Links To Owen Dell’s Articles on Sustainable Gardening

Owen Dell

When I first started teaching sustainability in gardening, these two articles were the most profound thinking I had read on the subject at that time.  I am grateful to have had these in my head for the past five or six years and I am happy to share them with you.


The following links give you the material I used for the last part of our first class.  All of what I worked from was in the second link, but the first link provides an excellent introduction to the meatier second.

This first link, provides some background leading up to where we are today.  This second link, Imagining a Better Garden gives you the meat and potatoes of what I was addressing.  

david

How To Take A Soil Sample and Read The Soil Triangle



Taking soil samples for any kind of garden analysis should be done in a manner that will net you the results you need to make your garden more congenial to that part of the plant that lives in the soil – the roots. Roots for most of the plants in our gardens, live about 4 to 18 inches beneath the surface of the soil. Exceptions to this include most drought resistant plants (with roots that range some distance out and down) and other notoriously strong rooted plant – mention just about any weed and it will fall into that category. You want to take your sample around nine inches down. This method of taking a soil sample is effective for the soil triangle tests and is the preferred technique for soil samples sent to labs for testing.


  • Remove as much surface organic matter as possible before taking your soil sample.
  • Put approximately one cup of soil into a straight-sided quart jar with lid.
  • Add approximately one tablespoon of alum or Calgon bath beads – this is a surfactant to help the particles separate from one another.
  • Fill the jar with water almost to the top.
  • Shake vigorously for several minutes to get all the soil moistened. 
  • Let the jar stand undisturbed for at least one hour, separation continues for as long as 24 hours with some soils.
  • The soil mix will separate into layers. The longer it sits, the more distinct the layers will appear.
    Figure out the percentages of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter in the water – do not measure the water itself. The sand will be the bottom layer. Silt will be the next layer, followed by clay; the combination of these three should add up to 100%. Organic matter will float on top of the water and does not figure in the total of percentages..  
    Determine soil type by comparing percentages with soil triangle.
    Understanding soil type will help you know how to properly amend, fertilize, water, and plant so that you will have healthy, disease-resistant, and pest-resistant plants.

    What to do and How to do it

    Follow these steps to determine the name of your soil texture:

    1.Place the edge of a ruler at the point along the base of the triangle that represents the percent of sand in your sample. Position the ruler on or parallel to the lines which slant toward the base of the triangle.

    2.Place the edge of a second ruler at the point along the right side of the triangle that represents the percent of silt in your sample. Position the ruler on or parallel to the lines which slant toward the base of the triangle.

    3.Place the point of a pencil or water soluble marker at the point where the two rulers meet. Place the top edge of one of the rulers on the mark, and hold the ruler parallel to the horizontal lines. The number on the left should be the percent of clay in the sample.

    4.The descriptive name of the soil sample is written in the shaded area where the mark is located. If the mark should fall directly on a line between two descriptions, record both names.

    Feel the texture of a moist soil sample between your fingers.
    Sand will feel "gritty", while silt will feel like powder or flour.
    Clay will feel "sticky" and hard to squeeze, and will probably stick to your hand.
    Looking at the textural triangle, try to estimate how much sand, silt, or clay is in the sample.
    Find the name of the texture to which this soil corresponds; that will be the descriptive name of your soil.
david

Cotyledons

The carrot cotyledons do not look like a carrot leaf -
one has to wait for the third leaf, the first true leaf which shows off
the ferny foliage characteristic of carrots
Cotyledon is the scientific name for the first leaves from a seed.  These leaves are usually considered as being in the seed itself.  They come out of the seed, along with the first root, and begin the life processes for the plant - upon the photosynthesis carried out by the cotyledons, the regular leaves form, processing ever more light into what the plant needs to grow to adulthood.

The plants we grow for food and medicine are mostly, not always, but overwhelmingly mostly, from the group of plants called, the higher plants, the flowering plants or, in scientific jargon, the Angiosperms.

