Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lavender essential oil as herbicide

While I love our Lavender Luster, which we say provides aromatherapy as you clean I never in my wildest imagination thought that I'd see "aromatherapy while you weed"! Apparently, scientists in Italy have discovered that some essential oils can be useful as an herbicide. They are finding that lavender essential oil can affect root growth in the plants. It also affects the soil microbes and fungi involved in crop growth.

Can't you just see us dancing through the fields spritzing the weeds? If only it would be that easy. Obviously, a lot of work has to be done to find out what exactly happens to the weeds and whether beneficial microbes are hurt by the application of lavender essential oil. They have been doing research on other essential oils and are finding that cinnamon and peppermint oils are effective as pre-emergent herbicides - stopping seed germination. The essential oils used for this could be very good because they don't persist in the environment. They are easily degraded by enzyme and microbial activity.

Turns out this isn't as unique as I'd thought. Monterey Organics has an herbicide with lemongrass oil as it's active ingredient. In 2002 there was a study at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station that found several herb's oils effective in killing a number of weeds. The most effective of the herbs studied were red thyme, summer savory, cinnamon, and clove. There are more studies and products that have been completed, and I'm sure we'll be experimenting with some, but I still love the vision of gossamer-clothed ladies spritzing the fields.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Go Navy

Here, on Whidbey Island, people who buy real estate are given a piece of paper that warns them of the noise zones from Navy Air Station practice flying patterns. Our farm is between two major flight circles, so they don't fly over our place too much. Oak Harbor is home to the Navy community which adds quite a different feel to that community compared to the rest of the island. For half of Whidbey Island the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is a big part of daily life, for the other half they hardly know there is a base on the island.

I went to high school in Falmouth on Cape Cod (in Massachusetts). Some of the kids from nearby Otis Air Force Base came to our school. I had a couple of good friends for a year or two, until they left with their parents to other postings. A close family friend had been in the Navy during WWII and had then pursued a career in the marine industry making ocean research equipment. I never had been on a base, nor gone to any base exchange in my life until getting to Whidbey Island.

Imagine my delight when the Navy Exchange here on Whidbey contacted the farm to see if we'd sell our products there. "Sure" I wrote back, and "no, we don't have minimums, but we also might not be able to completly fill orders, either, if they are too big." After sending in reams of paperwork, the local buyer forwarded it on to the national office, and they asked if we'd be willing to sell to other bases. "Sure" I wrote back....

That started a stream of weekly orders that have taken over our staff. We make a lot of different products right here on the farm. This new, huge, customer wanted as much in a month as we sell in a year of some of the items. Happily, we all pitched in and filled the orders and shipped them off, learning how to work with the system on the way. Our friends here on the island are glad to hear that they will be able to get our products when they relocate to Sigonella or other bases that we sell to.

As you can see, we collapsed after getting the boxes ready for one week's orders (you can't see all of them in this picture, but you get the idea).

Rick and I are also Waste Wise Volunteers. That means we help folks on the island with recycling and composting information. WI-NAS (Whidbey Island Naval Air Station) has the premier recycling center in the nation. The program has grown over the years I've been on Whidbey to include food waste recycling. That task is significant because of the health and pest concerns in managing it, as well as the large volume of material that is now kept out of the landfill. We, in the recycling community, are very proud of the Navy's efforts.