At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
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Bamboo as a hay crop

Bamboo is a grass and where the farmer has enough water to irrigate other hay crops (such as rye or alfalfa), they ought to consider this hay instead. 

D. G. Sturkie, Professor Emeritus of Agronomy and Soils, V.L. Brown, Superintendent, Lower Coastal Plain Substation, and  W. J. Watson, Assistant Superintendent, Lower Coastal Plain Substation, all of Auburn University, in their excellent “BAMBOO GROWING IN ALABAMA” suggest that bamboo was first introduced to America in Savanna, Georgia in 1933.  Yields of timber-quality bamboo often exceed 83 tons per acre, but theoretical yields can be much higher than that.  Not that 83 tons per acre is to be looked down upon: 3 tons per acre is very respectable for many hay crops!

Bamboo groves are card for like orchards, vineyards or berry patches and may produce for many dozens of years without significant maintenance.  Plant the bamboo in rows running east/west so that the north wind is blocked in the winter and the south sun is tempered in the summer.  Beds should be of equal width to the aisles, as with any plant.  Beds of 4 to 8 feet are ideal for most varieties, but undertake your own experiments!

Deep tillage in the aisles is the best Tullian or Columellan husbandry, and should be done at least 3 times in the summer, once in the winter and once in the autumn for this and other hay crops.  In fact, it should be done for any crop.  Heavy mulching of the surface reduces water needs, and keeping two feet of bamboo above the ground in winter increases water deposition by snow. 

The young shoots are delicious treats for people and may be harvested by thinning a patch.  Don’t harvest all of the shoots or you won’t have bamboo later!  Bamboo for animal feed is very palatable and may be harvested in two ways.

First, it may be thinned when green – either by trimming the tops (as we do with rye and other grasses) about two feet from the ground.  Second, it may be thinned entirely as we do with raspberries in the autumn as we remove old canes, or with bamboo shoots.

Bamboo is also sometimes harvested when brown in the autumn or winter, and allowed to cure on the plant.  It is also sometimes grazed directly, but this is poor management for any hay crop because the animals will destroy the soil and damage the plants.

Most animals love bamboo – fowl, goats, cattle, pigs and even people will eat more of this hay crop if it is seasoned with a little salt, wine, vinegar or beer.  But mixing in your usual grain feeds is always a good idea, as with any hay crop.

For people, try some fresh soy beans mixed in; for animals, this is too expensive and mixing barley in is easy enough!

Sheds can be made from tires too

When building a shed, it sometimes helps to have wood on hand.  But not all sheds are made out of wood!  Some sheds may be made out of old tires laid on their sides and filled with compressed dirt, stacked up like large round bricks! 

A soil compacter is necessary for this kind of construction: simply filling the tires won’t do.  You must pound it in until the soil is hard as rock!  Then, the tires actually are pressed together and the soil acts like a kind of mortar.

Tires are largely non-toxic, but not good for growing in.  The plant roots will touch the tires and eat them, giving you poison.  But unless you are eating the tires, you will not likely be poisoned by a shed made of them.  They make good animal pens for the same reason!  They leach almost nothing into the ground if stacked above it and the leaching when buried does not go very far. 

Consider the other materials you can use to build a shed and you’ll find wood is only the beginning!


Ant watching season!

Today I saw that the ants decided that summertime had finally come again.  They are out looking about for food (and ants are rarely hungry, they are not picky eaters), and doing some repairs to their home.  Pretty soon, once their home is in good order again and their pantries are full, they’ll give a thought to the dances of mating season and the externally antisocial colony will make friendly contact with other colonies. 

Peace will reign – briefly – in Ant Land, as the ants remember that they have more in common than different.  A Queen will be made, her Prince will die, the loyal subjects will accompany Her Majesty to a new home, the mother and father colonies will bring gifts of food and workers.  For a while, a tenuous alliance will exist, and then, the New Colony will assert itself, rebel and in independence revel in its new homeland that it subjugates to its will.  It will face wars and struggles for survival, invaders, expeditions and adventures, its thousands of millions and billions of members will do remarkable things.

Life is long for a colony, and worth reporting on.


Free land?

Saw an interesting article on free land in the AARP Bullitin:

Small farmers ought to work together, no matter where they are!


