The Housefly – An Introduction

Houseflies are insects included in the order Diptera (Gk. di – two, pteron – wing). Most other orders have two pairs of wing (i.e. four in all) but houseflies, bluebottles, hover flies, mosquitoes, tetse flies, crane flies (‘daddy long legs’) etc. have only the single pair. Houseflies are of interest principally because they are associated with the transmission of certain diseases.

Apart from the single pair of wings, houseflies share the typical insect features; their bodies are divided into segments which are grouped into a head, thorax and abdomen. The thorax carries three pairs of jointed legs as well as the wings. There are no appendages on the abdomen.

Houseflies lay their eggs in rotting organic matter, with a preference for stable manure. The eggs hatch into white, legless larvae, (maggots), which feed on fluids and small particles in the organic waste. As they grow, they shed their skins several times but retain the last one as a hard pupal case in which they undergo the drastic changes (metamorphosis) from a maggot to a fully formed housefly. The immature fly pushes its way out of the pupal case and allows time for its wings to expand and harden before it flies off.

The housefly poses a health hazard because of its indiscriminate choice of food ranging from human and animal faeces to food awaiting human consumption. Houseflies cannot take in solid food. They have a proboscis which can be extended on to the potential food. At the end of the proboscis are two flat lobes with a series of parallel channels. The fly places the lobes on the food and secretes saliva through the channels. The saliva contains enzymes which digest the food to a liquid which is then pumped back through the proboscis to the gut.

Any bacteria in the food accumulate in the proboscis channels and are flushed out with the saliva onto the next substance on which the fly alights. If the first food sample happens to be human faeces and the next sample a slice of bread, any bacteria from the faeces will be transferred to the bread and eaten. If the bacteria are those which cause intestinal disease, there is the risk that they will cause that disease in the person who eats the bread. Cholera, typhoid and salmonella food poisoning are diseases that can be spread by houseflies. In addition to the feeding mechanism, the bacteria can also be transferred on the housefly’s legs.

There are several ways of reducing the spread of disease by houseflies. The most obvious is to store all food for human consumption in situations which houseflies cannot reach. It is also vital to dispose of human waste in such a way that houseflies cannot pick up bacteria from it. This can be achieved by modern methods of sanitation and sewage treatment.

Flies have a range of about one mile so it is best if their potential breeding sites, e.g. manure heaps, are not allowed to accumulate near to urban populations.

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My Best Lavender Herb Care Tips

Lavender herb is one of my personal favorites – that aroma just can’t be duplicated and always conjures up images of vast purple fields swaying in a gentle breeze – I could just roll around in its splendor! My herb garden is never without a handful of lavender shrubs, they are the perfect addition to my garden as a whole – tainting it with it’s sweet scent and giving that ever so slight sense of wilderness and mysticism. I love to sleep with a pouch of it’s dried leaves under my pillow at night to send me off into a peaceful sleep. My lavender plants take good care of me when I feel slightly under the weather and the least I can do is to give some TLC back.

I want to share with you some of my best tips to growing lavender and taking care of this marvelous herb so that it can flourish in your gardens as well as my own. This article will tell you all you need to know about taking care of lavender so that you can benefit from its medicinal, culinary and decorative offerings.

How to Give Lavender the Best Start.

Purchase seeds from any nursery or garden center. This herb loves to bask in the sun and needs around eight hours of sunlight a day so take this into consideration when finding the perfect spot to start seeding.

Get digging around the bed to loosen up soil and remove any obstructions such as pesky weeds, rocks or other debris. Lavender has a rather large root system and needs plenty of room, expect to dig six inches deep to allow the root to spread.

You can increase the soil’s fertility by adding some compost manure into the bed where your seeds will be planted.

Give your lavender a better chance by growing it first in a pot, at least for a couple of weeks before transferring it to your prepared bed. Remember that the soil should be loose as opposed to compact.

When moving to the designated beds, ensure there is plenty of space between seedlings to allow for air to circulate and individual roots to grow. Cover the roots with loose soil.

To help water and heat retention, layer a little sand over the soil and plants. You will need to water lavender frequently in the first year for optimal growth and condition.

Caring for Your Lavender

Water your plants regularly and allow them to feed by providing plenty of compost manure. If you notice that the plant is yellowing mix some liquid sea kelp with fish emulsion and dilute with water before utilizing.

If your plants are turning brown at the base then this is a sign to decrease the amount of watering.

Trim the leaves down around a third during spring to allow re-growth and an eventual fuller bush.

Regularly cut down on spent stems, this will prevent a woody and malformed growth. Dead ends will split the plant.

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Introduction to Nutrient Pollution

Introduction

On August 27, 2009 the State-EPA Nutrient Innovations Task Group issued an urgent call to action to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The task group studied documented levels of excess nutrients in our nations waterways. Current, and past, efforts to control these pollutants have been inadequate on the national and statewide scale. Efforts to date have been predominantly “regulation at the pipe” and have not addressed the non point sources that are the root cause of elevated concentrations of nutrients in ground and surface waters. Nutrient pollution significantly impacts all of us. It impacts our drinking water, our recreational water, such as beaches and rivers and lakes, and it affects, and even kills, aquatic life. None of us want a bunch of dead rivers, but what can we do?

What are Nutrients?

Nutrients are elements that are essential to life. Being essential to life they are also essential components of the molecules that make up living tissue. Decaying organic matter and human and animal waste are significant sources of nutrient pollution in ground and surface water. The chemicals we manufacture and use in day-to-day life may also contain nutrients, as well as the fertilizers that we spread on our yards and farms. It is the broad application of fertilizers, the animal feeding lots, the widespread use of septic tanks, and runoff water from rainfall to school kid carwashes that are responsible for the immeasurable amounts of nutrients that find their way into the watershed. These are the non-point sources that cannot be easily regulated.

For 30 years the Clean Water Act has regulated industrial and municipal effluents. Limits are getting lower and lower. It is easy to take a sample at the end of a pipe. It’s easy to know where the sample comes from, and who is responsible if pollutants are too high. Unfortunately, 30 years of regulation of industry has not significantly reduced the problem. Obviously, there are other sources.

And the sources are us. Our everyday activities of washing our cars, fertilizing and watering our lawns, irrigating farms, and even desiring green golf courses. The essential nutrients that are in the fertilizers and detergents are entering the groundwater, not by an industrial effluent but down the gutter and into the storm drain. Rainfall is washing nutrients into creeks and rivers and carrying them into basins such as the Gulf of Mexico or Chesapeake Bay. Hypoxic zones, also known as dead zones, are forming where excess nutrients are deposited.

