Saturday, April 30, 2016

Marijuana is flower and nursery seed


A marijuana seedling grown from "flower seed"

            In order to rule that homegrown marijuana is not protected by the Seed Bill, SB 863 (2013), Judge Wolke had to show that marijuana is not any of the seed crops listed in it.  We said that it fits in the categories of flower seed and nursery seed; the City and Judge Wolke said that it does not.
          The City’s attorney perhaps led Judge Wolke astray when he said at the hearing that the definition of flower seed was a “three-part test” and it did not fit all three parts.  Indeed, we were so taken aback by that argument that we did not even argue it, but moved on to nursery seed.  So in his ruling, Judge Wolke dismissed flower seed with this: 
          “Flower seed is defined in ORS 633.511(6) as follows:
‘Flower seed’ means seeds of herbaceous plants grown for their blooms, ornamental foliage, or other ornamental parts, and commonly known and sold in this state under the name of flower or wildflower seed.
“Homegrown marijuana is not grown for its blooms or ornamental value, and therefore is not covered by this definition.”
But this is not a three-part test and Wolke does not say that it is; it has “or” between the last two parts, not “and.” Then comes the “and:” “and commonly sold in this state under the name of flower seed or wildflower seed.”
Marijuana is most certainly grown for its flowers, the most valuable part of the plant, with the most medicinal/recreational value.  “Blooms” in this definition is not modified by “ornamental” as “leaves” or “parts” are.  Petals are not necessary to the common definition of “bloom,” which is synonymous with “flower.”  And most flower and wildflower seed in this state are sold under their common names, not generic terms.
Perhaps Judge Wolke was misled by the term “buds,” commonly used to describe the flowers of marijuana because they have no petals and are packed tightly together the way immature flowers of broccoli and cauliflower are when harvested for vegetable use.  But saleable marijuana is mature flowers, even seeded in some cases. 

A big, fat clone (rooted cutting), newly planted.  I prefer smaller plants for best growth.

Most of Judge Wolke’s ruling is dedicated to showing that homegrown marijuana, in particular, is not “nursery seed.”  He starts right off admitting that the legislature defined marijuana as a “propagent” of nursery stock in medical marijuana regulations, but refuses to admit that homegrown is as well, though we are buying the same for our home gardens.
He starts with the legislative intent of the Seed Bill, which says that seed crops are of “substantial economic benefit” to the state and so the state seeks to protect those “industries” by reserving regulation of them to itself.  He plays down the economic benefit to homegrowers and does not recognize the benefit of homegrown production to the whole marijuana industry, other markets, or the legislature’s intent to suppress the black market, as homegrown would keep the price down.  Allowing local regulation of homegrown would work against all those benefits.
But his beliefs about the impropriety of excluding homegrown marijuana from most state and all local regulation (as is the case with all homegrown crops, except that the state actually regulates homegrown marijuana) is moot if it fits the actual definitions of either flower seed or nursery seed, so he tackles the definition of nursery stock:
“’Nursery stock includes all botanically classified plants or any part thereof, such as floral stock, herbaceous plants, bulbs, buds, corms, culms, roots, scions, grafts, cuttings, fruit pits, seeds of fruits, forest and ornamental trees and shrubs, berry plants, and all trees, shrubs and vines and plants collected in the wild that are grown or kept for propagation or sale.’ (Emphasis added)
“The question becomes, does the final modifier, ‘...that are grow or kept for propagation or sale’ apply to all nursery stock or just to ‘...all trees, shrubs and vines plants collected in the wild...’”
          Judge Wolke immediately misquoted what he had just quoted, leaving out the “and” between “vines” and “plants.”  It is a very important “and,” as it separates “plants collected in the wild” from everything before it.  The final modifier, “that are grown or kept for propagation or sale” applies to “plants collected in the wild,” not to “all nursery stock” or non-wild “trees, shrubs and vines.”
         But he hangs his argument on that false question, and declares that the modifier must apply to all nursery stock, as otherwise, "virtually all botanically classified plants in Oregon would be nursery stock... to be regulated by the State Department of Agriculture,” raising the absurdity of a “nursery cop” knocking on his door because he is raising trees, vines, and shrubs in his yard.  Actually, the definition of nursery stock is followed by a list of major exceptions to it, but the Department of Agriculture does regulate most, if not all, plants grown commercially under other sections.  They don’t regulate home gardens; neither does the OLCC.
          Homegrowers can now legally propagate their own marijuana cuttings and are likely to as they have for decades, so homegrown marijuana would fit his faulty interpretation of the definition of nursery stock.  Regardless, it is obvious that homegrown marijuana is either flower seed or nursery seed, depending on whether it is propagated by seed or cuttings, and thus is protected by the Seed Bill from local regulations.  Therefore, Grants Pass Municipal Code 5.72.030, “Homegrown and Medical Marijuana,” is void in regard to homegrown marijuana. 
Medical growers will have to make their own case that the regulation in this code is not reasonable, but that is not difficult, with a definition of “indoors” that does not fit a house or any structure with windows and vague “signs of cultivation” that mostly have nothing to do with growing marijuana.  See “We are all living outdoors in Grants Pass.

