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
Jan 19, 2019 | 06:43 am
There is a consistently high level of public support across nations for a global carbon tax if the tax policy is carefully designed, according to a survey of people in the United States, India, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Australia. The research was published in Nature. "Imposing a cost on carbon is the most economically efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said economist and lead author Stefano Carattini, an assistant professor in Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. "Our research shows that a system of harmonized carbon taxes, in which countries agree on the tax rate but maintain control over tax revenues, would be the easiest way to achieve a global carbon price." In the survey, 5,000 respondents from the five countries were asked their opinions on different carbon tax designs and whether they would support a carbon tax to be implemented in their country in 2020, if this was also done in all other countries. The majority of the respondents--from 60 percent in the United States to above 80 percent in India--supported carbon taxes in scenarios where revenues are given back to people or spent on climate projects. "The high level of public support suggests a major rethinking of how we approach carbon taxes and international cooperation," said co-author Steffen Kallbekken, research director at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway. Carattini, Kallbekken and co-author Anton Orlov, a senior researcher at CICERO, simulated the effects of the carbon tax in an[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Jan 19, 2019 | 06:02 am
The fastest-expanding industrial sector on the planet is now electricity storage − a battery boom which heralds an end to the need for fossil fuels. Billions of dollars are being invested worldwide in the developing battery boom, involving research into storage techniques to use the growing surpluses of cheap renewable energy now becoming available. Recent developments in batteries are set to sweep aside the old arguments about renewables being intermittent, dismissing any need to continue building nuclear power plants and burning fossil fuels to act as a back-up when the wind does not blow, or the sun does not shine. Batteries as large as the average family house and controlled by digital technology are being positioned across electricity networks. They are being charged when electricity is in surplus and therefore cheap, and the power they store is resold to the grid at a higher price during peak periods. According to Bloomberg, around US$600 billion will be invested in large-scale batteries over the next 20 years to provide back-up to the grid and power for the expected boom in electric cars. The cost of batteries is also expected to fall by 50% in the next decade, following the same pattern as the drop in cost of solar panels.“The generally-held belief that there was no way to store electricity has been disproved. The battery boom means it is now just a question of finding the easiest and most economic way of doing it”Read more at Battery Boom Aids Climate Change BattleRead more...
Climate Change News
Jan 19, 2019 | 05:10 am
The military walks a fine line between the White House’s official climate denialism and the stark realities of a warming planet. More than a year after President Donald Trump nixed climate change from his administration’s list of national security threats, the Pentagon has released an alarming report detailing how dozens of U.S. military bases are already threatened by rising seas, drought, and wildfire. “The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations,” states the 22-page document, which was published Thursday. The congressionally mandated analysis looked at a total of 79 military installations around the country. The Defense Department found that 53 sites are currently vulnerable to repeat flooding. Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, for example, has experienced 14 inches of sea level rise since 1930. Additionally, more than half of the 79 bases are at risk from drought, while nearly half are vulnerable to wildfire. These climate impacts are expected to pose a risk to several other installations over the next two decades, and the report notes that “projected changes will likely be more pronounced at the mid-century mark” if climate adaptation measures are not taken. While the report is a clear recognition of the immediate threat that climate change poses to the nation’s military infrastructure, it makes no mention of the greenhouse gas emissions driving the crisis. It also doesn’t mention some of the most recent climate-related devastation to military bases, including the estimated[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Jan 19, 2019 | 04:53 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Jan 18, 2019 | 08:15 am
Speaking to the press at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global markets, said, “Here’s what’s going to happen next to future-proof that global juggernaut of commercial vehicles. We’re going to be electrifying the F-Series, both battery-electric and hybrid. And we’re doing the same for Transit. No transition is perfect. In a way, we had the advantage of watching what happened the first time around. (Customers) want really good stuff,” he added in an obvious reference to Tesla and Elon Musk. Ford Says an Electric F-150 Is ComingRead more...
