лох многоцветковый

In reply to a comment on an old post on Goumi (Elaeagnus Multiflora), I mentioned that googling the Russian translation of Elaeagnus multiflora returned some interesting hits.

All of the sites are in Russian but running them through google translate provides a reasonable translation.

These are just a few of the links.

Searching YouTube using лох многоцветковый provides a number of videos as does Searching for videos not on Youtube and then there is this visual feast.


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Brix and Nutrient Density

On Permies.com there is a post, Brix Testing, which references Brix Readings, and What They Tell Us. The source of that article is Biologic Ionization as Applied to Farming and Soil Management

Brix has been used for a long time in the wine industry to measure ripeness.  But Brix has been linked to nutrient density.  Nutrient density in foods is considered to be important to overall good health although there is some debate about definition.

Going back to the Permies.com post,

Crops with higher refractive index will have a higher sugar content, higher protein content, higher mineral content and a greater specific gravity or density. This adds up to a sweeter tasting, more mineral nutritious feed with lower nitrates and water content and better storage attributes.

If one accepts that the wine industry knows what it is doing when it uses Brix to measure sugar content in grapes in order to make business decisions about harvest time, then yes, brix measures sugar content. However, extending high brix to indicate “more mineral nutritious food” aka nutrient dense food seems to be a stretch since there doesn’t seem to be anything that confirms that. In fact, when the question is asked of a Brix-nutrient dense proponent, Could someone explain whether it is known that higher Brix fruits/vegetables have higher mineral and protein contents, or is it only known that they have higher sugar/flavor components?,  the answer given is “I’m unaware of any charts or tables that bluntly state something along the lines of “6 Brix tomatoes have 49mg of this, 75mg of that, and 100mg of the other.”

In fact, most of the High Brix=High Nutrient Density commentary leads to Carey Reams: it is known that he created a bombshell in the early 1970’s when he, refractometer in hand, walked into the office of ACRES USA and placed a simple chart on the editor’s desk. That chart correlated brix numbers with four general quality levels for most fruits and vegetables. Copied innumerous times, it has made its way around the world over and over. The Carey Reams story is told in many places so I’ll only link to one here since it includes a link with more Reams history.

A bit of digging leads to some interesting information:  Critique and study of all the works I was able to gather generated by Carey Reams but nothing on the Brix/nutrient dense connection.

There are hints of trials and research here  and  here. But the most tantalizing of all is The Nutrient Dense Project with some test results. Unfortunately, it appears to be a dead effort.

But there is this analysis – Brix and Nutrient Density of raw data from a competition sponsored by International Ag Labs in 2013 to see who could grow the best butternut squash. Unfortunately the data no longer exists at IAL but the winner’s data does exist and the competition data exists elsewhere.  The blogger concludes that [t]here does seem to be a correlation between Brix and mineral nutrients but others have questions –

Unfortunately, I was not able to find the explanation of the nutrient density standard that was used to rank the samples. However, the results show some interesting things:

  • The brix reading does not correlate with protein content.

  • The brix reading does not correlate with calcium content.

  • The brix reading does not seem to correlate with any other mineral content

But there is information that comes close to linking Brix to nutrient density.  This article from Boreal Agrominerals who sell Spanish River Carbonatite, a glacial deposit rock dust high in trace micronutrients such as zinc, copper, sulfur, iron and magnesium.  The application of SRC to asparagus fields resulted in higher yields and higher Brix.  There is no indication of mineral content. In a second trial with field tomatoes, there is an increase in mineral content but no Bris measures. They dance around the edges but never get to the heart.

Perhaps it is possible to see if there is a correlation between Brix and nutrient density without resorting to expensive lab testing.  If we use a mix of peatmoss and perlite in pots and have one pot with nothing but the mix, a second pot with the mix and an N-P-K formula, a third pot with a rock dust such as Spanish River Carbonatite, and a fourth pot with the same amount of N-P-K as the second pot plus the same amount of Spanish River Carbonatite as the third pot. The seed used would all be from the same fruit.  Taking Brix analysis of leaf tissue of each of the four plants at the same time and of ripe fruit at the same time should yield different Brix readings and confirm whether or not those plants with access to more nutrients have higher Brix readings.  Obviously, this does not test for mineral content but knowing that a plant with higher Brix readings came from a plant with greater access to minerals  would be going in the right direction.

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Goumi Fruit Bears Fruit

Two months ago, I wrote that  I got to taste the fruit and can say that the quest has been well worth it.  Goumi is a sweet, juicy treat.