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Water is Wealth

Oregon has had a great El Nino this winter, recharging our lowered wells, and banking water in our mountains in the form of snow that will be feeding our rivers throughout the summer, allowing us to use it or lose it. 
If we don’t use it, we may well lose more of that snow over the summer than if we don’t.  Water that evaporates from summer sprinkler use makes clouds and rain uphill and downwind, cooling the air and melting the snow more slowly than if it is dry and hot in the mountains.
Water is wealth and is a lot like money: we less we keep it in circulation, the less we have to use.  Water vapor made by sprinklers moves east with the wind and makes rain not only in our hills, but over the mountains in the deserts and plains.  The less confidence that we have in its supply, the less we use it and the less is available to use.
We likely had 4 years of drought on the West Coast because we didn’t keep it circulating like we used to.  For the last 30 years, we have been told that the world has a limited supply of water, and we must save it regardless of local supplies, although it is the most automatically recycled resource on earth.  We have plenty of water in our river and its reservoir, which got us through the last 4 years of drought regardless of snow lack; we can afford to use it and should.
When I was here in the ‘80s, we were irrigating whole cities and the vast majority of our farmland and had summer thunderstorms nearly every weekend.  Our creeks ran all summer.  There was more summer rain in Medford than here and more in Klamath Falls than in Medford, which could happen only by keeping the water moving downwind and uphill, adding to it along the way.  We had larger rain events in July and August than in June and September because we kept the water moving uphill.  Both situations have reversed since the ‘90s as we watered less and many farms and yards went dry in summer.
Many cities, including Grants Pass, have instituted tiered water rates that charge more for higher tiers of use, which is bad for the finances of both our water plant and its customers.  People have responded by using less water, which meant that the rates had to be hiked even more to pay for plant overhead, which is most of the cost of providing clean water.  
Tiered rates are actually illegal, charging larger families more for a public service than it costs to provide it, and charging single-person households less.  Ironically, we all end up paying more for less water, because they discourage higher use that would cover the overhead.
Many people have saved water and money by not watering, and thus have stopped sharing water vapor, which otherwise would cool the air and make rain, filling creeks which do not get snow melt and have gone dry in late summer over the last two decades. 
Our river water is our wealth.  Use it and keep it circulating or lose it to the ocean.
April 2016, online at  Like Garden Grants Pass on Facebook.

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Water Wisely and Well

A round, yellow Pound O' Rain.  They come in dark green and square as well.  
The square does not water as evenly.
          Proper watering has become controversial, as many people think that sprinkler watering is optional and wasteful of water that someone somewhere else can use.  You cannot waste water in Grants Pass by irrigating properly, which means all over the ground and plants.  The water either evaporates from plants and soil, is sucked up by plants and transpires into the air, or sinks into the water table and recharges wells and the river.  That which evaporates or transpires humidifies the air, cools it, and makes rain.  This is the only practical way for ordinary people to share water with other places.  Sprinkler irrigation is loving your neighbor, near and far.  Our river has plenty.

