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Letters To The Editor

Any Gardening Software Out There?

Dear Editor,

I’ve read some of your garden planning articles and just recently began a Master Gardeners course through our local extension office. I am new to gardening and feeling somewhat overwhelmed. I was wondering if you may know of any garden planning software out there where you can type in your zip code or zone and then type in the vegetables/fruits/herbs you want to grow, and the software program will organize a layout for you based on the size you say you want your garden to be. This would also be based on which vegetables compliment each other by being next to each other, their watering needs, their sun/shade and temperature needs, what month to plant them, etc. Our Master Gardening class participants don’t know of any software like this. Most of the programs seem to want you to place your vegetables yourself….for a newbie, this can be quite a challenge if you don’t already have the knowledge. Trial and error can be so costly. Thank you so much for any recommendations!

– Sandy from Montana –

 

Dear Sandy,

Mother Earth News has an interactive garden planner that has many of the features you’re looking for. I can’t find anyone that carries software that has it all, to be honest. You can check out the features and get a trial run at https://gardenplanner.motherearthnews.com/gardenplanner/gardenplanner.html.

And while you can benefit from the planner in many ways, I hope that you will actively seek knowledge about gardening that will assist you in the event there comes a day that interactive software isn’t available. We become so dependent on technology to take us through common tasks that we risk losing the capacity to decipher and figure for ourselves. For example, people are now accustomed to cash registers figuring out the change to give to customers. Ask the clerk to perform a simple mathematical task such as this themselves, and they stand there frozen in confusion. Our kids can’t figure simple mathematical equations without the help of a calculator. Spell check is replacing comprehensive reading and writing skills.

All this to say, any skill learned is never easy and it was never meant to be. Trial and error is what teaches us and expands our abilities and knowledge. Mistakes empower us for the next attempt and we soon learn what to do and not to do. Once that knowledge is yours, no one can take it from you and no failure of a human construct (such as the power grid) can keep you from accessing it and surviving.

You say trial and error is costly. I think lack of acquired skills and learning from mistakes is even more costly. Don’t rely on technology to do something for you that you should incorporate into your basic knowledge and skills set. Doing so still puts you at a disadvantage and you’re no better off than before.

The Editor

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Long-Term Storage of Beans?

Dear Editor,

I recently received my order of beans from you. I would like to know what the best way to prepare/store them for a long period of time may be. Shall they be repacked with added oxygen absorbers or anything else? Please advise.

Bean Lover

 

Dear Bean Lover,

Beans can be stored for long periods of time, but there are several variables that come into play when you’re attempting to store them for long periods of time. Temperature has more to do with how well dried foods store than anything. According to the USDA, each 10 degree drop in temperature doubles the storage life of seed. Obviously there is a limit to this, but that’s just a rule of thumb. The next factor is moisture. For long-term storage, your beans should have about a 10 percent moisture content or less.

The next thing is oxygen. Foods don’t store well in an oxygen-rich environment. The use of oxygen absorbers is one way to handle this problem. You can also displace the oxygen through the use of an inert gas such as nitrogen. Dry ice is commonly used by people utilizing this option and who are packing their own seed for storage, as it gives off carbon dioxide gas. If you use oxygen absorbers, be sure to use a container that has the ability to withstand a vacuum. Air contains about 78 percent nitrogen and about 21 percent oxygen. When you absorb the oxygen, a 99 percent nitrogen atmosphere in a partial vacuum remains.

So, in short? Get your beans in a container that can handle the stress of a small vacuum, add oxygen absorbers to the container, and store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight (the darker, the better). For even longer storage, you may want to vacuum seal them into bags and store them in a freezer, especially if you’re considering using them for gardening seed later on.

The Editor

 

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