whoreticulture is closed

...until June 5.


I'm blowing you aloha kisses from Kauai.


Day 8 and Day 9

Days 5 & 6 were weekend days, so no work.

Day 7 was apparently a light day, not even worth blogging.

Day 8:


A certain feeling of preparations being underway...




Mostly subtle changes on Day 8, but this bracing is definitely new.


Day 9

The refuse piles are moved back to their Day 4 position...


And a new doorway is framed.


I think he said that's a 10x6. A hard piece to cut, no doubt.


And this is temporary bracing to, gulp, hold up the ceiling.


Link to Day 4.

Some notes on phosphorus

We had to write a short research paper on some topic of soil relevance for my soil science class. I decided to write about phosphorus.

Since I only took the class for personal interest, I don't have to worry about the usual formalities of paper-writing. Instead of organizing around a central concept, I researched and wrote up several disparate points of phosphorus interest (interesting to me).

I'm posting my final paper because the blog is something I also do primarily for me, and if I ever want to find these stray bits of information again, I'll know right where to go. So, yes, I know this post is far off the beaten track for whoreticulture...

Also, I know people come here after doing Google searches... perhaps someone will come by who knows something about pre-biotic phosphorus; if that's you, please chime in in the comments...

Finally, using subscripts and superscripts appears non-trivial in Blogger. This makes it very hard to meaningfully communicate chemical formulae. Argh.


While phosphorus does not occur as its element in nature (on Earth), the fully-oxidized species, orthophosphate, PO4^3-, plays several vital roles in living systems in all kingdoms of life:
1) As a repeating structural element connecting pentose sugars that make up the backbone of both nucleic and ribonucleic acids (DNA and RNA, respectively),
2) As a signalling agent and co-enzyme associated with the regulation of cellular metabolic processes, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP),
3) As a polar, hydrophillic capping group on the hydrophobic fatty acids that partially comprise cell and cell organelle membranes,
4) As the primary “currency” of chemical energy used to drive life-enabling metabolic processes, adenosine 5’-triphosphate, ATP.

Thinking about the ubiquity of oxidized phosphorus in living systems makes me wonder about the geochemical origin of phosphate on Earth. Did phosphates exist on prebiotic Earth? Or was phosphate the result of Earth’s transition to an oxygen-rich environment brought about by the emergence and spread of photosynthetic life? Due to time constraints, I was not able to research this question for this report. Regardless, the question seems reasonable since oxidation of reduced forms of inorganic and organic phosphorus species occurs with ease in the laboratory. While ATP dominates the energy currency of modern (and much ancient) life, other bio-energetic chemicals are known to life scientists, and perhaps these other chemicals helped drive the photosynthetic oxygen revolution before the advent of global phosphate. (Molecular oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere is largely believed to be solely a product of photosynthesis.)


Of the geochemical cycles most important to life, phosphorus has the slowest cycle because soluble phosphate ions form highly insoluble salts with soil metal species such as calcium, iron, and aluminum. When organic decay returns phosphate to the soil, the returning phosphates combine quickly with soil metals and precipitate out of the soil solution, thus becoming unavailable to plants and soil microorganisms. This “fixing” process happens in a matter of hours! As soils age, fixed phosphates undergo more and more chemical reactions that yield product species of lower and lower solubility.

Soil scientists group soil phosphate species into two groups: those that contain calcium, and those that do not. Brady and Weil list eight common calcium-containing phosphate species:
Fluoroapatite: [3Ca3(PO4)2](CaF2)
Carbonate apatite: [3Ca3(PO4)2](CaCO3)
Hydroxy apatite: [3Ca3(PO4)2][Ca(OH)2]
Oxy apatite: [3Ca3(PO4)2]CaO

Tricalcium phosphate: Ca3(PO4)2
Octacalcium phosphate: Ca8[H2(PO4)]6 *5(H2O)
Dicalcium phosphate: CaHPO4 (H2O)2
Monocalcium phosphate: Ca(H2PO4)*2H2O

Of these, the four apatites are the least soluble. The mono- and dicalcium phosphates are very soluble and available to plants, but they have short half-lives in the soil before they convert to the higher order species with much lower solubility.