Results the following spring from not watering for a few years.  And perhaps using Roundup to kill weeds.

Some think that if they don’t water, they won’t have to mow or weed.  But weeds don’t care about watering, even thrive on dryness, and once they have taken over a lawn, one must mow more often to keep their flowers from seeding the neighborhood and making the yard uglier yet.  But no one likes to maintain ugly and people tend to ignore it, so such yards often go unmowed.
Some say to use plastic mulch and drip irrigation.  Plastic mulch is ugly.  Drip is unreliable and incomplete.  You can’t really tell how well drip is working if it is covered, and it’s delicate.  You can have a leak or blockage and not know it; voles chew holes in it; shovels break it; growing tree roots and rocks pinch it.   You lose the benefit of evaporation from wet plants and soil and don’t wash off the dust, which grows fungus on leaves.  Some think that it is bad to water paths, but trees, shrubs, and even large annuals like tomatoes send their roots under paths and suffer when they are not watered.  And it’s not cheap or easy to build or maintain a drip system. 
The best watering is also cheapest and easiest: sprinklers.  Automatic sprinklers are the most expensive system to build, though the most reliable.  But one can get by with hoses, sprinklers, and cheap mechanical faucet timers.   Watering by hand sprayer rarely works well; one must hold a hose too long.
 The best sprinklers are also cheap: Pound O Rain, a pound of metal with a big hole in the middle, which blows out a nice, even circle of water.  Twin-circle aluminum “owl eyes” work much the same, but not as evenly, and the lighter sprinkler flips easily.  No moving parts means a longer life, though Pound O Rain can rust out so much that it no longer holds onto a hose.
Water an inch per week for lawns, edibles and most ornamentals.  Use a tuna can to estimate the proper timing. It’s best to water any one spot only once a week, twice at most to promote deep  rooting.  You can move a sprinkler or two around a yard to hit everything once a week. 
For even watering, set the sprinkler on the edge of the previous wet spot, as no sprinkler sprays evenly.  Automatic sprinklers are set up to water to the next sprinkler to cover an area completely.  Even watering is double watering, so you only need ½ inch at a time on each spot.
To sprout seeds, water lightly every evening until they sprout, allowing the water to soak the seeds all night.  Using a hand sprayer works well here.
Last, but not least, do not skip watering because it is going to rain.  When it rains half an inch or more, skip watering for a day.   It may sound superstitious, but if you don’t water, it won’t rain enough to matter.  Call it insurance.
April 2016, online at  Like Garden Grants Pass on Facebook.
Gardening is easy if you do it naturally.  Litter is tagging, marking the territory of the disorderly.

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040

Grow Bigger Tomato and Pepper Plants

Tomato in leaves covered with pine needles and river rocks

Tomato plants start appearing in the markets in April, usually large, blooming plants in 6” pots first.  They are there to tempt the ignorant into planting too big, too old and too early.  If the soil is not warm enough, they just sit and get eaten by bugs until it warms up to 70 degrees.  Plant sellers make a lot of money off people who don’t know any better and they have no interest in teaching them.

The first step to growing a big tomato plant is to plant one that is not yet blooming or even budding.  Examine the tips carefully for buds.  Buds or blooms on a plant in a pot are a sign that it is root bound and has moved from growing mode to trying to make seed while it still can.  You can take small buds off a start, cut the roots and bury the lower stem to grow more roots, and it will grow, but it is better to start with a younger plant.  If it has fruit forming while in the pot, it has pretty much stopped growing.  This rule applies to all large annual bedding plants.

To grow a big plant, buy a small one.  Most plants in 6 inch pots are already blooming.  Plants in 4-inch pots are less likely to be, and pony packs of 4 or 6 plants are almost never blooming, but there is less variety available in the stores.  I have found that the smaller the pot, the larger the plant grows, as long as there are no buds. But I prefer larger 2” x 2” x 4” pony packs to smaller 2” x 1” x 2” 6-packs; the smaller ones are easily root bound.

Peppers planted in gabion rocks.  It was a mistake to plant them three to a circle.

