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Start asparagus plants from seeds

Singing Gardener: Plus, what is Paruresis and some tips if you have it

Late March and early April are the times of year I begin scratching around the soil to see what’s popping up besides dandelions and daffodils. Depending on weather, I may soon plant, or will have already planted a short row or two of radish seeds in a sunny sheltered microclimate spot.

I share a short excerpt from a letter that mentions asparagus. Have you ever wondered why eating asparagus makes human urine smell downright strange?

Got a haircut February 20 during the 4th quarter dark of the moon. I told my lady barber there’s a connection between the moon’s energy and gardening, hair growth, clipping finger- and toenails and a whole lot of other things. She was as excited as a kid, eager to learn more. Readers wanting their hair to grow faster should consider getting it cut during increase of moonlight especially on March 29, 30, 31 and April 1, 4, 26, 27, 28. Hair won’t grow as fast when cut during receding moonlight with best dates being April 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23 and 24, 2017.

My signature tip o’ the hat extends hello and welcome everybody. So glad you love to read the printed word. Thanks for joining me on this Grainews page.

Reader’s letters continued

“I have a good asparagus patch but grass and weeds keep working their way in. Every few years I spray it with Roundup before the asparagus comes up. I have a computer, did not think myself capable of writing you online. I only got the computer on my 80th birthday or about then so we (computer and I) are not the best of friends. Thank goodness for a computer-savvy friend who comes when I call HELP. If you share any part of this letter, please do not print my name. Thanks again for your column.” (name withheld) Granum, Alta.

Ted says: Savvy means “practical know-how.” For example, we might say so and so “has letter-writing savvy,” or has “good gardening savvy.” The final part of said reader’s letter follows in Grainews April 11, 2017 issue.

Growing asparagus from seed

First, a quick reference to companion planting. Tomatoes, parsley and basil are good buddies that help shoo away pests if planted in close proximity to asparagus. Tomatoes also get along with chives, carrots, dill, onions, marigolds and nasturtiums, but do keep tomato plants away from fennel and potatoes.

My son “Chris the Accordion Guy” is also a prolific songwriter and wrote a tune titled: “Missing Out.” Although the lyrics don’t mention asparagus I’d suggest that gardeners without a bed of asparagus plants are “missing out.”

A well-maintained asparagus bed can produce for 20 years or more and grows to its own tune. On a hot day stalks can increase in length by six inches. Reminds me of competitive gardeners who grow giant-size gourds and pumpkins, some of whom suggest you can actually watch them get bigger one day to the next.

You have two options with asparagus — buy rooted plants or start your own from seed. As to the latter, expect to do your first cutting during the third year of growth. A variety that caught my eye is Guelph Millennium developed by Professor Dave Wolyn and his research team at University of Guelph’s plant agriculture department.

Guelph Millennium was named seed of the year in 2005 in recognition for sustained high yields and quality. Said variety now comprises more than three-quarters of the Ontario market. Better yet, this cool-tolerant asparagus has become popular among producers as far away as B.C. and the U.K., having also gained popularity for other traits. While sandy and light soil is ideal for most asparagus, Guelph Millennium has performed well in heavier land, including virgin soils. This has allowed producers to expand into areas that previously were not ideal for growing asparagus.

Seeds for Guelph Millennium asparagus can be purchased from W.H. Perrin, Laval, Que., H7P 5R9; www.whperron.com or phone 1-800-723-9071 and also from West Coast Seeds, Delta, B.C., V4L 2P2, www.westcoastseeds.com or phone 1-888-804-8820.

Why does urine smell so much after eating asparagus?

Believe it or not, according to studies, some of us are actually spared from the not-so-pleasant scent coming from urine after eating asparagus.

A sulphurous compound called methyl mercaptan is contained within the fibres and juices of asparagus. This harmless but pungent-smelling gas has been described as having the stench of rotting cabbages, rotten eggs, smelly socks and decaying onions and garlic.

When the digestive system breaks down asparagus, byproducts are released that cause the characteristic, not entirely pleasant odour. No wonder rotten eggs are used in an anti-deer repellent formula that is sprayed onto tree limbs and branches, along fence posts and outskirts of gardens to discourage wild animal intrusions.

Human urine as plant food

Does it pose a risk to human health? Since way back when, animal and human urine and solid animal wastes have been used to improve and return essential nutrient value back into soil. Such practice has a long history of use in many parts of the world. Let’s take a peek at human urine collected from healthy people who are not taking any prescription medication. Human urine is characteristically high in nitrogen and other water-soluble elements discharged from the body. Historically it’s been shown to have little chance of carrying or spreading infectious agents into soil. That is to say — using human urine in the garden turns something that’s a waste into something useful. Is this a way to help replace some commercial plant food products?

You can speed up composition of homemade compost by adding full-strength urine to the compost heap as an accelerator to hasten and break down plant material. Heat is generated by nitrogen in urine that helps neutralize and eliminate any foreign bacteria that may be present. Once the resulting compost has ripened, spread it over soil as an enhancer and around garden plants.

As a plant food, make your own blend of urine and water. Never use it full strength. For example, dilute one part of full-strength urine with 20 parts plain water. An option is to stir one-quarter cup of three per cent hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) into each four-litre jug of prepared solution and let marinate for an hour, then apply around a few wild weeds, annuals and perennials including flowers. Wait 48 hours and do a thorough inspection of treated plants for any negative effects such as yellowing, drooping, dried or burned leaves. Should anything adverse appear, discontinue use and flush treated plants with clear water.

If you decide to experiment further, dilute the next batch with one part full-strength urine to 30 parts of water. Continue increasing the dilution of urine in water until you find the right balance that works best for your plants. Keep written notes as to combo and results. Home gardeners who’ve already tried human urine in a plant food mixture are encouraged and invited to share their formula, experience and results with readers.

Human urine diluted 50/50 with plain water eliminates, discourages and fights fungus and mildew that deposits on stems, branches and leaves of bushes, low shrubs and on some annuals and perennials. Lightly mist from a spray bottle onto affected parts but do not use as a plant food as 50/50 dilution is too strong and will burn. Remember, full-strength urine is a weed killer. Most of us have seen dead spots on lawn grass caused by dog urine.

Here’s an important point to remember regarding use of human urine as a plant food ingredient that’s been applied to edible produce or fruit. Before serving, donating or selling any such homegrown veggies, herbs and fruit to your family, friends or others, be sure to inform them of such practice and wait for their reaction.

Is there such a thing as pee shyness?

Bet your bottom dollar there is. It’s medically known as Paruresis and is commonly called shy bladder syndrome, social phobia and cognitive hang-up. The major symptom is characterized by an individual’s inability to urinate in public washrooms when others are around or standing nearby. Although it’s more common among men, women can be affected too.

A guy offered this helpful tip. “I stick a finger into my ear as if I have an itch. This distorts background noise and I can focus on urinating.” Another said, “I’ve found that abdominal breathing really helps me to stay focused and calm down. When I breathe in, I make sure that the air goes all the way down to the lowest part of my lungs and I push my belly out. Shallow breathing only into my upper chest makes it worse.”

Learning how to relax the pelvic area and doing Kegel exercises at home are beneficial. Professional physical and biofeedback therapists are available to teach behavioural techniques to help individuals overcome such a challenge.

About the author

Columnist

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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