Harder to see, but still obviously a dicot, right?


Most of our food plants come from that group of plants in the Angiosperms that have two cotyledons and are called the 'dicotyledons' or, more commonly, just 'dicots.'  If you are a gardener in the know, you can use words like, dicot with impunity and impress the neophytes.  Tomatoes growing above show the typical dicot form. 

Tohono O'oodahm I'itoi Onions rescued from some given to
me by a good friend from Arizona, even though these are
beyond the cotyledon stage, you can visualize the single
cotyledon of a monocot with these plants
Coming along later on the evolutionary timeline are the 'monocots' with one leaf.  In this group you have all the onions, leeks, garlic and chives; collectively called the Alliums.  It also includes, to name some of them, all grass, all the grains (which are just grasses), palm trees, sugar cane and bamboo.  Pretty diverse and prolific.  One poet wrote, "I am the grass, I cover all," and it's not too far off.  The johnny-come-lately to our world, monocots have done a good job of out competing other plants that have been around longer.  There is no eco-system on earth that does not have some grass in it. 

Often times the cotyledons are NOT at all like the true leaves that the plant will eventually have; that happens in the second set of leaves a plant produces.In order to not weed out your little babies in the garden, a beginning gardener has to learn what the cotyledons look like.  

This is the time of year we all need to be sowing our tomatoes, I already have about 180 tomatoes over an inch high and more behind them.  I normally don't start pepper until mid-April, but this spring has been so warm, I just started peppers, eggplants, okra and squash today.  I ran out of soil or I would have started cucumbers and zucchini.  

Don't slack now - if you don't get your seeds in the ground now, you'll be losing harvest in a couple of months!  

david

Cotyledons

The carrot cotyledons do not look like a carrot leaf -
one has to wait for the third leaf, the first true leaf which shows off
the ferny foliage characteristic of carrots
Cotyledon is the scientific name for the first leaves from a seed.  These leaves are usually considered as being in the seed itself.  They come out of the seed, along with the first root, and begin the life processes for the plant - upon the photosynthesis carried out by the cotyledons, the regular leaves form, processing ever more light into what the plant needs to grow to adulthood.

The plants we grow for food and medicine are mostly, not always, but overwhelmingly mostly, from the group of plants called, the higher plants, the flowering plants or, in scientific jargon, the Angiosperms.

Harder to see, but still obviously a dicot, right?


Most of our food plants come from that group of plants in the Angiosperms that have two cotyledons and are called the 'dicotyledons' or, more commonly, just 'dicots.'  If you are a gardener in the know, you can use words like, dicot with impunity and impress the neophytes.  Tomatoes growing above show the typical dicot form. 

Tohono O'oodahm I'itoi Onions rescued from some given to
me by a good friend from Arizona, even though these are
beyond the cotyledon stage, you can visualize the single
cotyledon of a monocot with these plants
Coming along later on the evolutionary timeline are the 'monocots' with one leaf.  In this group you have all the onions, leeks, garlic and chives; collectively called the Alliums.  It also includes, to name some of them, all grass, all the grains (which are just grasses), palm trees, sugar cane and bamboo.  Pretty diverse and prolific.  One poet wrote, "I am the grass, I cover all," and it's not too far off.  The johnny-come-lately to our world, monocots have done a good job of out competing other plants that have been around longer.  There is no eco-system on earth that does not have some grass in it. 

Often times the cotyledons are NOT at all like the true leaves that the plant will eventually have; that happens in the second set of leaves a plant produces.In order to not weed out your little babies in the garden, a beginning gardener has to learn what the cotyledons look like.  

This is the time of year we all need to be sowing our tomatoes, I already have about 180 tomatoes over an inch high and more behind them.  I normally don't start pepper until mid-April, but this spring has been so warm, I just started peppers, eggplants, okra and squash today.  I ran out of soil or I would have started cucumbers and zucchini.  

Don't slack now - if you don't get your seeds in the ground now, you'll be losing harvest in a couple of months!  

david