Building a better dam

Water is so important to the wellbeing of an ecology, and while sometimes it is doubtful whether dams improve an ecology or not, they remain a fundamental tool of at several species to improve a local environment.

Learning from beavers, water rats and other dam makers, we understand that a good dam is one that retards water flow rather than slows or stops it entirely.  A beaver dam does not significantly change the rate of water flow, but it does retard the direction enough that a pond develops without robbing downstream of more than its fair share of water. 

Humans make dams too.  Some of our dams imitate those of our favorite water rodents, but others are our own invention entirely.  Our dams typically reserve water (in a “reservoir”) for our agriculture, stealing water from downstream for use at the dam – or in a distance from the dam by way of canals.  But some other human dams – many of which can be seen in Elbert County and throughout Colorado – are constructed by farmers who use the water on site at the pond, and are made in a similar way that rodent dams are made.

When water is retarded in its flow, more trees will grow, and these trees increase the amount of rainfall, gradually changing the environment to have more water.  They immediately reduce the evaporation of groundwater, and encourage the biodensity required to improve ground retention of water.  They increase biodiversity, and generally are useful to the improvement of the land itself into a healthful climate for human life.

Deserts can be made to bloom without water, as has been shown by Dr. Masanobu Fukuoka and others.  By simply increasing the amount of plant life, we increase the amount of soil fungus and microorganisms, and improve the water retention of the soil; we increase biodiversity and biodensity in our fields to increase our yields.  Greening deserts needs no dams, if you have the hundreds of years to wait.

But good dams can be made to green the desert, or at least reclaim the lands creeks and rivers may again flow.

Coyotes play hockey and eat pizza

At dusk the coyotes were singing so loud I could hear them inside.  I went out and listened to their songs.  I guessed they were having dinner, but I am still not sure what kind of pizza they were sharing.

Coyotes are very picky eaters.  Contrary to popular belief, they are little threat to agriculture, and in fact are a beneficial predator for your farm and ranch.  Even if you have chickens.  Or baby calves.  Or dogs and cats.  Coyotes will not break into coops or barns, or into your home.  If you want to keep animals safe, give them shelter.

But even still, coyotes do not prefer to eat our domestic animal friends.  They prefer to eat rodents, insects, rabbits, small birds, eggs and other things that are smaller than they are.  They only rarely hunt in packs like wolves, and therefore do not hunt things larger than themselves.  When they do hunt in packs, they try to wear out their prey by exhaustion, dehydration or other siege tactics.  Voles, prairie dogs, eastern cottontails, ground squirrels and mice are their favorites, but coyotes will also eat snakes and other lizards, too.

Like most animals, they do like human garbage.  Especially pizza.

Like most members of the dog family, they are omnivorous, and do not rely on meat.  They also eat quantities of fruit (when in season, or in the garbage), some vegetables (seasonally), and have learned to like human-processed grains.  They are scavengers, and will eat dead or decaying matter, too.

Occasionally, it is true, they have attacked people.  But domestic dogs have attacked – and even killed – more people than coyotes.  For that matter, domestic cats have attacked people too.  When an animal attacks a human, it is usually out of desperation, and some level of antagonism (however unintentional). 

We humans are very big creatures, comparatively speaking: we are some of the largest animals that walk the earth in terms of weight and size.  While not as big as the biggest animals, we are bigger than some equines and bovines, and quite a measure bigger than the antelope and deer.  Coyotes also fear us because they easily learn that we have extraordinary powers, we can hurt them if we want to.  Most animals will even fear a human child.

Coyotes fear lions, bears, and other large predators that eat them, but most coyotes die more natural deaths.  Though coyotes share their food with older members of their community who are less able to hunt, it is not often that there is enough food to share and many coyotes will die of starvation when they grow too old to hunt.  Or of exposure to the elements.  They usually live 10 years in the wild, and can live twice that in captivity.

Coyotes like to live in old badger dens, but can dig their own.  They are naturally active during the day, but have learned to avoid humans and are now active at night. 

Female coyotes are monoestrous, and remain in heat for 2–5 days between late January and late March, during which mating occurs. Once the female chooses a partner, the mated pair may remain temporarily monogamous for a number of years. Depending on geographic location, spermatogenesis in males takes around 54 days, and occurs between January and February. The gestation period lasts from 60 to 63 days. Litter size ranges from 1 to 19 pups; the average is 6.  50-70% of the coyote pups will not live to adulthood. 

