Root Factor

Plants have three basic components; roots, stems and leaves. I grow some of my tomatoes in plastic planters that have open bottoms.

Tomatoes are able to grow roots along the stems. Some people let the stem get leggy and then lay the stem down in a horizontal position to allow more absorption of water and nutrients through the the increase in area. If you are growing in a planter, you may want to consider placing the young plant close to the bottom of the container. As the plant grows and reaches for the sun, add soil around the stem. In a short time, small roots will appear along the stem that are buried in the soil mix. Those roots will increase the absorption factor for the plant. The size of the planter that you use will help determine the root growth. A planter that is too small will reduce root development.

For early tomato growth, I put a used five gallon water jug over the plant to allow in sunlight but to keep the plants warm at night. The jug also reduces evaporation of water. Then I added drip irrigation using a 2 liter tonic bottle to drip compost tea.

Container planting provides flexibility for people planting in limited spaces. Good times.

Creative Pots

When we ordered supplies for our new greenhouse 13 years ago at Quincy High School, we ordered cases of plastic pots.  I didn’t know when there would be more money to restock.

Things have changed for me.  There are real issues regarding the whole contamination of the waste stream, real economic and environmental questions about recycling and a strong signal from nature with the pandemic.  This has allowed my thinking to continue to evolve.  Nature might be telling us something big.  In schools, when students are using the milk cartons as planters, it might just get them to think about the environmental issues.


In the photo from left to right there are containers for yogurt, chocolate covered almonds, another smaller yogurt cup, a school sized milk carton, a 2 liter tonic bottle and a half gallon Almond Breeze container.  For the containers with lids, I poke or drill holes in the covers, cut off the bottoms and plant the seedling in the upside down planter.  This keeps the roots from being damaged when I remove the bottom cover and lift the container from the plant as it goes into the ground.   The Almond Breeze container gets cut in half.  Both ends are removed.  As the roots fill the space, planting is easy.  Just put the roots deep into the garden mix and lift up the planter.  If you leave the container as a collar it will protect from early season cutworms.  The roots will not be disturbed.  As a matter of fact that is true for all of the containers except for the small yogurt cups.

All of these containers can be reused.  The paper containers usually last for three cycles.  When children are involved, they may want to decorate the planter or practice spelling the names of the plants that are being grown in the container.


At Hingham High School the Green Team was working on a reuse project before the pandemic. They wanted to build awareness at the school for the benefits of using reusable products.

Teach the children.  It appears that it may be too late for many adults.

Should We?

Blame your science teacher?  There are many people in government who have no idea about the science of this pandemic.  Is nature telling us something?  Many people suggest that they just were not good at science.  Go back and read the first sentence.

In the past too much theory was taught to science students and not enough practical application was used.

I believe that hands on learning will stimulate a love for science.  Maybe save the planet.  The following article is important to demonstrate how horticulture in school will stimulate an interest in organic understanding, grow / buy local and how to get back to nature by removing dangerous chemicals from our environment.  In addition:  these students enjoyed their independent studies.


Sharing the Harvest–Hingham High School Greenhouse Program Gives Back


Garden Art

A friend put this in one of my containers while we were on a walk.  As we walk around town we see a lot of garden art.  But what about the garden.  This is a great opportunity to stimulate interest in grow local; in your backyard.


I have decided that to start a children’s museum for stone art.  We live on a corner lot which is close to a beach area.  Families walk up and down this street with regularity.  This will be a great place for children to exhibit their creativity and express kindness or love to others.

I am accepting stone art from one and all.  If adults leave their stones to be exhibited, they will need to reflect on fond memories of their youth.


Preparing the Garden – Charcoal?

My horticulture students in Honduras do it!

Adding charcoal to garden soil has some great benefits:

  1.  It will make the soil more alkaline.  With acid rain this is an important factor.
  2. The soil will be less dense and will allow for more air circulation and better root development.
  3. Charcoal will hold moisture and nutrients
  4. The carbon will be in the soil where we want it.

If you are a traditional gardener you may have your work cut out for you trying to integrate large amounts of charcoal into your garden.  If you do Square Foot Gardening or use raised beds, adding char to the mix is relatively easy.


Together: We Compost

Maureen and Steve Demenna are neighbors.  They do not have a suitable area around their house for a composting bin.  We all live close to Hingham Harbor and our land is limited.  They have asked if they could share my composting bins.  They really wanted to participate in composting.

Some mornings when I’m eating breakfast, I see them sharing food scraps with my red wiggler worms.  Kind of neighborly.   I believe that when neighbors share in a common goal, we begin to realize the more we all have in common.

All winter they have been dropping off  their raw food.  Yesterday I harvested the compost in the bin that they were using.  The red wigglers made it through the winter and there were hundreds of them.  The worms are not suppose to survive the New England winter.  I would guess that the increase in the mass of scraps and with Maureen’s coffee grounds, they were able to stay healthy.

I believe that during this pandemic, nature is sending us a message.  Composting is one thing that will reduce chemicals and pesticides in our environment.  Healthy plants do not often get attacked by bugs.  From my experience, if they do, they will survive.


Big Pharma

Time Magazine:


I certainly cannot put myself in the position of all Americans or especially for those in impoverished countries right now.  This pandemic is terrible.

I think many of us have to come to the realization that Nature is Angry.  From an environmental stand point, I think internationally we have a lot to be concerned about.

People are stressed and according to Time Magazine, pharmacies are getting richer.  I think many would agree, that if people get out, exercise a little and do something for the environment that some of the stress might go away.

Today there were some posts on A Sustainable Hingham.  Some members took a walk and picked up trash on trails.  My neighbor will sleep well tonight because he was planting trees.  The plantings look beautiful.  I spent some time making Mel’s mix, sifting compost and worm castings.

It is a difficult time for most.  I hope some can find options for stress relief in a holistic way.  For those nurses, doctors, attendants and people working for essential businesses right now; your are the best.  Be safe.