Ham salad from a tube. Apricot cereal cubes. Thermostabilized Cheddar cheese spread.
These delicacies and more were packed inside Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s lunar lunchbox when Apollo 11 hurtled them into space 50 years ago this month, landing humankind on the moon for the first time.
[Read our full coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.]
A little unpalatable, perhaps, but it was enough to get them through their eight-day excursion in space.
The next time astronauts make a giant leap in space travel, it could be with a mission to Mars, making the question of nutrition a lot more difficult. The round-trip journey is expected to take up to three years, and the astronauts may have to grow some of their own food.
Enter the Española pepper.
As the race to the red planet heats up — NASA hopes to send humans to Mars by the 2030s, and a private rocket venture, SpaceX, is aiming for sooner — scientists are working on building a garden in space. The goal is to grow fresh produce to supplement existing packaged foods.
NASA has already harvested a variety of edible leafy greens, grown without earthly gravity or natural light. Soon, researchers plan to expand to a more difficult crop, Española improved chiles, in their quest to answer one of the most pressing questions of a Mars mission: How will astronauts get enough nutritious food to survive years in the unforgiving depths of space?
Scientists believe the project, if successful, could open the door to growing similar crops in space — think tomato plants and strawberries — and perhaps eventually to more advanced foods, like potatoes.
“This is the most complex crop we have done to date for food purposes,” said Matthew W. Romeyn, who is leading the pepper experiment for NASA.
The peppers are being tested on Earth, he said, and could be sent to space as early as next spring.
Scott Kelly, a retired astronaut who set an American record in 2016 when he returned after spending 340 days in space, said he received a shipment of fresh fruit and vegetables every few months while on the International Space Station. But that would not be possible on a trip to Mars.
“It’s not like you can just run out to the store,” he said. “To have fresh food, it helps with nutrition. It also helps with morale.”
50 years of space food: from ‘moisture bite’ brownies to blueberry crumble
The first moon landing took place in the “tube and cube days” of space food, when a typical menu included items like peanut cubes, turkey and gravy wet packs and brownies that were described as an “intermediate moisture bite.”
The beverage Tang also had a long association with spaceflight. Many people mistakenly believe NASA invented it.
[Read the story of Michael Collins, the third astronaut on Apollo 11, who remained in orbit while his crewmates walked on the moon.]
Today, about 200 food and drink items are available on the International Space Station, according to Stephanie Schierholz, a NASA spokeswoman.
The food, which is much like camping food and has to be reheated or rehydrated with water, ranges from your basics, like cereal and eggs, to more complex dishes like chicken fajitas, macaroni and cheese and blueberry crumble. “Shrimp cocktail is a longtime popular dish,” she said.
Tortillas are also a staple, Ms. Schierholz said, because NASA does not use bread in microgravity in order to avoid pesky crumbs.
While scientists use the space station as a test kitchen for long-term space travel, there is another necessity to consider: water.
The station uses a sophisticated water recycling system, which collects humidity, sweat and even urine and turns it into drinking water. (In 2008, a New York Times reporter was brave enough to test it: “How does distilled urine and sweat taste? Not bad, actually.”)
Ms. Schierholz said the system would need to be smaller and to work more reliably on a mission to Mars, because there would be no option to send shipments of water from Earth. But the same ethos would hold true: “Yesterday’s coffee,” she said, “is tomorrow’s coffee.”
Lettuce, peppers and a garden in space
No matter how many options there are, packaged food alone would not be enough to fuel a mission to Mars.
Certain vitamins break down over time, leaving astronauts at risk of inadequate nutrition, said Gioia D. Massa, a scientist who works on space crop production for NASA.
“We don’t really have a food system that we are confident will be good for the entire duration of a Mars mission,” she said. “We feel plants are a very good way to help solve that problem.”
Scientists have experimented with growing plants on board the International Space Station for years. The Russians grew peas in the early 2000s, for example. More recently, NASA harvested red romaine lettuce, which had been nurtured under the purplish, LED lighting of a special vegetable garden known simply as “Veggie.”
For a tasting in 2015, astronauts used extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress the leaves. “Kind of like arugula,” Mr. Kelly said at the time.
NASA has since grown other types of leafy greens, including Chinese cabbage and mizuna mustard.
The Española improved chile, a durable pepper native to New Mexico, represents the next frontier.
The peppers are, in many ways, the perfect test case: They are more difficult to grow than lettuces. They are a good source of vitamin C. And they pack a punch in spice, great for astronauts who have reduced senses of smell and taste in space.
Preparing for Mars
If this space gardening plan works, scientists say, it could help combat “menu fatigue” among astronauts, who typically lose weight while spending months in space.
