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October05 Gardening Web

 

October Horticultural Happenings

 

Toronto Field Naturalist Outings

Free guided walks; children welcome but please no pets; all are TTC accessible; dress according to weather, bring beverage, camera, notebook and binoculars, more 416-593-2656 or www.sources.com/tfn

5 October - Baby Point, Humber Ravine: historical and nature walk , meet 10 a.m. northeast corner Jane & Annette, finish at Old Mill subway station; morning only; bring a snack

12 October - Mt. Pleasant Cemetery: trees for beginners - Highly Recommended! Meet 10 a.m. Davisville subway station; being a snack

15 October - Eastern Beaches: nature walk - meet 10:30 a.m. southwest corner Coxwell & Lake Shore Blvd. E.; bring lunch and binoculars

20 October - Humber Bay Park: nature walk - meet 10 a.m. park entrance Lake Shore Blvd W and Park Lawn Rd; bring water, lunch, binoculars.

22 October - Rouge Valley: geology walk - meet 2 p.m. at Pearse House, 1749 Meadowvale Rd

27 October - Bestview Park: trees and plants - meet 10 a.m. southeast corner Steeles E. & Laureleaf Rd. S.; bring lunch

 

Toronto Botanical Garden (renamed Civic Garden Centre)

A well-established organization 'helping people grow.' Edwards Gardens, 777 Lawrence Ave. E. at Leslie St., Toronto.  Tel: 416-397-1340; fax: 416-397-1354; e-mail: civicgardencnetre@infogarden.ca; website: www.infogarden.ca

 

Ontario Rock Garden Society

16 October - Elke Knechtel: 'Highlighting Woodlanders;' Edwards Gardens, 777 Lawrence Ave. E. at Leslie St., Toronto; plant sales commence 12:30 p.m., more at www.onrockgarden.com

 

Mycological Society of Toronto

18 October: Meeting at Toronto Botanical Garden auditorium 7:45 p.m.; more information at 416-444-9053

 

High Park Walking Tours

Meet south of the Grenadier Restaurant in the park; more information at 416-392-1748

 

Toronto Entomologists' Association

call 905-727-6993 for venue and additional details

 

Cullen Gardens

Located a short drive east of T.O. at 300 Taunton Rd. W., Whitby, for more information, visit www.cullengardens.com

 

Southern Ontario Orchid Society

2 October - monthly meeting at Japanese Cultural Centre, Toronto, 1-4 p.m. Details at 905-640-5643

 

Central Ontario Orchid Society

24 October - Monthly meeting in basement hall at St. Joseph's Church, 148 Madison Rd., Kitchener, commencing 7 p.m.; all guests welcome; for more information, visit www.coos.ca

 

Waterloo-Wellington Wildflower Society

Meetings at OAC Centennial Arboretum Centre, University of Guelph; more information at www.uoguelph.ca/~botcal/

 

Richters Herbs

Richters is 1 km east of Goodwood on the south side of Hwy 47 (Bloomington Rd east of Hwy 404) a short car ride (or pleasant bike day trip) northeast of Toronto. Also accessible by GO Bus , check out the web site www.gotransit.com.

2 October - Workshop: Making Herbal Cosmetics with Koidu Sulev 2-4 p.m. $50

15 October - Free Demo: Fall Herb Planting 11-11:30 a.m.

16 October - Workshop: Making Herbal Home Remedies with Koidu Sulev 2-4 p.m. $50

19 October -  Free Demo:  Herb Books Worth reading 11-11:30 a.m.

Further details visit www.richters.com

 

Allan Gardens

South side Carleton Street between Jarvis and Sherbourne Streets; open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekends and holidays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; includes a special children's conservatory; further information 416-392-7288 or www.allangardens.com

 

 

Gardening in the Headlines

A round-up of the past few weeks news of interest to gardeners

The following is guaranteed to be free of Pam Anderson, Paris Hilton or Britney Spears

 

Landscaping

         "A garden is not meant to replace nature but remind you of just how wonderful nature is." Jonathan Lau of Urban Consultants, Vancouver [Post Homes]

         "In Toronto, most of the gardens I see are hardscape" outdoor living rooms with water features and a few easy-grow plants", writes Sondra Gotlieb in the Weekend Post.  "Low maintenance is the watchword, no matter how big the house."         The team who installed a new experimental roof garden atop a Montreal triplex was led by a Mr. Rose.

