Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vigna unguiculata II

the cowpeas are flowering...the top photo is from this morning...some fine looking lavender colored blooms with some darker purple highlights in the center...i noticed several buds on wednesday and as i examined them i saw there was a node just beneath them that was secreteting fluid and that there were three or four ants on every single one i found...i wondered what was up in an email to dr. forgey and she sent me some links to some articles...those tell me that ants play a minor role in the pollinization scheme cowpeas have evolved...they do polinate some plants, but most cowpeas in humid environments ( and i do believe we qualify) are self-pollinating...the ants , bees, and any other insects are a backup...the flowers open in the morning, close by noon, and fall off the same day they bloom so you have to be out by mid-morning or so to catch them...obviously they have been at it for a while as i am finding pods on the ends of some stems, a few of which are fairly large, so the plants are producing seeds...i planted the cowpeas to fix nitrogen, not as a crop, and i planted them rather late...some in june, around the asparagus, and some in july in the potato bed after the i did not really expect them to it's a race with the first hard would be nice to be able to harvest any seeds from our own plants to use as next season's green manure...a sort of continuity from the first season to the second so i hope it will work out...i still have quite a few of the seeds i purchased this year, and my reading tells me that the seeds can remain viable for more than two years...but i'd still rather grow our own.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

philosphical approaches

when i arrived on campus at 7:21 this morning the air positively reeked of nitrate fertilizer...not like someone had spilled some cleaning product, the way anhydrous ammonia smells in the cornfields...more like i'd stepped into a bag of scott's 20-20-10 turf-builder plus...the unmistakable odor of chemical fertilizer, and that's just what was going on...motorized spreaders were moving across the lawn flinging pellets of fertilizer as they went...i have written about the condition of the ground when we opened the garden in earlier posts...the bulk of the activity last autumn and of the early spring this year was devoted to ovecoming its chem-lawned sterility...from the addition of 3/4 of a ton of organic matter ( mostly compost and composted manure )to the worms and cowpeas there has been some effort to esablish and maintain soil that is fertile because it supports the life that makes it so rather than because it is chemically infused...the guy that was doing the lawn by hawthorn hall was very careful not to get too close to the garden ( because i was there weeding and doing a bit of watering? if you click on the thrid photo you can just make him and his buggy out ) ....he didn't do the strip of grass between hawthorn and the garden, and he stayed a good ten feet away on the south side so i do not think the garden was compromised by the chemicals...but it ceratinly does highlight the way the corporate and institutional worlds approach plant life and the more organic and self-sustaining philosophy we are trying to work out in the garden

Thursday, September 2, 2010

a few more photos

just a few better ( i hope ) photos to illustrate a significant difference between Zea mexicana and Zea mays and some equally significant similarities...the top photo is of the tillers coming out of the base of the teosinte...teosinte develops branches as it grows, the maize does not...whether this was a trait selected against during domestication i cannot least not now...more research...but it obviously disappeared along the way to its modern teosinte, the maize develops alternate leaves from a central stalk, branching off on alternate sides as the plant grows...a close look at the photos of the maize shows that each plant has produced a single large ear...if the season were long enough for me to bring the Zea mexican to maturity it would produce multiple, much smaller ears, another significant difference that was doubtlessly selected for during domestication and which i will unfortunately have to find an illustration for from somewhere beyond the range of my own camera.