Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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Let it Grow! Singing to Your Plants

So you’ve been singing Let it Go from Disney’s movie Frozen all day, every day? Yeah… me too.

It’s not just because it’s a catchy song that is bombarding us from everywhere (although that helps). I personally suffer from a syndrome called can’t-stop-singing-and-don’t-even-realize-I’m-doing-it. Just ask my husband and former co-workers… they’ll tell you. My condition often manifests itself in a rare condition I refer to as Disney-Tourettes. It’s the best way I can think of to describe my inclination to randomly, frequently, loudly burst into Disney song (and sometimes dance). A Whole New World (Aladdin), Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid) and I Just Can’t Wait to be King (The Lion King) frequently worm their way out of my mouth. It has proven embarrassing a time or two, but at this point my life I just choose to embrace it.

That being said, it can still be really (really) annoying personally to have songs stuck in your head. They just go on and on, don’t they my friend?

Further compounding the situation is this: If you’re not sick of the sound of your voice warbling ala Queen Elsa, someone else in your life probably is. Regardless of the quality or quantity of your singing, I’m happy to share with you that an audience exists that will never tire of hearing you bellow Disney tunes!

Your plants.

Seriously.

Singing to Plants

I first heard about this idea in high school. I haven’t been lying to you when I’ve shared that I love a good experiment, as further evidenced by my teenage (but admittedly not scientific) test to see if singing to plants really works. First I just sang while I cleaned my room. I experienced early onset of can’t-stop-singing-and-don’t-even-realize-I’m-doing-it syndrome, so it was pretty convenient. I observed that singing near my plant caused it to noticeably perk up! Cool!

Next I tried playing this archaic thing called a Compact Disc (otherwise called a CD for those of you who aren’t historians) while I was away. I couldn’t tell you how long I played it or exactly what it was (although at that point in my life it was likely either the soundtrack to Titanic or something by Boyz II Men). What I can tell you is that when I returned my spider plant was noticeably learning toward the radio. Well isn’t that neat!?

Naturally my next step was to move the radio to the other side of the plant. Sure enough when I returned the plant was leaning toward the radio again – the opposite direction from its lean the previous attempt.

I’d like to cite this little experiment from my childhood as the reason why I shamelessly sing while gardening, but you and I both know that’s just not the case. (Couldn’t keep it in, Heaven knows I’ve tried.) My constant crooning isn’t going to work like Miracle Grow, but it’s probably having a positive effect. The question is – how?

Carbon Dioxide or Vibration

I’m familiar with two different theories about why singing to your plants could be beneficial. The first theory is that the carbon dioxide emitted as humans sing helps plants to photosynthesize more efficiently, thus making them stronger and helping them to grow faster.

That’s a reasonable theory, but consider this: My plant showed noticeable change listening to Celine Dion declare “My heart will go on and on!” through a machine and not in my bedroom. No humans present. No carbon dioxide emitted. Yet the fact that the music had an effect on the plant, whether beneficial or not, was undeniable. Fortunately those crazy kids at MythBusters took a much more scientific approach to this question and yielded an interesting result. Their findings suggest that the effect of singing (or talking) on plants may have much more to do with vibration than breathing.

Myth Busters Experiment

In this experiment, two soundtracks of spoken words (not singing) were used.

“The skeptical MythBusters procured 60 pea plants and divided them into three greenhouse groups. Then, they recorded two soundtracks — one of loving praise and one of cruel insults — and played them on repeat in two separate greenhouses. A third greenhouse remained mum as an experimental control.

To give the myth a fighting chance of flourishing, the team charted the plants’ growth over 60 days. Afterward, the MythBusters determined the winning greenhouse by comparing plant masses from the three groups. To their surprise, the silent greenhouse performed poorest, producing lower biomass and smaller pea pods than the other two. Although there was no difference in plant quality between the nice greenhouse and the mean greenhouse, the soundtracks seemed to produce a positive effect in both.

Based on the plausible myth, botanists might want to chat with their plants more often, even if what they have to say isn’t all-too friendly.”

Other Experiments

The folks at MythBusters aren’t the only researchers who’ve looked into this idea. Several studies, some scientific and some more general, have been done. There’s no point in recounting gobs of them in this brief article, but I did want to share one I found very interesting. The authors of the blog Dry Stone Garden write:

“A 2007 paper from scientists at South Korea’s National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology proposed that two genes involved in a plant’s response to light—known as rbcS and Ald—are turned on by music played at 70 decibels. ‘This is about the level of a normal conversation,’ says Marini. The Korean researchers found differing responses depending on the frequency of the sound. The higher the frequency, the more active was the gene response.”

To my knowledge no one has conclusively determined why or how well singing (or talking) to plants helps them grow, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The next time you feel like channeling your inner Elsa, wander out to your garden. Your neighbors might not thank you, but your tomatoes will.