         Jimi Hendrix, the rock guitarist who extinguished himself on drugs in 1970, has had his former two-bedroom family home in Seattle moved to a plot opposite the Renton cemetery in which he now resides. Here's hoping the landscaping will be a credit to his father, said to be an 'easy going gardener.' 

Lawns

         Thanks to the summer's hot, dry weather, lawns suffered severely from hairy chinch bug, bluegrass bill bug and crabgrass, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture turf expert Pam Charbonneau writes in last month's issue of Horticulture Review. We can also expect a bumper crop of broadleaf weeds, she notes.

         Does Toronto Health Department have any idea what it is talking about? In a letter to The Mirror, Rich Whate, who bills himself (and doubtlessly us) as a 'health promotion consultant' with the department, tells us: "Between now and Thanksgiving, spreading grass seed and natural fertilizer, aerating the soil and spreading mulch in your garden are important ways to give your yard a head start for next spring." Check out our regular columns for accurate city gardening advice.

         Scent of grass is a major component of a new perfume that whisks you to land reclaimed from the sea in Holland. Essence de Mastenbroek, named after a Dutch polder, features "grass scent, hay scent and stable scent." Once you empty the bottle, present it at the polder draining station for a free refill. Clever people, the Dutch.

 

Trees

         Guelph volunteers traveled to Kelowna, B.C. at their own expense and planted 23,500 trees as the Ontario city's contribution to Kelowna ReLeaf Program. Guelph citizens donated 44,000 trees in all to assist in the replacing rural and urban tree cover destroyed in the 2003 fires.

         A small 9' x 15' chain-link enclosure around a gas meter at the back of his apartment building supports small ash, Norway maple, buckthorn, apple, peach and chokecherry trees, all accidental arrivals, reports Alexander Cappell in the current Toronto Field Naturalist newsletter.

         "Trees have electrical currents running through them, and so create electromagnetic fields around themselves," says the magazine of Britain's National Trust. "Because there are billions of trees, it seems likely that they contribute to creating and maintaining the Earth's magnetic field, which shields us against radiation from the sun and the cosmos. However, the magnetic field appears to be declining, and there is a theory that massive global deforestation could be a factor." Huxley wept.

         Join a 'Discussion Forum for Ancient Yews' at www.ancient-yew.org/foRum. Really , would we kid you?

         The burning of tropical forests has serious consequences for key nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium write researchers in the Journal of Tropical Ecology. Worse, fires not only reduce the above-ground biomass by over 80% but result in a 50 to 75% reduction in live root biomass also.

         The beaver, Castor canadensis, is a Canadian icon but patriotism wanes when this rodent gets destructive, writes Jason Santerre in Harrowsmith. Trees can be protected, he suggests, with metal or chicken wire collars , or sound and light alarms. A single beaver can chomp down over 200 trees in a yea, says Santerre, if you need any encouragement.

 

Shrubs

         One time bulb salesman, garden centre owner, and premier of B.C. Bill Vander Zalm now lives in an "elegant black-and-white French Tudor-style home" in Ladner, B.C., according to CanWest News. There he grows "more than 100,000 lilacs , French, Persian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean , in containers."

 

Flowers

         "Those of us who toil in our gardens and wail in vain for expected blossoms to appear consider it anathema to remove roses, clematis, phlox, iris and especially peonies just coming into bloom," explains Sondra Gotlieb on cutting flowers for the house in Weekend Post.

         "Perhaps the best buys in the florist shops are orchids and roses," says Sondra Gotlieb in the Weekend Post. "The prices of both have dropped and the variety has increased," she writes. " The problem with roses is their staying power. But orchids last a long time."         Hostas and daylilies have never been so popular or offered in such an array , which suits deer just fine. If you thought slugs were bad, waiting until the deer discover your prized new cultivars. In fact, according to Carole Ottesen writing in The American Gardener, you might consider these to be the deer equivalent of steak or chocolate cake.

         Maybe, like Van Gogh, you need to top up your sunflower power, suggests Robert Priest in the weekly NOW. Apparently he finds them en masse a cure for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) besides be a nutritious food. Strangely though, he seems unaware that the Maya regarded them as an aphrodisiac.

         Hosta Virus X (HVX) is reported as now a worldwide in problem, reports Landscape Trades magazine, with no clear indication of how or from where this pathogen was introduced. Dutch research has revealed HVX is spread by mechanical means. 

