The sex life of an avocado, People who think dogs are exceptionally intelligent are barking up the wrong tree, France Craft Beer

Tools, Manure and Houseplants

By —— Bio and Archives--November 3, 2018

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Tools, Manure and Houseplants
Two and a half millennia ago the Chinese sage Confucius observed, “He who would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” As implements are stored away for the winter clean, removing all debris, sharpen working blades and lightly oil. In the day of the use and throwaway culture it remains a truism that gardeners may be judged by the way they treat their tools—and Confucius was correct.


Diversion No. 1

The sex life of an avocado might seem anything but lurid, writes Barbara Kiser in Nature, reviewing geneticist Norman Ellstrand’s book Sex on the Kitchen Table. However, he reveals it as a riot of romantic yearning and ‘sex switching.’ In his foray into the nexus of food, science and plant reproduction, we enter that alternative universe in which olives and quinces are really vehicles for seeds, the tomato (the ‘love apple’ of yore) is self-fertile and cultivated bananas are female-sterile. Nutrition might never seem the same again.

Tired of snickers about your ‘home jungle’? Console yourself with results of research by Dr. Tijana Blanusa, chief horticultural scientist for the Royal Horticultural Society. You can and should fill your home with houseplants. While providing multiple benefits—for human psyche and physical health—she says they also help to eliminate dry skin. Your massed greenery transpires to increase moisture in the air—so, good for your epidermis. Given that the winter air in the average home has less than half the moisture content of that found in the Sahara, a mass of houseplants will help your skin, along with other benefits.

Diversion No. 2

People who think dogs are exceptionally intelligent are barking up the wrong tree, new research shows. Scientists from the University of Exeter and Canterbury Christ Church University reviewed evidence that compared the brain power of dogs with other animals, such as wolves, cats, chimpanzees, pigeons, hyenas, goats, horses and dolphins. The team’s meta-analysis of more than 300 studies of animal intelligence has been published in the journal Learning & Behavior.

Vegan gardeners have “kicked up a stink over ‘cruel’ manure in favour of animal-free,” according to Brit tabloid The Daily Mail. Meanwhile the venerable Royal Horticultural Society suggests that firms will have to produce new products to meet rising demand for green composts, plant-based fertilizers and manure pellets from free-range animals. The dark, rich soils of much of Western Europe and Eastern Asia have long relied on animal manure both to fertilize crops grown on them and improve texture. Today, many home gardeners also rely on bagged cattle and sheep composted manure. Commercial organic vegetable and fruit production positively thrives on it. Mushroom growers seek out sources of horse manure. There is, as the saying goes, money in muck. If, as some predict, the world largely rejects meat, whence will come composted manure?

Diversion No. 3

A scientific debate has raged for decades about whether plants evolve to produce fruit of particular colours to attract particular animals to spread their seeds. A new study published in Biology Letters appears to have finally settled it—yes, they do.

In the U.S. of A. Thanksgiving falls on 22nd November. Happily known to certain residents there as St. Pumpkin’s Day in the late 18th- early 19th centuries, this date is disputed wherever Thanksgiving is celebrated. Canadians, for instance, hold that the first Thanksgiving was held by Martin Frobisher on Baffin Island some half-century prior to the Pilgrim Fathers colliding with Plymouth Rock.

Diversion No. 4

France has (finally) discovered craft beer, announced The Los Angeles Times. The market for beer has changed dramatically in France. There’s even one called ‘La Guillotine.’ A cut above the others perhaps?

Clocks go back an hour on Sunday 4th November—except Saskatchewan and the EU. In the gardening world, this is known as the Change of Thyme. Horticulturally, there is little to celebrate this month. True, on 24th November back in 1859, Charles Darwin published Origin of Species. Science has never been the same since. Across in England, this day in 1605 saw the culmination of Guy Fawkes infamous Gunpowder Plot, he being held by some to be the only person to have entered Parliament for a good reason. For the record, the 2nd is Men Make Dinner Day, 4th Numbat Day, 15th Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day followed 24 hours later by Fast Food Day, and on 19th November by World Toilet Day.


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Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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