I planted sugar snap peas on St. Patrick's Day this year, and four days later it snowed. It wasn't what we'd expect of the second day of Spring, but the weather this year has been anything but common. The pea planting was as much a hopeful gesture as anything else - a way to reassure myself that something edible will indeed emerge from the ground again, just as we will emerge from this heavy dose of winter.
The mailmen may be the only people in Arlington who know it's time to start thinking about the garden, as they deliver seed and garden supply catalogues to frozen gardeners who have probably forgotten how to call a spade a spade. But all it takes is a quick daydream about the taste of a fresh summer tomato with basil to get me to load soil into peat pots and start raising this year's vegetable garden. I claim complete amateur status when it comes to gardening, but that's the main point: it didn't take much effort to get myself up and going and self-sufficient with vegetables for two from June through September. Hopefully it'll inspire some similar experiments around Arlington.
One of the first things I did after moving here a few years ago - long before the furniture arrived - was to dig up the yard. I am not a huge fan of grass and am definitely not a lawn guy, particularly because they require attention but you can't eat them. At first I had plans to turn the entire place into a big terraced garden complete with paths and maybe a fountain or two. Then I discovered how hard it is to dig well-established grass, and my grand visions shrank. A lot. I started with two 11-foot by 6-foot raised beds, which I staked out, dug, and framed with untreated spruce 2X12s from Home Depot. In the second season I added a third.
I filled the beds with a few cubic yards of compost from Boston Bark that were dumped smack in the middle of our driveway. I was pleased until I discovered that the dump truck hadn't been cleaned out before it was loaded with compost, and so right at the center of the magnificent pile was a full two cubic yards of concrete mix. Boston Bark did come back, shovel up the mess, and provide a new load sans concrete but I would have rather seen them get it right on round 1.
The arduous digging of sod.
The compost - with a special concrete filling.
While this was going on, the seedlings watched from inside. Although I'd raised the odd cactus or two in my day, this whole vegetable thing was new territory for me. I tried all sorts of containers, from peat pots to cardboard egg cartons to old yogurt containers. In the end, although they're a one-shot deal, I like peat pots the most because they can be placed in a waterproof dish and watered from below. The peat will soak up the water and dampen the soil, which is a great way to avoid abusing your seedlings during watering.
Another suggestion is to label your seedlings clearly with something other than a post-it note. It's a bit of a surprise when you separate a bunch of tiny tomato seedlings only to find out later that they were actually...basil. In the first year I pre-seeded tomatoes, zucchini, kale, leeks, broccoli, parsley, and basil indoors on April 1st. Later I planted beans, swiss chard, marigolds, and a bunch of salad greens right in the garden. I liked this initial set, with the exception of the leeks, which looked like blades of grass when I transplanted them into the garden and took forever to mature into pitiful stalks.
All of my seeds came from Seeds of Change, which I chose because they are from organic plants. I've generally liked their supply, but their seed packs are pretty expensive and I've had problems with items backordered (summer doesn't wait around for the seeds to arrive) or canceled altogether (a couple of times without any warning).
The first set of seedlings.
A tomato gets a transplant.
All planted and ready to grow (Bed #1).
Tomatoes and salad greens (Bed #2).
My first year was the summer of 2009 when everyone's Ark filled with water from June 1st to July 15th. Irrigation wasn't necessary, and the cool-weather crops such as lettuces and broccoli did well. I did install a soaker hose (seen in the photo) but used it rarely, and found that by September it had rotted and had several holes, making it completely worthless. In 2010 I sprung for a drip irrigation system from a company called Irrigation Direct. The weather was warm and dry and with the system on a timer, all I really had to do was harvest, eat, and repeat. (Less work is always good, because unfortunately I am not a full-time yard gardener.)
I'm a fan of planting densely because it means less weeding, and this appears to work as long as crops are rotated from year to year. I border the beds with marigolds, which help deter pests, and interplant a lot - one plant of this, one row of that, and so on. The only pesticide I use is Bt, which stands for Bacillus Thuringiensis and is a naturally-occurring bacteria that takes care of cabbage moths on the kale and broccoli. In June the basil has been decimated by June bugs (go figure) so I cover them at night - problem solved. I was told that nocturnal investigations are the best way to figure out what's eating your plants, and this has been mostly true. Neighbors come in handy, too: ours told me he spotted a squirrel running away with one of my tomatoes in its mouth. I considered it my contribution to the squirrel fund in exchange for free acorn cleanup services the fellow provides in the fall.
