Paul Nickerson

Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

Garlic: Fall Planting

In Gardening, Propagation on December 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm

If you haven’t planted your garlic yet, there is still time. Garlic is a member of the Liliaceae (Lily) family, along with onions and leeks. Because of this, garlic is grown in a similar manner to onions. While many people like to plant their garlic on the winter solstice (Dec. 22nd), it is not an exact science. A fall planting of garlic should be in the ground shortly after the first, hard frost. Due to the warm weather this winter, there is still ample time get a planting in.


Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow in your home garden. A bulb can be purchased from any local seed supply store this time of year. The bulb is separated into individual cloves. The cloves should be planted in well draining soil so that the top of the cloves are about an inch below ground level. After the bulbs winter over, they will sprout in the spring.


Garlic will be ready toward the end of the growing season, once the scape and spathe begin to die back. Some of our shareholders at the Community Garden receiving the entire scape to use in soups. Depending on the soil, the garlic plant can usually be pulled up by the bulb neck.


Garlic can be prepared and stored in a number of ways. Some people prefer to braid or bundle the stalks of their garlic together to allow them to be dried and stored in a group. In the garden, I prefer to hang the garlic out to dry the stalk and bulb slightly. The bulbs can be cut from the stalk, leaving about an inch of the bulb neck. It is best to store garlic away from sunlight, in an area with good air circulation. Storing garlic in a refrigerator for extended periods of time can lead to softening or mold.

Christmas Cactus Confusion

In Propagation on December 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Each year as we approach Christmas, stores line their shelves with beautiful leaf cacti with attractive fluorescent blooms. With these plants comes a lot of discussion on blogs and forums about the differences between the Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera sp., Thanksgiving Cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, and Easter Cactus, Rhipsalidopsis sp..

All three of these cacti are all native epiphytes to tropical forests in Brazil. As epiphytes, they are found attached to the sides of trees or other plants. This is not to say that they are parasitic, as they do not obtain nutrients from their host. Through hybridization, cultivators have alters these plants to bloom in a wide range of colors.

These cacti have received the name “leaf cacti” due to their modified stems that very much resemble leaves. The Christmas Cactus has ‘stem margins’ that have slightly lobed protrusions, while the Thanksgiving Cactus has very define points along the edges of the stem segments. The Easter Cacti have very smooth stem segments that are almost perfect ovals.

Although Christmas Cactus, and Thanksgiving Cactus, are both members of the Schlumbergera genus, while Easter Cacti as member of the Rhipsalidopsis genus, they are very similar plants.


All of these plants bloom in response cool temperatures and short days. I have heard a number of different stories about people whose plants fail to bloom well. This is commonly due to the fact that they treat these plants with the same care as other houseplants. In order for these plants to bloom, they must be exposed to cool temperatures (10-20 degrees Celsius) for a short while, while also being exposed only natural light during the short-day period.

To accomplish this, it is best to place the plant next to a window in a room that is not commonly used after dark. This will allow for the appropriate temperature change and lighting. During the winter period, watering is not necessary until blooms begin to appear. Once buds show, water the plant sparingly. Commercial growers will force blooming by creating an artificial spring inside greenhouses. This same process if used to bloom mums for Mother’s Day.


All three of these species propagate very easily with the same method: Stem Propagation. Segments from the stem can be buried just below the surface of the medium. With slight moisture, they will root fairly rapidly. It is common for leaf cacti to put out adventitious roots from nodes, making them incredible easy propagate.

Issues with Genetic Control of Insects

In Gardening on December 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Recently I presented on Biocontrol of weeds. Biocontrol is a process in which species specific insects are utilize to reduce the population of a target plant. While this process is general effective, recent research has shown that rapid evolution of the target plants, as well as degradation of host specificity leads to negative effects on non-targeted, native plants.

As another method of biological control of plants, biocoporations, such as Monsanto, work to create genetically modified plants that can produce toxins, protecting them from many pests. In the same way that biocontrol can lead to rapid evolution, this same thing can occur with GMC. This is a pretty interesting article about how this occurs.

Check out this Article by NPR, Insect Finds Crack In Biotech Corn’s Armor


Welcoming New Aquaponicist To Blogosphere!

In Aquaponics on December 5, 2011 at 3:54 am

Hey everyone! My little cousin, Katerina Woronik, is senior high school student at Lyman Memorial High School. She has been working with aquaponics for about a year now, and has build a very impressive system that produces more basil than anyone could ever know what to do with. Currently she is working under a private grant to design and built an interactive system for a local magnet school. While she is relatively new to aquaponics, she is no stranger to hard work and agriculture. Her experience with traditional farming techniques gives her a wonderful platform from which to engage in aquaponics. While she might be embarrassed by me saying this, she has great potential to do amazing things for the field of aquaponics, and I am looking forward to working with her. Please visit her blog, Woronik Aquaponics, and welcome her to the blogosphere!

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