More than 90,000 coyotes are killed each year by the United States government. This is done supposedly to protect cattle and other livestock.  More coyotes are killed by recreational and professional hunters, hired by farmers and ranchers to rid them of this terrifying beast.  Yet the number of coyote kills of cattle and other domestic stock hardly warrants this slaughter.  Especially when they are such a benefit to farmers, keeping down the vermin that would waste a crop: coyotes only destroyed about 2.2% of the total number of destroyed sheep in 2004.  Ranchers would do better by focusing on the greater threats to their flocks.

Coydogs, a hybrid of dogs and coyotes, are more a threat to livestock than coyotes.  And the numbers of coyotes killed is sometimes confused with the population of coydogs exterminated.  Coydogs have become a problem in warmer regions of the United States.

Coywolves are less common – wolves and coyotes generally hate each other – but do occur.  These are responsible for the only two recorded deaths from coyotes (true coyotes were not at fault).

Coyotes in Phoenix have learned how to play hockey.  Or at least a team is named after them.  It is disputable whether the Phoenix Coyotes play hockey well.


A conversation with a Tree

I was walking today and met a new tree.  I think this tree was struck by lightning, but I was not there to see it.  It had been charred on one side, and exploded; the fire from the electrical burst must have been put out quickly.  This former cottonwood is now excellent mulch for young plants, shelter for animals and kindling par-excellence. 

In springtime I like to wander about and catch up with the nature news – admittedly, winter is a slow time of year on the nature beat.  When exploring a new area, I like to first take in the general atmosphere of the place.  I’m usually struck by the newcomers and louder members of the land first, but I try to spend some time as soon as I can with the long-time residents to learn how it came to be this way.  Trees – and the creatures that love and live with them – are the best bet to understanding the place.

Looking at a dead or dying tree puts your finger pulse on the land.  Reading the rings, you know the trials the land has faced these last many years, the times of plenty and the times of drought and famine by seeing the thickness and thinness of the rings.  You know the cycle of disease and fire by looking at the age of the trees, the periods of rot, the kinds of damage to the ancient bark.  You hear stories about old friends that have passed on (sometimes a tree grows up with a friend who shades it on one side), and love stories (sometimes two trees grow together).  Sometimes they will even tell you about your people, the humans who have come and gone under its shady branches long ago, leaving evidences of scars, or sometimes even arrowheads.

I chatter with the residents of the land and find out how they are doing.  Fat and happy?  Thin and hopeful?  Fearful?  Curious?  Today I saw fat bold birds and lusty rodentia (ground and aborial), and even a few early insects and spiders anxious to get the summer going.  All was well in the forest, and the old trees and dead trees were fueling not fires today, but the daily lives of countless critters.

Dead trees are essential to ecosystems, and are necessary habitat for so many creatures.  Most creatures do not like to live in living trees.  The wood is too hard, the tree puts out toxins to ward off the invader.  Doctor Woodpecker, who makes his living healing the sick trees of his forest, is no exception, but takes up residence in the trees he has failed so he might better serve those that are suffering.  I saw no woodpeckers today, but it is early in the year.

Throughout Elbert County, there are places where the trees have been removed through deforestation.  Long ago, the black forest stretched beyond the Palmer Divide into the Bijou valley.  Requiring lumber, the folks who settled Denver (my worthy ancestors among them) called for wood.  Wood was needed, they were building a Town!  Homes, businesses, churches, pencils, desks, flagpoles… everything was made of wood.  And, when the railroads brought the Black Forest about Agate into Denver, the stumps that were left behind were made into barrels for storing the numerous agricultural goods that were made on the fertile lands: stripped of trees, the lands were clothed in crops, and fruits, vegetables and grains fed the hungry miners, ranchers and cattle. 

Through one disaster and another, Denver one day burned and the hard-won lumber, even all the barrels, were taken by the fearsome fire.  When the miners suffered from the collapse of the metal markets, all of Colorado mourned the passing of the silver serpent and, with less mouths and poorer mouths to feed, the lands clothed in plenty passed to the ranchers, who in turn passed the land to the banks, who in turn passed the land to housing developers or left the land barren and sad.  The current denizens of the land, either ignorant of the history, or stubborn in their ways, keep the land from naturally reforesting.

