The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Ustream


NT Greek Lessons - Thursdays, 7 PM.

Saved worship files and Greek lessons are at the live worship link.

email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works as gregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
Book of Concord Selections
Bente's Historical Introductions,
and Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Funny, Harmless, and Odd Additions to the Soil - From Nope to No Way!
Old Wives' Tales versus Creation Gardening



The people who make and market Epsom Salt have a long list of gardening applications for this highly attractive compound. It is pure white and melts instantly into water. Martha Stewart made a tape on scratching it into the soil (!) - a bit like scratching soap into your skin for a shower. If the soil is "old" it may need a little Epsom, but probably not. The problem is how the individual elements move into the roots rather than moving on down into the water table.

Epsom Salt makes a great foot soak and serves as the base for almost all bath salts (the legal kind). The myth assumes that inorganic compounds are going to add to the soil rather than pass through.



Adding salt to an asparagus bed is an old custom that fills many with wonder. They wonder why. Here are some posts on the topic of salt and asparagus. Salt will kill weeds and may be much better than Round Up for sidewalk cracks harboring weeds, but it is not good for the soil or any creature in the soil.

Pre-emergents (Preem) are a fancy version of salt. When I heard one gardener say he started with Preem, I wondered about the toxicity of his soil. Any pre-emergent will kill germinating seeds, so it is inherently anti-life.

Other dubious weed efforts include vinegar, Dawn detergent, and torching. Vinegar is the least dangerous but probably quite temporary, adding a wee bit of acid. Dawn detergent?! I prefer nuclear detonations to Dawn, which can only serve as an indiscriminate killer. Torching has the advantage of being limited in damage - unless dry plants cause a rapidly spreading fire.

All these are hysterical reactions to weeds. Understand them. Love them. Take one to lunch. When I see goosefoot, I eat the leaves rather than reaching for RoundUp.

Crab grass was brought over to America as a grain crop, so either mulch on top of it or let it grow for the seed-eating birds. Regular mowing will diminish crab grass in the lawn to almost nothing. Killing a big crab grass plant with some kind of poison will leave a big dead zone in the lawn.

Dandelions are herbs, not weeds. Your attitude makes them weeds. They are also diminished by regular mowing. They make a nutritious salad unless you use RoundUp as a dressing.




How many people have solemnly advised me to put egg shells in the soil to build up the calcium? When I objected that they did not break down, each person said, "But I was told it was good for the soil! Why not?" That was long before "I read it somewhere on the Internet."

The assumption is that calcium is good for plants so why not add a calcium source? Why not bones, I wonder?

The answer is too easy - earthworms manufacture usable calcium with their unique calciferous glands.

A shocking number of gardening books in print are full of bosh and baloney. All of the errors center on a misunderstanding of plants growing in soil. The key to plant health is soil health, the complex dependencies of microscopic life. If the soil is teeming with life, all the elements needed by the plants will pass between the soil creatures in a vast swap meet where the benefits add up when the gardener follows the precepts of Creation.

This swap meet depends on movement from earthworms and other taxis of the soil--and strangely--the roots offering carbon to the fungi in exchange for the nutrients and water needed for the plant. This exchange is more complicated than a Walmart Supercenter at rush hour, and continues at full speed without human management, thanks to divine design.

Our helper understands this. He came over to rake a huge pile  of leaves around the dead tree, expanding the mulched area. I had a new pile of newspapers and they needed some leaves to hold them down. He looked at our Three Sisters Garden (corn, beans, pumpkins) and said, "I can imagine all the life beneath that mulch we put down." [GJ - Note the advice in the Three Sisters link. "Turn the compost"! Ha - the soil creatures do that...no extra charge.]

That is all we needed to do, add leaves, wood mulch, and newspapers - not dump calcium or any other chemical on the soil. True, the soil will establish its balance in time, but why challenge Creation to overcome our foolishness?

Dubious uses for used coffee grounds.
The list I found for coffee grounds was full of untested claims, reminding me of Mrs. Ichabod's enthusiastic attempt to use salad dressing as a furniture polish on the kitchen cabinets. They were shiny, but the entire kitchen smelled like a giant salad. That was long ago, so maybe I can bring it up again - just for fun.

Stories like that are useful: counter-battery, as the Army would say. Knock out the shellfire before it has much effect. One memory cancels out the other.

I love the smell of coffee. I used to open the coffee barrel in the bakery basement to inhale the aroma of the Yuban and Maxwell House coffee stored there. I can picture coffee grounds being used to absorb odor. I put my used grounds in the compost, with the old tea bags, simply because non-food organic matter is going to feed the compost creatures, adding moisture and various elements they can break down.

Coffee is not likely to have any long-lasting magical  effects on the soil, but any organic amendment will help in time. Doubtless my neighbors wonder about my regular visits to the compost pile, but the dividends will be evident this summer - when sweet corn fanciers will show up faster than distant relatives after a big lottery win.

One does not simply grow Silver Queen corn.

Gardening has two great rewards. One is the constant production of roses, which is so easy to accomplish only a few enjoy its benefits. The rest are spraying, digging, weeding, and planning to turn the rose bed into an outdoor barbecue.

The other great reward is sweet corn, which retains its sweetness for a short time before turning to starch. Anyone who has eaten old corn on the cob knows the sensation - eating library paste instead of that heavenly combination of solar energy and soil wealth.

Sweet corn is a heavy feeder. The impatient want fast sweet corn, and those varieties are available.There is nothing like Silver Queen, long-growing, tender, white, and sweet. Sweet corn fans have joined me in praising Silver Queen.

Sweet corn is not hard to grow, but its characteristics need to be honored. Few plants demand so much sun, so much water, and so much soil nutrition. Sweet corn is the ultimate heavy feeder, used in experiments by Dow  Chemical to deplete nitrogen from the soil. Sweet corn is also one of the best solar energy converters, its efficiency exceeded by sunflowers.

My ingredients for the Silver Queen Three Sisters Garden are:

  • Jackson Mulch, prepared months in advance and kept in place for the garden.
  • Additional mulch - compost built over the last two years.
  • Pumpkins growing in the rows to deter varmints of all varieties, human and animal.
  • Pole beans growing up the stalks to promote nitrogen in the soil.
  • Clay soil.
  • Uncle Jim's red wigglers.