         Some orchids have an alluring scent. But Bulbophyllum fletcherianum, blooming at Melbourne's Royal Botanical Gardens, does not impress curator Jeremy Prentice. "If you mixed, say, two or three-day-old rotting flesh with manure you would get pretty close," he says.

         "Flowers contain all the goods that a bee needs, and selection has therefore favoured bees with aesthetic preferences for flowers which offer the best bonanzas," according to ecologist Lars Chittka in The Independent

 

Down in the Vegetables

         Some web sites are beyond us. But if you really, really want to see what the waxy pillars on cabbage leaves look like viewed through an electron microscope, a correspondent of New Scientist suggests http://uk.pg.photos.tahoo.com/ph/_shirtcliffe/album?.dir=/32f8&.src=ph&.tok=phsA53CBb.cCXsFB.

         Use garden shears to cut pumpkins from the vines, advises CanWest's Mike Gillespie. He also suggests, wearing gloves, or be prepared to pick prickles from your hands for the next few weeks.

         Crush hot chili peppers, mix them with old engine oil, smear on string and loop this around the your crops, advise farmers in Zambia. As an alternative, mix dried chili peppers with animal dung, form into bricks and burn at night. According to Nina Gibson, project co-ordinator for the Elephant Pepper Development Trust, it is a definite put-of for pachyderms, just in case your gardens are so threatened.

         Film stars in town for the Toronto Film Festival are heavily into raw vegetables, organics, juice concoctions, writes Jacob Richler. "Broccolini is really big . . . And parsnips . . ." said Lyn Crawford, executive chef at Four Seasons hotel. Then, says another hotelier, they get hungry in the early hours and order in hamburgers and 12-ounce steaks . . . and, last year at the Windsor Arms, 2,000 litres of Jell-O. For the bathtub. With company. Including whipped cream.

         The 1960s saw the craze for the Mashed Potato Dance, Dose newspaper tells us. It was performed, they say, "with or without gravy." Should have played well alongside the 1930s Yam Dance.

         A study U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy in 1998 and another in 2002 for the French government show that soybeans and canola oil yield three to four times more energy than is needed to make the fuel according to Frances Cerra Whittelsey, writing in the Smithsonian.

         Last December's devastating tsunami affected about 30 per cent of agricultural land in Aceh province, Indonesia. However, there have been good rice and soybean crops despite the mud and salt. Peanuts and some other crops have been badly affected though and some soils will take a decade to recover, says a report in the U.K.-based New Scientist.

         Watermelons appear in U.K. supermarkets bearing the label, "Produce of more than one country." Have they achieved quantum superposition of states, the Feedback feature of New Scientist enquires?

 

Fruit & Nuts

         Pruning the coconuts off palms is a vital Florida chore, as these can become projectiles in tropical storms, reports Reuters. More people die each year from being hit by falling coconuts than attacked by sharks, according to Canadian research.

         East Selkirk farmer Harvey Robinson, 68, killed on Friday by a black bear while picking plums on his property a few miles north of Winnipeg, reports Winnipeg Free Press. Detroit rock star Ted Nugent, an enthusiastic hunter, offers to come north and do in Winnie the Pooh's relatives "a clear benefit to the wild and the people. "         Japan bows to a World Trade Organization ruling and permits apples to be imported from the United States. Apples from the U.S. had previously been banned by the Japanese who claimed that there was risk of the fruit carrying the pathogen fire blight into their islands.

         Walnuts can be especially beneficial to people with type 2 diabetes, according to a study published inJournal of the American Dietetic Association.

 

Spices and Herbs

         In addition to a cancer fighter, green tea also appears to protect the brain from Alzheimer's disease, say scientists. But don't down demijohns , other ingredients in green tea apparently block the active ingredient involved, although used on its own may prove beneficial, the researchers said.

         Cranberries, echinacea, garlic and ginger are all rated A for safety if used by expectant mothers, according to pharmacologist Gideon Koren, at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He presented these findings and others at the annual meeting of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians in Phoenix, Arizona, at the end of last August.

         The new skincare product Neaclear claims to include sage, chamomile, seaweed and rosemary, coconut oil, sweet almond oil , and liquid oxygen, according to delving by weekly New Scientist's incomparable 'Feedback' feature. See it all at www.neaclear.com. Oh yes: as Feedback notes, oxygen becomes liquid at about  183C.

 

Entertainment

         It would be nice to imagine Hollywood is acknowledging our pastime. Alas, the movie Broken Flowers is definitely non-horticultural although Bill Murray is always worth watching. As for The Constant Gardener, a little le Carre goes a long way and this offering is liable to give real gardeners growing pains.

