Thursday, September 22, 2011

News from THE BULLETIN, September/October 2011, BC Council of Garden Clubs

As members of the BC Council of Garden Club (BCCGC), the Powell River Garden Club receives The Bulletin bi-monthly throughout the year. The Bulletin contains news and information from the Council as well as informative and interesting articles submitted by Club members.

Below, please find many of the articles published in The Bulletin, September/October 2011. A printed copy of The Bulletin is available at Club meetings.

Article #1    Fall Cover Crops (Government of New Brunswick, Agriculture & Aquaculture)
Article #2    Blood Meal (from various sources)
Article #3    Potatoes or a Chemical Cocktail (by Marilyn Holt)
Article #4    Curing Squashes for Storage (from various sources and books)
Article #5    Solenostemon a.k.a. Coleus …Wikipedia
Article #6    Wintergreen (from Wikipedia & Canadian Forestry Association website)

Article #1    Fall Cover Crops Government of New Brunswick, Agriculture and Aquaculture

Cover crops are used to protect and improve soil productivity. They are generally non-cash crops and rarely harvested.

A cover crop may be used:

  • as green manure -  'tiilled over' and incorporated into the soil to increase soil organic matter, stimulate soil biological activity or improve soil physical characteristics;
  • to protect the soil from wind and water erosion;
  • to recycle valuable nutrients that are present but not readily available to crops;
  • to catch or conserve nutrients that may be lost through leaching;
  • to interrupt pest and disease cycles and/or suppress weeds; and
  • as supplemental feed for livestock or to provide an additional food source for pollinators (honey bees and leafcutter bees) and other beneficial insects.
  • Adding organic matter to soil:  Green manures break down into various types of organic matter. Mature and fibrous crop materials are characterized by a relatively high carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio, and generally consist of complex lignin compounds that do not readily decompose.

    Note: Lignin is found in all vascular plants, mostly between the cells, but also within the cells, and in the cell walls. Lignin is what makes vegetables firm and crunchy and gives us fibre.

    This slow decomposition generates long-lived or stable organic matter frequently referred to as 'humus'.  Often, only a very small portion of crop residues are transformed into this stable organic matter. Gardeners looking to increase soil organic matter content should consider cover crops that produce large amounts of mature, fibrous materials. It is best to avoid nitrogen-fixing legumes and crops that produce young, 'succulent' materials. See Table 1.

Soil Amendment C:N Ratio
Sawdust 150-400:1
Straw 40-80:1
Autumn Leaves 40-80:1
Corn stalks 60:1
Solid manure (no bedding) 16:1
Fresh Ryegrass 25:1
Alfalfa hay 15-20:1
Produce Waste 11-25:1
Grass clippings 9-25:1
Poultry manure 5-10:1

Table 1
The outcome of amendments shows the highest on the list forms as 'long-lived' or 'stable' organic matter (humus like) and the lowest on the list as 'gives an outcome of biological stimulation'.

Stimulate Soil Biological Activity
Young, fresh crop materials (including legumes) contain readily available compounds which serve as food for soil micro-organisms. When worked into the soil, they may produce very little, if any, stable organic matter. They may, however, significantly stimulate soil biological activity which in turn leads to enhanced mineralization (release of nutrients from decomposing organic matter for plant uptake). Soil biological activity will also make certain nutrients more readily available for crop uptake.

Improve Soil Structure
Soils with a high organic matter content and intense biological activity generally have excellent soil structure. In fact, soil organic matter and biological activity promote good soil aggregation, improved soil stability and improved soil porosity. These, in turn, lead to improved water retention and erosion protection. In addition, field equipment will not compact soils that are well structured quite as easily as they would soils that are not.

Soil macro-organisms (such as earthworms) and micro-organisms play an important role in improving the soils physical characteristics by digging tunnels, decomposing or digesting organic matter and secreting 'glue-like' compounds that improve soil aggregation. Many crops, including root vegetables, benefit greatly in terms of higher yields and quality from improved soil structure.

In addition, most forage crops (clovers and grasses) and small grains are excellent soil conditioners because their vigorous, shallow and fibrous root systems are able to loosen the soil and improve soil tilth. Perennial pasture and hay/haylage mixtures, annual ryegrasses and winter rye are good examples of such crops.

Some crops, such as oilseed radish, sweet clover, and alfalfa can be used as "biological sub-soilers". Used strategically, their deep tap roots can breakup hard and compacted soil horizons. In combination with mechanical subsoiling, deep tilling and improved soil drainage, such cover crops can provide superior soil loosening effects.


