Monday, May 30, 2011

Royalty, composting and toads




We get our hair cut by Juan, a young, soft-spoken guy with a luxuriant bundle of dreadlocks that hangs down his back, halfway down to his tail bone. Last time we were in for a haircut I brought a newspaper photo of one of Osama bin Laden's sons who looks scarily like Juan. Juan's wife agreed.

While waiting for Juan I usually rifle through the shop's musty collection of celebrity magazines, especially ¡Hola!, a glossy the size of the old Life magazine with an obsessive, voyeuristic interest in European royalty. It excitedly covers the comings and goings of princes, kings and duchesses as if they were significant news events rather than just overdressed rich people loitering in each other's castles and palaces. Occasionally royalty converges on one spot to celebrate a wedding or baptism, like chiropractors convening in Reno, in which case ¡Hola! doubles up on the number of four-color pages and editorial heavy breathing.

On to composting. On my last visit to Juan I also found the May 2010 issue of Phoenix Home & Garden, which had an interesting idea for composting in hot, semi-desert climates. It suggested that finely chopped vegetables and fruits be spread over the ground around vegetables and then covered with six inches or so of straw.

Intuitively it makes sense. The straw keeps the ground and the composting material damp, thus saving water while speeding up the composting process underneath. Any fresh compost goes right into the soil, benefiting the plants more directly. In addition, it should encourage colonies of earthworms, though the article didn't specify whether one had to import them or worms already in the soil just come of the closet at the sight of fresh compost.

I further speculate that diced citrus rinds on the surface could repel pests such as leaf-cutting ants, snails and earwigs, and that would be a blessing. On the other hand, the compost could attract them. An experiment conducted by Félix a while back and involving pieces of orange rind placed by the mouth of one of our huge anthills was inconclusive. The ants were neither attracted nor repelled: They just meticulously moved the offending bits of orange and grapefruit out of the way--and went back to business as usual.

Even if this turns into another organic gardening boondoggle, at least the straw should help keep the soil cool and damp. Stew, an organic gardening agnostic, is always at the ready with the Miracle Gro in case anything needs emergency fertilization.

Now, an apology to the Mayans and the buried clay pots they used to irrigate. After blogging a while back that they seemed useless (the pots, not the Mayans), Félix and I have noted that they work quite well, deep-watering the roots of plants already established. Any seeds or seedlings near the surface, though, still need to be water manually.

Finally, a few toads have appeared and the nightly chorale of toads is gathering new members each day. Wonder where these guys go during the rest of the year.

1 comment:

  1. Al...this is super. I just happened to notice that the card you gave me at David's big party had a blogspot on it and checked it out. I really like your writing. We must talk! Joseph McClain

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