 

Pesticides

         There is a deer repellent marketed in the U.S. that goes by the name 'Not Tonight Deer!' Would we make a thing like this up?

         Chris Lemcke of Weed Man in the country's largest and loopiest city is suffering severely from what Soviets knew as Ketch Dvadtsat' dvor - Catch Twenty-Two. Toronto's bylaw bans him from applying chemical pesticides so he must resort to less-effective 'natural' materials. But homeowners can quite legally purchase chemical herbicides and , surreptitiously, 'tis true , apply these themselves.

         A months-old baby boy died after being given arsenic weedkiller instead of water in Massachusetts but the man accused of the act was found not guilty in court.

         Turns out Dow vice-president for Acceptable Risk', Erastus Hamm, wasn't exactly who he appeared to be when he made a presentation to the International Payments 2005 banking conference. Embarrassed bankers who signed up , and were photographed , discovered too late that it was all a prank by an anti-capitalists group and no, you cannot put a precise value of human life threatened by pesticides.

         Using humans for testing pesticides receives a blow when some of Bayer's British tests are ethically questioned, notes Meredith Wadman in the journal Nature. Bayer is the world's largest pesticide manufacturer.

 

Seeds

         Whatever nonsense will they think of next? From the San Francisco company Lift comes the Johnny Applesandal that drops phytoremediating seeds as the wacky wearer walks. Proclaimed an "eco-conscious shoe," the seeds drop from tiny troughs in the soles as they thin down with wear.

         Seeds from exotic garden plants are playing havoc with native species, according to Larry Lamb. The past president Canadian Wildflower Society and lecturer at Waterloo University claims Agriculture Canada and the landscaping industry have done "a pitiful job" in screening foreign plants when interviewed by Mike Adler of The Mirror.

         Just touching the seeds of Sakata Seeds new jalapeno pepper makes your fingers feel hot, says head of research Takayuki Ikegami, according to The Nikkei Weekly, Tokyo, as noted by New Scientist.

 

Bugs and Gardeners

         If your house is located in termite territory and make a practice of listening to heavy metal music, you might want to change you habits. According to Dose newspaper, termites eat wood twice as fast when listening to heavy metal music.

         There are four ways to do the Worm Dance, reports Dose newspaper: "original, backward, flying and spazam!" To which might be presumably added after being administered a vermicide.

         "I consider it a down payment," B.C. Premier Campbell said of $100-million in federal funds dedicated to an attempt to halt the mountain pine beetle from jumping the Rockies into Alberta and on across Canada.

         The fungus Cordyceps sinensis, infects the caterpillars of Thitarodes ghost moths. Their corpses are prized in traditional Chinese medicine for its 'revitalizing' properties. Recent revealed as having been used by top Chinese athletes has led to severe over-collection in Tibet and Bhutan.

         Intriguingly and illogically, mutations of the fruit fly gene named I'm not dead yet that disable it make the fly live longer, notes the Feedback feature of New Scientist.

         Former whale-acoustics analyst Bernard Brennan of Cornell University says that he has for the first time decoded a vibrational signal by paper wasps, reports the weekly Science News. Female wasps vibrate over cells containing larvae, causing them to "drool," and feeding the saliva to their mother. Do not read this you your spouse before a meal.

 

Weeds

         There will be "no sexy for the weedy" headlines New Scientist, reporting in Australian efforts to develop a contraceptive spray for plants that could eradicate certain weeds from farmers' fields and cut herbicide use by exploiting the mechanism that prevents certain plants from self-fertilizing.

 

For the Birds

         An unfortunate method of becoming infected with West Nile virus has just been revealed. Two years ago, an Alberta wildlife officer was dispatching an infected crow which had been injured, when he was splattered in his face and eyes with fluid from the bird's brain.

         Ironically, the spotted owl, that icon of environmentalists'  battle to preserve old-growth forests in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, is being squeezed out by the barred owl, an invader from the east. Populations are dropping at 3.4% per year, reports the journal Science. And thanks to environmentalists' love of legal battles, adaptive management area research  is almost at a standstill.

         Apparently the Queen races pigeons also. The Royal Pigeon Racing Association reports one of hers has gone A.W.O.L. and may be 'flocking with common pigeons.' You never know what might turn up at the bird feeder.

         Sound recordings supposedly of the ivory-billed woodpecker are taken from 18,000 hours of data collected at more than 150 spots in the Arkansas woodlands, and posted at www.birds.cornell.edu along with recordings of the woodpecker from the 1930s by Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology.