Climate Change News
Jan 18, 2019 | 07:30 am
Stop & Shop is partnering with Robomart to launch driverless grocery vehicle service in the Greater Boston area beginning in Spring 2019. The vehicles will bring a selection of Stop & Shop produce as well as meal kits and convenience items directly to consumers. Stop & Shop customers in the Boston area can summon a Robomart vehicle with a smartphone app. Upon the Robomart vehicle’s arrival, customers head outside, unlock the vehicle’s doors, then personally select the fruits, vegetables, and other products they would like to purchase. When finished shopping, they just close the doors and send the vehicle on its way. The vehicles’ RFID and computer vision technology automatically records what customers select to provide a checkout-free experience, and receipts are e-mailed within seconds.For decades, consumers had the convenience of their local greengrocer and milkman coming door to door, and we believe that by leveraging driverless technology we can recreate that level of convenience and accessibility. We’re extremely excited to bring our vision to life with Stop & Shop, one of the most pioneering and forward-thinking grocery chains in the world. —Ali Ahmed, Founder & CEO of RobomartAll Robomart vehicles are autonomous, electric, and will be remotely piloted from a Robomart facility. Throughout the journey, the teleoperated vehicles will be restocked with fresh Stop & Shop goods to ensure customers are provided with the best selection for purchase. Read more at Stop & Shop, Robomart to Launch Teleoperated Driverless Grocery Vehicles in Boston this SpringRead more...
Climate Change News
Jan 18, 2019 | 06:45 am
At least 60 percent of wild coffee species are at risk of extinction, and climate change will make wild Arabica endangered, new research shows. Climate Change and deforestation are threatening most of the world's wild coffee species, including Arabica, whose domesticated cousin drips into most morning brews. With rising global temperatures already presenting risks to coffee farmers across the tropics, the findings of two studies published this week should serve as a warning to growers and drinkers everywhere, said Aaron P. Davis, a senior research leader at England's Royal Botanic Gardens and an author of the studies. "We should be concerned about the loss of any species for lots of reasons," Davis said, "but for coffee specifically, I think we should remember that the cup in front of us originally came from a wild source." Read more at Love Coffee? Here's Another Reason to Care About Climate ChangeRead more...
Climate Change News
Jan 18, 2019 | 06:00 am
To stabilize climate and get people healthy, the world needs to overhaul its diet and agriculture systems, the EAT-Lancet commission says. That includes less meat. An ambitious report on the global food system from a commission convened by the prestigious medical journal The Lancet calls for a radical change in food production—or, as one of the authors put it: "Nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution." It's the latest research to emphasize that the futures of the climate and human health are deeply intertwined. In order to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize the climate, the world needs a "comprehensive shift" in its diet, the authors say. "The dominant diets that the world has been producing and eating for the past 50 years are no longer nutritionally optimal, are a major contributor to climate change, and are accelerating erosion of natural biodiversity," The Lancet's editors write in a commentary accompanying the report, released Wednesday. Read more at Global Commission Calls for a Food Revolution to Solve World’s Climate & Nutrition ProblemsRead more...
Climate Change News
Jan 18, 2019 | 05:39 am
The Earth’s surface is 70 percent water, but even that underestimates how vital ocean health is to our planet’s ability to maintain life. Recent results from scientists around the world only further confirm that our waterworld is in serious danger. Last week, a bombshell study confirmed that the oceans are warming 40 percent faster than many scientists had previously estimated. The finding partially resolved a long-running debate between climate modelers and oceanographers. By measuring the oceans more directly, scientists again came to a now-familiar conclusion: Yes, things really are as bad as we feared. The ocean stores more than 90 percent of all excess heat energy due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. From the standpoint of heat, global warming is almost entirely a story of how rapidly the oceans are changing. Warming oceans work to melt polar ice, of course, thereby raising sea levels. But hotter oceans change how the atmosphere works, too. More heat energy in the oceans means more heat energy is available for extreme weather: Downpours of rainfall are happening more often, hurricanes are shifting in frequency and growing in intensity, freak ocean heat waves are spilling over into temperature records on land. Melting Arctic and Antarctic sea ice is also increasing wave height, which is accelerating coastal erosion — worsening the effects of sea-level rise. The now-inevitable loss of nearly all coral reefs — home to a quarter of the ocean’s biodiversity — is the most charismatic of the impacts. The changes[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Jan 18, 2019 | 05:17 am Read more...