  • fastest growing cover crop
  • fibrous root system; moderately aggressive
  • very cold sensitive; easily killed by frost
  • effective at extracting phosphorus from the soil; used by organic farmers for this purpose
  • not a big biomass producer especially if planted late summer

Fall Rye:

  • will germinate in cold temperatures 1-2 degrees C but vegetative growth requires 4 degrees C
  • will flower when daylight hours exceed 14 hours and temperatures average 5-10 degrees C
  • when flowering starts vegetative growth stops, then mow
  • roots are fibrous, extensive and will go to 2m depth of soil
  • does not winter kill
  • can tie up nitrogen in spring when needed by crops
  • helps to increase the concentration of potassium at the surface due to its extensive root system
  • competitive growth habits, good for suppressing weeds
  • allelopathic effect - prevents weed germination and growth
  • cut out strips for planting, leave the rest for weed control
Article #2  Blood Meal (from various sources)

Blood meal is a dry, inert powder made from blood and is used as a high-nitrogen fertilizer and a high protein animal feed. Its balance is N= 13.25%, P = 1.0%, K = 0.6%. It is one of the highest non-synthetic sources of nitrogen, coming from cattle a slaughterhouse by-product. Blood meal is completely soluble and can be mixed with water to be used as a liquid fertilizer.

Whole blood meal is produced by spray drying at low temperatures, the fresh whole blood from animal processing plants. The fresh blood is collected in on-site cooling tanks that utilize agitation to prevent coagulation of the fresh blood. Once delivered to the drying plants the whole blood is centrifuged to remove foreign material and then circulated through a disintegrator to rid all remaining foreign particles prior to spray drying.

It is 80% crude protein, 1% crude fat, 1% fiber and 63.1% ruminant digestible protein.

Release rate for blood meal is rapid and lasts up to four months. It is suited to a fast growing season. Apply no more than 4oz. per square yard during heavy growth seasons. Blood Meal is acidic so don‘t apply to seedlings.

Blood meal is said by some to deter nocturnal animals but others believe they are attracted by the blood meal. Beware of crows if you apply blood meal to the surface and don‘t dig it in. 

Article #3    Potatoes or a Chemical Cocktail (by Marilyn Holt) 

Potatoes are one of the easiest crops to grow and yet a vast majority of people don‘t make the effort. Some choose not to because they don‘t have the space and others think that because they are so plentiful in Canada they don‘t need to grow them.

Well, I will give you one really good reason to grow potatoes if you are a potato eater -chemicals!

You would be amazed to know how many different types of chemicals are used on potatoes, some while they are still actively growing.


The first chemical is used to kill the vines (desiccating) so the potatoes can be harvested by machine.

Active ingredients for desiccation are:

  • Carfentrazone
  • Diquat 
  • Endothal
  • Gulfosinate
  • Pelargonic Acid
  • Pyraflufen
The second chemical is used to cancel out any bacteria that may be present in the soil that could be transferred to the potato while harvesting.

There are too many chemicals used to list them all here.

The third chemical is used to stop the potato from sprouting while it is in storage. This chemical is applied during regular intervals as potatoes are stores upwards of two years. Also, some farmers choose to use a chemical when the plant is still growing so that the chemical will transfer from the leaves into the tubers while they are still growing, stopping the tubers from sprouting.

CIPC (Chlorpropham) is the most common chemical used and will stop potatoes from sprouting for upwards of a year. Something you need to know is that CIPC is also used as a herbicide to control annual grasses in croplands.

The fourth chemical is used to preserve the appearance of the potato, extending the time it takes to age and shriv-el. Again there are numerous chemicals for this use so I have not listed them here.

Other Chemicals Used on Potatoes:

1-4Sight is used to prolong dormancy.

1-4Ship is used to spray on potatoes as they are loaded in vehicles to help potato quality while in transport.

1-4Seed is used to restore dormancy, providing tempo-rary and fully reversible sprout suppression.

Hopefully I have convinced you to plant potatoes next spring for your own use. There are so many different varieties available now so there is bound to be a few you would like to try!

Article #4  Curing Squashes for Storage (from various sources & books)

For storage, harvest sturdy, heavy squash with fairly glossy skin that is unblemished by soft spots, cuts, breaks or uncharacteristic discoloration. Most winter squash benefits from a curing stage - the exception being acorn, sweet dumpling and delicata. Curing is simply holding the squash at room temperature (about 70 degrees) for 10 to 20 days.

After curing, transfer to a cool (45 to 50 degrees), dry place such as the basement or garage for long term storage. Careful, do not allow them to freeze, The large, hard rind, winter squash can be stored up to six months under these conditions. Warmer temperatures simply mean shorter storage time.
The smaller acorn and butternut do not store as well, only up to 3 months. Store cut pieces of winter squash in the refrigerator. Refrigeration is too humid for whole squash, and they will deteriorate quickly.