 

Gardens

         "You have guys like me who don't want to fool around with their garden every weekend." Gary Giller, president, GroundScape Technologies in Brooklyn Heights, Ohio, which produces a non-biodegradable mulch out of ground-up tires. [The New York Times]

         A peace garden is dedicated in Toronto's Regent Park, a rundown social housing east downtown area. The garden is the work of a group of mothers who of have lost children to violence. They call themselves The Dreamers and hope the garden will become a potent symbol against violence.

         "Garden porn:" British gardening magazines, explains Sondra Gotlieb, proliferate with photographs of just too perfect garden.

         "California gardeners:" derogatory term for Latin American restaurant diners who are among the world's worst tippers, according to John Galloway in his book Fine Dining Madness. They are exceeded, however by Australians and Canadians, he claims. [from Weekend Post, 3 September 2005]

         Think youve got a shady garden? Residents of Viganella, northern Italy, have no direct sun all winter long, so deep in their alpine valley are they.

 

Mushrooms

         White button mushrooms, along with the more upscale portabella, shiitake, oyster and maitake fancy fungi contain high levels of the antioxidant ergothioeine, which has been linked with protection against chronic disease, report researchers from Penn State University.

 

Gardening in the City

         While gardeners are swearing at invading deer, others swear by strong-smelling soaps such as Irish Spring and Zest, according to Carole Ottesen writing in The American Gardener. The catch? They must be located within 70-centimetres of the susceptible specimen , and a gardeners report the deer eating the soap, she says. Did we just hear Bambi burp?

         "Cultivation of tomatoes or grape vines in plastic buckets is common, as is the ability to cram 18 species of flowers into five square metres of lawn (plaster statues of Adonis and/or the Virgin Mary notwithstanding." The Weekend Post's Mirielle Silcoff examines 'The Porch Gnome,' an urban archetype of Mediterranean origin.

         Thanks to a grant from Home Depot, the newly-established East York community gardens alongside Stan Wadlow Park in east Toronto will expand next season and include raised beds for the disabled. The fence surrounding the project at present might not be high enough to keep out deer, but the posts would give pause to a pachyderm.

         The newly-rebuilt Toronto downtown Labyrinth in Trinity Square Park behind the Eaton Centre was officially opened in mid-September.

         The Children's Garden in Toronto's High Park is voted one of the top 60 public places in the world.

         White-tailed deer have been reported in Riverdale Park, High Park, Earl Bales Park, Nesbitt Ravine, Lambton Woods, the Humber marshes and up and down most Toronto river valleys, writes Roger Powley in the current Toronto Field Naturalist newsletter. And now at least one has made a home in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, he reports.

 

Gifts for Gardeners

         Here's an early suggestion for a Christmas gift: a copy of An Amateur's Guide to Genitalia by P. W. Cribb. The very thing for your local porn purveyor, you might think. He (or she) might be a trifle disappointed though. Published by the UK Amateur Entomologists' Society, the book is an identification aid for moth examination of whose private parts is vital in determining the species.

 

Compost

         Toronto's green-bin waste is increasingly unwelcome in near-neighbour Newmarket as the town's Halton Recycling Ltd. composting plant creates a stench overpowering more than two kilometres away. But it's natural y'know, just the way Toronto pols demand it go.

 

Fertilizer

         Use of very high-phosphorus fertilizer blends has been questioned by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture expert Jennifer Llewellyn, given the levels normally found in southern Ontario soils. She uses as an example 10-52-10 fertilizer in last month's issue of Horticulture Review.

         Some British fertilizer could be surprisingly natural based. A pair of researchers suggests in The Lancet that cattle remains exported from India to the U.K.  for processing into fertilizer and cattle feed was bulked out with human remains scavenged from the River Ganges. This, they say, resulted in Europe's outbreak of mad cow disease. Also, presumably, a most original fertilizer.

         Children living in illegal indoor marijuana grow-ops risk fertilizer poisoning, electrocution and respiratory illness from mould, among other hazards, says the B.C. Association of Social Workers.

         The outlook for the environment around Chernobyl appears somewhat better than the human psychological problems, according to a UN report. 90% of the radioactive contamination was cleaned up through a massive removal of surface soils. Researchers are developing special salts and fertilizers to inhibit the remaining radioactive material in soil from getting into crop plants, notes the journal Science.