In the Mountains of Colorado, the forests had nearly entirely been exhausted in the last two centuries, but reforestation efforts have brought new, green life to the hills.  And now there are reforestation efforts out on the plains too!  Colorado, named for the blood red rivers burning with the hemorrhages of erosion, is again an increasingly green State, but it may be hundreds of years before the ancient glory of the hills and mountains and plains are restored as trees are seeded, grow old, die and help the animals return, who in turn help the trees seed, and clothe the earth again in woods too thick to drive a wagon through.

Our people will come and go, and the trees will remember not only our mistakes but our hard-earned wisdom.  Trees are a forgiving people.

rooster attacks bread! and wins!

Our tiny bantam rooster, a polish tophat, who is quite insane,was treated to some bread today. He angrily thrashed it, tore it, sparring with it for minutes... And ate it happily. We think he has inferiority issues.

a poem and prayer

When you are used to eating from a can You might be suspicious of the man Who sells you simple ingredients Without even after dinner mints Lettuce does not grow in bags Eggs aren't made with upc tags Learning how to cook is easy And the result won't make you queasy Watching a pot come to boil Choosing for your loved ones the best oil Friends at your dinner table Is better than any TV fable You and I know good food is good And therefore don't eat what others would But it is so very sad to shop Where cans, bags and boxes stop Let's all stop buying today Where grocers don't do things our way Start a co-op it is quick Before we all start growing sick Join one if there is one near Or we'll starve as I fear Opening boxes bags and cans is hard Let's now play our highest card Support your farmer with some cash And then enjoy some tasty mash!

a poem and prayer

When you are used to eating from a can You might be suspicious of the man Who sells you simple ingredients Without even after dinner mints Lettuce does not grow in bags Eggs aren't made with upc tags Learning how to cook is easy And the result won't make you queasy Watching a pot come to boil Choosing for your loved ones the best oil Friends at your dinner table Is better than any TV fable You and I know good food is good And therefore don't eat what others would But it is so very sad to shop Where cans, bags and boxes stop Let's all stop buying today Where grocers don't do things our way Start a co-op it is quick Before we all start growing sick Join one if there is one near Or we'll starve as I fear Opening boxes bags and cans is hard Let's now play our highest card Support your farmer with some cash And then enjoy some tasty mash!

Already not rotating crops? Try not planting

We have previously discussed not rotating crops.  Today, let’s get radical and discuss not planting them.

The revolutionary-Buddhist-monk-farmer-rancher-radical-crazed-genius-soil-scientist Masanobu Fukuoka had the thought one day while looking at his fields that he was doing too much work.  A smart farmer does one less thing every day, and Fukuoka was very smart indeed.  He stopped doing everything in one day. 

His farm did not go out of business because before he quit working, he did a lot of work.  He planted crops that would naturally reseed themselves, he cut down his orange orchards and replanted them so they might regrow without the effects of pruning, he undomesticated his animals so they would wander his lands and set up their own nests and homes.  He sold his tillage equipment, he himself began to go wild, wearing traditional and primitive Japanese clothes, living in a traditional and primitive Japanese cabin.  He wrote poetry every day in praise of the Buddha’s teaching.

His annual struggle was with his rice, barley and other grains.  They would not reseed by themselves, having been too long under domestication. 

His religious views obviously influenced his practice, but Fukuoka founded his revolutionary practices in sound scientific methodology, experimentation and observation, and discovered how to reclaim deserts, how to increase his farm’s profits.  It was through his science that he rediscovered his religion.

His books, especially The One Straw Revolution and Natural Agriculture are worthwhile reading, and present another tool in the farmer’s belt.  Large farms, such as Lundberg farm, and small farms, such as Colorado’s TwoInTents, employ his science, albeit no other farmer has accomplished his results so well: the temptation to do some work and see the benefits of that labor is too great, and it truly does take a Buddhist who has forsaken works and laid down the burden to accomplish truly natural agriculture. 

Yet, even lay followers of the great Fukuoka will find the blessings of nature in greater and increasing profits, greater and increasing fertility, and less disease and loss.  If you have the courage, read his books and try learning the hard lesson of this master farmer. 

Rotation of crops unnecessary

Most gardeners and farmers will plan to rotate their crops, meaning cycle the land between the principle families of plants.  This is largely unnecessary for several reasons.