Maintaining a garden could also serve as a hobby for crew members during monotonous months. “It’s kind of like, why do people like flowers?” Mr. Kelly said. “When you are living in an environment that is very antiseptic or laboratory-like, or on Mars, it would be pretty devoid of life with the exception of you and your crewmates. Having something growing would have a positive psychological effect.”
And it could also help the crew become more autonomous, in case something goes wrong.
“If the next supply ship from Earth doesn’t land properly, can you do enough with your own systems already in place?” said Raymond M. Wheeler, a plant physiologist at NASA.
So what might a menu for Mars look like one day?
It is a little soon to tell, but it would probably include a variety of packaged food, with fresh greens on the side.
“It might be having some lettuce on your cheeseburger,” Dr. Massa said, “or having a handful of tomatoes to go in your hummus wrap.”
Powered by WPeMatico
Tips to keep healthy during gardening season Megan Raymond, [email protected]
A community garden and related programs at the Northampton Free Library are helping young people learn about growing plants.
Two new items outside the library — a container water garden and a living plant wall — were added recently, thanks to members of the Ye Accawmacke Garden Club.
Club members Kay Laird, Betty Jane Rogers and Dora-Weston Wilkins were at the library July 1 to talk to participants about how to start and maintain the two gardens. The demonstrations were part of a National Garden Week celebration.
“Last year was the first year we had really acknowledged National Garden Week,” said Wilkins, the club’s National Garden Week chairperson.
The activities are mainly aimed at getting young people and others involved in gardening.
“The whole idea is that we get out into the community and do things with the community and encourage gardening … and encourage people in the community to start their own garden,” Wilkins said, adding that the effort in part is about “getting people to understand that we’re kind of at the point where we’ve got to pay attention to our environment.”
“We started small last year, and I think we are trying to do a little bit more each year,” she said.
The library also has a community garden out back, including different types of vegetables and herbs.
“We started with a grant,” said.Youth Services Librarian Janice Felkner.
Construction of the garden was started after the library received a grant from Virginia Cooperative Extension Family Nutrition Program, which provided funds for materials, including cedar boards and soil to build three raised beds.
Mattawoman Creek Farms donated the plants and seeds for the garden.
Despite getting a late start last year, the garden yielded tomatoes, eggplant and lettuce, among other crops.
Around a half dozen children and teens are participating in the garden project so far. They planned what they wanted to plant this year, including tomatoes, green beans, potatoes and peppers, among other plants that are now yielding a harvest.
“The kids do all the work; they tend the garden, weed the garden. Once a week we meet, and they do a harvest, they check the water, they water if we haven’t had rain,” Felker said.
“Anybody that wants to is welcome to join,” she said.
The Friends of the Library also raised funds for additional improvements. Future plans include putting gravel around the beds, and adding a path and some potted plants.
Once the improvements are completed, the plan is to hold a ceremony to dedicate the garden in memory of Betsy Tankard, a former library employee who died in 2018.
The garden provides many benefits for the young people, including the opportunity to learn about how plants grow and at the same time grow and eat some healthy food.
“By helping with the garden, they will also engage all of their senses and enhance their fine motor skills, practice their math skills, set goals and make plans, organize their time and materials, and practice patience,” an announcement on the library website said.
To volunteer to help with the library garden or to get more information, email [email protected] or call 757-787-3400.
On Twitter @cvvaughnESN
Read or Share this story: https://www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/2019/07/19/kids-dig-gardening-northampton-library/1672140001/
Powered by WPeMatico
Once a week on a (hopefully) sunny afternoon, the students at the elementary schools in Eagle get the chance to take a break from the normal school day routine. Leaving the clean and artificially-lit environment of their classrooms, they step into a world ruled by nature.
In this world, it’s OK to get a little on the messy side, play with poop, find a pet worm, eat something you found on the ground, or just sit and watch the leaves blow in the wind. This world is known as a learning garden.
Learning gardens allow everyone who steps into them to see the world in a slightly different light, whether by witnessing tiny epic battles between aphids and ladybug larvae, learning how many living organisms exist in a handful of healthy soil, or tasting something you wouldn’t ordinarily put on your plate simply because you were the one who planted its seed.
Sowing Seeds, the school garden program managed by Walking Mountains, has existed in the valley for about seven years. While school gardens may seem like a new trend, the concepts behind garden-based education have been in use for hundreds of years. Follow along to see how this “tale as old as thyme” became the chic new face of experiential education.
A history of gardening education
Back in the 17th century, education philosophers were already advocating for school gardens. Czech philosopher John Amos Comenius, one of the earliest champions of universal education, stated, “A school garden should be connected with every school, where children can have the opportunity for leisurely gazing upon trees, flowers, and herbs, and are taught to appreciate them.”