The excess nutrients cause a rapid growth of algae. The algae grow so rapidly that they cut off their own light and die. This is a normal, geologic process, occurring more rapidly than normal. As the algae dies it decays and the decay process consumes oxygen. Without oxygen aquatic life cannot breathe.

What is Nutrient Pollution?

Nitrogen and Phosphorus are the principal elements referred to when discussing nutrient pollution. Other essential elements, such as carbon, silica, and sulfur are not included in this discussion. Organic nitrogen and organic phosphorus are associated with the organic matter we measure and report as TOC. Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential elements in DNA, RNA, and nitrogen is a major component of protein and urine. Nitrogen and phosphorus occur as both water-soluble and water insoluble species. Unfortunately, both soluble and insoluble become bioavailable. Looking at this table, we see that Nitrogen and Phosphorus are somewhat similar chemically, for instance, the plus 5 ions known as nitrate and phosphate are very stable and highly water-soluble.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth ranking only behind carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in total quantity needed. The nitrogen gas making up about 80% of the atmosphere is largely inert and unavailable to life directly. Lightning will convert small amounts of nitrogen to nitrate. Nitrogen in fertilizers largely comes from the chemical reaction between nitrogen and hydrogen gas to form ammonia. The ammonia can then be oxidized to form nitrate. Fertilizers will often contain ammonia, nitrate, and/or urea as the sources of nitrogen. Organic matter, referred to as humic matter, manure, mulch, etcetera contains about 5% Nitrogen. This nitrogen is slowly converted to ammonia by bacteria and is eventually oxidized to nitrite then nitrate. During a storm event, or during irrigation the nitrate in soil is easily leached into the runoff.

Dissolved inorganic nitrogen includes nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia. Dissolved organic nitrogen includes water-soluble proteins, amines, amides, and so forth. Basically decayed organic life and some man made chemicals that are dissolved in water. Total Organic nitrogen is the sum of dissolved organic nitrogen and particulate organic nitrogen. Particulate organic nitrogen is, well obviously, the insoluble organic compounds, or organic matter, in the water. Total Dissolved Nitrogen is the dissolved organic nitrogen plus the dissolved inorganic nitrogen, and Total nitrogen includes all of the above. Notice, there is REALLY no such thing as total inorganic nitrogen. This is because inorganic nitrogen compounds are all water-soluble.

Chemical Analysis of Nitrogen Compounds

Total dissolved nitrogen, or the result you get when analyzing total nitrogen on a filtered sample consists of dissolved organic nitrogen, nitrate, nitrite and ammonia. Methods used to determine TDN usually rely on an alkaline persulfate digestion that converts all of the nitrogen present to nitrate and then the nitrate is determined colorimetrically. Analyzing inorganic nitrogen alone will only recover about 30 – 40 % of the total dissolved nitrogen in the natural environment. Sewage treatment and industrial plant effluents, on the other hand, are predominantly inorganic nitrogen (nitrate) since the treatment process is designed to completely oxidize dissolved organic nitrogen and ammonia to nitrate.

Total nitrogen, or the result you get when analyzing total nitrogen on a non-filtered sample consists of dissolved organic nitrogen, nitrate, nitrite and ammonia plus particulate nitrogen. Since all inorganic nitrogen compounds are soluble, particulate nitrogen is almost entirely organic nitrogen, or PON. Methods used to determine TN can rely on the same alkaline persulfate digestion used to determine TDN with the exception that samples are not filtered. Since samples are not filtered, the automated version is not applicable if there is a significant amount of sediment (or solids) in the sample. In other words, the automated inline digestion methods measure TDN and are only applicable if TDN and TN are essentially equal (there is no particulate organic nitrogen).

The DIN fraction, measured to calculate the Total Organic Nitrogen content can be, and should be, analyzed on a filtered sample. Remember that there is no such thing as Total Inorganic Nitrogen since it is equal to Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen. Another infamous parameter in the total nitrogen world is, of course, TKN (Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen). TKN, as routinely used, does not measure nitrate or nitrite. It is essentially a measure of organic nitrogen plus ammonia nitrogen.

TKN is the classical, if you will, analysis for total organic nitrogen. TKN has its roots in food and feed analysis as a way to quantify the amount of protein. TKN has been extrapolated to environmental analysis and is the regulated parameter for Total Nitrogen. Unless steps are taken to include nitrate and nitrite the regular TKN method does not measure it. TKN essentially measures organic nitrogen and ammonia. TKN is sufficient in POTW or municipal influents because these samples rarely have nitrate in them anyway. Recall the nitrogen reactions. An influent to a POTW will contain particulate nitrogen, dissolved organic nitrogen, and ammonia. The particulate nitrogen mostly settles as sludge removing it from the equation. Organic nitrogen and ammonia are oxidized to nitrate during the treatment process. The TKN digestion boils the sample in concentrated sulfuric acid in the presence of a metallic catalyst to speed the reaction. Potassium sulfate is added to raise the boiling point to about 380 C. The digestion will not completely recover all organic nitrogen compounds making the TKN result actually less than or equal to the TN determined by alkaline persulfate oxidation.

According to the EPA definition, Total Nitrogen equals TKN plus nitrate plus nitrite.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient found in living organisms as part of DNA among other important molecules. Phosphorus is always found in nature bound to other atoms and usually as the inorganic phosphate. It is phosphate that is available to plants and used as a fertilizer. It is phosphate that is consumed by algae and has the potential to cause algal blooms. Measurement of total phosphorus is important because it can, with time, convert to bioavailable soluble phosphate.

Dishwashing, laundry, and many hand detergents and/or soap contain phosphorus. The phosphorus content in detergent can be as high as 8.7%. Phosphate is a very effective way to improve soap quality, especially in waters that contain high amounts of calcium and magnesium. Unfortunately, the phosphates in these detergents find their way into the environment. In the 1970’s green rivers and lakes were becoming common and phosphate usage in soaps began its eventual reduction. Although there is not a federal ban on phosphate is soap many states are taking action. For example, Washington State has limited the amount of phosphate in dishwasher detergent to 0.5%

Chemical Analysis of Phosphorus

Phosphorus can exist in water in different forms. The standard method for phosphorus is meant to measure only phosphate, also called reactive phosphate. This is because what is actually measured is defined by the molybdate reaction itself. Phosphorus species are distinguished from each other empirically by filtration, and then a series of digestions that selectively convert phosphorus to phosphate. After the digestion phosphate is measured. Thus, to analyze organic phosphorus only, one digests for total phosphorus in one sample aliquot, and hydrolysable phosphorus in another aliquot. Reactive phosphate is then determined in each digest and Organic Phosphorus is calculated by difference.

