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Chinquapin Organic Gardens Summer 2009 Newsletter

In this issue:picnicbutton

11th annual potluck picnic will be Aug. 8
Tips for safe, effective mosquito control
T.C. Williams Garden Club builds compost bin
Track blooms with Project Budburst
Movie review: “Food, Inc.”
Newsletter articles welcome

11th annual potluck picnic will be Aug. 8

Make plans to attend this year’s Chinquapin Gardens Potluck Picnic, which is sponsored by the Chinquapin Organic Gardens Advisory Board.

bench Join your fellow Chinquapin gardeners at the 11th annual event, which will be held Saturday, Aug. 8, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Chinquapin Park Pavilion.

Gardeners are invited to bring a potluck dish and share their harvest with their fellow Chinquapin gardeners. (Because of City of Alexandria health regulations, please do not bring meat-based dishes and use care when preparing foods with eggs or mayonnaise.)

If you have a recipe you would like to share, bring a copy with you to the picnic. Grilled hot dogs and fixings will be available free for picnic attendees. Friends and families of gardeners are welcome!

Gardeners are invited to bring their best Chinquapin-grown tomato for the annual Tomato Taste-Off. Awards will be given for the biggest, best-tasting, weirdest, most appealing and smallest ripe tomatoes.

The picnic pavilion is covered, so the event will be held rain or shine. Join us for good food and good company on Saturday, Aug. 8.

For picnic questions, e-mail Marlin Lord, chair of the Chinquapin Organic Gardens Advisory Board.


Tips for safe, effective mosquito control 

Article courtesy of the Alexandria Health Department, Environmental Health Section, Vector Borne Illness Prevention Program 

Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance that can ruin a backyard cookout or a pleasant day in the garden, they also can transmit diseases.

One mosquito in particular, the Asian Tiger mosquito, breeds almost exclusively in artificial containers with standing water and is very capable of transmitting many diseases to humans. These black and white mosquitoes will lay their eggs in a variety of containers, including:mosquito
- Buckets 
- Tires
- Rain barrels
- Uncovered trashcans and trashcan lids
- Flowerpots and saucers
- Wheelbarrows
- Birdbaths
- Blocked gutters
- Toys (particularly plastic)
- Tarps over woodpiles or equipment
- Pet water bowls
- Corrugated plastic drainpipes
- Swimming or wading pools
- Unused planting containers

Once Asian Tiger mosquitoes hatch into adults, they do not fly very far from the containers and are active biters all day long. The easiest and most environmentally friendly way to reduce the mosquito populations in your area is to simply dump the standing water from the containers or leave unused containers upside down so they do not fill with water.

Mosquito larvae and pupae must have water to survive, and it takes five to seven days for them to complete their life cycle. Dumping water once a week will interrupt this cycle and kill them before they can become adults. If you can not dump the water, there are some biological control products available to use in standing water that will kill the larvae stage. These products are bacteria that are specific for mosquitoes and will not harm fish, other insects or plants.

bite Using a mosquito repellant while outside will reduce your risk of getting bitten and the chance of getting a mosquito borne disease. There are three ingredients registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, and two demonstrate a higher degree of efficacy: DEET (N,Ndiethyl-m-toluamide) and Picardin (KBR 3023). Oil of Lemon eucalyptus (p-menthane 3,8-diol -PMD) demonstrates sufficient protection similar to low concentrations of DEET. Not all repellents, even those considered "all natural" should be used on small children, so please read and follow the labels carefully. Other tips to reduce mosquito bites include avoiding outdoor activities in mosquito-infested areas and wearing loose, long and light-colored clothing when outdoors.

For more information on mosquitoes and mosquito control, please contact the Alexandria Health Department Vector Borne Illness Prevention Program at 703-838-4400, extensions 326 or 327.

From the newsletter editor: Our thanks go to Chinquapin Organic Gardens gardener Lisa Marie Guli, MPH, for her work in coordinating this article for the newsletter. The Chinquapin Organic Gardens Advisory Board reminds gardeners that all gardening activity at Chinquapin Organic Gardens must be organic.


T.C. Williams High School Garden Club builds a new compost bin

You may have noticed a new addition at the top of the gardens this summer: a handcrafted, student-built compost bin.compost

The T.C. Williams High School Garden Club, which has a plot at the top of the gardens, spent nine hours building the new bin.

“Each bin is about three-feet square and the six wooden slats in front can all be removed, one at a time, for easy access,” said Brad Kukuk, one of the co-coordinators. “We decided to just let it set on the ground to make it easy to get in and out.”