Maria Montessori, known for developing the Montessori method of education, believed that incorporating garden-based learning would expand children’s connection to nature as well as empathy for all living things. Around Montessori’s time, Prussia developed a compulsory school system that included school gardens, even creating a law that enforced the existence of school gardens.
Despite its progressive reputation, the U.S. didn’t join the school garden trend until around 1891, when the first teaching garden was developed based on the European model at George Putnam School in Roxbury, Massachusetts. By 1918, every state had at least one school garden.
This surge was due to increased demand for food production during World War 1. Learning gardens seemed to fall out of style in peacetime, despite a small comeback alongside Victory Gardens in WWII. It wasn’t until the last decade or so that the modern push for school gardens began to bring a little green back into our student’s lives.
Today, in a world of standardized testing, squeezing in a chance to get children’s hands in the dirt may seem like a waste of valuable classroom time. However, as the movement picks up speed and the internet creates a network of curricula, resources, and support, educators are finding more and more ways to work academic standards like the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core into garden-based lesson plans.
Students in Sowing Seeds use the gardens to learn NGSS concepts such as life cycles, photosynthesis, decomposition, and ecosystem dynamics, all under the disguise of digging, planting, observing, and playing games. Finally, like a beautiful home-grown cherry on top, in school garden taste tests I can guarantee with all but the pickiest eaters that if you grow it, they’ll say yum.
My hope for the future of garden-based learning is that it will change what we mean when we talk about sending children to school so that someday they’ll be able to put food on the table.
Haley Baker is the Sowing Seeds Coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center and spends most of her days with her hands in the dirt and her head in the clouds.
Powered by WPeMatico
If you ever cruise Pinterest or home design sites (and we’re guessing you do), you’ve probably fawned over a gorgeous lawn or two. And that can be sort of a bummer if your own grassy area is looking a little lackluster. Worried you don’t have a green thumb? Are you just cursed? Actually, it turns out that you might be trying to grow the wrong type of grass for your growing region.
What is a growing region?
A growing region is an area where certain types of plants are likely to thrive based on the climate. Some people group the continental U.S. into just a few distinct growing regions, while the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map has over two dozen distinct zones. The latter divides each region based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in annual average winter temperature.
Fortunately, there are a number of different turfgrasses that can thrive in a fairly wide temperature window. You probably don’t need to drill down to those specific zone details to get a gorgeous lawn. Instead, understanding a few things about the general growing regions across the U.S. can help you choose the right grass for your lawn.
It’s easiest to think of the country as divided into three distinct growing regions: warm-season, cool-season, and transition.
Cool-season growing region
The largest growing region, the cool-season region includes the northern half of the country. Split California in half and extend that dividing line across the southern border of the following states. Everything north of the line gives you a pretty clear idea of this growing region. The states that fall in this region include:
- New Jersey
Transition growing region
That state border trick is mostly accurate, but the southern half of California, the southern tip of Nevada, and the southeastern corner of Colorado are all generally considered to fall in the transition region. Other transition region areas include most of Arizona, most of New Mexico, the northern half of Texas, and the following states:
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
Warm-season growing region
Everything else is considered warm-season. That includes:
- The southernmost parts of Arizona and New Mexico
- The southern half of Texas
- South Carolina
The best grass types for each growing region
Now that you know your region, it’s a whole lot easier to pick the right type of grass to thrive in your lawn. Certain grass types thrive in generally warm to hot weather, while others like a cooler winter. Knowing which type will work in your specific part of the country can save you a lot of headache.
Here’s a brief overview of some of the grass types that might work well in your region.
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Red fescue
- Perennial ryegrass
- Tall fescue
- Buffalo grass
- Tall fescue
- Zoysia grass
- Buffalo grass
- Zoysia grass
- Centipede grass
- St. Augustine grass
- Buffalo grass
This is a quick overview to guide you in the right direction, but make sure you talk with a local lawn care expert about what grows best in your region based on your local moisture levels and other factors. A lawn is an investment and you don’t want to find yourself struggling to grow the wrong turf type down the road.
This is especially true if you live in the transitional region. A blend of warm-season and cool-season grasses may be best for your lawn and its varied climate, so talk to a lawn care professional to find out what works in your area. Want help finding the perfect turf for your growing region — and beautifully maintaining it? Get in touch with a lawn care expert in your area to schedule a professional lawn analysis of your yard today.
Powered by WPeMatico
As a homeowner, you probably like the challenge and the cost-savings of handling many of your own lawn and landscaping projects. For example, cutting your grass weekly is a home maintenance task that most DIYers can successfully complete.
However, there are other scenarios in which homeowners are taking matters into their own hands – with disastrous results. These are some of the lawn and landscaping projects you should leave to the pros.
