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O. Donnelly

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since Dec 18, 2015
Hudson Valley Zone 5b
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Recent posts by O. Donnelly

Julie Reed wrote:

This confuses me as a beginner. Can you grow regular (not organic) strawberries organically?



they are very much organic, but not ‘certified’, since certification would prevent some of the very practices that MAKE them organic. So ironically, while they are as pure organic as it gets, they cannot legally claim to be organic.



Hi Julie - just curious, what are the practices they cite that are prevented by certification that make them organic?

Also, I just want to clarify, you can plant non-organically raised fruit trees and then later transition to be certified organic.  Again this is a legal thing and different from the personal judgement issues for individual grower / consumers that you and I both mentioned.
5 months ago
Sahil - the answer to your question is “no”. Not all bare root trees have been grown organically. Most rootstock have likely been grown in soil that has been fumigated with chemical fungicides.

There are some mail order nurseries in the U.S. that do advertise as being organic. Trees of Antiquities in California is one that comes to mind.

However, I would note that even if the bare root tree was not grown in a certified organic way, YOU could raise using organic methods after you planted them, and by the time they came into bearing (several years down the road) they could become certified organic. If you are not interested in certifications, it’s just a matter of your own judgement. I grow everything organically for my own consumption, and I have no issues with the fact that the bare root trees I planted were not organic. Seems to me the five + years that it is taking them to bare fruit is enough to “cleanse” them in my judgement for my own consumption. Others may disagree...
5 months ago
I have some raised beds going east / west and some north / south. I prefer beds running east / west. The reason is that I run my vegetable rows across the beds to make it easier to hoe weeds between the rows. Rows of vegetables running across an east / west bed will obviously be oriented north / south which allows maximum sunlight for the plants. I hope I described that clearly.
“Only available late fall through early spring”

I don’t see that as a disadvantage. That’s when you should plant trees.
5 months ago
My advice would be to wait to plant until you move there or until you can dedicate a good amount of time throughout the year to the trees. Lots of things can kill or stunt fruit trees.  Many will grow rapidly into unproductive / problematic forms.  They need a lot of care. They need to be watered regularly their first year. Trees are expensive.

I have a smallish orchard of ~ 40 trees. I spend 1-2 days in the spring and 1-2 days in the fall on things that I feel must be done.  I could get by without doing too much else during the growing season, but the more time you spend keeping on top of weeds, light pruning, managing disease and pest pressure, the better.  I could easily spend half a day a week working on the trees.  

If you are determined to plant trees now, I would research  /  ask for advice on varieties that naturally grow with good form. I would also ask around to learn the most severe disease issues in your area and try to plant varieties that have resistance. There is a lot of contradictory info on the web on this subject, so I would try to talk to people who grow the varieties you are interested, in you region, using no spray / low maintenance practices

Based on my experience, I would avoid plums - they tend to grow very rapidly into an unproductive form. I only have one cherry - black gold.  That one has actually required no pruning or training. Of my apples (~ 30) off the top of my head I would recommend Hewes Virginia crab if I was going to do what you are planning. It has naturally good form, very vigorous and hardy. Seems to be one of the least affected by pests and disease. If you planted a number of hewes, you could later graft them over to other varieties.

Good luck!
5 months ago
Spring 2016 vs spring 2018:

1 year ago
I absolutely believe most communities, and even households, could become self sufficient in locally appropriate fruit production and some amount of vegetable production.  (And pork production and poultry production, and...). Think about all the "decorative" landscape trees that could've been replaced by a fruit or mast tree. It's not a matter of organizing community cooperatives or even teaching techniques.   It's about influencing choices. The vast majority of people would rather drive to the supermarket to buy an insipid but blemish free red delicious than put in the work to plant and grow an apple tree.  the best you can do is try through example and friendship to demystify and instill a love of nature and gardening to one friend, one neighbor, one co-worker, one niece, nephew, son daughter grandchild at a time...  
2 years ago
This document provides a very good starting point to understand how wall assemblies should be constructed in different climates:

https://buildingscience.com/sites/default/files/migrate/pdf/RR-0412_Insulation_Sheathing_Retarders_BFG.pdf

