Category Archives: WILT, or What I Learned Today

For arsenic-free water, pull up your compost socks.

I realize that this post-title sounds as if I'd lost both my remaining marbles, or else as though I were trying to imitate the inimitable off-the-wall titles of the great Blogger from Blackpitts, James A-S himself. But no. As you will see.

Let us begin with the subject of spreading compost. Easy, right? All you need is a wheelbarrow and a shovel. Well. Check out the photo below.

Compost blanket ap. McCoy
Source: Compost: Completing the Cycle
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TECQ), 20

That, folks, is how they do it in Texas. Apparently, when they go for compost there, they do it big-time. (Why am I not surprised?)

Compost blankets like this one reduce runoff, making reseeding disturbed soil far quicker, more successful, and therefore economical than it is when using what are disparagingly referred to as "traditional methods." But that's not really the point here. The point is the machinery, which I'll return to in a minute.

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Compost to control plant diseases (revised)

Black shank:field tom.: updt 9:5:'08 FL Dept. of Ag and Consumer Serv. plant disease

Field tomatoes stricken with P. nicotianae Breda de Haan
USDA Forestry image fr. Division of Plant Industry Archive
Florida Dept. of Ag. and Consumer Services

So a day or two ago I was innocently researching away about compost and just for fun, hit the Google ‘scholar’ option to see what came up under the wide-open search term “compost.” (Toe surgery confines me for the moment to whatever I can find on the Internet; even the University library six blocks away is too far).

Lo and behold, I found myself looking at a number of articles dating back to the eighties and continuing right up to the present day about managing diseases with compost. Slap my ass and call me Judy, but I never heard of such a thing. Like a good metaphor, however, it makes sense as soon as I hear it: so many plant diseases are soil-borne that changing the soil balance would reasonably affect disease contraction, severity, and so on.

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Soil + sand = cement? Not so much.

They say adding sand to clay soil yields cement. Maybe sometimes. But based on a highly unscientific experiment in my back yard, not always.

Soft soil 1,

The warning about sand pops up here and there all over the internet, often coming from university Extension offices. The one in Colorado for instance, says flat out, “Don't add sand to clay soil,” predicting a consequence that would make any gardener quake in her gardening boots: “this creates a soil structure similar to concrete.” A specialist with Ohio State University goes even further, saying that the result is usually “a disaster.”

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Bindweed, garden enemy #1

This is the first of several posts on bindweed, scourge of the gardener’s life. I’m hoping to hear from plenty of people about methods and tactics. After all, it all started when a woman in the north-east corner of Montana sent me these pictures of her garden:


Those are bind-weed sprouts there against the bare ground and bindweed climbing the tomatoes. (I think those are tomatoes.) Now take a look at this one:

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Run! Run for your life! Kudzu is coming– (revised)

This is a revised (shortened) version of the original post, which included a long section from the lawn-care article mentioned below. For that article in its original context, click here for the weed page and scroll down for kudzu.

 KOkudzu, experiments kudzu on the march– photo from the Coalition.

Research spin-off

The endless lawn article (Hey—how’d that work as a movie title? The Endless Lawn Article. You know, as a sequel to The Endless Story? No?) included a section on weeds, of course, and it occurred to me to wonder if the most famous weed of all, kudzu, was a problem in lawns. So I started googling away, and found things that made it hard to sleep at night.


I swear, kudzu is the stuff of nightmares and really bad science fiction movies, but it’s real. It’s a leguminous vine—yes, it’s cousin to your beans and peas, and brother to soy beans—but unlike any of those, it can grow several feet per week, enveloping entire trees, which it kills by depriving them of light and water. It looks most spectacular when draped over a thirty-foot-tall tree, but left unchecked, it will take over whatever is in its way, including, yes, your lawn.

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