The group is also planning to build two picnic tables and a raised bramble bed.  All of the wood used in the project came from a green building company and is treated organically.

Watch a slideshow of the compost bin being constructed online, or check out the bin in-person at the gardens.


Help track blooms around the nation with Project BudBurst

Think that flower in your garden or tree down the street is the first one to bloom this season? Log on to Project BudBurst online, upload your find and share it with thousands of plant-watchers around the nation. You’ll be helping scientists as they document the environment and changes to our climate.

logoBilled as a national field campaign for “citizen scientists,” Project BudBurst engages the public in making observations of the “phenophases,” such as first leafing, first flower and first fruit ripening of trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses. The project site contains a list of targeted plants that are common across the nation — such as pinkladies, yarrow and columbine — though observations of other plants are welcome.

The project, started as a pilot program in 2007, is operated by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Chicago Botanic Garden, and University of Montana.

An analysis of thousands of Project BudBurst observations from last year and the 2007 pilot shows that volunteers have established a baseline for the timing of key plant events. Volunteers can compare these observations to flowering and leafing in future years to measure the impact of a warming climate. Overall, 4,861 observations were reported online in 2008 from participants in every state except Hawaii.

"Plants provide a wonderful context for learning about the environment,” says Project BudBurst director Sandra Henderson of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research’s Office of Education and Outreach. “They respond to changes in temperature and precipitation, which are things that climate scientists are very interested in. By observing plants, our volunteers are providing information about our climate that would otherwise not be available."

So the next time your spiderwort opens its first blue flower or dandelions pop up with their big yellow heads, visit Project BudBurst and share it with the world.

Project BudBurst Web site:


Movie review: “Food, Inc.” sheds light on U.S. agriculture industry

By Jordan Wright,  the Georgetowner/Downtowner, May 2009. Reprinted with permission

In his new documentary, “Food, Inc.,” scheduled to premiere here on June 19, producer Robert Kenner lifts the veil on the shameful underbelly of food production in this country. Kenner is the producer of the Academy Award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” narrated by Al Gore. It’s now the fourth largest-grossing documentary of all time. After the screening I wondered, could “Food, Inc.” have the same radical, policy-changing influence on business as usual in the food production world as “An Inconvenient Truth” did when it challenged and informed us on climate change? Could we continue to ignore the realities of an industry gone haywire?

Featuring interviews with the iconic food author and activist, Michael Pollan,  of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “The Botany of Desire — A Plant’s Eye View of the World;” Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation;” and Joel Salatin, real-life farmer of Polyface Farms, a sustainable, organic model farm in Swoope, Va., and author of “Holy Cows and Hog Heaven,” the directors have proffered the rcarrotseality of agri-business in this country. This is an inconvenient truth of a different kind. It reveals how our nation’s food is being raised, produced, slaughtered, cloned, genetically-modified, seed patented and engineered, and co-opted and controlled by a few mega-conglomerates. Monsanto, Smithfield and ConAgra top the list of eco-villains.

 The film further enlightens us that Monsanto holds the patent for a genetically-modified soybean, called “Roundup Ready Soybeans,” that produces 90 percent of all soy-contained products consumed in the United States. (Soybeans are found in tens of thousands of our food products). It renders the beans impervious to the popular pesticide Roundup. Over 100 seed companies are owned and controlled worldwide by Monsanto, which is also the world’s second largest agrochemical company. Check out for a lengthy yet partial list.

I should mention here that the European Union does not allow any genetically-modified foods or seeds but is under constant pressure by agro-lobbyists bringing lawsuits demanding sole use of their products. In Germany, Monsanto has been suing to overturn a cultivation ban against the genetically-modified “Maize Mon 810” as it works to consolidate the world seed market. You have to ask yourself why the USDA and FDA have not protected us as well.

Third-world countries do not have the luxury of refusing these seeds. They are foisted on them through corporate domination and food/seed donations. The United States soybean industry has been co-opted as well. American farmers who try to use their own seed stock are threatened with multi-million dollar lawsuits and dogged by surveillance teams working underground, who often use the testimony of neighboring farmers to turn them in to Monsanto who is determined to prosecute all farmers that do not use their patented seeds. It has created a culture of fear among farmers who are forced to purchase these seeds against their will.

All soybean seeds in America are owned — yes, owned — controlled and patented by Monsanto. Try to digest that. They have control of our foods from seed to supermarket. It’s a stunning reversal of our government agencies’ past protections of grower and consumer.

