Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March 10, 2010

Today was a good day for a shift. The rain let up and the compost piles that we made last week are settling in, brimming with potential for life. We have been learning a lot about the soil, the basis of all our work in the garden as well as a reflection of all of nature's work on the planet. Today we reviewed what we've learned about the physical and chemical nature of soil, and the teamwork between living microbial and so-called non-living elements of the ground. We talked about the nitrogen and carbon ratios involved in a compost pile, empowering those who have dreams of starting a pile of their own if they haven't already established one. And we've had the chance to practice what we've learned through application! Gettin' all up in the dirt and feeling what we're experiencing in the classroom.

Now it is the one year anniversary of the Indian Valley farm and how appropriate is it that we celebrate with propagation! We can now move our focus from the soil to relationship between living soil and growing beings.

In our lecture we discussed the difference between annual plants, which grow from seed to seed in one year, biannual plants which grow in one year and seed in the second, and perennial plants which come back every year. There's also a difference between asexual (or vegetative) reproduction and sexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction does not require a male and female organ on the plant, therefore cloning of the plant is possible; no additional genetic material is combined during reproduction. In sexual reproduction, there is a combination of mother and father DNA, creating a larger gene pool and more diversity. It is important to note that, when asexually cloning plants, the selected plant must be healthy! There is no diversity so the plant is more vulnerable to every trait it already has. Make sure to check for disease or disturbance in any plant that you might propagate.

It was a day of rebirth on this decided 1st year birthday. Out in the field, we transplanted baby plants and mixed soil. I came to the greenhouse late, but I really enjoyed watching everyone hard at work in their propagation. I felt like I learned a lot just by observing. The effectiveness of an interactive, experience-based classroom really stands out at times like these. I thought a lot about how grateful I am to be involved in a program that encourages an integrated, practical, and active curriculum.

Everyone was practicing utilizing and managing vegetative propagation by using the striking or cutting method to clone baby plants! We learned out to separate stalks from their mother plant and organize them in perlite boxes according to how much moisture the need to get started and by color. We worked with willow, rosemary, honeysuckle, noble bay, as well as a multitude of others, using our hands to split the bond naturally, rather than using pruners that would damage the cell walls and cause more damage to the plant structure. If this was the case, more energy would be diverted to healing rather than taking root. We clipped their remaining upper leaves in a pointed-triangular shape and lay them at 45ยบ angles in the perlite. Then we watered them with willow water, moving them to the shade house to settle in and take root.

Now for us to settle in and take root! Our homework for this week is to become familiar with the planting schedules in Pam Pierce's gardening guide. We can cultivate our interest in specific plants and grow more from our experiences with them. To turn in next Wednesday, we should write about a favorite plant that we dream of propagating OR write about our experience with and insights on compost.

Also, news from our friends at Commonweal in Bolinas! Speakers from the Marin Carbon Project will be hosting an event this Sunday, the 14th, at 2:30. Luke sent me this flyer to pass on to you guys!

Have a wonderful week and we'll see each other again on the 17th!

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