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Yes, I enjoyed myself with Roger Swain and Margaret Hagen.
Thursday, May 22, 2014

Science Cafe on organic gardening - hooray for moles, poop and clover

Moles are good (they eat grubs). Clover is good (fixes nitrogen). Compost (with or without poop) is good, for obvious reasons. But don't get carried away.

That was the message at last night's Science Cafe, at which 75 people crammed into Killarney's Pub to hear Roger ("Victory Garden") Swain and Margaret Hagen of UNH Cooperative Extension talk about organic gardening. They argued that you should be pragmatic, using synthetic chemicals when necessary, realizing that failure is part of gardening. As for lawns, reject the "lawncare-industrial complex" idea of a golf course look and you'll save money, time and stress.

As always I was moderating so I couldn't take very good notes, but here are a few points:

+ Are you cruel enough to be a gardener? asked Swain during the discussion about varmints from chipmunks and voles to groundhogs. The only way to combat them is to kill them, both he and Hagen emphasized - "humanely" trapping them and moving them elsewhere kills them, because they're homeless fodder for predators, but does it more slowly and painfully.

+ Three secrets to a healthy lawn: put your lawnmower on its highest setting, never ever use weed killers but plant clover; leave the ^%$#@ clippings on the lawn - otherwise you're removing up to 40% of the nutrients.

+ Speaking of varmints: "The first crop I plant each year is a fence" said Swain. Preferably electric.

+ Hagen: "I hate the word 'organic' " ... it carries so many connotations that it tends to confuse people.