Some folks rotate because they believe that the plants eat different foods and that by rotating them through, it gives the soil time to rejuvenate one kind of food while another kind of food is consumed.  This is patently wrong, and casual observation will demonstrate that all plants eat the same things: soil, water and sunshine.  If you are still unconvinced, try planting the same crop over and over again in the same soil, feeding the soil nutrition through tillage and manure, and you will see that they will not die for starvation.  Or, examine the nearest potted plant: it has been eating the same soil for even years at a time.

Another reason given for the insanity of rotation is that it reduces disease.  Founded on the primitive understanding that some diseases affect just one or two families of plants, and that the continual presence of those plants in the soil will lead to large populations of the disease causing miroorganisms, it ignores basic sanitary science developed in the early 18th century.  Sanitation is achieved not through sterilization (a science developed in the 19th century), but through a competition of various microorganisms.  A balanced microecosystem is one that presents no danger to the macroorganisms.  A chief example is found in your body’s own natural defenses: most of your immune system is not you, but the friendly bacteria, viruses, retroviruses and fungi that live on and in you, eating those bad microorganisms that would cause you disease.  When disease organisms increase in population, the defense organisms respond, and eat their way to your safety, defending their host (you). 

In soil, this is achieved through tillage.  By feeding the soil air and otherwise increasing the biodiversity of the soil, a multitude of organisms develop.  The use of manure, green or animal, aids in this because it encourages the diversity of organisms that eat not your plants, but the manure itself.  Some farmers will intercrop to increase diversity, a wiser practice than rotation – microorganisms reproduce very quickly, and before your season is out, they have already adapted to the monoculture of whatever family you are planting this year.  A few seconds after your plants put out roots they know what kind of plants you have in the ground, and if it was cabbage family last year and is now spinach family, the spinach disease organisms will nearly instantly take advantage of it - if it weren’t for the beneficial organisms in the soil keeping them in check.

Another reason given to rotate crops is to add nitrogen to the soil.  Plants do not add nitrogen to soil.  Some plants encourage the microorganisms that deposit nitrogen into the soil, but human beings (most of whom are not plants) can encourage the nitrogen making organisms better than plants by stirring the soil with tillage: more than 16kg per hectare can be produced by tilling dirt without any crop or manure added in.  This is more than enough to support most grains, very hungry crops indeed.

So stop spinning around and put in aisles, you’ll dance better going in straight lines up and down with your favorite tillage equipment, whether it is shovels and mattocks, or ox and plow, or a tractor!


Sunflowers as animal feed

Sunflowers make excellent animal feed, requiring no irrigation and providing both grain and forage. 

According to Dairy Specialist Alvaro Garcia of the South Dakota State University Extension ( , “Sunflower silage contains slightly more crude protein (12.5%) and considerably more fat (7.1 to 10.7% depending on the variety) and calcium than corn silage on a dry matter basis.  On the negative side, sunflower silage contains 1.5 to 2 times more fiber and up to 3 times as much lignin (indigestible) compared to corn silage. Due to this lower energy content it is important to feed sunflower silage to lower producing dairy cows, dry cows, or growing heifers.  Milk production decreased by 8% in dairy cows fed sunflower silage in substitution for corn silage, according to research conducted at SDSU, but milk fat was 12% higher.  At the University of Wisconsin, for cows producing 60 pounds milk, the substitution of corn silage with up to 66% sunflower silage did not affect milk and protein yields.”

When seeds are also fed to the animals, there is a superior food than corn. 

But, if the seeds are to be retained for human consumption, sunflowers still make excellent food for meat producing animals, or for those animals which need to be sustained through the winter and will be encouraged towards better dairy production in the spring with higher quality hay. 

Oregon State University ( ), though, believes that corn and sunflower silage is equivalent, but warns that “crude protein content of plants also decreases as plants mature. If sunflowers are ensiled at early maturity the resulting silage has been found to have a crude protein content of about 10 percent, which is about equal to that of good corn silage.”

Grazing on sunflower fields is definitely an option for ranchers.  If they have a farmer friend willing to let the animals tromp and stomp on their field.  Or planted their own.  The sunflower head contains the most feed value, followed by the top, middle, and bottom thirds of the stalk. If residue cannot be collected behind the combine, grazing will afford some use, although the time before snow cover is usually limited. Sunflower seeds are high in energy (due to the high oil content) and a good source of protein. Consequently, downed heads in the field are a highly nutritious residue.