Total Phosphate is water-soluble. Instrumental methods require that samples be filtered, or the turbidity and/or solids will interfere. Therefore to accurately measure total phosphate you must filter the sample. Since total reactive phosphorus is equal to filterable reactive phosphorus the results are the same. Remember though, that for best results, filtration should be in the field. The portion for the total analysis is not filtered. If the particulates (TSS or SS) are high, then continuous flow methods should not be used for the analysis of Total Phosphorus. Total phosphorus is batch digested that converts all phosphorus compounds to phosphate. The digest is filtered and phosphate is then measured, usually by molybdenum blue.

The continuous flow method for TDP utilizes 254 nm UV irradiation to assist in the digestion of organic material. Since continuous flow methods cannot be used to adequately digest samples containing high amounts of solids and continuous digestion should not be used unless the total phosphorus is essentially equal to the dissolved phosphorus.

TKN is the classical digestion for total organic nitrogen. The TKN digest can also be used to analyze for total phosphorus. The advantage in this is not added recovery, for the acid persulfate quantitatively recovers all of the total phosphorus. The only advantage in the TKP is the ability for the laboratory to test for TKN and TP in a single digest. The perceived benefit is time and labor savings. Because of the higher acid and salt concentration of the resulting TKP digest compared to persulfate digests, TKP detection limits are usually higher that limits found by persulfate. The other advantage to TKP is, of course, that it is EPA approved.

All of the colorimetric methods used for the determination of phosphate by molybdenum blue are highly dependent upon final acid concentration and the amount of molybdate. Attempts made at analyzing total phosphorus digests without careful attention to acid concentration are often not successful. After the digestion is complete, you are measuring orthophosphate. Any method used to measure phosphate can be used. The problem with extending a total P determination to Ion Chromatography, for instance, comes from the excessive sulfate ion introduced in the digestion. Earlier methods utilizing persulfate in sulfuric acid neutralized the sample and then analyzed orthophosphate. Some continuous flow methods measure the phosphate in the acid solution adjusting the acid in the reagent accordingly. The TKP digestions have really only been tested using a mercury catalyst, and excess chloride must be added to prevent interference from the mercury. Like TKN, the blue color of a copper catalyst may interfere with the method. The auto dialysis method helps to control the final acid concentration and some of the residual color introduced by the copper. Dialysis is essentially an online dilution leading to a higher detection limit than the cleaner persulfate digest. To sum up, for lower total phosphorus numbers (say below 0.1 ppm) it is recommended to use the acid persulfate digestion because the matrix will be easier to control and work with. For concentrations above 0.1 ppm, the TKP digestion is adequate.

Conclusion

The clean water act was signed amid stories of massive fish kills and rivers catching on fire. We all know that these things rarely happen in the US anymore. We have monitored sewage treatment effluents and in many cases applied numerical maximums on the amount of nutrients that can be discharged. We still have a ways to go.

Our chemical analysis methods were written for highly polluted water. The methods we use were not validated at the lower concentration levels we need to measure today. Many of the conditions of these methods assume higher concentrations will be present, and the former rigid nature of the Clean Water Act rules did not let us change anything. Fortunately, in 2007 the EPA added Part 136.6 to the CFR allowing us to make modifications to our nutrient methods providing the modifications improve method performance. These modifications are going to allow us to monitor more water, with better accuracy and detection limits.

We have more to go, because regulation of point sources has not solved the problem. Much of the problem is the non point sources we call storm water run off and irrigation water. We need to watch what we do when we apply fertilizers and watch what goes down our storm drains. But more importantly, what we need is increased monitoring of our rivers and streams. The only way we can begin to solve our problems is to know exactly what they are. To understand this problem we need more data, and the data we need is accurate, low level quantitative analysis of nutrients.

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Natural De-Worming for Your Pets – You Can Have Naturally Worm Free Animals!

Worms. Not something we want to think about, right? But did you know that if your pet has worms they could be compromising their health, and can even lead to death if untreated? And did you know that if your pet has worms, you can also become infected with worms? Think of that as your dog or cat snuggles up with you in bed.

Conventional treatment falls into three chemical classes:

  • Macrocycliclactones (ivermectin, moxidectin)
  • Benzimidazoles (fenbendazole)
  • Pyrimidines (pyrantel)

Growing scientific evidence is mounting showing that parasites are building up a resistance to conventional chemical de-wormers. This is causing super parasites that are immune to most chemicals, much like the overuse of antibiotics has caused super bugs that nothing can eliminate. Not to mention the side effects of the chemicals themselves.

Some possible side effects include:

  • Colic Swollen Neck and Glands
  • Allergic reactions
  • Laminitis in Horses
  • Various Gut Disturbances and Problems
  • Skin Reactions Tongue Hanging Out,
  • Horse Drooling
  • Disturbances in the Hoof Walls of Horses
  • Internal Damage
  • Damage to the Animals Immune System
  • And in rare cases, even Death

So what are your options? You don’t want your pet to have worms and you don’t want to poison your pet with chemicals. Fortunately, Mother Nature provides what we need if we know where to look. One great option is food grade Diatomaceous Earth. It is truly one of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts.

Diatomaceous Earth is a fossilized deposit of microscopic shells created by one celled plants called Diatoms. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth can be used for many things around the home and in agriculture. Food grade diatomaceous earth is EPA approved to be mixed with grains to control mealworms and other pests, against indoor and outdoor crawling insects, as an anti-caking agent for animal feed and food grade diatomaceous earth is FDA approved for internal and external use. It has been given a GRAS (generally regarded as safe) rating by the FDA.

This is only a partial list of the benefits of Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth:

  • Natural wormer – eliminates many parasites without chemicals
  • Safe, non-toxic, parasites don’t build immunity as they do with traditional wormers
  • 15 trace minerals – great for animals, humans, plants, and soil
  • Helps detox heavy metals, E.coli, bacteria, viruses, etc.
  • Promotes shinier coats
  • Digestive aid Colon cleanser
  • Better overall health
  • Eliminates pests in stored grains
  • Reduces flies, fleas, ticks, etc.
  • Reduces manure odor
  • Drying agent
  • Antifungal properties – good for garden fungal growths

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is made of fossilized microscopic hard shells and as it comes in contact with insects it penetrates and removes their waxy outer layer causing them to lose moisture and dehydrate. Unlike chemical wormers, the parasites never build up a resistance and because it works gradually there is no danger of complications from die-off in the case of heavy infestation.