 

Inventions

         Blue-green algae is may be used to eliminate the carbon dioxide given off by coal-burning power plants, reports Scientific American. David Bayless, director off Ohio University's Ohio Coal Research Center believes the best way is nature's way, through photosynthesis. He is testing a sophisticated bioreactor and, of all goes well, hopes to have a full-scale version up and operating by 2010.

 

Science and the Gardener

         Does your favourite plant remember those sweet nothings you whispered to it? Is Prince Charles bonkers to talk to his camellias? Perhaps not , Anthony Trewavas of the University of Edinburgh is far too respected to be taken lightly. His online discussion, Aspects of Plant Intelligence, is to be found at http://aob.oupjoumals.org/cgi/content/full/92/1/1. 

         Australia's introduced cane toads turn out to be disco animals , and researchers hope this discovery will lead to their demise. The toads , a serious menace to native fauna , are attracted to the same  ultraviolet lights that are used in nightclubs. Scientists propose to attach such lights to traps with one-way doors, resulting in toad-in-the-hole.

         Research into the ability of cannabis to cause cravings for food has led to two independent groups in the U.K. and in France to announce the possibility of weight control drugs. Sanfoni-Aventis may soon introduce Rimonbant to reduce weight, reports The Daily Telegraph.

         The 'few lone voices' who still believe biodiesel from canola have not kept up with improvements in agriculture and biodiesel technology, says Jim Duffield, and agricultural economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Smithsonian.

         Candy flavoured with geraniol, extracted from roses, or vanilla aldehyde from vanilla, could leave you similarly scented or up to six hours after consuming them following research by Takao Tsuda at Nagoya Industrial University, Japan, reports New Scientist magazine.

         Gluten-intolerant people might one day be able to eat wheat-based bread and pasta without getting ill reports New Scientist magazine. Frist Koning and his colleagues at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands screen wheat samples to isolate those forms low in gluten.

         Good garden soil has 100 times as many species of bacteria as previously believed, according to a report in the journal Science. A single gram can harbour a million microbial species, say researcher Jason Gans of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and his colleagues.

         Acid peat has many uses, as gardeners appreciate. Perhaps it would be best not to attempt to duplicate the Bronze Age inhabitants of Cladh Hallan on the Scottish island of South Uist. Jen Hiller, a biophysicist at the University of Cardiff, U.K., reports in the journal Antiquity they immersed their dead in peat bogs for a few months to mummify them prior to burial beneath their houses.

         Keep your olive oil in the dark if you want it to remain extra virgin. After only two months exposure to supermarket light levels, olive oil could no longer be classified as extra virgin reported food scientist Lisa Mauer at Purdue University, Indiana, in European Food Research Technology.

         Had the Nazis won World War II, they would have mandated the production of organic foods, outlawed vivisection and encouraged vegetarianism and natural healing, notes Steve Fuller in New Scientist, together with the "culling an unsustainable human population," and similar charming Teutonic practices.

         Reeds are not only useful in the home water garden. A12.5-metre reed boat, a replica of crafts that plied the Persian Gulf 5,000 years ago, has been reconstructed by marine archaeologists, reports the journal Nature. It set sail last month from Suyr, Oman bound for the Indian port of Bet Dwarka in Gujarat.

         The archaeologist who demonstrated that the rich black soil found in some parts of the Amazon was deliberately created by humans for farming has been murdered in Brazil, reports Nature. James Petersen was shot and killed by robbers at a restaurant in Iranduba by three teens high on cocaine and alcohol.

         When circling the world in HMS Beagle, naturalist Charles Darwin reaches the Galapagos Islands in September 1835, notes the Smithsonian. He published his theory of 'natural selection' in On the Origin of Species in 1859, and died in 1882 at the age of 73.

         Voles can inflict appalling damage to shrubs and trees overwinter, but the prairie vole has long been held by ecologists as a shining example of monogamous behaviour. No longer, alas, as Science News reports on research by Alan Ophir of the University of Florida in Gainesville and his colleagues.

         In experiments using a rare isotope of carbon, scientists have singled out microorganisms that appear to be largely responsible for natural emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from rice paddies., reports Science News. The finding may lead to methods to trim this major source of planet-warming gas.

 

Travel

         In 1788, the first British colonists arrived in Sydney harbour, Australia. A few left some 600 drawings and paintings of the unexplored continent's landscape and natural history, now at the First Fleet Artwork Collections from the Natural History Museum in London, notes the journal Science. View it at Internt.nhm.ac.uk/jdsml/nature-online/first-fleet/.

