Thomas is an avid weather enthusiast, landscaper and organic gardener. This blog is dedicated to Northeast and tropical weather forecasting. Enjoy!
By: sullivanweather , 7:15 AM GMT on April 22, 2009
Celebrate Earth Day!
April 22nd, 2009 will be the 40th annual Earth Day, celebrated to raise the awareness of environmental concerns and sustainable living. Since its inception in 1970, many environmentally friendly laws have been passed due in part to the awareness raised by Earth Day and the message sent therein.
This blog will try to convey some ideas that we all could do to lessen our impact on the environment and to make everyday Earth Day.
Recycle! Perhaps one of the biggest impacts that we could have on our environment is recycling. There's many everyday products that we all use that are recyclable that wind up in trash bins headed for the landfill. There's the common items we have all become accustomed to recycling such as newspapers, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, batteries, oil changes for your car, etc. But there's also things that we should recycle that haven't gotten the same attention over the years which have - computer parts, cell phones, home appliances all have huge impacts once in the landfill due to the chemicals they leech out into the ground which could possibly find it's way into groundwater drinking supplies.
Purchasing power. We all have the ultimate say on what we buy when at the store. Living in a country with a free-market society there's many options open to us when we go out and buy goods. Produce should be purchased from local growers that grow their produce using an organic process. Reading labels helps also. There's many products on store shelves whose packaging contains recycled materials. Choosing to buy such products over ones made from raw materials reduces our impact on the environment. Of course we can also lessen our dependence on store bought produce when we grow our own vegetables. Currently I'm running a series of blogs that promotes growing an organic vegetable garden. If planning on growing such a garden always choose plants from local nurseries and use organic fertilizers. There's many petrochemical fertilizers in the market which has negative impacts on the surrounding environment around your house and in the foods you decide to grow.
Plant a tree! Not only will growing a garden help to lessen one's impact on the environment, but planting trees and shrubs in and around your property, or where ever you're allowed to plant one helps. Arbor Day falls on the last Friday of the month of April and many communities have tree planting campaigns at local parks that one can get involved in. If planting a tree around your house make sure you do not plant one under power lines for they will most assuredly be cut down by your local DPW once it grows tall enough to interfere with those power lines. So choosing the proper location is paramount. Also make sure you choose a tree that's appropriate for your area. Refer to your USDA zone map to make sure you plant a tree that will survive the weather of your specific region. By signing up to a membership with the Arbor Day Foundation you will receive ten trees for free which will be a great way to help out the environment.
Pick up trash! It may not be any of one's business, but going out on your road to pick up roadside trash is a great way to help clean things up! Earth Day is a great time to involve yourself in such an activity for roadside weeds are usually low, if they have grown yet at all and trash is easily visible after the snowmelt. If partaking in such activity make sure to wear bright coloured clothing to make yourself visible to oncoming traffic and wear gloves. Towns also have such campaigns around this time of year where you can get together with members of your community to clean up roadside trash. Contact your local DPW to see if such programs exist within your community. If they don't SUGGEST IT!
Combine your trips in the car! The consumption of natural resources, namely fossil fuels, has become a hot topic recently especially in light of the global warming issue. So when traveling in your car try to combine trips. Do your grocery shopping on your way home from work or simply don't do any unnecessary traveling. Of course there’s other ways we could lessen our consumption of fossil fuels such as car pooling and buying hybrid or appropriate vehicles that have high fuel economies.
Write a letter! Somethimes words do speak as loud as actions. Write a letter to your local state or federal government representative and demand change aimed at advancing environmental concerns. You could also call your representative and speak to them directly.
Also, if you have an hour of free time I highly recommend that you listen to this lecture by Jeremy Rifkin aired March 4th on Northeast Public Radio about sustainability and advancing into the 21st century living green.
Fig.2 - USDA plant hardiness zone map of the eastern United States circa 1990. Credit: USDA
Blog 1: Planning the Garden
Blog 2: Cool season crops
In the first two blogs of the gardening series we have discussed planning the garden for organic growing and cool season crops. This blog in the garden series will delve into companion gardening. Over the years gardeners have discovered that certain plants, when grown together, augment each other's performance or help to repel pests such as insects and caterpillars. However, there are certain combinations of plants that hinder each other. This blog will help you select which crops should be planted with one another to maximize the performance of your organic garden.