In the past it was felt that pumpkins and squash will keep longer in storage after they have been cured. Fruit was generally cured at 75-80 degrees F for 10-20 days, The idea behind this is that the curing will toughen the skin and decrease the water content of the flesh.

However, work done at Cornell University in the early 90's showed that there is really no advantage to curing squash or pumpkins. In fact, curing can actually reduce the quality of the acorn types by causing the flesh to take on a stringy texture.

The best way to increase the length of storage and improve the quality of the crop is to remove the fruit from the field prior to the onset of heavy frosts. While some people believe that a light frost helps to 'bring on' the sugars, a sever killing frost will result in the development of unsightly watermarks on the skin‘s surface and this could become a haven for bacteria.


  • Place only high quality, dry fruit in the storage. 
  • Moisture, wounds and bruises lead to storage rot.
  • If the weather is clear when picking, consider leaving the fruit in the field for a few days before you remove them, simply turn them over so the side resting on the soil has a chance to air dry. This also gives the stem scar a chance to heal. 
  • High humidity will result in increased storage rot, while dry conditions will cause excess weight loss and shrink-age. 
  • Avoid large, deep piles of squash. Large piles tend to heat up, creating squash soup in the process. 
  • Clean apple storage bins can do the job nicely. 
  • Maintain good airflow through the storage area.
  • Do not store vine crops in the same area as ethylene producing crops such as apples.
Winter squash are ready to harvest when a fingernail can't penetrate the skin. Cut each off the vine leaving at least an inch of stem. Do not carry the squash to storage by the stem because if it breaks off it opens a wound that allows bacteria in. If you accidentally break off the stem, use that squash first.

After curing winter squash stores best in a cool, but not cold, and dry environment. If the garage gets too damp, use a few crates on the floor, in the far corner of a room. A plank over the top of the crates turns the storage spot into a nice side table. Even after squash have matured and are removed from the vine, they are still alive.
  • Winter Squash - Hubbards - store the longest, approximately five to six months. 
  • Pumpkins - store for approximately two to three months. 
  • Butternut, Turban and Buttercup - store for approximately two to three months. 
  • Acorn Squash - store for approximately five to eight weeks.
Article #5    Solenostemon a.k.a. Coleus … (from Wikipedia)

Solenostemon is a genus of perennial plants, native to tropical Africa, Asia, Australia, the East Indies, the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines. They are commonly known as Coleus, a name which derives from an earlier classification under the genus name Coleus, which is currently treated as two: with species included in either the genus Solenostemon or in another genus, Plectranthus.

Many cultivars of the southeast Asian species Solenostemon scutellarioides have been se-lected for their colourful variegated leaves, typically with sharp contrast between the colours; the leaves may be green, pink, yellow, black (actually a very dark purple), maroon and red.

New cultivars with varieties of colours are constantly being made. The plant grows well in moist, well-drained soil and typically grows from half to one metre in height though some may grow as tall as two metres.

Coleus are heat tolerant but they do better out of the noon-day summer sun. In mild areas (no snow in winter), plants can usually be kept as perennials.

Coleus also make low-maintenance houseplants and can often be propagated by clipping a length of stem just below the leaves and putting the stem in water to root. The plant's flowers grow on a stem above the leaves, and tend to be purple and quite small in comparison to the leaves. The plant is not generally grown for its flowers as it promotes stem elongation. It is best to remove the flower stem as soon as you notice it.

Downy mildew is one disease that affects coleus. This mildew appears on the leaves making the plant look dirty because it is brown in colour. The organism is called Peronospora sp. and can also result in curled and twisted leaves. Sometimes symptoms are not found on leaves which make the disease harder to control. Another disease is impatiens necrotic spot vi-rus which causes brown or yellow spots on leaves, rings, black or brown stem discol-ouration and brown leaf veins, ultimately resulting in plant death. The disease is spread by an insect called a thrips that carries the virus from an infected plant to an uninfected
plant. It only takes a few of these insects to infect a whole greenhouse.

There are two ways to propagate Coleus. Seeds are inexpensive and easily obtainable. To germinate, simply sprinkle seeds on the surface soil and press down. Seeds need light to germinate, so avoid covering the seeds. To keep seeds moist, grow in a container and cover with plastic, or mist seeds daily (if starting seeds directly in the garden). Sprouts can show colour in as little as two weeks. Alternatively, cuttings can be taken. Cuttings root readily in plain water without the addition of rooting hormones.

Coleus blumei (now known as Solenostemon scutellarioides) has very mild relaxing and hallucinogenic effects when consumed. The effects of the Coleus plant have not been explored very much but the plant has been known to have been used by the Mazatec Indians of southern Mexico who have been consuming this plant for years.