 

Weather

         To settle the argument, it was Toronto's hottest summer since 1959. Unfortunately for the global warming conspiracy fans, it followed an extremely cool, moist 2004.

         Global TV's weatherman Michael Kuss is calling for a dry and warm October, with the caveat that the final stages of a wandering hurricane or two might dump a deluge here. So keep the sprinklers operating or all those new bulbs, plus lawn and evergreens are going to go kaput over winter.

         Snow arrives the second week of September to the Crowsnest Pass area of Alberta and adjacent B.C. while Iqalut in the far north of the nation has yet to see a sign of frost.

         "Ontario's only distinction is having the most average weather," says Environment Canada's David Phillips. His observation will come as a pleasant surprise to the province's gardeners , and others , after this past summer, of not exactly renewing faith in meteorologists or federal institutions.

         The infamous August storm cost insurance companies more than $400-million, the highest insurance loss in the Ontario's history , yet.

         The 2006 Farmer's Almanac predicts a slightly colder, but noticeably dryer, winter than usual for southern Ontario.

 

GM Jollies

         Not content with coveting Hans Island, certain Danes have devised a nitrous oxide-propelled rocket that can reach heights of 5 kilometres. It is said to carry a 2-kg payload of political pamphlets , or ,superweeds that could be spread over GM crops. Who said the Viking mentality was dead?

         It is not GM crops that create so-called 'superweeds' but the use of glyphosate herbicide, whether with them or non-GM crops, notes British writer Andy Coglan in New Scientist. "The technology of genetic modification is starting to mature. And it's time the debate about its use began moving the same way," he says.

 

Kyoto Kafuffles

         A senior federal official says that the Montreal conference seeking to a successor to the Kyoto Accord is unlikely to produce a breakthrough. The conference is scheduled 28 November to 9 December.

         "There isn't much money in climate science," The Guardian quoted Brit climate expert James Annan as saying after making a $10,000 bet with a pair of Russian solar physicists, to be paid in 2018 if the planet cools as the believe it will as the sun's solar activity decreases.

         By holding an informal 'Greenland dialogue' in the remote town of Ilulissat, Denmark attempts to break the ice on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.

         Italian climate researchers rain down upon their country's environmental ministry who, they say, did not invite them to a seminar. The meeting was summarized in a four-page advertisement, paid for by the ministry, in the Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana, reports the journal Science. "The phenomena of current climate changes are almost certainly natural and not due to man," was quote in the ad which particularly raised their ire.

 

Law

         Ragweed is the reason behind a $2-billion class-action lawsuit in Quebec Superior Court. Allergy sufferers allege that the city of Montreal failed to do enough to eradicate the noxious weed, especially on municipal land.

         "This embodiment of waste and duplication is one reason my organization is seeking to challenge the city of Toronto's pesticide bylaw before the Supreme Court of Canada," writes president of CropLife Canada Lorne Hepworth in the Financial Post. "This is a much bigger issue than dandelions on urban lawns," he continues. "The Supreme Court has already stated that lower-tier legislation that frustrates the purpose of federal legislation is unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable."

         The commissars at Toronto's Public Health Department are bearing down on dastardly lawn care operators who decline to acknowledge contriki must obey bylaws banning dread chemical pesticides. Property owners can likewise by hauled into court for non-compliance. This hit home 1 September but homeowners and renters still have two more years , until September 2007 , of wacky warnings until they too must kowtow.

         Is corn imported from south o' the border unfairly depressing Canadian corn prices? Will Ottawa soon impose an import duty on the grotty grain? Could it be Ottawa's ophidians are lumbering around seeking to pay back Uncle Sam for softwood shenanigans?

 

Business

         If you garden on the edge of a gully and your lush landscaping gets swept away in a roaring torrent created by a sudden, severe storm, don't count on your insurance for compensation. Homeowners backing onto Toronto's Birkdale Ravine discovered this the hard way following last August's storm.

         The bloom is off the vine for Aussie vineyards. Over expansion of acreage has caused prices to drop from A$1,500/tonne to as little as A$150/tonne,  and the breakeven is about A$1,000/tonne, reports the Financial Times. Some owners are letting the grapes rot on vines for lack of purchasers.

         Over 3,000 Gaza strip greenhouses purchased for US$14-million from their retreating Israeli owners are looted by Palestinians of their irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting. The crop-exporting operations had been bought by American Jewish donors to assist Palestinians reconstruct their economy.