B&W also describe two soil phosphates that contain iron and aluminum and not calcium: strengite FePO4 (H2O)2 and variscite AlPO4 (H2O)2.

The solubility trends of these metal phosphates varies with soil pH:

Ca phosphates: More soluble at lower pH; Less soluble at higher pH
Fe and Al phosphates: Less soluble at lower pH; More soluble at higher pH

[Note that tables to do not cut-and-paste from Word to Blogger, either.]

Fluoroapatite however is so insoluble that it persists even in weathered, acidic soils. No wonder, perhaps, that plants apparently never found a use for fluoride; it probably never made its way in to plant tissue.

In most soils, the amount of phosphorus available to plants seldom exceeds .01% of the total soil phosphorus (B&W, pg 602).


The popular Bray-1 method of soil phosphorus detection uses ammonium fluoride to dissolve adsorbed and weakly crystallized phosphate minerals in to dilute hydrochloric acid. The fluoride in ammonium fluoride complexes more strongly to aluminum than aluminum complexes with phosphate; aluminum phosphate is effectively converted in to aluminum fluoride and phosphate enters acid reaction solution where it can be titrated. Link.

AlPO4 (s) + 3 NH4F (s) --> AlF3 (s) + (NH4)3PO4 (aq)


Knowledge about organic phosphorus in the soil is limited at the present time. Most organic phosphorus in soil comes in three forms, all believed to be chemical remnants of microorganisms: phosphate esters of carbohydrates (particularly inositol) and nucleic acids and phospholipids. Sugar phosphates are more abundant than the latter two insofar as sugar phosphates tend to be more stable in acid or alkaline soils and adsorb well to humic acids.

Organic phosphorus mineralizes under the same conditions governing organic decomposition in soil.

“Soil organic matter typically contains C/N/P/S in a ratio of 140:10:1.3:1.3, so that knowledge of the amount of organic matter will provide an estimate of the amount of organic phosphorus.” Link.


Phosphorus, as soluble inorganic phosphate, moves through plants in the phloem. The physiological result of phosphorus deficiency are spread more or less evenly around the plant with no glaring visual deficiency except stunted growth and late maturity. Grassy species, including corn, will show reddening of leaves if phosphorus is severely deficient. Link.


A soil’s phosphorus fixation capacity can be quantified by mixing a known quantity of soil with a neutral phosphate solution of known concentration. After 24 hours, the concentration of phosphate remaining in solution can be determined and the difference represents the capacity of the soil to fix phosphorus.

Farmers in relatively wealthy economies commonly add more phosphorus to the soil than plants will absorb in order to offset the phosphorus fixation capacity of soils. Over time, this practice saturates the soil’s fixation capacity. Continued application beyond the capacity of soil fixation, and beyond the needs of plants, creates conditions for severe, negative environmental impact [e.g., eutrophication].

Farmers add phosphorus to the soil using either tillage or no-till methods. The former method risks increasing the amount of phosphorus in eroded sediment while the latter risks increased runoff.
“In no-tillage systems, surface application of manure without incoporation may result in lower total loss of phosphorus, because this type of management achieves substantial reductions in soil erosion and total runoff. The effect of these reductions may outweigh the effect of the increased phosphorus concentration in the relatively small volume of water that does run off.” (B&W, 13th ed., pg. 598)

While the over-application of phosphorus in fertilizer has become a serious problem in the agricultures of developed nations, in relatively poor countries, particularly in Africa, food plant harvest has removed more phosphorus from the soil than what can be readily returned due to economic realities and other regional concerns. Inadequate supplies of soil phosphorus have also led to nitrogen deficiencies since soil phosphorus is a prerequisite for nitrogen fixation by many food crops. As an overall result, in some African countries, food production has declined steadily for the last 30 years.



U.S. Code, Title 48, Chapter 8, Sections 1411–1419

"Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other Government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other Government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same, such island, rock, or key may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States."

That's from the Guano Island Act, passed by Congress in 1848. Link.

I'm doing some research on soil phosphorus for my soil science class's final project.


I'm using this excellent book which directed me to this fine webpage which led me to this fascinating story about bat guano which prompted a FindLaw search.

You just couldn't assemble information at that rate before the 21st century.