Article #6    Wintergreen (from Wikipedia and Canadian Forestry Association Website

In the past 'wintergreen‘ referred to plants that continue photosynthesis throughout the winter (remaining green). The term evergreen is now more commonly used for this characteristic.

Wintergreen now refers to most species of the shrub Gaultheria because it demonstrates the characteristic or remaining green. In North America we call members of the Gaultheria family 'Wintergreen‘, the most common generally being the Eastern Teaberry,
Gaultheria procumbens.

The flowers are white and urn-shaped with five small lobes at the tip. They hang below the leaves on curving stems and appear early in June. The bright red berries ripen in September and remain on the plants until the following spring.

Wintergreen has its own arsenal of fungicides and bactericides and is seldom infected by disease, however, its‘ delicious flavour and food value is its worst problem. White-tailed deer, black bears and the eastern chipmunk relish the plants and keep it cropped off close to the ground. Ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, ring-necked pheasants and wild turkeys eat both berries and leaves. Honey bees use the high-quality nectar during dry weather to make a superior honey.

Wintergreen can found in the wild or may be grown from cuttings or seed in your garden. Choose a shaded area in dry, sandy soil amended with compost or a little peat moss.

Wintergreen berries are also used medicinally. Native Americans brewed a tea from the leaves to alleviate rheumatic symptoms, headache, fever, sore throat and various aches and pains. During the American Revolution, wintergreen leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which was scarce.

Wintergreen is also a common flavoring in products ranging from chewing gum, mints and candies to smokeless tobacco (snuff). It is also a common flavoring for dental hygiene products such as mouthwash and toothpaste.

The Gaultheria species share the common charasterictic of producing oil of wintergreen. Wintergreen oil is a pale yellow or pinkish fluid liquid that is strongly aromatic with a sweet woody odour (components: methyl salicylate [approximately 98%] apinene, mycene, delta 3-carene, limonene, 3,7 guaiadiene, delta-cadinene) that gives such plants a distinctive 'medicinal' smell whenever bruised.

Wintergreen essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of the plant following maceration (softening) in warm water. The oil is used topically (diluted) or aromatheraputically. Common uses are for muscle and joint discomfort, arthritis, cellulite, edema, poor circulation, headache, rheumatism, tendinitis, psoriasis, ulcers, etc. It is also used in some perfumery applications. It is the flavoring ingredient in Listerine. A few drops of wintergreen oil on a soft cloth and placed on the brow is a common time-proven cure for headaches. As well, the stems of the plant are chewed by people around the world to prevent tooth decay.

Wintergreen oil can also be used in fine art printing applications to transfer a colour photocopy image or colour laser print to a high-rag content art paper, such as a hot-press watercolour paper The transfer method involves coating the source image with the wintergreen oil then placing it facedown on the target paper and pressing the pieces of paper together under pressure using a standard etching press. Artificial wintergreen oil, methyl salicylate, is used in microscopy because of its high refractive index.

Wintergreen Oil can be toxic as 30ml (about 1 fluid oz) of it is equivalent to 55.7g of aspirin, or about 171 adult aspirin tablets so care should be taken in storing it away from children. Strong warning labels are recommended for household salicylate containing compounds such as oil of wintergreen.

Some birches and spiraea plants also contain methyl salicylate in large amounts and are used similarly to wintergreen.

Gaultheria shallon is a leathery-leaved shrub in the heather family (Ericaceae) native to western North America and is known as salal. It is very tolerant of both open sun and shady conditions. In coastal areas it can form deep, nearly impenetrable thickets. It grows as far north as Baranof Island, Alaska.

Gautheria shallon (salal), its dark blue 'berries' (actually swollen speals) and young leaves are both edible and are efficient appetite suppressants, both with a unique flavour. Gautheria shallon 'berries' were a significant food resource for native people, who both ate them fresh and dried them into cakes. They were also used as a sweetener, and the Haida used them to thicken salmon eggs. The leaves of the plant were also sometimes used to flavour fish soup.

More recently salal berries are used locally in jams, preserves and pies. They are often combined with Oregonn Grape because the tartness of the latter is partially masked by the mild sweetness of salal betties.

Salal was introduced to Britain in 1828 by David Douglas, who intended the plant to be used as an ornamental. There it is usually known as 'shallon' or more commonly simply Gaultheria, and is believed to have been planted as cover for pheasants on shooting estates.

It readily colonizes heathland and acidic woodland habitats in southern England, often forming very tall and dense evergreen stands which smother other vegetation. Although heathland managers regard it as a problem weed on unmanaged heathland, it is readily grazed by cattle (especially in winter), and so where traditional grazing management has been restored the dense stand become broken up and the plant becomes more scattered.

Salal leaves can be used as a poultice to ease insect and sting bites.

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