Apr 222011

From a gardener’s standpoint April is often a disappointment. There are daffodils and lilacs opening up, of course. Occasional hints of warm weather that gets one all excited, then gusts of cold and even a snowflake or a bit of hail. Best to be patient. (Cliff Mass notes that this has been the worst spring ever).

It’s a good time to dig back into the gardening books, clean up the beds, make some fertilizer and potting soil or even some bokashi if you are so inclined.

I spend a lot of time each morning reading the discussion on some gardening newsgroups. As a result of the Fukishima disaster a new term has popped up—radiation gardening.

There’s much contradictory information about radiation clouds emanating from the Fukishima nuclear plants. Many experts tells us that these radiation clouds, if they exist, are not harmful. These same people also report that x-rays should not cause alarm. Logic tells me that if there is a dead zone around a melt down that radiation has the potential for short term and long term damage, that the effusions of Fukishima will end up somewhere whether it be air or water and, ultimately, have some adverse affect.

Thus, the attempt to be an organic gardener seems problematic. Should one worry so much about garden inputs if there is a future possibility of cabbages that glow in the dark as the result of fallout? For example, Steve Solomon’s Complete Organic Fertilizer calls for “cottonseed meal” as as one of the possible nitrogen sources. Yet cotton is a heavily sprayed crop that may even include Roundup in the mix. Is cottonseed meal really appropriate for an organic garden? I’m still using it but having questions. On the other hand, if assorted radioactive particles are dropping on the garden with the rain, how much should I worry about cottonseed meal and its nasty constituents?

Radiation gardening calls for greenhouses and hoop houses. We’ve had a greenhouse on the drawing board for some time but can’t seem to get traction with the idea. There’s problems with location, wind, design, etc. Clearly, though, a greenhouse is a good idea. This fellow’s very simple design has some appeal.

In a polluted, radiated world the Israelis seem to be on top of the situation with vast greenhouse installations which you can view by downloading this pdf file.

This time of year gardening is task number one. I’ve moved from not knowing anything to not knowing exactly how I want to go about it. Still in the experimentation stage. But I am clear that effective gardening has three main aspects: biological, mineral and energetic. It’s not enough just to dump a bunch of compost on the garden if you want to grow the most nutritious food. More on this to come.


  4 Responses to “Radiation Gardening”

  1. I think the less toxic stuff we add to whatever falls from the heavens, we’re still that much further toward being healthier. We can only do what we can do. No sense stressing about things over which we have no control.

  2. When I was a kid we just threw the left-overs into the garden and mixed them in. Except for the meat bones – the dog got those!

  3. As a builder/gardener/designer I’d say forget the undersized, overpriced, overengineered greenhouse in the link. We are beginning our second season with our hoop house (12′ X 30′ ) and ITS TOO SMALL. I need another or maybe two or three. Last year was a crummy year for tomatoes, right? Not at my house! We ate tomatoes, cucumbers and harvested tons of basil all summer and fall. PVC pipe and greenhouse plastic. We are planning a hoop house class pretty soon, if you’d like to be on the mailing list for Food Masters (our local food growing and gathering group) email me.

    Deer Harbor, Orcas Island

  4. My greenhouse in the link cost $100 for the frame, and roughly $40-60 for the plastic ( I forget exactly).
    Plastic can cost more than the frame in most cases. The prices constantly rise as plastic is made from petroleum.

    Please list the cost of plastic alone for your 12×30 hoop house. And where you bought it so we can confirm. I’m not joking.

    Floor area of yours is 360 sq ft. Mine is 166 sq ft.

    Mine can be built by a single person. Alone. With a single 6 foot ladder and a cordless drill.
    All the parts are available in one trip to a Home Depot or the like.

    Hoop house is an old idea. These people beat you to a great design:

    It does not use PVC. PVC is not durable long term and it’s a nasty material.
    Free plans on that site for everyone. Look into it.

    That 100 foot hoop house costs $1000…and the creators said they got the plastic at WHOLESALE cost.

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