         Chris Lemcke of Weed Man in the country's largest and loopiest city is suffering severely from what Soviets knew as Ketch Dvadtsat' dvor - Catch Twenty-Two. Toronto's bylaw bans him from applying chemical pesticides so he must resort to less-effective 'natural' materials. But homeowners can quite legally purchase chemical herbicides and , surreptitiously, 'tis true , apply these themselves.

 

Environment

         A neat attempt to do an end run around enraged environmentalists by the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corp. The latter wants to build five new parks on east Toronto's waterfront with federal largesse (read: taxpayers money]. Provincial legislation demands an environmental assessment for such projects. So CEO John Campbell wants an exemption from Ontario's Environment Minister Laurel Broten.

         Hectares of B.C.'s famed Burns Bog, just south of Vancouver in Delta, catches fire. The raised peat bog is the largest on the West Coast of North America, and an ecological treasure house.

         Some 200 hectares of the 3,000-hectare Burns peat bog was destroyed by fire before B.C. firefighters got it under control. The bog is just 25 kilometres south of Vancouver in Delta, B.C.

         Corn-based ethanol or soy diesel from soybeans fuels will power the vehicles running in Reynolds, Indiana, the world's first 'Biotown.' Later, power will be generated from large quantities of pig manure, the result of the many hog farms surrounding the small town.

         Frantic frogs and their greenie friends may be able to stop hopping about the dastardly pesticides supposedly bumping them off. Seems that it is all the fault of pregnancy tests using the African Xenopus frogs a half century ago. These spread the deadly fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which causes the fatal Chytridiomycosis disease of amphibians, say scientists from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.

         The latest in environmentally friendly funeral, explains Roger Powley in the current Toronto Field Naturalist newsletter, is to be buried sans coffin, grave marker, etc. in a reserved area that later is planted to natural woodland for the benefit of the local populace. About ten percent of Europeans are buried in this way, he says.

         The 2006 World Cup soccer finals in Germany will be the 'greenest' ever, after an agreement was signed with the UN Environment Program. But will Europe's infamous lager louts or Latin American followers of the sport really care?

         Iraq's famous marshes are returning. Satellite photos show expansion from 760 square kilometres of marsh in 2002 to some 5000 square kilometres after the winter rains late this past winter.

         Salting roads to make them passable in icy weather is making freshwater streams dangerously salty, reports the U.K.-based journal Nature, according to new research from the United States.

 

Health

         West Nile virus cases continue to be diagnosed in Toronto and elsewhere. Gardeners are especially exposed to the mosquito-borne disease and should always take appropriate precautions , we want to keep you as readers. Of course, if you are a Toronto reader, you are considerably more likely to die of bullet wounds than West Nile virus.

         Two men die of West Nile virus in Toronto over one weekend, one from Scarborough, the other Etobicoke. They are the first deaths since the disease was detected in Toronto on 2002, when 10 people died. The following Monday, an Etobicoke woman succumbs. Manitoba also records its first death from the virus. Over a hundred hits are reported from Alberta to Quebec.

         Homeopathic practices seem to work, but research by scientists examining more than 200 studies demonstrate that it is no more effective than placebos.

         Coffee is reported by researchers to be North Americans leading source of antioxidants, giving coffee drinkers grounds for celebration.

         Some extra-virgin olive oils contain oleocanthal, a natural compound that mimics the pain-relieving activity of the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen, report scientists in the journal Nature. This appears to reduce the risk of cancer, heart attacks and some dementias. The oil loses its effect upon heating, they found.

         Public hearings permitted New Brunswickers who believe they were harmed by Agent Orange applications at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown to have their say.

         Many of the remaining 680 Canadian tobacco farmers are alcoholic and/or suicidal says Fred Neukamm, chairman of the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board. A half-century ago there were 4,500 Canadian tobacco farms. Apparently switching to other crops does not appeal to these holdouts.

         "There is a benefit to drinking beer before an X-ray," says Koichi Ando of Japan's National Institute of Radiological Science, in Tokyo's Nihon Kelzai Shimbun, who found an ingredient in beer that helps reduce chromosomal damage form radiation, noted by New Scientist, a British-based publication.

         The Lancet says, "Doctors need to be bold and honest with their patients about homeopathy's lack of benefit, and with themselves about the failings of modern medicine to address patients' needs for personalized care." The journal Nature follows up on homeopathy's recent scientific debunking.

 

 

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