THE POLITICALLY CORRECT GARDENER
The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (4/15/2011)
This column receives many queries about politically correct gardening. Some questions and answers follow:
Q. My composter stinks. People walk by our house holding their noses. My wife stamps her feet and talks to me in shrill-speak, and our small children cry because they’re lost all their friends. I’m losing my grip on reality. What do you advise?
A. My diagnosis: you’re an addict, addicted to caffeine from drinking lots of coffee and then dumping the coffee grounds into your composter. You’re a reactive personality, easily distraught by loud, high-pitched voices. Also, you’re a dependent personality, worrying too much about the opinions of others. As for the stink, you can either cowboy-up and tell everyone, including your neighbors, your wife, and your small children, to buzz off, or you can change the ratio of nitrogen to carbon in your composter. I recommend the latter because if you chose the former, you’ll careen off the charts.
First, cut down on the coffee. It would improve your emotional stability. You’re on the edge. Also, it would cut down on the stink. You are putting too many coffee grounds in your composter. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen. Although dark brown, they’re considered green (nitrogen material) in the composting community. Too much nitrogen results in putrefaction which means the stuff in your composter is putrid.
You can also put more carbon material in your composter. In the composting community carbon material is called brown. You can Google for a list of nitrogen and carbon materials suitable for composters. Carbon material would reduce the stink. Generally speaking, the ratio in terms of shovelfuls is 1 nitrogen to 3 carbon.
Also, take a pitchfork and turn the material in your composter. Often the stink comes from a lack of air (oxygen) inside the pile, ostentatiously called an anaerobic condition which simply means airless. In other words, air out your compost just like some people air out their dirty linen.
Q. My tomato plants are wilting. What should I do?
A. Check to see if the soil is dry by sticking your finger several inches into the soil. If it’s dry, water it. If it’s wet, your tomato plant likely has an incurable disease. If it does, pluck it out, roots and all, and throw in the garbage can. All is lost. Live with it.
Wilting tomato plants generally are caused by one of three possibilities. The first is soil-borne fungi. There is nothing to do as I said above. Don’t use the soil again for tomato plants unless it is sterilized. The soil can be sterilized by putting it in a black container, putting a clear plastic bag over the container, and let it sit in the sun for two weeks, or you can put it in the oven in the kitchen which I wouldn’t recommend. This is why container gardening is best with tomatoes as a means controlling the controlling fungi in the soil.
The second cause is a viral infection which is air-borne. In ostentatious-speak it’s environmentally transmitted. Again, there is no known antidote, just like the common cold. Only in case of tomatoes, they can’t just hang in there until the virus has run its course. With tomatoes, yank the plant and throw it in the garbage can so that it won’t sneeze on others. WARNING: Do not try to salvage cankered tomatoes. Everything out.
The third cause is pests such as cutworms, whiteflies, flea beetles, aphids, mites, and stink bugs. These can be managed by vigilance and the application of appropriate remedies.
Growing tomatoes is une affaire du coeur unlike rutabagas and potatoes. Tomato growers put their heart in it, and as in affairs of the heart, be prepared for heartache and sadness. As Saint Eustace IV of Billingsgate said, “Alas, shitte doth happen.”
Q. My Kentucky blue grass front lawn takes lots of water and care, cost big bucks, and is a pain in my back. What do you advise?
A. Dig it up, amend the soil, and plant vegetables. Make your back pain worthwhile. Grow America.
Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2011