Beans - Beans come in two types (excluding lima beans), bush and pole. Bush beans are what their name implies, growing pods on bushy plants while pole beans grow as twining vines and will need support from a trellis, fence, posts, or anything they could wrap their vines around. One of the 'three sisters', beans add many benefits to the garden, including another member of the 'three sisters' - corn. Beans add nitrogen to the soil which corn, a very heavy feeder, will find beneficial. Bush beans should be planted in rows in between corn while pole beans can actually twine around the corn stalks, using them as support. Beans also have shown to be of aid when planted with cabbage, cucumbers, summer savory and especially carrots. Beans dislikes include any member of the onion family. Pole beans also are hindered by kohlrabi and sunflowers. In an odd twist, beets and bush beans grow well together, however, beets will not grow well pole beans.
Beets - As mentioned above, beets will grow well with bush beans but not pole beans. Onions are also of benefit to beets, as well as lettuce and cabbage. Kohlrabi also is friendly to the beet plant for they both require the same growing conditions and take nutrients from different levels of the soil. In addition to pole beans, beets to not grow well with field mustard.
Broccoli - A member of the cabbage family that does well growing amongst aromatic plants such as dill, camomile, sage, peppermint and rosemary. Vegetables that perform well with broccoli include, potatoes, beets and onions. Broccoli dislikes tomatoes, pole beans and strawberries.
Cabbage - Cabbage covers a wide range of vegetables which include broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts. As discussed in the broccoli section, cabbage finds mutual benefit from a variety of aromatic herbs and vegetables which helps to repel pests such as the white cabbage butterfly. Cabbage is a heavy feeder and lots of compost should be worked into the soil before planting cabbage along with regular bouts of compost added into the top layer of soil or appropriate amounts of organic fertilizer. Cabbage dislikes pole beans, tomatoes and strawberries, so try to avoid planting them together.
Carrots - Carrots do best when planted along side tomatoes. Both crops serve as mutual benefit to one another by helping to add nutrients to the soil to help each other grow as well as tomatoes help to shade carrots from the heat of summer. Long bouts of hot weather will cause carrots to lose their sweetness and crispness. Carrots, when planted in summer under tomatoes for the fall, will survive the first several frosts and freezes being a cold tolerant plant. So once the tomatoes are killed off by frost they will have the benefit of full sun late in the season. Carrots enjoy the company of onions, leeks and herbs such as rosemary or wormwood which repels the carrot fly whose larvae attacks the young rootlets of carrots.
Cauliflower - Celery when planted amongst cauliflower will repel the white cabbage butterfly. For all other cauliflower info see cabbage
Celery - Celery grows well with leeks, tomatoes, cauliflower and cabbage. Remember that cauliflower and cabbage do not grow well together, so when planting the celery amongst tomatoes and cabbage/cauliflower make sure to put the celery in between those plants. Celery should be planted in a trench as opposed to a hill or row and could be planted in a circle so that the roots make a bed for beneficial garden dwellers such as earthworms.
Collards - Collards do well planted with tomatoes due to the propensity for tomatoes to repel the flea beetle the number one pest of collards. For all other information on collards see cabbage
Corn - Corn grows well amongst a wide variety of vegetables including, potatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash. Squash varieties of crops gain benefit from the shade the stalks provide during hot summer days. Peas and beans grown with corn add nitrogen to the soil which is used by the corn, which are extremely heavy feeders. Tomatoes should not be planted with corn due to a common pest - the tomato fruitworm or the corn earworm. Cucumbers, pumpkins and squash planted around corn will help to deter raccoons, which find those plants offensive.
Cucumber - Cucumbers grow well with beans, peas and radishes. The beans add nitrogen to the soil which cucumbers will feed off of. The radishes repel cucumber beetles which are a very voracious pests that will decimate young cucumber plants. Sunflowers may also be grown with cucumbers as they will shade the plants preventing them from wilting during hot dry summer days. Cucumbers dislike potatoes and should be grown far apart in the garden due to a blight that cucumbers develop via the potato plant. Cucumbers also dislike aromatic herbs.
Eggplant - Eggplants are a delicacy of many pests which could very quickly eat their way through the leaves of the plant leaving them unable to photosynthesize, eventually killing the plant. Leaf hopper beetles and Colorado potato beetles are the main pests that will decimate the eggplant. Bush beans help to repel the potato beetle, while a hot pepper and garlic spray can be used to help repel other pests. To make the hot pepper spray, crush hot peppers and garlic cloves together and set inside water. After 24 hours strain and add enough water to make a spray that will be sufficient to mist your plants with an initial spray, after rainfalls or whenever pests arise. Use the strained peppers and garlic to add to the soil around the base of the plants which aids in pest prevention as well.