You can have naturally worm free animals. There are several good options available, herbal formulations, homeopathic remedies, and food grade diatomaceous earth, to name a few. All work very well when used properly, along with simple diet and lifestyle tweaks. Here are a few recommendations:

Feeding the best quality food and water free of chemicals and fillers. Cleaning up fecal droppings regularly In dogs and cats make sure you are eliminating fleas with non toxic natural flea remedies, as fleas lead to tape worm infestation. In horses, use natural fly repellants as flies that lay their eggs in the manure can lead to a viscous cycle of re-infestation. Using a product like Wormfree Naturally regularly, not just when you see worms, to break the cycle of re-infestation

I like the idea of using a product like Wormfree Naturally that contains food grade diatomaceous earth along with pro-biotics. It addresses the internal parasites, halts re-infestation by eliminating larvae in the manure, while also offering trace minerals and pro-biotics that are essential for a healthy digestive tract. Why wouldn’t you want to do that for your pets? Can chemical de-wormers do all that?

Wormfree Naturally is available at http://www.alternativeanimal.com

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How to Build a Cobblestone House

He huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down – certainly not if the house was built with cobblestones. Building cobblestone houses was a folk art that flourished in upstate New York from 1825 until the Civil War in 1860. Many of the 700+ cobblestone homes that were built survive today, a testament to their fine craftsmanship.

To build your cobblestone house you’ll need 5 main components: cobblestones, soft lime mortar, wood for windows and doors, cut stone blocks for quoins, lintels and sills, and lots of cheap labor. Lets take them one at a time – assuming the cheap labor is you, your family, friends, relatives and anyone else you can convince to do manual labor for $1.00 to $1.50 per day.

The first step is to gather the cobblestones. This may take several years. Cobblestones are small fist-sized stones deposited by the glaciers that swept from the north millennia ago. Rough-shaped ones can be gathered from the farm fields or rounded, lake-washed ones can be gathered along the shore of Lake Ontario. You’ll need over 14,000 cobblestones, so get cracking. As the manly work of stone gathering progresses, the women and children can be kept busy sorting the stones by size and color. You’ll want to use the finest, smoothest, similar-sized stones on the front of your house, and save the rougher, odd-sized ones for the back, sides and interior of the walls.

While this is progressing, you better start preparing the soft lime mortar. Don’t skimp and use Portland cement. It dries too fast and will pop the cobbles out as it dries. Soft lime mortar is made of lime, sand and water. Find limestone (calcium carbonate) or dolomite (magnesium carbonate) and break it into pieces. Burn it within heaps of logs for 2 to 3 days to create quicklime. Add water to the quicklime to create a hydrated lime sludge.

Mix in 5 to 9 bushels of sand to 1 bushel of lime sludge. Age the mortar in a ground pit covered by sand or cow manure for up to a year.

Fell a bunch of trees. They’ll need to be hand-hewn to build the doors and windows – each custom fitted to a specific opening. Also, find a quarry where you can get limestone or sandstone blocks for the corners of your building (quoins) and as structural support over the doors and windows (lintels) and under the windows (sils).

Now the fun begins. Start by laying the stones in walls 18 to 20-inches-thick. Build the wall with rubble stone, faced by cobbles. Use elongated or triangular shaped stones to tie the cobbles to the rubble wall. Use the soft lime mortar as your glue, getting fancy with straight ridges between the horizontal and vertical rows of cobbles. Build about 3 rows (or courses) per day so the mortar has time to slowly begin setting. It will take 35 years for the mortar to fully harden. Lay in the cut-stone blocks at the corners to create quoins. To finish the inside, apply horsehair plaster to the stone.

Once the walls are above reach, you’ll have to build scaffolding by burying poles in the ground 6 to 8 feet from the wall and tying cross members from the wall to the poles with hickory witches. Then lay planks on the cross members to provide a building platform. As the walls rise, you’ll have to repeatedly raise the height of the scaffolding. Attach a crane and tackles to the highest pole to winch up buckets of cobblestones and mortar.

Hand build your windows and doors to fit each opening and hand-hew trusses for your roof. Winter is a good time to do much of your carpentry work. Depending on how many workers you have and their skill level, you may finish in a year. More likely, the building process will take about 3 years.

When you’re done, you’ll have a fine home that will stand for centuries. Go see for yourself. A new guidebook called “Cobblestone Quest – Road Tours of New York’s Historic Buildings” (Footprint Press, http://www.footprintpress.com, 1-800-431-1579) offers 17 self-guided car or bicycle tours for viewing the diversity of cobblestone buildings clustered within a 65-mile radius of Rochester, NY, and no where else in the world.

“Cobblestone Quest – Road Tours of New York’s Historic Buildings”

By Rich & Sue Freeman

17 self-guided car or bicycle tours for learning the history and observing the diversity of unique cobblestone buildings in Western New York State.

http://www.footprintpress.com/Cobblestone/CobblestonePreview.htm

208 pages, 20 maps, 85 photos, indexed, paperback, 10 X 7 inches

Price: $19.95, ISBN# 1930480199

Footprint Press, Inc., http://www.footprintpress.com

###

Photos available – email sue@footprrintpress.com or call 585-421-9383.

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Antique Yixing Zisha Teapot Market – Analysis

When I first moved to China, I knocked around the back streets and roads, as I always do. During my explorations, I bought a few old teapots. Personally, I always rely on my own judgment in buying art. I have made my own art, in a number of mediums; I bought my first ceramic art, back in 1970. I studied art, I have had friends who are artists, and I have been dealing in various forms of art since that first purchase (which was sold only with the sale of my country inn, in 2000). I did not spend a lot of money on those teapots, and I liked them. As it turned out they were fakes of very famous teapot art, so I was not off the mark in my old teapot appreciation.

Over the years, I have learned a lot about Chinese Yixing zisha teapots, old and new. As it turns out, for old teapots, many people started making copies (fakes) of old teapots and aging them (bathtub full of dirt; then, dry). Actually, I am familiar with the basic techniques from my business making furniture and folk art reproductions and my other business of buying and selling the real thing. To make aged painted furniture, for example, we used old nails and milk paint and buried it in manure for a week. Brass can be aged by putting it in a place with fumes from ammonia. Then, we just used old glass with bubbles in it to make cabinets that looked antique. The point is that that is nothing new. People have been making both fakes and reproductions of many forms of art for many years.