In “Food, Inc.,” workers with hidden cameras document our nation’s slaughterhouses, the cruel treatment of the animals, the appalling conditions of the packing plants, and the slave-like abuse of workers — mostly undocumented, and therefore unprotected by unions. The film asks, “who else would perform this dangerous work without decent pay, any hope of promotion, horrid living conditions and no medical insurance?”

The power of this film cannot be overstated. It is a call to arms for those who eat, cook, garden, farm and love animals.

We see Salatin on his iconic farm against the backdrop of the Shenandoah Mountains surrounded by his adorable happy pigs. He shows us the caring relationship he has with his animals in stark contrast to the grisly feedlots and abbatoirs used in industrial farming practices. In his book, “Holy Cows and Hog Heaven,” Salatin writes, “for too long the food system has rewarded producers who flaunt human cleverness in the face of nature and believe human arrogance can trump nature’s principles forever.” The message suggests that in our world, science trumps nature.

Since my food and gardening awareness was heightened in the 1970s while living in Berkeley, Calif., in my small way I have tried to convince friends that they should buy or grow organic foods as much as possible, not only for our good health (the film informs us that one in three Americans born after 2000 will contract diabetes) but also to support and encourage these dedicated farmers whose philosophy of soil conservation, planet preservation and animal-friendly ways are the compassionate fabric that reflects a civilized society.

Our family still keeps a small garden, growing vegetables without pesticides, where we can be sure we have fresh herbs and produce throughout the summer. If you don’t have the space or a back yard check out a community garden whose plots are rented annually for about the cost of a few pounds of hothouse tomatoes and a bag of micro greens.

For concerned readers that may be skeptical that our government would ever change, or in some cases enforce its existing policies against the irresponsible behavior of these multi-national corporations, there is hope. They changed labels to reflect additives and preservatives, genetically-modified food and fat content, percentages of vitamins and country-of-origin (this after China’s addition of melamine into baby formula). They labeled, too, for organic which operates under strict guidelines. And they fought and won against the one of the biggest industries in the world…tobacco. Consumers demanded it.

There is already a plan in place for each citizen to take part. Here’s how it can work. What if I were to tell you that there is a special national election going on right now you may not be aware of, one whose influence will be felt far and wide? And just suppose you have been nominated to be the sole candidate and your election to this powerful position has been guaranteed.

You won’t need to ally yourself with any known national party or hire a high-priced K Street lobbying firm to promote your agenda. Your campaign won’t need placards or direct mail, robocalls or public appearances. You’ll be free of outside funding and won’t be beholden to special interest groups. Any lobbying will be strictly up to you…you can canvass your friends and family or neighbors and businesses at will. And the payoff is huge. The future of your health and the health of those you love and feed is at stake. If you want to get on board, here’s how it works.

Every time you purchase organic foods and locally produced foods you are insuring the health of the planet and your own too. And by using your food dollars, as the film suggests, you can vote three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How empowering! This is why Giant, Safeway, Wal-Mart and others decided to join the organic movement. It just made good business sense. The consumer, that’s where you come in, drove the market.

Okay, I’ve heard the arguments, such as “it’s more expensive.” Here’s what Pollan in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” has to say to that: “As a society we Americans spend only a fraction of our disposable income feeding ourselves. Americans today spend less on food…than any other industrialized nation, and probably less than any people in the history of the world.”

“It’s hard to find.” Make an effort to find the farmer’s market that is selling local farm products, plant your own, have a few meatless days a week. It’s a start, and if you pay a little more for organic, think of it as an investment in the health of yourself, your family and your planet.

“I don’t have time.” Get in touch with your food. Carve out one day a week to make a soup or stew that makes enough to freeze for later. You will notice the difference in the taste and quality of freshly picked and organically raised product and it will touch your soul.

You hold the power to change the system every time you shop for groceries or don’t stop for fast food. See this film, meet the farmers who care about us, and vote with your wallet!

Check out these Web sites for more information:

For nearby farmers markets and pick-your own farms:

For comments and queries on this article, e-mail Jordan Wright, a gardener at Chinquapin Organic Gardens, or visit her Web site, 


Volunteer to write an article for this newsletter!

This newsletter is produced and written by volunteers who garden at Chinquapin Organic Gardens. New writers are welcome! If you’d like to contribute an article to the newsletter, e-mail Michele Late, newsletter editor.

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