Saturday, November 28, 2009


While at the New England Small Farm Institute, I made my way around the farm to the equipment storage area and found this impressive lineup of slightly antiqued tractors...all of these are diesel beasts...ready and waiting for action!

It was summer in 1982 when I first got to drive my grandfathers tractor. I remember it was a John Deere (who can forget that green color), and my feet barely reached the pedals if I stood up and jammed down on them. It was my job to drive around the "back forty" while my Dad and grandfather picked up firewood and threw it in the trailer.

My next tractor memory was circa 1986...pulling out a stump in the front yard at the farm. I remember hacking on that stump for hours...finally hooking up a chain...and going for it with the tractor at full speed! That stump creaked and groaned for a second, then ripped free from the ground and bounced along behind me. I'm sure the smile on my face would have reached coast to coast.

Odds are, many people have similar stories...amazing how the farmers of the world tend to teach their children and grandchildren how to drive on a tractor before a motor vehicle. Hence the love of fall festivals & hayrides I suppose...

Most of the time you see older tractors gathering rust in fields or hedgerows...abandoned for the next leap of technology or from the lack of a crucial part. Its sad see such a piece of Americana rusting away in a field. Which is why I was so stoked to see these beauties fully operational and sitting ready, waiting for a trailer to pull or a field to plow!

Have a favorite tractor story? Share it with me next time I see you! Until then, have fun and dont be afraid to get your hands dirty and do some work!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum at Longwood Gardens

There it is. The mythical thousand bloom Chrysanthemum on display at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. Longwood is the world's premier horticultural display garden, and looking at this shining example of horticultural prowess, one can see how they achieved this title.

This particular plant had 718 blooms on it, a personal record for Longwood's talented team of horticulturists. One staff member in particular has travelled to Japan numerous times to see all aspects of the production cycle, to truly understand each step of production. She is amazing and extremely dedicated! This is all done by hand, with a keen eye for details.

Producing thousand bloom Chrysanthemums is "old news" Japan, where the method is said to have originated. Though, anytime you see one plant with this many flowers on it, I dont care how many times you might have seen is impressive and stops you in your tracks!

This second picture shows a little bit of the custom frame, fabricated by Longwood's skilled metal engineers. Each flower is held in place by a small circle of metal, which are attached to the main frame in a radial circular pattern.

How might they grow one plant to this gargantuan size and filled with blooms? As with all plants, it all begins with the quality of your soil or potting soil. They use Organic Mechanics Premium Blend to get this plant off to a great start and provide plenty of beneficial biology in the root zone. All that compost and worm castings helps product strong stems and big flowers!
The final picture is the closeup...a stunning addition to the always beautiful Chrysanthemum display at Longwood Gardens. If you missed it this year (as they have already begun the annual changeover to their Christmas display), never fear, as next year the thousand bloom mum will be back in another life, perhaps breaking a new record over 718 blooms. I know I cant wait to see if they do. Read more at

Monday, November 23, 2009

Garlic Mustard take 2

For those of you that read my posting on Tuscarora Beach Drops & camping, you may have read the bit about Garlic Mustard. Well, when I went camping last week I found some garlic mustard to take pictures of for all of you who may not have yet seen this plant up close and personal.

As you can see, the leaves are almost heart-shaped, and the edges have a toothed appearance. The veins are quite pronounced as you can see.

Picture #2 shows the entire plant after I pulled it out of the ground. You can see the bulbous base, which is the best place to pull from, to ensure you get all the roots and not just stems and leaves. These were growing in the parking area next to our campsite. Typical placement of garlic usually find it at the road edge or trail edge...where seeds were likely deposited by an unsuspecting camper, when dirt containing seeds falls off a tire or shoe.

The final picture shows me burning the garlic mustard plants in the fire. Destroying the plants is the best way to keep it from spreading, as these plants can make seeds even after being pulled from the ground and left for dead!

Garlic mustard is originally from Europe. This invasive plant does not play well with native woodland plants and is the bully next door...pushing its way into our forests with astonishing speed once established.

The major reason why I really dislike garlic mustard is its ability to repel and discourage the growth of naturally occuring mycorrhizae (fungi that live in soil and form mutually beneficial relationships with plant roots). Seeds benefit greatly from these mycorrhizal synergies, and we need all the native plant seeds we can get to germinate and help reforest and repopulate our natural lands!

