What Home Gardeners Should Know About Spirulina and Sorghum – Orange County Register
Almost 40 years ago, I spent a summer researching spirulina at Kibbutz Sde Boker in Israel’s Negev desert. You may have heard about it. Spirulina has been called a miracle food because it is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Its consumption is increasing rapidly worldwide and its market value is projected to reach $1 billion in the next five years.
Spirulina was originally classified as a blue-green algae, but towards the end of the 20th century it was reclassified as a photosynthetic cyanobacteria, although it is still popularly referred to as an alga. In any case, it lives in symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, a physiology shared with legumes such as peas, beans, and lupins. Like these edibles, spirulina is high in protein.
In the kibbutz we grew spirulina in large outdoor pools, but now you can grow it at home too. Type “spirulina growing kit” into your search engine and you will find several companies that offer everything you need to grow spirulina in an aquarium device to place in your office or living room. Sprirulina can be consumed fresh or dried and processed as a powder for stews, soups or smoothies. It can also be harvested as a garden mulch.
Algenair (algenair.com) has made a beautifully designed bottle and cap for your desk or kitchen counter on which Spirulina is grown for air purification. In addition to removing carbon dioxide and adding oxygen that all photosynthesizing organisms provide, spirulina “is synergistic with your home garden as the algae can be used as an all-natural organic fertilizer for your plants.” By the way, if you’ve seen green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, you know its color was created by adding spirulina powder to the brew. Various formulations of spirulina wine are now drunk in China.
Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), whose growth habit reminds you of corn, to which it is closely related, is another plant not typically chosen for cultivation by the home gardener. It’s a magnet for pollinating insects, however, and offers a decorative touch too, thanks to its profusion of bronze floral tassels. Plants in the grass family like sorghum are generally overlooked as pollinators, but their pollen and nectar are potent targets for honeybees, bumblebees, carpenter bees and predatory beneficials like parasitoid wasps and hoverflies.
Recent research has also shown that aphid infestations, which are regularly found on sorghum, are beneficial as the copious amounts of sugary plant sap, or so-called honeydew, secreted by aphids serves as a nectar substitute for many families of beneficial insects. The presence of aphids and their honeydew on sorghum can last for months when other pollinators stop producing nectar; Therefore, sorghum can be a powerful force in keeping nectar-needing pollinators in the garden.
If you had any doubts about lilacs’ ability to bloom in a mild climate, the following testimony from Patti Hugh, who gardens in the balmy coastal community of Huntington Beach, should dispel those doubts. “I have had a lilac tree in my house for over 20 years and I love it,” she writes. “It kind of does its own thing as long as I keep pouring it. Right now it’s about to burst into leaves and flowers. It blooms several times a year instead of all at once. The flowers are lilac in color and smell heavenly. Our tree was purchased from a small, single-owner nursery that had many unusual plants. The owner was a special lady who really knew her plants. My lilac was the only variety she had that was adapted to this area. It’s special to me as I remember lilacs from the Chicago area making spring a wonderful time of year.” The cultivar Mrs Hugh is referring to may be Lavender Lady as it has a solid reputation for its flowering in Southern California.
Ms. Hugh also had a question about her lemon tree, asking me to “find a solution to get rid of whatever is peeling my Meyer lemons, eating the peel and leaving the pulp in the tree for the bugs.” The lemon shellfish, that involved in this debacle is most likely a rat, but could also be a mouse (or mice) and possibly a possum. There are two solutions to this problem. Either cover your fruit with some kind of protective cover like QYFIRST fruit protection bags or neutralize the critters by capturing them.
In response to a recent column on dwarf citrus trees, Nancy Terrebone, a gardener in Encino, wrote of her large collection of productive dwarf specimens: “I have had dwarf Valencia and Navel orange trees in pots for over 25 years. My Meyer lemon peer looks weak but still produces at least 25 lemons twice a year. I transplanted these three trees into larger pots about 10 years ago and pruned their roots at the time. My semi-dwarf Mexican lime and potted semi-dwarf grapefruit are five years old and both are producing well. I have a three-year-old dwarf Cara Cara (red-fleshed navel orange) and a Meyer lemon of the same age in a pot, which are very productive. I also have a semi-dwarf grapefruit that grows in soil that took seven years to produce. I use the organic fertilizer Dr. Earth once or twice a year, in spring and sometimes in summer. In winter I water at most once a week and in summer sometimes up to twice a week.”
Californian of the week: Properly sited, the white alder (Alnus rhombifolia) is one of California’s most magnificent native trees. I say correctly situated as while it will adapt to drought it would prefer a riparian habitat or at least some moisture retaining soil. Where it gets regular watering and good light from all sides, it will grow into a beautifully symmetrical, almost conical specimen that you will swear is the greenest tree you have ever seen. Perhaps it owes its greenness to the fact that it lives in symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, so it never lacks nitrogen, the main component of the chlorophyll molecule that makes plants green.
Ceanothus is another nitrogen-fixing plant, and perhaps that explains its bright green foliage. White alders can grow over 50 feet tall, so unless you live on a large estate, you’ll likely need to prune them every now and then. I may also be drawn to this plant because my namesake birds, the pinepoll, consume its seeds, as do their goldfinch cousins. Unfortunately, as is typical for fast-growing trees, alders usually live no more than a hundred years and often die much earlier. The bark of the white alder is a pleasant gray color and is fully exposed after the leaves of this deciduous species fall off.
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https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/18/what-home-gardeners-should-know-about-spirulina-and-sorghum/ What Home Gardeners Should Know About Spirulina and Sorghum – Orange County Register