When water is a constraining issue, and in Colorado it always has been – even after Colorado’s Governor Eaton invented modern irrigation – sunflowers present a nutritious crop for both human and animal alike, able to produce easily 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of seeds per acre, and about 2 to 5 tons of hay per acre – more than alfalfa!  And, with nutritional values just under that of alfalfa, sunflower is not a significantly inferior feed.

While some farmers reach for millet when planning a low-water year, remember that sunflower is less drought sensitive than millet because of its long taproot.  And, sunflowers improve your soil better because of that same taproot! 

Sunflowers may be companion planted with grass for a double harvest of grass hay and sunflower hay, with the bonus of harvesting sunflower heads for animal feed as well.  Beans, pumpkins and other crops may be hilled with the sunflowers and still allow grass harvests.

Tillage is always good, and would increase the yield more than the loss of grass is worth.  However, some farmers either lack the ability to till large areas, or require a grass crop for their animals and resort to hilling.  Grass crops are required for grazing animals, who might be injured by dirt patches and the resulting sanitation risks.

With 3-4 pounds of sunflowers required per acre, it is unlikely that this year a farmer will spend more than $160 per acre on seed using boutique seeds from breeders.  A similar cost is faced for pumpkins and beans. 

Instead of tilling in aisles, the aisles are not tilled.  The beds are raked or dethatched, and mounds constructed.  Into the mound is planted a sunflower, a pumpkin and a bean – not the three sisters of fame, but at least two sisters and a very good friend.  Between mounds, sunflowers are planted regularly at 1 or 2 feet, and only in intervals of 6-8 feet, a mound of pumpkins and beans and sunflowers is planted. 


Talk with the animals

 This morning before the wind began to blow, the meadowlarks were singing to each other.  Their songs may sound cheerful to one person, and melancholy to another, but to the birds they present a specific meaning that is not so open to interpretation. 

Birds use songs to communicate with each other important information about their environment, or about their territory, or even verbally cogitate during problem solving sessions (think aloud).  Some birds sing so quickly or at pitches  that we cannot hear so that their complex songs sound like a single note to our ears.  The more social a bird is, the more songs it will have, and some birds, rooks and crows, have been found by researchers to have developed languages equivalent to the verbal capacity of an average human child. 

Some of these more intelligent birds make and use dozens or even hundreds of tools, and use their songs to convey information learned by one generation of birds to the next – an achievement that classes them with the more highly developed animals of this planet, including the greater apes and dolphins. 

Even trees communicate with each other, using chemicals and other impulsive signaling, they can coordinate defenses against aggressive insects, or balance the ratio of female and male members of their community in response to environmental pressure.  In plants, communication is a responsive and often chemical or physical response to stimulus, and sheds insight into the development of communication in the Animal Kingdom: Charles Darwin and his family studied this to gain the first primitive insights into neurology. 

Humans have developed their skills of communication further by making a physical record of the songs we sing.  On rock, paper or clay, we can record information for generations thousands of years in the future to enjoy.  If the record is preserved from destruction by the elements or enemy humans who, since the dawn of record keeping, have sought to destroy records when utterly annihilating an enemy.  Just as the birds I heard this morning tried to drown each other out with their songs.


Cloches are easy to make, easy to use

When planting bushes early, make sure to cloche the bare root plants.  Cloches may be made easily out of 1 gallon plastic milk or water jugs by cutting off the bottom and then piling soil half way up the top of the outside of the jug, after it’s been placed over the plant.  Watering may be undertaken either by pouring water into the top, or by watering the nearby soil.  We’ve already discussed this kind of cloche in previous issues of the Meadowlark Herald, but it bears a refresher at this time of year!

When establishing annuals in cloches, make sure to plant them slightly lower than the level of the soil so that water will drain into the bowel, and also so that when the cloche is removed, the soil will better cover the crown and insulate it when the cloche is gone.

It is a difficult question of when to remove the cap of the cloche.  During cold times, keeping the lid on protects the young plant.  During hot times, removing the cap reduces the build up of moisture and reduces the risk of disease.  Like a stake on a young tree, cloches are essential to the long term success of the plant, but if used excessively weaken or kill the plant.   

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