do not rely on friendly gardens

February 14, 2012

Plants aren’t so cooperative after all

Posted by Linda Chalker-Scott

One of the underlying tenets of ecology is the principle of competitive exclusion.  This principle states that when two species compete for the same vital resource, the better adapted species will ultimately displace its competitor. Simply put, it’s survival of the fittest.


More recently, some ecologists have suggested that nature’s not quite so brutal – that the species composition in an ecosystem is determined more by random fluctuations in population numbers than by direct competition. 


But last month, this “neutral theory” was directly challenged by evidence on three continents which compared the abundance of particular tree species, both in the fossil record and in existing forest ecosystems.  The similarities were so close among all the comparisons that it’s most likely due to direct competition rather than random fluctuations.


While this information might seem pretty esoteric, it does have direct application to gardens and landscapes. 

Among your plants, you will have some that compete better for water, nutrients, and other resources. 

The concept of “companion plantings” as plants actively helping each other survive is a wishful projection on our part.


And this all ties into the discussions we’ve been having about mulch.  While living mulches – turf, ground covers, etc. – help protect soil structure and reduce erosion, they also compete with other plants in the landscape.


Maintaining landscapes with living mulches will require more water than the same landscape with organic mulches.  It doesn’t matter if the plants are native or not – it’s just a question of limiting resources and who’s going to be the most competitive in extracting them.

(Forgot to include the reference the first time I posted this – here it is:  Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen (LMU). “Jostling for position: Competition at the root of diversity in rainforests.” ScienceDaily, 26 Jan. 2012.)  16 Comments

fundamentalist insider speaks

Frank Schaeffer: 
How could they believe this stuff?
Trying To Understand the Republican Base

Let’s be blunt: science has rendered a literal interpretation of any scripture, be it Bible, Koran, whatever, as impossible.

For many religious people this means that they have sought out deeper meanings in a spirituality that depends on a more intuitive sense of meaning and purpose than a slavish attempt to follow texts that have been simply disproven.

But for another group – the fundamentalists of all religions – modernity has been ‘answered’ by opting out or attacking facts as lies.

Enter Madrassas of all kinds, literal — as in Pakistan — or virtual — as in the Evangelical home school movement and private school movement.

Enter Evangelical TV and radio and publishing industry and mega churches as personality cults.

Enter the ‘conservative’ Roman Catholic bishops cut off from their own far more tolerant (and liberal) flocks.

The rise of the religious right within religion is designed intentionally to isolate, indoctrinate and ‘protect’ from challenging ideas.

this forest is not a fairytale

Beacon Food Forest:

Seattle’s vision of an urban food oasis is going forward.

A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more.

All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the city’s first food forest.

“This is totally innovative and has never been done before in a public park.”

Lambert Strether adds some motive and enthusiasm:

So, no wonder edible forests can give us absolute pleasure! And not a smidge of petroleum in sight, either. Funny, that.

So, having led you up the garden path, I’d like to circle back to political economy one last time, scattering some random thoughts:

1. Pleasure is important. So far as I can tell, our current dispensation don’t produce pleasure nearly as well as it produces, say, high fructose corn syrup, “innovative financial products,” anti-depressants, and debt slavery. But other arrangements can do better!

2. Begone, Thomas Malthus. I don’t accept the idea that we must have a massive human die-off to save the planet. (On bad days, I think that not only does the 1% of the 1% believe this, they’re engineering it.) Looking at edible forests, it seems clear to me that we have barely begun to work on systems that can sustain us all. Wildly optimistic? Perhaps!

3. To euthanize rentiers, abolish rents. In Seattle, Vietnam, and in the Amazon, you aren’t forced to cut some robber baron his 5% from the fruit you pluck from a tree. Isn’t that how life should be?

Teacher Geoff Lawton discovered a 300 year old Food Forest built on 2 acres of land and still functioning well in the same family 28 generations later.

assets that always produce

by John Hempton

I consider myself a bit of a Buffettphile – but I did not even know Berkshire had a sizeable agricultural machinery operation. Sure agriculture has been good and because the capital equipment is a lean off that it has been very good. But this throw-away quote from the annual letter is astounding:

Vic Mancinelli again set a record at CTB, our agricultural equipment operation. We purchased CTB in 2002 for $139 million. It has subsequently distributed $180 million to Berkshire, last year earned $124 million pre-tax and has $109 million in cash. Vic has made a number of bolt-on acquisitions over the years, including a meaningful one he signed up after year end.