Well, those three little rubies have produced more treats – SEEDLINGS!  I stuck the seeds from the three fruit in some barely moist peat moss and put them in the germination fridge.  They got covered over by some bags of stratifying Japanese red maple seeds.  I checked them a couple of times and then forgot about them.  Two days ago when I was checking the JRM seeds, I picked up the baggie with with the goumi seeds and noticed a small root.  It turns out that all three seeds have germinated.  They were eight months in stratification!!!!  I really do wish that I could learn to be completely patient with Nature. Leave things alone and she will give you a yield.


Posted in Fruits & Vegetables, Propagation | 2 Comments

Goumi Again

I’ve written a number of times about my attempts to propagate goumi from cuttings that did not overwinter to a seedling that turned out not to be goumi.  Last year I ordered two goumi plants from a Canadian supplier but their supplier did not ship them so that order was cancelled.

This year I place the order again and it was filled with two extremely healthy plants that actually had fruit on them.  I got to taste the fruit and can say that the quest has been well worth it.  Goumi is a sweet, juicy treat.

I decided to have another go at propagating goumi so that I could get them on their own roots in case the graft failed.  I took 10 semi-hardwood cuttings on August 3, dipped them in Stim-Root 10000, and stuck them in an intermittent misting bed where they got 10 seconds of mist every 10 minutes from 7 am to 7 pm.

Slowly the cuttings deteriorated as the leaves yellowed and dropped off – probably a sign of too much water.  I’ve since then increased the perlite:peat ratio up to between 3:1 and 4:1.

One cutting pushed out a new leaf and showed resistance when I tugged gently at the cutting which suggested that roots had formed.  So I gently pried in loose from the rooting medium with a fork and looked at the tiny roots.  I potted in up in a perlite/peat mix gave it a watering with a transplant liquid fertilizer.  Then I put it a sheltered spot out of direct sun.  It failed to put out any more leaves and died.

But today when I looked at the remaining cuttings, two looked promising.  One had put out a new leaf and the other had managed to keep one leaf.  So once again, I carefully pried the cuttings out of the rooting material and found that each had roots started.



They were potted up in a porous perlite/peat mixture and the roots were dusted with mycorrhizal fungi.  They were then watered with a root stimulant fertilizer that contains Kinetin.


Perhaps this time will be the one where I get more goumi plants.


Pictures here.


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Dynamic Accumulators III – Perhaps You Don’t Need Them

Since I first wrote about dynamic accumulators in 2013 and again in 2014, there has been a fairly fundamental change in presentation around the Net.   The Oregon Biodynamic page now produces a “404” message although the information continues to exist in the Internet Archive.  And  Toby Hemenway and Eric Toensmeier who included the Kourik table in their books have now changed their views.  John Kitsteiner, a permaculture practitioner, has blogged about The Facts Behind Dynamic Accumulators and his post has been posted at Geoff Lawton’s permaculture news website.

So it would seem that this set of information is being removed, more or less, from the permaculture environment. Hopefully, it will be replaced by more substantiated information.

I think that a very strong case can be made for not needing the function that dynamic accumulators supposedly served – that of mining micronutrients which could then be made available to the plants in one’s food forest or vegetable garden via chop and drop, plant teas, or compost. It  doesn’t hurt to use so called dynamic accumulators but their function may not be as essential as it was in light of a substantiated, more holistic, soil-based approach.

Elaine Ingham says:

if the proper sets of organisms are present in the soil, and you are growing plants so that there is food for those organisms, nothing else is needed. The plant puts out the exudates from photosynthesis to feed those bacteria and fungi that specifically make the enzymes to solubilize the needed nutrients from the rocks, pebbles, sand, silt, clay and organic matter… There is an infinity of all plant-required nutrients in any kind of parent material. There is no parent material on the planet that lacks the nutrients needed to grow plants. Until the day you run out of rocks, sand, silt, or clay, there should be no need to apply a mineral fertilizer

Whenever  Ingham says that “all agricultural soils have the needed nutrients in them to grow plants. Everything except carbon dioxide, sunlight energy, and nitrogen are in the soil.“(page 24), the immediate intuitive response many is “How can that be?  The land has been farmed continuously for years and is depleted and produces very little. There are plenty of examples of this.”   And that’s correct in the scenario as it currently exists.  But there are examples where land has been commercially farmed continuously for years on a large scale with no chemicals and the yields exceed those of surrounding farms.

Gabe Brown of Bismarck, N.D. has used cover crops and no till for 20+ years. His fields haven’t seen commercial fertilizers since 2008, and it’s been 12 years since any insecticides or fungicides were used. And after having applied herbicides once every two or three years in recent times, the plan for 2013 [was] to completely eliminate such applications and let the cover cocktails and mob grazing do their thing.  He may, in fact, now be totally chemical free.  The county average corn yield where the Browns live is 100 bushels per acre yet their average yield is 127 bushels per acre which is achieved at a cost of only $1.42 per bushel.  The average cost to produce a bushel of corn in the United States is over $5.00 per bushel.   And he’s not the only one doing this.