Kale - A member of the cabbage family, kale seeds can be sowed following the harvest of spring peas and beans and can be grown amongst cabbage or potatoes. For other information see cabbage
Kohlrabi - Grows best with onions and beets as well as aromatic herbs. Kohlrabi can also be grown with cucumbers for their roots occupy differing soil strata. Kohlrabi is also a heavy feeder, requiring lots of water and compost and will benefit from filtered sunlight. Kohlrabi dislikes tomatoes, pole beans and strawberries.
Leeks - Leeks grow well amongst celery and onions and share a mutual benefit with carrots, which repel the carrot flies that attack them. Leeks are heavy feeders and should be planted in a bed rich in humus and compost.
Lettuce - Lettuce grows well with strawberries, cucumbers and carrots. Radishes planted amongst lettuce make them especially flavourful. Since radish repel cucumber beetles a section of garden containing cucumbers, radish and lettuce are an unbeatable combination. Since lettuce is a cool season crop they will require shade during the height of hot summer afternoons. Onions grown alongside lettuce will help to control rabbits, if rabbits are a problem in your area.
Onions - The onion family, which includes chives, shallots, leeks and garlic, is a great companion for many common garden crops due to their aromatic properties and their inability to rob the soil of its nutrients. They grow well with all members of the cabbage family, beets, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce and summer savory. Just about the only plants onions don't get along with are peas and beans.
Peas - This legume performs great in most gardens due to the shallowness of its roots and the fact that they don't need much soil amendment, although wood ashes help greatly in controlling aphids which can be a pest of peas. Peas grow well with a wide range in crops including carrots, radishes, cucumbers, turnips, potatoes, beans and corn as well as many aromatic herbs. However, they are detrimental to the onion family.
Peppers - Sweet bell peppers grow well with basil and need to be stakes or caged for their stems are quite fragile and can be broken by their heavy fruit. Hot peppers have little known pests, although some moth and butterfly larvae may attack a few of the fruits. Usually the plants produce enough fruits to lessen this issue. Hot peppers and sweet peppers should not be planted together as your sweet peppers will not be as sweet as originally planned.
Pumpkins - Although most pumpkins are grown for jack-o-lanterns come Halloween, pumpkins are a nutritious high yield squash that can be used as a side dish or in pies. Pumpkins grow quite well with corn and dislike potatoes.
Radish - Radishes can be a gardeners best friend if you particularly like cucumbers or any member of the Cucurbit family. Radishes protect these plants from the cucumber beetle which can decimate cucumber and cucurbit family crops which include the melons, pumpkins and squash. Radishes also prevent the two-spotted spider mite when grown with tomatoes. Radishes also grow well with kohlrabi, pole and bush beans. Lettuce makes radishes more tender while garlic juice prevents disease. Radishes do not grow well with hyssop and should not be rotated with members of the cabbage family.
Squash - These members of the cucurbit family will find benefit when planted with radish for they deter cucumber beetle infestations. Squashes will also find benefit from being planted next to nasturtiums.
Tomatoes - Tomatoes and hot peppers are perhaps the most widely studied plants and much is known about them. Tomatoes grow well with chives, parsley, onions, basil, marigolds, nasturtiums and carrots. Garlic will prevent red spider mite infestations while stinging nettle will improve their keeping quality. Tomatoes should not be planted next to peppers, members of the cabbage family, potatoes or fennel. Tomatoes should also be kept away from corn due to a common pest - the tomato fruitworm. Crushed tomatoes leaves along with water and a spoonful of cornstarch then strained will make for a fungicidal spray against black spot on roses. Smokers beware! Tobacco contains diseases that tomatoes are susceptible to, so wash your hands before handling tomatoes if you smoke.
Soil moisture and anomalies 0-200cm
Fig.3 - Weekly averaged soil moisture and anomalies 0-200cm. Credit: NOAA
Soil temperature 0-10cm
Fig.4 - 6-hourly updated 0-10cm soil temperature. Credit: NOAA
Soil temperature and anomalies 10-40cm
Fig.5 - Weekly updated 10-40cm soil temperature and anomalies. Credit: NOAA
Kelvin temperature scale
273.15°K = 0°C
Current watches, warnings and advisories.
Fig.6 - Current watches, warning and advisories issued by the National Weather Service. Courtesy of NOAA.
Radar: Northeast Region Loop
Fig.7 - Radar loop of the Northeast region. Courtesy of Weather Underground.
Fig.8 - Snow cover as of April 8th, 2009 over the Northeast. Courtesy of NOAA.
Fig.9 Sea-surface temperatures off the Northeast Coast. Courtesy of NOAA.
My weather dragon!
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