Day Four

Ignore the visual warmth imparted by the camera flash. In real life, the once and future kitchen now seems oddly...hellish. Like my nightmares could happen here. (Actually, I've never had a nightmare. I haven't even had a bad dream since I was a teenager. I've also never had a wet dream. [Over-share? Well, you expect a certain...earthiness from a gardener, right?])



These guys are seriously the tidiest contractors ever. The last half-hour of every day is spent sweeping and vacuuming. They were sawing plywood in the garage when I came home for lunch, but when I came home for the day, the garage was cleaner than it's been for weeks.)


100-year-old wall.


Our neighbor's house is right on the other side of this wall. I can look up in the corners and see daylight.

They used the plywood still up on Day Two to sheer wall the basement.

Link to Day Three.

Vegetables final

I had to write a small report to go along with my vegetables class potluck final exam.

I thought, why not post it on the blog as well...

* * *

Hot-and-Sour Cabbage Salad from Jump Up and Kiss Me: Spicy Vegetarian Cooking by Jennifer Trainer Thompson

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2-3 serrano chiles, cut in half, seeded, and finely sliced (about 2 tbsp)
1 teaspoon minced and seeded fresh habanero chile
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark sesame oil
1 (1-pound) green cabbage shredded finely (about 6 cups)
2 large scallions cut into 3-inch lengths and shredded (about ½ cup)
2 to 3 radishes, cut in half and thinly sliced crosswise
3 tbsp finely sliced fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup finely chopped cashews for garnish

Combine everything but the cabbage, and mix well. Toss with cabbage. Refrigerate for one hour. Garnish with cashews before serving.

I chose this recipe because, having made it several times over the years, I’ve noticed dramatic differences in taste depending on how fresh and/or seasonal the vegetables are. Having good cabbage is essential. However, tonight I noticed both the radishes and basil (store-bought) lacked punch. Cabbage and radish grow very well year-round in San Francisco so this recipe would be a good match for a San Francisco vegetable gardener.

The recipe suggests substituting half the cabbage with bean sprouts or shredded carrots. I’ve tried the former (but not the latter) and liked it very much. I invariably substitute ½ of one jalapeno for the chile combination the recipe suggests because 1) I can always find jalapeno at my market and 2) I don’t like chopping up chiles; working on half of one works better for me than handling 3-4. I’d like to replace the sugar with something else, but I haven’t tried that yet. Light sesame oil should never be substituted for dark. I generally use five or six scallions instead of just 2 because I love scallions. I rarely bother with the cashews because nuts are expensive. The red flecks of radish add good visual interest to this salad. It would be interesting to experiment with unusual varieties of garlic and basil in this recipe.

Assuming Bernal Heights (south side), San Francisco gardening conditions:

Garlic (Allium sativum, Amaryllidaceae); planted in fall/winter, garlic can be harvested in mid-summer after the leaves turn yellow despite watering.

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae); plant out transplants anytime (Nov-Jan is risky), harvest when heads are firm regardless of size (50-150 days depending on variety and weather).

Scallions (Allium cepa, Amaryllidaceae); plant as bulb onions anytime, pull plants six weeks later to use as green onions.

Radish (Raphanus sativus, Brassicaceae); direct seed in the garden anytime “except during very wet periods or during prolonged heat spells”, plant to harvest 1-2 months later.

Basil (Ocimum basilus, Lamiaceae); set out transplants in May (start from seed Feb-Mar), basil will grow during the summer and fall in San Francisco’s sunbelt. Harvest some leaves as needed before flowering.

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum, Apiaceae); sow seeds anytime, harvest as necessary, before flowering.


Day Three.



Among other things, they took up the linoleum today.





100-year-old wood.


Link to Day Two.

How about a garden post?


This place needs more annuals. MORE ANNUALS. With bright colors.

Let's take a closer look at what we do have.

I'm liking this area a lot right now.


I'm particularly happy with the combination of Camissonia cheiranthifolia and Eriogonum arborescens--both natives. The color's a little off in these pictures, but trust me, it's nice. The Camissonia is silvery gray and the Eriogonum is silvery green. Nice. (The blue thing horning in from the right is Cerinthe major--the garden's most bee-loved plant of spring; the bees seriously disturb the peace on those flowers.)