OK, so it’s about building soil organic matter, not disturbing the soil by tilling, and never leaving the soil uncovered.  If you do that, you will have a healthy soil microbiology including mycorrhizal fungi.

Mycorrhizal fungi explain both what Elaine Ingham is saying and Gabe Brown’s results. Mycorrhizal fungi form symbiotic relationships with most of the plants on the planet. In exchange for sugars from the plant, mycorrhizal fungi provide nutrients and possibly water to the plant.   You can do a soil test and it will tell you, among other things, which nutrients and micro-nutrients your soil is lacking in. If you do a total soil test, you may find that what your soil is apparently lacking is, in fact, there.  Soil tests are designed to detect and measure nutrients that are available for plants to uptake.  Total soil tests include detecting and measuring nutrients that are not in a form that plants can uptake. Mycorrhizal fungi in the soil will transform these nutrients into a form that plants can uptake.

What if the total soil test shows that you a deficiency in some nutrients?  This is where mycorrhizal fungi come in.  They form networks.  Research has established that they network to at least 30 metres although “[t]he role of mycorrhizal networks in forest dynamics is poorly understood because of the elusiveness of their spatial structure. ” Research has determined that mycorrhizal fungi associated with one plant connect with mycorrhizal fungi on adjacent plants:

The indicated ability of AM fungal mycelia to anastomose in soil has implications for the formation of large plant-interlinking functional networks, long-distance nutrient transport and retention of nutrients in readily plant-available pools.

Mycorrhizal network modelling has determined that  [mycorrhizal networks] facilitate transfer of C, nutrients, water, defence signals and allelochemicals

Although much of the research is either speculative or says that much work still needs to be done,  the possibilities are significant: if nutrients in plant-usable form can be moved from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration based on plant needs, then areas naturally deficient in a nutrient(s) might still be productive to us if we manage the soil properly.  It might also mean that degraded areas could be brought back to useful, healthy production.

And if the supposed function of so called dynamic accumulators is made redundant by establishing and maintaining a microbiology-rich soil,  perhaps ongoing soil testing is also redundant.  If you’re going to lab test, perhaps it’s better to test the fruit, vegetable or nut.  If what you’re putting in your mouth has the nutrients that you need, then your soil management  programme is working – the proof is in the pudding carrot.

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Nature Doesn’t Calculate PPM’s (Parts per Million)

Over the past few years we’ve been moving more and more towards the ideas expressed by Masanobu Fukuoka and Emilia Hazelip.  But not entirely.  We do intervene in the natural process in mostly benign ways.  Because we grow vegetables intensively, we are extracting from the soil.  Thus we have to replenish it by adding SOM either via mulch which breaks down into compost or by adding plant-based compost, either finished or partially finished to the beds.  We also alternate feeding ourselves one year with feeding the soil the next year by planting green manure crops such as peas (a nitrogen fixer), buckwheat and Daikon radishes.  Last year we started using a water based mycorrhizal fungi to assist in nutrient uptake and extend the roots’ access to water – I should probably talk about mycorrhizal fungi in a separate post.

But adding SOM and improving the microbiology of the soil is only part of the process. Planting peas in a crop rotation is meant to replenish nitrogen (You must chop and drop the peas before they begin to flower in order to capture all of the nitrogen attached to the roots).  But nitrogen is only one of the nutrients that plants need.   You need to add back the other macro and micro nutrients. One of the ways of doing this is thru remineralization. This takes you into the complicated world of soil amendments and soil testing. The more I read, the more I said “Wait a minute” and a few things began to emerge.  Intuitively, soil testing makes sense. You want to know whether your soil is acidic or alkaline since this will affect how well your plants grow.  You want to know what macro and micro nutrients are in your soil since that also will affect how well your plants grow.   But then it begins to get messy.  Once you have a lab result, what then?  Most lab reports contain recommendations of how to amend your soil to get to the “ideal soil” .   +100,000 hits!!!! WOW.   So what do I add and in what proportions?  If you really want to dive into the confusion, start here.

My confusion morphed into frustration.  I know that we are mining our soil when we pull a carrot -an annual- or pluck an apple – a perennial.   Had the apple not been plucked, it would have fallen to the ground and its nutrients re-cycled.  The process of replacing what we are extracting involves a lot of science-based certainty applied to Nature. Enter Fukuoka at this point:  We cannot comprehend the complexity of Nature.

And significantly, the process involves dollars for testing and for buying remedial products.

And then I remembered that one of the benefits of mycorrhizal fungi is their ability to convert mineral nutrients to a form that the plant can use.