From seedling to garden jungle in a matter of weeks.
Rows offer the illusion of order and method.
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and even though many of my techniques were experimental and haphazard, when the sun shines in Arlington things really start growing. We had more salad greens than we could eat, and managed to can a bunch of tomatoes in the form of salsa. Butternut squash has lasted through the winter in the basement, and I think there's a loaf or two of zucchini bread still in the freezer.
It may seem a long way off, but soon we'll be in shorts and t-shirts and I'll be feeling lucky that there are 200 fewer square feet of my lawn to mow than when I moved in. If luck smiles on me again this year, I'll be feasting on another chaotic pile of plants that are as local as it gets.
1 ½ lbs of zucchini.
A late-season harvest: tomatoes, squash, beets, and everything else.
Summertime on a platter.
Climate Change News
Apr 17, 2019 | 06:53 am
New registrations of fully electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States hit a record 208,000 cars in 2018, more than double the new registrations in 2017, business intelligence firm IHS Markit said in a new analysis. Loyalty rates among EV owners also grew last year, as almost 55 percent of all new EV owners returned to buy or lease another EV in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from the 42 percent of new owners who returned to purchase an EV in the third quarter, IHS Markit said. “As more new models enter the market, we anticipate an even further increase in loyalty to these vehicles,” Tom Libby, loyalty principal at IHS Markit, said, commenting on the analysis. Unsurprisingly, 59 percent of new EV registrations last year were in California and other states that have adopted zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards, IHS Markit said. California alone accounted for almost 46 percent of all new EV registrations in the U.S. last year with 95,000 EV registrations. The other ZEV states that added to California to help drive EV registrations last year include Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, the intelligence firm noted. Going forward, IHS Markit expects that new EVs sales in the United States will exceed 350,000 units in 2020, accounting for 2 percent of America’s car fleet. Further out in time, in 2025, new EV sales in the U.S. are forecast to jump to more than 1.1 million for a market share[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Apr 17, 2019 | 06:43 am
Nations around the globe have pledged to increase their forest cover by planting millions of trees. But new research shows much of this growth would be in monoculture plantations that would be quickly cut down and do little to tackle climate change or preserve biodiversity. Experts agree: Reforesting our planet is one of the great ecological challenges of the 21st century. It is essential to meeting climate targets, the only route to heading off the extinction crisis, and almost certainly the best way of maintaining the planet’s rainfall. It could also boost the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of inhabitants of former forest lands. The good news is that, even as deforestation continues in many countries, reforestation is under way in many others. From India to Ethiopia, and China to Costa Rica, there are more trees today than there were 30 years ago, saving species, recycling rain, and sucking carbon dioxide from the air. The Bonn Challenge, an international agreement struck eight years ago to add 1.35 million square miles of forests (an area slightly larger than India) to the planet’s land surface by 2030, is on track. But what kind of forests are they? A damning assessment published earlier this month in the journal Nature brought bad news. Forest researchers analyzed the small print of government declarations about what kind of forests they planned to create. They discovered that 45 percent of promised new forests will be monoculture plantations of fast-growing trees like acacia and eucalyptus, usually destined for[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Apr 17, 2019 | 06:32 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Apr 16, 2019 | 05:30 am
For all her experience and name recognition, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is being out-fundraised by relative newcomers like Texas’ Beto O’Rourke and Indiana’s Pete Buttigieg this quarter. But when it comes to policy proposals, the Democrat is still outpacing most of her rivals in the 2020 Democratic primary. On Monday, Warren released a proposal that promises, among other things, an executive ban on new offshore leases and drilling on government-owned lands on her first day in office. It marks her sixth policy plan in three and a half months, and is one of the primary field’s first climate proposals that touches on the themes laid out in the Green New Deal. Warren’s proposal includes free access to national parks for American citizens and pledges to restore protections to national monuments like Bears Ears that were rolled back by the Trump administration. Most interestingly, she introduces the framework for the kind of conservation workforce that would put a smile on FDR’s face. The 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps, as she describes it, “will create job opportunities for thousands of young Americans caring for our natural resources and public lands.” The idea is to house the new corps under the umbrella of Americorps — the voluntary civil society program funded by the federal government. If you squint you can see some similarities between Warren’s notion of putting 10,000 young Americans and veterans to work in conservation and the federal jobs guarantee laid out in the Green New Deal, which promises a family-sustaining[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Apr 16, 2019 | 05:00 am