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Chicken Paddock Planting Plan

chicken coop in paddock area

Last spring’s Chicken Week seems a world away now as I look out onto giants mounds of fluffy snow. That week of posts introducing our first flock of chickens also discussed our plans and tips for chicken keeping. One of the central concepts in our plan is a paddock system. Chicken paddocks provide several benefits, including the reduction or elimination of expenses for commercial chicken-feed. In a nutshell, the paddock system works like this:

Multiple (i.e., four) fenced areas can be accessed from the coop. These areas are deliberately planted with vegetation that is healthy for chickens to self-harvest. The paddocks are also planted with an overstory (trees to roost in, especially for protection) and an underbrush (especially to hide from airborne predators). By planting perennial food, you further minimize the amount of work necessary on your part to feed the chickens (the plants come back every year). Paddocks are designed to be large enough so that chickens can forage there for an entire week without decimating the vegetation available. After a week, they move on to a new paddock. In a system with four paddocks, the first paddock will have three weeks to “recover” before the chickens are back to eat more.

Implementing our paddock system has been a slow process because it fell low on the priority list during warm weather. By the end of last summer (2013) we had created two paddocks to surround our coop. (The original plan called for four paddocks but we decided that two larger paddocks would be better.) This spring (2014) we’ll finally be ready to fill the paddocks with gobs of perennial, chicken-friendly food to give our girls plenty of yummy foraging material.

The Plan

chicken paddock plants

Click here for the complete site assessment, as well as details about what we're planting and why.
 
 

2014 Seed Starting Plan

free seed starting plan software

Earlier this month I shared the 2014 Main Garden Plan for Arcadia Farms (and you can see it by clicking here). I’m still working on plans for the Fenceline Garden because I’d like to transition it from a garden of annuals to a space for perennial fruit and herbs. (Here’s a picture of what it looked like last year.)

The seed catalogs have started pouring in and, just like last year, I’m looking to get a jump start on my spring garden by starting seeds indoors. Because last year’s garden was the source of my CSA produce, I needed to consider criteria such as yield (high), days to maturity (short) and uniqueness as I selected seeds. This year the Main Garden’s primary function is to feed our family although I will occasionally be selling excess produce or crops planted especially for our brokerage customer(s). That allows me to have different criteria, including:

  • Suiting our family’s tastes and needs
  • Limiting varieties to better facilitate seed saving (less chance of cross-pollination)
  • Timing for personal consumption (spread out) rather than commercial (large amounts maturing at once)

Fortunately I’ve assembled quite a collection of seeds over the last few years – including purchases and seeds from my own garden – so I have relatively few seeds that I need to buy. My plan is to save even more seeds from the garden this year and slowly reduce my dependence on outside sources.

Click here to read the rest of this article, including:

 
 

Calling All Weed Experts!

Last year I had it in my heart to clear the “Woods” (lightly wooded portion of our 1 acre property) of the abundant weeds growing amidst the trees. Unfortunately I didn’t have it in my schedule nearly as well as I had it in my heart. This year will be different! My goal is to work on pulling weeds during this and next week. I know that nature abhors a vacuum so I’m convinced that if I pull all (realistically, most) of the weeds some other weed will just take up residence. With that in mind, I’d like to sow some kind of beneficial ground cover shortly after the weed-deed is done. (In time I’d like to develop this area into a food forest.)

In the best-case scenario this ground cover would provide food – either for us or our animals. I’d also settle for a ground cover that adds nutrients (like nitrogen) to the soil or attracts beneficial critters (like bees). Any suggestions?

Alas, before the new ground cover goes in, the established weeds must go. Because I’m curious about which native plants are growing here, and because I’d hate to get rid of a beneficial ‘weed’ unwittingly, I was hoping someone out there could help me to identify the weeds growing in my yard.

Mystery Weed #1

Mystery Weed #1

Mystery Weed #1

Mystery Weed #1 Closeup

Mystery Weed #1 Closeup

90% of the green you see in this picture is Mystery Weed #1. It's currently occupying an area near the garden that I would like to replace with new ground cover.

90% of the green you see in this picture (foreground) is Mystery Weed #1. It’s currently occupying an area near the garden that I would like to replace with new ground cover.

Mystery Weed #2

Mystery Weed #2

Mystery Weed #2

Mystery Weed #2 Closeup. This weed is not nearly as prevalent in the yard as Mystery Weed #1.

Mystery Weed #2 Closeup. This weed is not nearly as prevalent in the yard as Mystery Weed #1.

Mystery Weed #3

Either this stuff is new this year or I've just never been observant enough to see it. It's all over the place, including encroaching on the northern edge of the Main Garden.

Either this stuff is new this year or I’ve just never been observant enough to see it. It’s all over the place, including encroaching on the northern edge of the Main Garden.

 

90% of the patch of green in this picture is Mystery Weed #3. These tiny guys almost look like lettuce seedlings to me.

90% of the patch of green in this picture is Mystery Weed #3. These tiny guys almost look like lettuce seedlings to me.

Well there you have it. Who has thoughts or guesses as to what these puppies are? Anyone know of a good resource for identifying native plants/weeds? And don’t forget, if you have ideas on ground cover for this shaded area, I’d love to hear those thoughts as well!

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