When the economy is down, pick yourself up with a garden. It’s good for the soul, and growing your own food can save you money

Food prices are rising across our nation. Here’s the one that stalls inflation. Take up gardening!

Just like the tallest sunflower, the biggest tomato, the grandest corn stalk and the most impressive carrots you ever grew, or the highest beanstalk that Jack ever climbed, gardening has taken on a brand new dimension.

March 27 has been set aside as Green Day. If you’re a gardener (and I’m confident that thousands of Grainews readers are), this is the start of sustainable gardening for 2009, next year and the future.

LIKE AN OCTOPUS WITH TENTACLES…

…gardening is attracting youngsters, oldsters and endless numbers in between at an all-time high. Folks who’ve never grown a thing before are becoming gardeners. People are realizing that seeds and plants are like sticks of dynamite. The power’s on the inside.

Our national and global economies present new challenges for all of us. Everywhere we are actively searching for ways to reduce our costs, improve the bottom line and ensure food safety. Can you think of a better way than growing your own fresh veggies and fruit?

A geyser has erupted. That old waste-not, want-not talent from our grandmothers’ days for pickling, preserving and drying food is being revisited at an unprecedented level. The whole nine yards from exchanging jelly and juice recipes to learning all the tricks of home canning and freezing have taken on a brand new dimension.

We are rethinking where our fresh food comes from, how it’s being handled, and what’s being sprayed on it. Some of us will also be out and about visiting open air farmers’ markets and fresh roadside produce stands in season. Such places are where to find fruit and veggies grown in our local area, plus all sorts of other items we might never see elsewhere.

PLANT ANOTHER APPLE TREE

Here’s why! More research is adding to the body of data that apples and other fruits, especially berries, plus vegetables and in particular tomatoes, red peppers and squash, all help to prevent and fight prostate and breast cancers.

A variety of potent antioxidant compounds and flavonoids have been discovered in apple peelings, so don’t chuck ’em out. It’s an affirmation of what many mothers already knew long ago. The goodness and nutrients are right under the skin. Doesn’t that make all of us want to buy an extra apple tree this spring?

APPLY FLY MAGGOTS

Gardening doesn’t come without its challenges. Nobody wants to eat an apple that’s been riddled with worms. One of the biggest issues faced by home apple growers is damage inflicted by apple fly maggots. Their act of egg laying creates “dimples” on the surface of the apple. Inside, the larvae are pretty well protected against biological control agents. They leave brown spots, irregular tunnels, trails or channels.

Dropped fruits allow maggots to emerge and enter soil where they pass the winter as pupae and so good sanitation and cleanup is crucial. Adult flies are about six mm (1/4 inch) long, black with yellow legs and a prominent zigzag band across the wings. They emerge when developing fruit are about the size of a golf ball or larger.

Our challenge is to deal with the flies (apple maggot adults) before they lay their eggs. Work some dolomite lime — available at nurseries and garden centres — into the soil at the foot of every apple tree. Then plant a thick, wide circle of nasturtiums, onion chives or garlic chives around the base of each tree.

THREE FLY TRAP FORMULAS

Baited traps hung in fruit trees will attract and drown many adult flies. Here are three bait formulas. Experiment to determine which works best for you. These non-invasive suggestions won’t poison or pollute and up to 90 per cent or better of your apples can be pest free.

1. Mix a solution of one part molasses diluted with nine parts of water to which a bit of baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast has been added. Wait until the fermentation has stopped before putting it in the trap.

2. Combine 10 ml (two teaspoons) of household ammonia with a bit of laundry bar soap, or liquid soap, or soap flakes in a litre of water.

3. One part molasses, six parts vinegar and six parts water mixed well together.

To make a trap, cut two-inch square holes on the sides of empty two-litre or four-litre water, juice or pop bottles. Pour in some formula. Hang four to six traps throughout each apple tree after petals have fallen, especially on the sunny sides. Make fresh bait weekly and discard the old stuff. If left hanging too long, it will smell something awful.

Apple-sized red spheres coated with sticky Tangle-Trap and scented lures available at nurseries and garden centres can also be hung in trees.

FRUIT TREE TRUNK PASTE

Combine together equal parts of old cow manure, soil clay and diatomaceous earth. The latter is available at garden centres and cattle feed dealers. Gather some wild horsetail plants and make strong tea out of it. Add enough horsetail tea to the combo above and make a paste. Apply this mixture end of May or beginning of June to the trunk of fruit trees, using a whitewash brush.

There’s plenty of horsetail growing in my area. It’s commonly seen in dry, stony areas and along railway tracks. Or you can buy dried horsetail at bulk natural and health food outlets.

I don’t pretend for a moment to know it all. If you have a pest control method that works for you and are willing to share, let me hear from you. A good tree fruit grower needs to be like the apple and not be afraid to go out on the limb. That’s where the fruit is!

RADISHES AS A SPRING TONIC

One reason gardeners plant radishes in early spring is because of their tonic effect. Like parsnips, radishes contain a goodly amount of both sulphur and bromine. These nutrients are essential to the adrenal glands and ’tis said in folklore circles both of these root crops impart physical courage to the human body.

Some of you may be asking: What about controlling radish root maggots? First off, prepare the seed bed, then apply a very light sprinkling of salt along the row and brush it into the soil. Be careful not to use too much salt. Spread radish seeds well apart and cover with a shallow layer of soil. This treatment is equally effective against onion maggots.

If salt fails to completely do the trick, mix together 50 per cent each of used, dried tea leaves and plain bran flakes that have been powdered in a coffee grinder or other kitchen utensil, then sprinkle along the row. Also refer back to my March 9 Grainews column for other maggot control solutions. Radishes like to be planted nearby peas, lettuce and nasturtiums.

LOOK FOR WINNERS’ NAMES…

…of my garden giveaway promotion in next Grainews issue and let’s all be motivated to congratulate them. If someone ever says to you…“motivation doesn’t last,” you can always respond: “Taking a bath or shower doesn’t last either. That’s why I recommend it daily.”

Ted Meseyton is the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song and that’s why I sing. You’re invited to detour back this way again next time along the path that leads to my Grainews column. My e-mail address is [email protected]

About the author

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Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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