In teapots, the situation is much worse, on a number of fronts. First of all, the way in which teapots have been signed by an artist, off and on, over the past several hundred years, is with that artist’s or factory’s stamps, which have the Chinese characters of their names, sometimes, somewhat stylized. The stamp is usually on the bottom of the pot, which appears to have begun with the Gong Chun teapot. Later, marks were also included on the underside of the lid, and underneath the handle, although there are variations. We have also heard of a tradition that the direction of the stamp should be along the axis of handle and spout facing front, but, then, we have seen that particular rule also violated. Before the late 1800’s, it was also common for carved lettering to appear on teapot surfaces. Some specific details also apply to certain periods. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, wooden seals were used with Chinese characters but no actual names. In the 1960’s, a cooperative was formed, and all teapots were stamped only with Zhong Guo Yi Xing.

However, it was also common, during that period, for artists to put their own seals under the lid. During the cultural revolution of 1966 to 1976, artists were not permitted to put their seals on teapots but were assigned a number. The point is that it is easy to make a copy of the stamp from the original stamp impressions on original teapots, which can also be done with carved lettering. Before the 1960’s, impressions of the original seals were taken with red wax, which made a slightly smaller seal that the original. These days it is done by computer. In comparison, it is much more difficult, for example, to forge the written signature of an artist, Chinese or Western, although that also is not impossible, and many forged paintings of past artists have turned up over the years. In fact, the use of a black light can also sometimes help to reveal fakes, in paintings.

The next thing is materials. As I mentioned, when we made reproductions of furniture and folk art, we used nails that were made by a company the same way for 200 years. We used milk paint that was also made the same way for several hundred years. Then, we could also get hardware that was antique, and we could even get wooden boards that were several hundred years old. We, then, finished pieces with our own homemade finishes, using the same materials that had been used for making finishes for hundreds of years. In teapots, there is old clay available because, for example, teapot artist families have been buying clay from Yixing mines for many, many years and have passed some of it down through the generations. However, one of the real differences for older clay and older teapots is that the particle size of the rock powder making up the clay was about twice as large, in the mid-Qing Dynasty, about three times as large in the early Qing Dynasty, and about five times as large, in the Ming period. Thus, at least you should expect teapots to appear rougher, the further back you go, although that same sort of roughness can be seen even with more recent clays.

The other thing about teapots is that, although actual original teapots by a famous artist have a definite appearance, that is only an approximate circumstance. First of all, since each is made by hand, there might be slight variations from one to the next, although minor. Secondly, there is nothing equivalent to, for example, the “signature” brushstrokes that one might observe in an oil painting by a famous artist, for teapot art. For example, we recently saw a copy of a teapot by a contemporary artist with whom we are familiar. There was nothing at all wrong with it, technically, but it happened that the signature was put at an improper place, according to our knowledge from owning an original. In fact, we would have bought the copy, but it was also priced at a higher price than we have to pay for originals. More importantly, part of the actual learning process for making Yixing teapots is to copy those of your mentor and of other famous artists, so copying masterworks is even built into the instructional system of the art. We even have an artist friend who specializes in making copies, down to the last detail, of famous teapots, although he does not sell them as anything more than reproductions. We see other great copies of famous and not so famous contemporary and past teapots, all around. From what we hear from our dealer sources and from our sources, in Yixing, itself, over ninety percent of the famous-name or antique teapots that have been sold over the last few decades, as originals, are actually fakes, especially those that were sold to foreign buyers, during that time. We have seen similar numbers quoted in other articles about antique teapots.

Yixing teapots have been sold to the rest of the world for several hundred years, having been shipped with tea by European tea companies to European countries. Even as early as the late 1600’s, both Dutch and English potters made fake Yixing teapots because the ones being imported from China were all the rage. Others were also shipped to Asian countries, for example, gongju teapots to Thailand. So, it is not impossible for old Yixing teapots to be found outside China, in addition to those that were not shipped outside but were later purchased by foreign buyers from mainland sellers. However, with those shipped in earlier centuries, you have to figure that not many were shipped, in the first place, and few survived since most people did not consider them to be that special and ceramics are easily breakable. Even the Sunbeam Tiger automobile from the 1960’s that I owned in the 1990’s only had about one third of the original production left by that time, just twenty-some years later. In addition, as you go back in time, there were very few teapot artists; it is not the thousands that we have, today, someof whom mass produce teapots. As a result, Yixing teapots bought by foreign buyers from China over the last several decades are considered by most of us, in China, today, to be fairly suspect.

We recently were, in fact, approached by a foreign seller who said he wanted to sell his collection of about one hundred antique teapots beck to China. Over the last several years, many foreign sellers have sold their teapots through local auctions, knowing that there was a price bubble in some sectors of the teapot market. This seller, who approached us, through the internet, sent us some pictures of rather common looking teapots, which he told us to show to any dealer and they would immediately know what they were. Now, we are not experts in antique teapots, but we know some, in dealers, and in Yixing multi-generational teapot art families. We also see thousands of teapots, both old and new, at the many teapot dealers, shops, studios and galleries that we pass through. We see fakes that are sold as fakes and fakes that we know are fakes from experience. Indeed, we had seen similar teapots, somewhere in our wanderings, but we sent the pictures along to our experts, too. What we got was ridicule for wasting their time.

In the end, making copies has been part of the art, itself, and copies and fakes have been around for centuries. The first wave of copies, in the twentieth century, was actually commissioned by several respected companies in Yixing and Shanghai, in the early 1900’s. They had the best artists of the day make copies of famous teapots from earlier periods, originally intended as reproductions. Eventually, those showed up in circulation offered as authentic, in later years. There was another wave of making fakes of all sorts of teapots beginning in the 1980’s, prompted by increased foreign demand due to the normalization of cross-strait relations with Taiwan, and it continues into today. Indeed, China is, now, famous for its copies of everything, and we see all sorts of things copied, from cigarettes to IPods and more.

Of course, as with any other art, provenance is a key in purchasing old and new teapots. For newer teapots, artists actually make up hand-written certification that it is their teapot, and that can be passed on from one owner to the next. It is much like getting the publisher’s certification for a 20th century lithograph by a famous artist. That is at one extreme. However, we even know a contemporary teapot artist who told us that he met a Taiwanese man at an exhibition, in New York City, who bought what was supposed to have been a teapot made by that artist, and he had paid around $20,000 for the teapot. He even had a written certification, but when the artist examined it, he said that the certification and the teapot were not genuine. He could tell because, although the forged hand-written signature was very good, the artist is actually left-handed, and the certificate was signed by a right-handed person. Our friends, in Yixing, who are both teapot artists and historical teapot scholars, tell us that often they see foreign collectors, who truly believe that they have authentic teapots because the good fakes are the only ones that they have ever seen or owned. I have even seen others comment on that in articles and blogs.