The Eriogonum will get big and make interesting flowers that last a long time, and then hang on after they've dried and continue to be interesting for a long time. I have three of them I grew from seed. I also have three of the Camissonia cheiranthifolia (common name beach suncups), purchased from Annie's Annuals. About it, Glenn Keator's fabulous new book says this:
"Sprawling, short-lived perennial creating mats to two feet across with elliptical, grayish leaves on a long succession of bright yellow, saucer-shaped flowers in late spring and summer. Adaptable to a variety of soils. Propagate from seed. Needs to be restarted frequently."

No problem! I love to collect seeds. The plant does a great job spreading and filling in. I'm very pleased with it.

You know what I think? I think C. cheiranthifolia would be a good native candidate for basket culture. I like hanging baskets, and with the deck being a huge structure in my tiny backyard, hanging baskets serve an important function. But they need so much water. A trailing beach native could be just the trick. Next year...

This is what the flower looks like...I'll have a lot more of them coming along soon enough.


Here's another area I'm (getting) happy with.


That pot's a temporary. Maybe a different color could be more long-term.

Anyhow, this is another CA native nook. That's Sambucus mexicana (Blue Elderberry) in the middle between Juncus patens on the left and Salvia spathacea on the right. Fragaria chiloensis grows unseen underneath it all.

We used to have bamboo along the whole fence, but I didn't like it and managed to convince Guy to let me take some of it out. (That was before I acquired executive power over the whole backyard.) The Sambucus will grow tall and fill that space with bee-attracting flowers and bird-attracting berries. And, I think it'll look good with bamboo. The juncus and salvia already do. (The trellis is a holdover from an earlier design concept; move it out, or leave it there?)

I'm using square-knotted ropes of twine as a trellis alternative for the scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccinea).


The vines seem to grow several inches every day.


I may need to tie some connections between the hanging ropes if the vines need more support later on.

Pleased with myself over here too, as you know.


This is the Acer circinatum that will grow and become the anchor plant.


The bright green maple foliage looks nice next to the dark cineraria leaves. And of course, the cineraria flowers will gone by fall when the the maple leaves turn red/orange, so no color clash.

I have a Japanese maple too, but I'm not sure what to do with it.


I bought it dormant last fall for $12 and I have no idea what its fall color looks like. So it's in a pot for now.

This is another native I'm excited about, Streptanthus farnsworthianus. A new plant, I grew from seed.


The leaves are very variable. You can see the cotyledon leaves dying on the ground, and compare them to the first true leaf and the second and the third.




I think eventually the plant fills out considerably and whole thing turns purple and makes an erect spray of white flowers or something. Or something! I really have no idea.

Speaking of purple, loving the Mimulus pictus...


How about some elements that I'm not entirely thrilled with? The containerized Fremontodendron 'San Gabriel' and Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman'. I had no reason to hope these deep-rooted natives would be happy in containers for very long, but I had to try something and these are two (big) plants I really want to have somewhere in the garden...



They're hardly about to wither and die, but it's clear they would look better growing in the ground. What to do, what to do... Well, we're not at a decision point yet.

And this patch of ground I thought would be full of wildflowers by now.


Not so much.

And this is where I thought I had rosy buckwheat, but really had clarkia that I mistook for a weed and removed and now have nothing.


I germinated some Nemophila maculata (five-spot) that I might use in these areas.


I'm not happy with this pot of dirt that should be resplendent with Asclepias speciosa by now. I thought it would be okay to sow those seeds outdoors; it's called milkweed after all... Sigh. Try again next year I guess--indoors.


Enough for now?


Two humpback whales that made a 90-mile river journey from San Francisco to the outskirts of Sacramento have injuries that appear to have come from a propeller, marine experts said Wednesday.

The whales, believed to be a mother and her calf, were diagnosed by researchers from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito using photos taken Wednesday in the Port of Sacramento, then blown up on computer screens.

Does this ever turn out well? Very sad.

After Day 2, there is no going back

Day 2






Don't worry; I'm not changing the blog to Houseiculture. But I will be following this out on a day-by-day basis. And I don't plan to add much narration. It's a (mostly) strictly visual experience.

More garden blogging coming soon!

Link to Day One.