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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Upstream From Mainstream


The year is coming to an end here in the northern parts of the United States.  The weather has been uncharacteristically warm, yet mid-October is the time where winter weather can be just a moment away.  The Sea Buckthorn plants and Orchard have done well since their initial planting five months ago.  I have read a twenty percent loss in new plantings could be expected.   Luckily for me there has been essentially zero with only two plants seemingly dead.  I am not including the four plants which were victims of the sickle bar mower, not yet anyway.  The short stumps have sprouted new and healthy growth.  

Plant condition does vary.  During the year some were deeper green, some had a few yellowed leaves, and there was some insect damage from Japanese Beetles, unconfirmed grasshopper feeding (I never witnessed one actually chewing on a leaf) and recently....

one Yellow Bear Moth caterpillar.  The Maine Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Maine was very helpful with that identification.Sea Buckthorn is often described as pest free or nearly pest free in sale catalogs.  I want to repeat that this is not entirely true, especially with new plants which are experiencing the stress of transplanting and establishment in new soils.  

The 4 year old plants I have grown from seed in Mansfield Massachusetts are seven to twelve feet tall, extremely healthy and far less attractive to insects.  Why is that?  Well, the effect of stress on a plant whether from lack of nutrients, excess or deficiency….is to inhibit the synthesis of protein in the plant.  When the protein synthesis in inhibited the plant accumulates increasing levels of free amino acids (also called free nitrogen) in its aerial parts.   Insects thrive on plants high in free nitrogen and are attracted to and feed on these plants.  That is a fairly scientific description to encourage your attentiveness to care of these plants in their post-transplant time.  Some fertilization in the first year of growth is warranted, but stick to a low nitrogen blend, one which favors root development.  Another reason to be careful with the nitrogen on these plants is their symbiotic relationship with the bacteria - Frankia sp.  
Frankia bacteria in Sea Buckthorn root nodules

Excess added nitrogen will hider this ecological partnership.  Sea Buckthorn is a natural nitrogen fixer and which is beneficial to itself and the general soil health.
Establishing a farm, even a Sea Buckthorn farm is difficult.  Careful consideration of location, soils, water, energy, access, communication, and community are mainstream considerations.  Many of you who are reading this are a bit upstream from these considerations.   They are all still valid, but may pose some additional challenges in remote locations which I have here.  One of the most common countries to visit this blog is Mongolia (Meet the Mongolian Super Plant)and I suspect, in part, the similarities of what I am doing in the wilderness in Maine is similar to the remoteness of some of the efforts there.   Remoteness has its advantages.  There is no chance the soils here have been amended with years of petroleum fertilizers and pesticides.  I recently looked a nice piece of river bottom land and former turnip farm.  The soil was deep and dark yet certainly had years of pesticides, and herbicides poured over it.  Some of those chemicals break down but some, especially herbicides, have half-lives.   They never really are eliminated from the soil.  So here is a shout out to you all who are blazing trails, upstream from mainstream.

Sea Buckthorn Juice Recipe idea- more

Cut tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cukes.  Make a marinade from a little olive oil, garlic, vinegar(rice, wine, or cider).  Add a tablespoon of Sea Buckthorn juice and set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  Yum!

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