This business has – in a decade – distributed well over 100 percent of its purchase price in cash to Berkshire and its pre-tax earnings are roughly the acquisition price.

Of the thousands of listed companies in the world how many have been that good in the last decade. Surely not many.


assets that never produce


As ‘bandwagon’ investors join any party, they create their own truth – for a while.

Over the past 15 years, both Internet stocks and houses have demonstrated the extraordinary excesses that can be created by combining an initially sensible thesis with well-publicized rising prices.

In these bubbles, an army of originally skeptical investors succumbed to the ‘proof’ delivered by the market, and the pool of buyers – for a time – expanded sufficiently to keep the bandwagon rolling. But…

animus in paradise

Brad Zeller:

Dogs are the only beasts given a blanket pass to Paradise proper –good dogs, I should say, but there have been very few remembered examples of dogs having been denied admission. I have to admit that, being a dog person, I find this arrangement more than satisfactory.

Certainly people recognize that if you open the gates to cattle and chickens and rats and the like you’re going to have a big problem on your hands in a hurry.

Heaven goes by favor.  If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. - Mark Twain

the fella is phoney

As the points out, Romney claims that his business experience is the primary reason that Americans should want to see him in the White House. Contrary to his claim, it seems to me that the more we hear about his business experience the less I think he is suited to the White House.

At Bain Capital, as at most private equity firms, Romney was willing to reap millions from taking a stable, operating company and turning it into a bankrupt by leveraging it up, firing employees, and otherwise destroying the stable business.

we uncover fools

We uncover fools. Our mass media fails.

Glen Beck’s gold company forced to make refunds.

He told listeners and viewers that he personally bought gold from the company and calling its executives “people I trust.”

Prosecutors in Santa Monica charged six of Goldline’s executives with fraud and accused the company of running a bait-and-switch operation that lured customers into buying overpriced antique coins as investments—coins that Beck promoted on his shows. The Santa Monica city attorney obtained a judgment and injunction against Goldline that requires the company to radically overhaul its practices and to stop deceiving customers about prices, among other things.

Millions of citizens led astray. We can’t afford that.

a plague on society

The situation at Fukushima is still dire.

Number-two reactor continues to heat up, and appears to be out of control. Rolling blackouts are a regular occurrence. Nuclear reactors are being shut down, one by one, all over Japan.

Fukushima caesium leaks equal 168 Hiroshimas.

Meanwhile, there is talk that Tepco will be nationalised and its top executives are under investigation for criminal negligence

we breathe tiny tar balls

Here’s most interesting links on overlooked [dangerous] tiny tar balls that are ‘created‘ within our atmosphere

1) Airborne pollution creates tiny tar balls that persist longer than anyone had thought.

2) The formation of aggregates and polymers in the atmosphere is much more widespread than previously thought.

We’ve been overlooking the transformation of organics in the atmosphere.

NY Times reports:
Scientists Find New Dangers in Tiny but Pervasive Particles in Air Pollution

Current models of fine particulates grossly underpredict “sometimes by as much as a factor of 10”.

Fine atmospheric particles — smaller than one-thirtieth of the diameter of a human hair — were identified more than 20 years ago as the most lethal of the widely dispersed air pollutants in the United States.

Linked to both heart and lung disease, they kill an estimated 50,000 Americans each year.

But more recently, scientists have been puzzled to learn that a subset of these particles, called secondary organic aerosols, has a greater total mass, and is thus more dangerous, than previously understood.

Read up on Atmospheric Chemistry. “The field of atmospheric chemistry is very broad, both in the problems addressed and in the approaches taken.”

The soot and tar deposits onto glaciers too.
The industrial revolution is recorded in the ice.

we remix everything

Kirby Ferguson examines modern attitudes toward “intellectual property” and how these attitudes rather counterintuitively stifle creativity rather than fostering it.

This is social evolution.

Copy, transform and combine. It’s who we are, it’s how we live, and of course, it’s how we create. Our new ideas evolve from the old ones.

But our system of law doesn’t acknowledge the derivative nature of creativity. Instead, ideas are regarded as property, as unique and original lots with distinct boundaries.

But ideas aren’t so tidy. They’re layered, they’re interwoven, they’re tangled. And when the system conflicts with the reality… the system starts to fail.