A few months back, my assistant was careless with a contemporary teapot that we have in the gallery and broke it. To make up for it, she went to a dealer, on Shamian Island, in Guangzhou, near the White Swan Hotel, the most expensive foreigner hotel, in town, who she thought might tell her where to get it repaired. Instead, he sold her an exact replica of our teapot that he said was made by the artist’s grandfather. It had a stamp on the bottom that was the same family name, and it was made to look old. Fortunately she paid only around $40 for it because after I got back from a short business trip, we called the artist, and she told us that her grandfather never even made teapots. So, there are even fakes, on the market, by people who never existed, which is something you could only know, if you have the right connections. It even seems that some of those foreign buyers do not even know the proper history of the teapots that they have bought. For example, just the other day we saw an advertisement on a Taiwan E-bay-like website to sell a gongju teapot, which teapots were actually made in the late Qing Dynasty, but on the website it said that it was from the Ming Dynasty, only a few centuries off the mark. Even the experts sometimes have trouble either detecting copies or in dating teapots. It is said that some experts are still arguing over the authenticity of the original Gong Chun teapot housed in the Museum, in Beijing. Of course, the Gong Chun teapot has been copied over and over, though the centuries, and even some of those copies can be valuable. In fact, we have a nice copy, and we see copies with various variations, everywhere, in the teapot markets.

At the other, provenance usually consists of the chain of ownership of the item. In that regard, sometimes a certification from a reputable art dealer is enough. On the other hand, I once bought a 19th century European painting by a known artist, from a reputable dealer with whom I had had many past dealing, and he had gotten it from a restorer, who gave his guarantee that it was authentic. In the end, I discovered that the artist’s name, just like one of our current artists, Xin Ming Xuan’s name, was misspelled in some major references about art 19th century artists, and the incorrect spelling was that, which was used to sign the painting I owned. Apparently, the restorer had “restored?” the signature, too. In the end, the dealer did take it back, but I saw it some years later, offered, again, by another dealer as an original.

As we said in another recent blog, we like to take the guess work out of art, at least, to the extent that that can be done. To that end, in teapots, we have contacts in many of the older artists whose work is being sold, in both originals and copies. We also have contacts in several teapot art dynasty families, so we can completely authenticate some teapots back through over a hundred years. We also have friends who have done a lot of dealing and research in older teapots, who know all of the tricks and pitfalls in the fakes markets.

As I said, I am not a superme expert in antique Yixing teapots, but I have a lot of on the ground experience in general teapots and the teapot markets, in China. I have been an expert, in a number of fields, including quantum field theory, functional analysis, securities and econometric analysis, merger arbitrage, securities law, fine inn keeping, art, making “antiques”, investment psychology, life in Modern China. I have also learned that one can find and use experts to help fill in knowledge and experience, and I can learn from them while I am using their services. In the end, currently, we do little buying in older teapots unless they are simply nice older teapots at reasonable prices, whether or not we know the name.

We like good art, and, while we would never say that a price on a work of art was too high just because of the dollar amount on the price tag. I have spent millions of dollars, personally, on art over the years. However, as an investor, I understand reasonable versus bubble prices, no matter if it is oil prices, the price of the Chinese stock market, prices for folk art from the 18th century, or real estate prices in Guangzhou (the real arbitrage, there, is to rent: we pay Y3,000 per month rent, whereas the owner has a mortgage of over Y8,000 per month = losing proposition for the owner). Teapot prices are already too high for works of some contemporary artists, never mind those for works of famous dead artists. A true indicator of that fact is the number of foreign sellers over the last few years who have put their old teapots up for auction, in mainland China. In other Chinese art, everyone is looking to go the other direction and sell outside the mainland, be it in Hong Kong, London, or New York.

You can see some Yixing teapots and links to some other antique teapot sites on our site and blog. You can easily find a number of references about zisha clay, Yixing teapots, famous teapot artists over the last several centuries, and teapot art by searching the web.

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Ten Green Strategies to Help Improve Our Environment

If you think you need to join movements and lobby in Congress just to become an environmentalist, think again. There are many ways you can contribute to help the environment. Our air is largely polluted because of combustion emissions coming out of our cars. Our streams, rivers, and oceans became polluted because of industrial wastes from manufacturers whose products we patronize; only to carelessly throw them away later once we’re done with them. Our land resources are almost depleted because all we did is take and hardly gave back anything to ensure sustainability   

We all took part in ravaging the Earth and we all benefited. If the results of our actions before created a monumental impact to destroy our environment, then it is possible that all of us can work together to restore our environment to what it used to be.   Let us all “go green”, that way we can demand from manufacturers to produce eco-friendly products that won’t produce harmful wastes and emissions. Let’s all adapt to green living strategies because the Earth is already suffocating with greenhouse gasses and detrimental wastes. Checkout these green strategies, once you start on in, you’ll find out that it’s not so hard after all:   

1. Organize and participate in carpools; if it’s not too far, walk, jog or pedal.    We all need to cut down on gas money anyway, with its constantly rising costs. Organize a carpool, or if there’s already one, be a part of it. Less cars on the road on the way to the grocery, mall or school, means less combustion to pollute the air and damage the ozone layer. Get some exercise by walking, jogging, or riding your bike to do some errands, you need to exercise more often.  

2. Clean with Green Use natural or organic cleaning products for your housekeeping needs. You can also use vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice, these are the same basic materials used by manufacturers sans the harmful chemicals and less on the costs. There’s nothing wrong with going back to basics, people used them in the olden days and everything was also spotlessly clean. 

3. Feed and Groom You Pets Green Since the whole household will “go green”, green your pets too by feeding them natural and organic pet foods and by grooming them with “green” based shampoos, flea and tick repellents and other innovative green pet supplies.  

4.  Consider Other ways to Keep Cool or to Stay Warm Save on energy and save on your energy money during the summer. Sweating it out a little isn’t too bad for your health. Beat the heat by wearing cool light clothes and by drinking lots of fluids. Health advocates tell us, drinking plenty of water helps in detoxifying our body. During the winter, bundle yourself up with enough warm clothes and warming gear to conserve on energy costs. Drink hot beverages to keep your body warm from the inside.  

