I constantly refer to the publication, "Fruit Production for the Home Gardener" to determine which varieties are suggested for our climate and what insects and diseases are effecting the plants.
The Pennsylvania Cooperative Extension Service is currently a victim of the budget crisis. Governor Tom Wolf vetoed all funding for extension, funds that are shared between the College of Agriculture, Extension and its many research and education programs. If left unfunded, roughly 1,100 jobs will be lost, as well as countless years or research will be left unfinished. Pennsylvania farmers will have to contract consultants rather than rely on the free dissemination of education that Smith-Lever Act created.
And now you know!
Weed seeds are everywhere. Dandelion and Thistle seeds blow in with the wind, Grasses spread their roots into your garden. The hardest way to deal with your weeds is to pull them one by one by hand as they pop-up.
Stale seed bedding is a technique that helps to eliminate the seed stockpile in you soil. The basic idea is to permit the weeds in you soil to grow then kill them. The first step is cultivating your soil, and preparing your soil as though you would plant crops in it. Then you water and wait.
The fast weed seeds begin to germinate very quickly. In a very weedy soil the cultivated patch will become a green blanket. After adequate germination has occurred you kill all the weeds at once. To kill the weeds you can rototill them into the soil; which will return their nutrients back to the soil.
If you want to plant a weed-free crop into your stale seedbed a flame weeder is useful for this application. The flame weeder kills all the weeds without disturbing the soil, which would cause more seeds to germinate.
Stale seed bedding is a useful technique for crops that are directly sown like: leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, beets, carrots and radishes. These crops would otherwise have to be hand weeded after germination, which, as you many know, is painstaking.
And now you know!
Last week we learned about sowing seeds. We learned that an important part of this process is soil temperature. This week we will learn about the importance of bench heat.
In a typical greenhouse propagation there are often some benches that are heated. This heat assists germination, in the case of seeds, and rooting in the case of cuttings. The entire greenhouse does not have this system, because it is often expensive. Also once germinated or rooted, bench heating becomes less important. There are a few ways systems that are used commercially. Some will use hot water run under the bench through tubes, but more commonly it is an electric pad. Greenhouses use an electric pad that is the width of a typical flat but at least 10' long.
While gardeners can buy heat mats to propagate their crops there are other options. I use an old heated blanket; rope lights will work as well. I saw an elaborate home system that included making an elevated bed filled with damp sand. In the sand heating wires were placed. Sand transmits heat uniformly and creates a good place to place flats of seedlings.
A traditional method uses a modified cold frame. The cold frame is dug out, and filled with manure. As manure breaks down it releases heat and warms the surface above. When transplant are placed above this manure they are warmed, even after the sun goes down.