This is a good starting point on how roof assemblies should be constructed:

https://buildingscience.com/file/3187/download?token=NbH3Z0RN

You basically have a blank canvas. Your house is akin to a stick built house under construction that has dimensional lumber and osb sheeting but no additional wall assembly components yet installed. You can build inward and outward from that point by adding siding, air and vapor barriers, insulation, etc according to the needs of your climate and you budget. And consider that even though that might seem daunting and expensive, it may have a very rapid payback given how extremely energy inefficient your house is.

The most important thing to remember is to prevent moisture from being trapped inside wall assemblies and in contact with organic material (wood, paper, rice hulls, cellulose, etc) by improper placement of vapor barriers or the dreaded double vapor barrier (vapor barriers on both sides of the wall assembly).


My guess is that in your climate you're going to want walls to dry to the inside, so you'll want a moisture barrier towards the outside of the assembly and no barriers on the inside (oil based paint, wallpaper, etc).  Probably something like siding - a couple inches of eps or othe rigid foam insulation (insulation air and vapor barrier) - existing barge board - new optional 2x4 internal framing filled with high density blown fiber glass insulation (inert, non-toxic, won't absorb water or foster mold growth, good value for additional r-value) - drywall - latex paint - artwork.
2 years ago
Start by spending a day or two reading this website:  

https://buildingscience.com/

They have many great articles that explain proper wall construction in different climates. How to get vapor barriers and insulation right...

To me, the two most important concepts to figuring out "the best bang for the buck" are (1) how r-value works; and (2) how heat travels.

R-value:  when you double r-value, you cut heat transfer in half. So for example let's assume a wall has an r-value of 1, and you're loosing 100 "units" of heat, and every incremental r-value of one costs one dollar.  if you insulate to an r-value of 2, you spend one dollar to cut your heat loss by 50 units. Doubling the insulative value again to r4 will cost an additional $2 and will reduce heat loss to 25 units. R8 will cost another $4 and reduces your heat loss by 12.5 units. R16 costs an additional $8 but only reduces heat loss By 6.25, etc. etc. As you continue to add insulation, you quickly will spend huge sums of money to achieve insignificant incremental energy savings.  By far the biggest incremental energy saving per $ spent occur at the beginning of the curve.

The popular misconception is that heat rises.  Hot air rises but heat actually radiates in all directions. It flows through your floor as quickly as your walls and ceiling assuming the same insulative properties and heat differential between interior and exterior.  There is a separate reason in the north to increase insulation to a ceiling - ice dam prevention - but not because of excess heat loss.

In my house, adding one inch of eps under my basement slab was by far the best "beyond code"  decision I made. That's because I was taking the r-value up from approximately r-1 (the r-value of an inch of concrete) to r-5.5 (r4.5 per inch of eps plus the concrete). Resulting in a greater than 75% decrease in heat loss.  In comparison to increasing the wall or ceiling insulation from code minimum of r-21 (where the vast majority of efficiency gains had already been realized) to some greater amount, there was no comparison in terms of roi.

I would guess that the r-value for all the walls and ceiling in your house is very low, perhaps as low as r-1 or r-2.  I would therefore guess that the best bang for your buck would be to uniformly throughout the house get the levels up 4-8 r-value points by for instance putting in an inch or two of eps. That would be better than concentrating on one area such as the roof. If you're good with excel you could model it out but if I'm understanding your situation that seems intuitively correct.

2 years ago
Have never heard that phosphorous should not go directly onto the soil. Why is that the case?  At least two of my most respected garden gurus - Michael Philips and Steve Solomon - recommend direct applications to the soil.
2 years ago