5. Patronize your Local Market Patronizing your local market and commercial areas makes your community self-sufficient. You’re not only helping your community to grow but you’re also cutting down costs on your purchases. Make some sort of community wish lists for products not available in your community, perhaps your local grocer or suppliers can make them available. This way, the energy and fuel used for shipping will be limited to a few.  

6. Maintain Proper Waste Disposal by separating Biodegradables from Non- Biodegradables This simply means separate those that can be recycled from the non-recyclables. Recyclables include those that can be used for compost while the non-recyclables can be re-sold to manufacturers who are also into recycling.

7. Try to Eliminate Paper Wastes Try to keep your transactions electronic by e-mails, e-banking, e-shopping, and most other activities that use paper, which are now accessible online. Keep your files secured in flash disks instead of maintaining paper documents in dust gathering files.     

8. Insulation for Conservation Consider the use of solar power and heat giving insulators. They were designed to cut down on energy and to lessen the demand for electricity. The less electricity that each household consumes, the less production can be expected from the pollution emitting power plants.  

9. Go easy on Meat  Lessen your demand for meat and you’ll lessen farm run-offs carrying animal manure. Besides, less meat  in our diet is not only healthy it’s also budget friendly.   

10. Recycle or Buy Recycled There’s nothing wrong in re-using things; the Internet offers many ideas on how to make things look new and re-usable. If you can’t recycle, buy recycled. You’ll be surprised on how imaginative and creative recycled things are coming along nowadays.

Work hand in hand with the community and perhaps ask your local government to provide more spaces where trees could be planted to make your community green. Trees will provide you, your protection from the scorching sun as well as give off fresh oxygen your community can inhale.  

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How to Create a Fragrant Herbal Lawn Using Herb Plants or Herbs Grown From Seed

Thyme is a wonderfully versatile herb that can be easily grown in a herb garden. Nowadays it’s known mainly as a culinary herb, but back in the days of England’s Queen Victoria it was also frequently used as a “ground-covering herb” – when it was used to create lawns and beautiful, sweeping garden banks of aromatic white, pink and yellow flowers that released their fragrance when trodden on.

If you are familiar with the scent of thyme, I am sure you can imagine what it must have been like on a summer evening to be sitting on a lawn of thyme, soaking up the evening sun and absorbing that wonderful characteristic herbal aroma. Well, why just imagine it? Its not a major project to plant your own thyme lawn, and once it’s done you’ll never tire of the pleasure it will give you during the summer months.

In this article I am going to provide you with all the information you need to create a lawn from the culinary herb thyme. There are four straightforward steps to follow:

1. Pick a suitable variety of thyme

2. Choose the right location and conditions for your herbal lawn

3. Planting your thyme (and growing it from seed)

4. Looking after your herbal lawn

Varieties of Thyme

There are lots of varieties of thyme (350 at the last count!), all of which can be put to culinary use. But to create a lawn you will need to purchase or grow a creeping variety of thyme. As the name suggests these varieties spread to form a “carpet” of plants which will survive through even quite cold winters and flourish each year (thyme is a perennial herb).

In June and July your thyme lawn will not only give off its fragrant familiar smell, but it will also be covered with masses of tiny flowers the color of which will depend upon the variety of thyme you choose.

Lemon Frost is a rapid growing variety with round leaves and wonderful lemon scent. It’s perfect for covering large segments of ground. Doone Valley thyme has variegated leaves and pink flowers. Pink lemonade thyme has pink flowers. Golden lemon thyme has tiny golden yellow leaves.

Use the internet to find a specialist herb supplier such as Mountain Valley Growers in California (they sell over 50 different varieties of thyme). But if you want to shop local, you’ll easily find something suitable at your local garden center.

Choosing the Right Location

Do some planning to make sure you create your herbal lawn in the best possible spot in your garden.

– Choose a spot that enjoys full exposure to the sun and has a well-drained, light soil

– Remove all leaves and surface weeds and use a weed killer with glyco-phosphate to poison weeds that have deep roots (if you don’t want to use the weed-killer “double-dig” the soil and manually remove all traces of roots)

– Dig in compost or manure if the soil lacks humus

– Rake the soil to a firm, level finish (firm it down with the head of your rake if necessary).

Planting Your Thyme Lawn

You can either buy herb plants or grow your thyme herb plants from seed. I’ve covered both of these options below:

Buy Thyme Plants

– Measure the area of your lawn. You will need about twenty plants to every square yard

– Transplant your thyme from the pots or trays they came in, ensuring a distance of about 20cm between each plant

– Water well and refrain from walking on the lawn for about a month

Grow Plants from Seed

– Sow your thyme seeds in the fall

– Buy seed trays with compartments and use a soil-less potting compost

– Sow two or three seeds in each compartment

– Keep your seed trays moist and warm, but out of direct sunlight

– Expect your seeds to germinate in about a week

– Transplant them to small pots (2/3 inches) when they are about 2 inches tall

– Plant you lawn when your potted plants have grown to 3 to 4 inches.

Looking after Your Lawn

Your lawn will not need much care. Unlike a grass lawn it should never need cutting.

– Weed your lawn regularly

– When bare patches appear (they will, unfortunately) fill them with rooted pieces of thyme propagated from other well-grown plants

– Don’t allow your lawn to become water-logged.

Other Ways of Using Thyme in Around the Garden

Whilst I strongly recommend planting a thyme lawn because of the absolute pleasure it’ll bring to you, you may be put off by the hard work and expense involved. However, there are other ways in which you can use thyme in your garden that don’t involve as much work:

– Plant patches of thyme between stepping stones

– Create patches of thyme on sunny banks around your garden

– Create a fragrant thyme foot rest beneath a garden seat.

Whatever you choose to do, you won’t regret using thyme as a ground-cover plant. Also, I haven’t described all the creative possibilities you could explore. If you want more variety with your ground-cover herbs mix your thyme plants with other aromatic ground-cover herbs such as penny royal and chamomile. Take some time to research these and other possible ways of using well-known culinary herbs in different areas of your garden.

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The Importance of Writing Clearly for Business

Creating written documents reveals so much about you and your business skills. Your writing tells the reader about your educational background, pride in your work and business expertise. The emergence of the paperless office, e-mail, the internet and web pages only increases the power of the written word. Any company with employees who can write clearly and concisely has a competitive edge over others who are still struggling to communicate.