Some peppers are early in the stores, but it pays to wait until June for peppers.  They prefer warmer soil.  Nights colder than 50 degrees will stunt them.  In recent years, I have had a hard time finding pepper plants even in 4-inch pots that are not showing buds, and wait for 6-packs.

Spread compost 4-6 inches deep where you want them to grow, unless the soil there is already rich.  If you piled 6-12 inches of leaves on the soil in the fall, an inch of compost will help warm and rot the leaves and the plants will root well in the rotting leaves. Afternoon shade is good for tomatoes; peppers want full sun.  Cover the compost with coarse mulch like bark, pine needles or shredded leaves to protect it from drying out. 

Tomato in leaves with large rocks for warmth, maybe two weeks after planting. 
The sand in the foreground is the path cover.
Plant your starts into the compost or soil no deeper than they were in their pots.  If your plants are not root bound and blooming, there is no need to cover the lower stem to grow more roots, and doing so just puts them that much deeper into cold soil that will slow their growth and closer to the pill bugs, slugs and snails who will eat them.

Surround those young tomato and pepper plants with a few large rocks, or a large circle of smaller rocks, to absorb heat and transfer it to the soil.  The thicker the rocks, the more they temper the daytime heat and warm the soil at night.  Night warmth is critical to good root growth.

April-May issue, revised 2018. Like Garden Grants Pass on Facebook.  
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Grow Big Blueberries in Grants Pass

Southern and Northern blueberries at Bimart.  Note the old leaves on the Southern.

There are a lot of blueberry plants in local stores this year, two kinds.  Northern blueberries have large leaves, thick, stiff stems, and are deciduous; their leaves turn bright red in the fall and then fall off.  Southern Rabbiteye blueberries take our hot summers better; they have thinner, more arching growth, and smaller leaves that turn various colors in winter but are semi-evergreen, holding most of their leaves through the winter in this area.  The flavor of Northerns may be better.

South and North together in my garden.  The old leaves on the Southern bush didn't get cold enough to turn color.  Both plants were transplanted a few years ago; the Southern is several years older.

They don’t like to be planted into plain soil, unless it is exceedingly light and rich, like potting soil. In fact, they grow remarkably well in large pots, more than 2 feet wide.  Otherwise, rather than planting them in the ground, it is better to set the plant on top of the ground and surround it with enough compost to surround and cover the roots.  Young blueberries grow a sponge of roots only 4-6 inches deep in their pots, putting down a deep taproot only after 4-5 years.  Six inches is a great depth for spreading compost to make rich, light soil after it is worked in by worms.  Unlike most other shrubs and perennials, blueberries roots will sink into the soil as the compost is worked in by worms; most other potted plants will sit on top of the soil as the compost is worked in and are left high and dry.
Cover that compost with coarse mulch like ¾” nugget bark, walk-on fir bark, or pine needles, to keep it from drying out and keep the roots cool and moist.  2 inches of leaves in the fall are probably the best mulch to maintain organic matter in the soil.  It is vital to not let the soil be exposed to sun.  Bark protects and insulates soil when the leaves have been pulled into it by worms.
Southern Oregon has hot, dry summers, not the best conditions for growing blueberries, which like their heads in the sun and their roots cool and moist, but don’t like a lot of heat or dryness at any time.  Indeed, most garden plants prefer a little less heat and a lot more humidity than we have in Grants Pass. 

A standing mister. These put out a finer mist than emitters bought to attach to irrigation line.

           The key to getting fast growth and big berries on young plants in our area is keeping a mister running nearby through the heat of the summer days.  It does not cause fungal infections, and helps many plants grow over a wide area of the garden.  Misting with well water can mineralize the soil, reducing acidity; acid fertilizer can counter that.  After they grow a deep tap root, misting is not so necessary.
An incident shows how vital misting is here.  A customer forgot to turn on one mister for a week near an isolated plant that had been producing big, tasty berries.  The remaining berries all stopped growing and immediately ripened, producing little berries that were not juicy or flavorful.
Revised May 2018, online at  Like Garden Grants Pass on Facebook.
Gardening is easy if you do it naturally.  Litter is tagging, marking the territory of the disorderly.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040