Testing the soil before planting
This is a project that can be done DIY with an at-home soil tester, but our experts don’t recommend it. “Bringing a soil sample to your local county extension service offers the most detailed information on soil pH levels – acidity and alkalinity – as well as potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus levels,” according to Keven Shanks, manager of retailer training at Scotts Miracle-Gro.
It’s important to test the soil, especially if you’re planting a vegetable garden, because different types of plants prefer different types of soil. “Plants like asparagus, onions, garlic, cucumbers and tomatoes prefer acidic soil (pH 5.8-6.5), which tends to dominate in wet climates,” Shanks explains. On the other hand, plants like Brussel sprouts, turnips, cabbage and mustard like a more alkaline soil (pH 6.0-7.5) that Shanks says is typically found in dry areas.
Aerating the lawn
Aerating can be a DIY project, but you’ll need to rent and transport an aerator. So, what is aerating? “It is the process of removing plugs from the turf area using a core aerator, thereby creating an artificial system of large pores,” Shanks explains. And it’s important because it allows air, water and nutrients to reach the roots. “Aeration alleviates problems with soil compaction and/or thatch,” Shanks says.
This is a task to complete on a yearly basis. However, renting and maneuvering the specialized equipment isn’t the only DIY issue.
“Many homeowners also have underground infrastructure, including septic, pet fencing and/or irrigation,” according to Dr. Brad DeBels, director of operations at Weed Man Lawn Care. This means it’s possible to damage the infrastructure. However, according to DeBels, professionals know how to avoid this – and if any damage occurs, they’re responsible for the repair cost.
Planning and installing a permanent in-ground irrigation system
If you’re comfortable undertaking building projects, you may be able to plan and install a watering system. “You should be familiar with plumbing, electricity, and local building codes, and be willing to take the time to research and design the system well,” Shanks says. This will also entail digging trenches. However, he says it’s the paper and pencil process that usually trips up DIYers.
“Irrigation specialists are by far best equipped to design and install an irrigation system that waters both completely and efficiently,” Shanks advises. “Find a specialist who has been certified by a professional group, such as the Irrigation Society of America, to ensure you’re getting good advice.” And if you have a large lawn, it includes significant elevation changes, or has very poor drainage, Shanks says you should definitely consult a professional irrigation designer.
Brad Unruh, director of new product development for Hustler Turf Equipment, agrees that DIYers should just call in the pros. “This is an involved project, and professionals have the correct equipment to make it a lot less painful and disruptive to your current landscape,” he says. “It’s important that your irrigation system has the correct coverage to ensure everything works like it’s supposed to, which will ultimately benefit your future landscaping plans.”
You might consider yourself quite handy around the house with a can of bug spray, but landscape pesticides are a little different. And DeBels recommends leaving these pesticide treatments to the professionals. “Highly-effective weed, insect and fungus control can be very dependent on how and when you apply off-the-shelf products, making it difficult to achieve maximum effectiveness,” he explains.
And if you have a full-time job and a life, you’re just randomly applying treatments when you think about it. However, DeBels explains that professionals have spent a significant amount of time perfecting application rates and timing, and don’t forget – they’re actually trained and licensed. “This leads to the most effective control of pests, while limiting pesticide resistance and optimizing environmental safety,” he says.
Most troubleshooting projects
“When your lawn begins to get patchy, weeds take over, or your soil becomes compacted, it can be difficult to reset the yard to a healthy state,” Sherrington says. “At these times, it is more important than ever to ensure your lawn is properly aerated, the soil’s PH levels are up to par, and weed control is added to the correct areas.” And if done incorrectly, he says these procedures can have disastrous effects on a yard.
“For example, overapplying nitrogen can result in burning a lawn overnight,” Sherrington reveals. He says it can also be confusing trying to purchase the right product, store it correctly, and apply it properly. “That is why we recommend homeowners call in experts to test their soil, handle products and take the necessary steps to maintain their lawn and quickly get it to a thriving state,” Sherrington explains.
Skill level makes a difference
While many of these lawn and landscaping projects are best left to the pros, sometimes, the answer is dependent on the homeowner’s skill level. For example, Unruh does believe that homeowners can fertilize grass and spray weeds – but they are best done with some knowledge.
He says you should know what you’re spraying, how it affects the foliage, and what it is intended to kill or enhance. “Also, I recommend becoming familiar with the plants, trees, bushes and grass on your property to know which types of fertilizer would be best and when to use them.” He suggests visiting your local nursery or garden store if you need help. And don’t forget that your lawn isn’t just eye candy. Turfgrass lawns have environmental and health benefits.
Powered by WPeMatico