Next time youre out camping, or walking the dog, or just enjoying a walk in the woods, if you see garlic mustard beating up on some native plants...step in and be a hero! Rip it out and trash it!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

National Recycling Day!

Did you know November 15th was National Recycling Day? is a fun website to explore and see how your personal recycling efforts impact energy resource conservation. While we are all familiar with recycling newspapers, aluminum and metal cans, glass and plastic bottles, many of us need to find a local place to take our small mountains of plastic accumulated each year from normal gardening activities.

Many independent garden centers are now setting up collection stations, like this one at Bucks Country Gardens. They'll take all those plastic pots and flats liberated from the plants you put in the ground this year. My small pile is shown below...I like to keep a small supply around for repotting...but I was able to get rid of a nice chunk of my stash this year as part of National Recycling Day.

I hope you treat everyday like National Recycling Day. It may not seem like an individual contribution matters, but will show you the exact impact you make as an individual. Then if you multiply that by just 25% of the US population, it makes a huge impact!
We recycle high-quality agricultural by-products back into Organic Mechanics potting soils, to make them more sustainable and decrease our carbon footprint. Compost is recycled agricultural waste products, made from farm waste & food waste. We recycle all the plastic we receive as packaging material. We also use recycled vegetable oil to heat our production facility. We like to think of it as resource these valuable products are not waste, but organic substances waiting for reuse and recovery.
To further decrease your personal carbon footprint, look for products and/or packaging made from recycled materials. Collectively, we CAN make a difference! How much will you recycle this year?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tuscarora Beech Drops

The Organic Mechanic LOVES to go camping. Ever seen these before? They are known as "Beech Drops", (Conopholis alpina) emerging in spring through duff on the forest floor. A miniature conifer look-alike, these plants grow and feed on Beech tree roots...a parasitic plant used in earlier times as an astringent and for other medical uses.
They were so tiny we almost stepped on them! These were photographed in the Tuscarora State Forest...a great place for primitive camping. The forest floor felt like a trampoline on 1/4 mile walk from our parking spot to our camp site! It felt even more wild, secluded, and peaceful to camp in a forested area where the worms have not decimated the duff layer.
Taking a look around our campsite, it was on a northwestern facing slope, with mostly hardwoods, a few hemlock, and a healthy layer of undergrowth. Did not see any invasive plants, except garlic mustard - which was only around the parking spot for our campsite...go figure. We pulled every garlic mustard we saw...and burned them! Garlic mustard has a tendency to complete seed growth even if they are pulled and let on the ground to rot and die.
Did you know garlic mustard, like all plants in this family, do not form mycorrhizal bonds with plant roots? They actually repel mycorrhizal fungi! (Mycorrhizal fungi form mutually beneficial connections between plant roots and the surrounding soil. They help the plant absorb more water and nutrients...and the plants provide the fungi with carbon and other food sources) So...if garlic mustard plants repel mycorrhizal fungi, and yet they are starting to run rampant in the woods of North America...what does this mean for the mycorrizal species we need for all our native plants that exist in the forest? Yet another problem...only one solution...pull all the garlic mustard you can (burn it or trash it) when you see it in wild places. You know where the wild things are...
Amazing what you can see while enjoying a walk in the woods.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mo-Greena Foundry - Organic Mechanics Home Base

I love big machines. What can I say, I am just a big kid at heart when I see these awesome earth moving machines do work. You can just tell when a highly skilled operator is running a piece of equipment...when the machine is just an extension of what the person is willing the machine to do. Smooth movements that almost look computerized are the pinnacle of equipment operation!

These two monster machines were on our warehouse property to do some work! We graded the entire back 2 acres to get ready for further expansion efforts. What was once hilly, uneven terrain is now flat as a pancake. Can you say soccer field during break time! Well, not completly smooth, it is actually sloped away from the mid point for better drainage. Bioswales control water runoff along the edges. Native riparian plants placed along the bioswales help to absorb excess water. This area will serve as additional storage, as well as future greenhouse space!

This is but a small phase of Operation Property stay turned for future visual updates!