Every stage of plastic's life cycle, from fossil fuel extraction to disposal, produces greenhouse gases. A new study looked at ways to lower the toll. As concern over plastic waste grows, researchers are raising red flags about another problem: plastic's rapidly growing carbon footprint. Left unchecked, greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics will be nearly four times greater by mid-century, when they are projected to account for nearly one-sixth of global emissions. Not all plastics have the same carbon footprint, though. What they are made from, the source of the energy that powers their production, and how they are disposed of at the end of their life cycle all make a difference. In a study published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, researchers calculated the life cycle emissions of different types of plastics, made from fossil fuels and from plants, and looked for ways to lower their total greenhouse gas emissions. They found that there is no silver bullet. Every combination of plastics production and end-of-life disposal generates greenhouse gas emissions. But by combining four different approaches, they found they could lower emissions up to 93 percent compared to business as usual by 2050 if each measure was taken to the extreme. Read more at 4 Ways to Cut Plastic’s Growing Greenhouse Gas EmissionsRead more...
Climate Change News
Apr 16, 2019 | 04:10 am
Thawing permafrost in the Arctic may be releasing 12 times as much nitrous oxide as previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, can remain in the atmosphere for up to 114 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The research, led by scientists at Harvard University, involved measuring greenhouse gas levels over 120 square miles of melting permafrost in the North Slope of Alaska. The data, collected using a small plane, showed that the nitrous oxide emitted over the course of just one month of sampling in 2013 was equal to what was thought to be the region’s yearly emissions. The findings back up similar results from other recent studies that used core samples from Arctic peat to measure rising nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide emissions have been rising globally in recent decades thanks to the expansion of industry and intense fertilizer use. But scientists had long thought that emissions of the gas from melting permafrost were “negligible,” as the EPA described it in a 2010 report. “Much smaller increases in nitrous oxide would entail the same kind of climate change that a large plume of CO2 would cause,” Jordan Wilkerson, an atmospheric chemistry graduate student at Harvard and lead author of the new study, said in a statement. Read more at Melting Permafrost Releasing High Levels of Nitrous Oxide, a Potent Greenhouse GasRead more...
- Climate Change News Apr 16, 2019 | 03:50 am Read more...
Toon of the Week - Arctic sea ice may be gone by the year 2040. / Oh, get serious!There will always be ice in the Arctic. ...Climate Change News Apr 15, 2019 | 06:48 am Read more...
- Climate Change News Apr 15, 2019 | 06:38 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Apr 15, 2019 | 06:31 am
Story of the Week - How a Few Small Fixes Could Stop Climate Change"We have to act fast, and achieve the biggest possible impact with the actions we take." When thinking about new ways to tackle climate change, University of Oxford researcher Thom Wetzer first points out how a modest rise in temperature could push the Earth to a tipping point that yields dramatic climate change. A little warming, for example, could cause Arctic permafrost to melt, unleashing enough heat-trapping methane to cook the planet. Wetzer and his colleagues turned the idea of a tipping point on its head, theorizing that small changes in policy or the development of a new technology, for instance, could lead to big, positive changes in the way we produce and consume energy. Their proposal is outlined in a paper in the journal Science. “Climate change brings risks that will, in one way or another, impact most people’s lives — and certainly the generations that follow,” said Wetzer, a co-author. “Whether that is through extreme weather events, changes in the economy or the reactions of politicians to these climate risks. We can either put up with these risks and watch them grow out of control, or we can act to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.” How a Few Small Fixes Could Stop Climate Change by Marlene Cimons, Nexus Media, Apr 11, 2019Read more...