There is strong evidence showing that fungi produce a large diversity of enzymes and chelating compounds that allow them to capture nutrients from the soil that are not normally accessible to plants (chelating compounds bind metals into different forms in the soil to prevent their interference with uptake of other nutrients)

Then I remembered that mycorrhizal fungi promote growth.

Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) are naturally occurring soil bacteria that aggressively colonize plant roots and benefit plants by providing growth promotion. Inoculation of crop plants with certain strains of PGPR at an early stage of development improves biomass production through direct effects on root and shoots growth. Inoculation of ornamentals, forest trees, vegetables, and agricultural crops with PGPR may result in multiple effects on early-season plant growth, as seen in the enhancement of seedling germination, stand health, plant vigor, plant height, shoot weight, nutrient content of shoot tissues, early bloom, chlorophyll content, and increased nodulation in legumes.

PGPR are reported to influence the growth, yield, and nutrient uptake by an array of mechanisms. They help in increasing nitrogen fixation in legumes, help in promoting free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria, increase supply of other nutrients, such as phosphorus, sulphur, iron and copper, produce plant hormones, enhance other beneficial bacteria or fungi, control fungal and bacterial diseases and help in controlling insect pests. There has been much research interest in PGPR and there is now an increasing number of PGPR being commercialized for various crops. Several reviews have discussed specific aspects of growth promotion by PGPR. In this review, we have discussed various bacteria which act as PGPR, mechanisms and the desirable properties exhibited by them.




Various species of bacteria like Pseudomonas, Azospirillum, Azotobacter, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Alcaligenes, Arthrobacter,  Burkholderia, Bacillus and Serratia have been reported to enhance the plant growth. 

Working with James Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases, it’s possible to  come up with the plants that contain the most quantities of the macro and micro nutrients that a remineralization programme would use.  For our zone, the list is fairly short – lambsquarters (Chenopodium album), stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), pigweed (Amaranthus), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Comfrey does not score particularly high but it does have an entrenched place in garden lore thanks to Lawrence D.  Hills in the 1950s and 60s.  The roots do reach very deep so it’s a bit surprising that the leaves don’t contain more minerals than they do.  It’s easy enough to grow so why not include it.  These plants can be added to the compost pile or they can be made into teas that are used for soil drenches or foliar sprays.  Is this better than soil testing and soil amendments?  Those with a science orientation would say no but they have no basis of comparison.  It’s certainly cheaper and regenerative.

So that leaves us trying to do what Nature does – mining minerals with deep rooted plants and making those minerals available to plant roots through a mycorrhizal network as well as building soil organic matter.  We just do it a bit differently – we harvest the deep rooted plants and turn them into compost or teas and we build soil organic matter by mulching and crop rotation.

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David Jacke meet Michael Phillips

This past Thursday, we went to an all-day presentation by David Jacke who co-authored with Eric Toensmeier, the two volume set, Edible Forest Gardens.  In was a very rich and full day and Jacke is an dynamic and organized speaker.  Apparently, the group of +150 people was larger than his normal size group but you’d never know from the way he presented.  But this post is not about the presentation which would be impossible to recount without a recording to help.  This post is about one word that David mentioned a number of times: patches.  I’m not going to talk about how he used the word but rather what it sparked us to think about in our orchard.

We have been planting as many types of cold hardy herbaceous perennials as we can to attract as many insects – pollinators and predators – as we can.  The pests will come because we planted fruit trees to invite them.  We’re looking to create an environment where there’s enough balance that the insects are the caretakers. We started out by just keeping a log of what we were planting but weren’t focusing on design other that to have something flowering from last frost to first frost.  We basically took the approach of loading as much in as we could.  That works and doesn’t work.  We got an incredible range of plants going and we could see & hear lots of activity.  But as we grew with the orchard, we realized that we needed more than what we were doing.  We knew that we were planting a lot of diverse perennials and the results were clear but it seemed to me that I wasn’t seeing as many plants as we had planted.  I began to suspect that some were not making it through the winter. But I didn’t know which or where.

We needed to do some design where we were the beneficiaries.

And that’s where David’s use of the word patch sparked me and I came up with the idea of planting-grid maps where the rectangle’s corner is a tree in the orchard.  We can start by inventorying what’s in each patch.  Then we can fill the holes by design that is connected to the four trees that form the corners of the rectangle.  This simple tool will allow us to design guilds that are fitted to the trees near them. It will give us information about what plants thrive, what plants survive, and what plants die in different areas of the orchard.  It will allow us to better observe the impact of our plantings on the fruit trees.

Below is a planting-grid map of one section of the orchard.  The trees are real but the herbaceous perennials are representative.


Thank you, David and Michael.

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