Is your correspondence free of any errors? In this day of computers with spell and grammar check, it is so easy to let your writing skills lapse. The computer scans the correct spelling of a word, but it is a homonym with the wrong meaning for your sentence. This error shows the reader that either you don’t know the difference or you’re too lazy to check and edit.

Is your writing full of words that people don’t understand? Many times, you are so rushed to compose a business document that you use easy methods to get it done. The result is business documents are often filled with buzzwords, cryptic dialogue and outdated phrases. Readers won’t say that they don’t understand what you are writing, but will note not to use your business services. Keep your writing simple and current. Writing styles are like fashion and have indeed changed over the years. You must keep up with today’s business practices and expectations, but beware of certain crutches such as buzzwords, industry jargon and cliches. Buzzwords are trendy terms and expressions that sometimes mean nothing, but seem impressive. “Like fertilizer, buzzwords are spread generously over documents in hope that brilliant ideas will miraculously take root. Unfortunately, ideas don’t grow in manure,” describes Will Stockdell, a professional Internet writer. You want to make sure that everyone understands your written ideas.

The last thing you want to do is to give the impression that your writing is too formal or outdated. A more direct way of writing has replaced some standard business phrases. Examples of this are “As per your request” now becomes “As you requested” or “Enclosed please find ” now becomes “I am enclosing.” Also, the previous impersonal style of business writing that avoided the use of “I” has been changed to use a limited amount of “I” to give directness and warmth.

How often have you typed away what you wanted to say, rather than what you needed to write? Slipping into abbreviated dialogue is so easy to do instead of expressing complete thoughts in a sentence. Perhaps, because we are a telephone-oriented society, the keyboard simply becomes an extension of our phone voice and frequently incomplete phrases dominate a message. Readers may think that this writing also indicates your incomplete logic and business services.

Do you use correct English? As far as incorrect punctuation, awkward sentences and bad grammar, you need to examine your writing skills and take these steps to improve them:

1. Audit your business writing yourself and try to learn from your mistakes. Use your computer grammar tools, but double-check with a dictionary or grammar book.

2. Find someone who can edit your material.

3. Hire employees for writing skills. In this way, you will have someone around to edit or write material for you.

4. Read. Reading will improve your writing skills. Keep on hand business documents that you admire.

5. Practice. Don’t just pick up the phone to communicate; get in the habit of expressing your ideas in letters or e-mail.

6. Seek professional resources. Consult books like Gloria Pincu’s Bull’s Eye Business Writing: 10 Easy Guides for Getting to Your Writing Target. Search the Internet. Seek training courses.

See my web site for information about my online courses at: www.basic-learning.com)

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Your Hot! Hot! Hot! Deck Can Be a Lush Garden – Container Gardening in a Summer Heat Wave

Do you have a deck that is so hot in the summer everything you plant out there dies of heat stroke? Nothing is more disappointing than watching your plants shrivel up and die during a summer heat wave. You can avoid the pain and disappointment of dead plants by buying the right containers, using the correct soil mix, and choosing the best plants for wind and heat.

Containers for Hot Conditions

Look for large, deep, thick walled pots. The least expensive containers are plastic. Polyethylene pots usually have thicker walls and are more crack resistant than plastic. They are also probably twice the expense. Glazed clay pots (often made in Vietnam) are sometimes the most attractive sort of pot, but like Terracotta tend to wick out moisture from the soil. Terracotta is not a great choice for a really hot dry deck although they may be the only choice for plants whose roots need a lot of oxygen to thrive, such as orchids, and many herbs. Both terracotta and glazed clay pots need to be protected during cold winters. You can empty them out completely and take inside, or you can leave them in place, wrap them in plastic to keep out snow and rain. It is the contraction and expansion (freezing and thawing) of water inside the pot during the winter that can cause it to crack.

A general rule is to choose deep pots rather than shallow pots. The deep pots will keep the plant roots cooler thus aiding immensely in their survival. Exceptions to this rule are Succulents and Cactus that usually prefer a wide shallow container instead of a deep cool pot because they like the soil warm, dry, and well drained. Just to make it complicated, there are many plants such as Lavender, Rosemary, and Orchids that like their roots cool and moist but need the surface of the soil to be dry. Using a mulch that dries quickly, such as buckwheat hulls or sand will help achieve these special conditions.

Containers with reservoirs in the bottom are helpful for keeping soil and plant roots moist. These pots are sometimes called “self-watering”. Don’t be fooled, you still have to water, only not as often! Seriously, a reservoir in the bottom of a container can be helpful, but watch out you don’t over water your plants by never letting them dry out at all. That can drown the plant and make the soil anaerobic (without oxygen). Plant roots need water and oxygen to keep the plant healthy.

Moisture Retaining Potting Soil

When you are preparing soil for your containers, make sure to add water absorbing polymer crystals. Follow the directions carefully because if you add too many crystals your soil will end up heaving out of the containers and making a real mess. Blend one 1 part vermiculite based potting soil to 2 parts sweet compost, such as Coast of Maine. Avoid using composted manure in your container garden unless it is well composted and smelling good. Mulch the top of your containers with shredded bark mulch, buckwheat hulls, or sand.

Heat Tolerant Plants

Shrubs and Trees can be great assets to your deck container garden, but they need very big pots to survive. Make sure that your deck or porch can hold the weight of very large pots before you begin. They will get quite heavy when wet with water.

A way to guide your plant selections is to determine if your heat is moist or dry, and then look to the natural places that are either hot and humid, or hot and dry for ideas. Desert plants live in the desert because they are adapted to the climate and like it hot and dry. Seashore plants live where it is hot, and maybe cold, and humid. Tropical climates are also hot and humid.

Best choices for searing hot weather include plants with small leaves, especially needled evergreens. The needles are just tiny leaves. Small leaf size reduces the amount of moisture that can evaporate from the plant. Plants with large leaves can transpire much more water thus removing moisture from the entire plant. Large leaves will wilt and dry up quickly when they get too dry.

Watering

Obviously, these plants like us need water to live, so you need to set up a watering system. You can buy special irrigation systems, that are not that expensive, for containers that attach to either a timer on an outdoor water faucet, if you have one of those on or near your deck, or to a large bucket of water from which the containers wick water. Someone has to fill this bucket regularly though. I use a regular size garden hose that I attach to the water faucet at my kitchen sink to water the containers on my hot, dry, windy porch.

If you take the time to make the right choices for your deck garden, you will enjoy it immensely and not have to worry about plants shriveling up and dying in the middle of a heat wave. Be prepared!

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