Documents: Gardening From: Gardening From Alaska:

Small Wonders of the Natural World
by Marion Owen
by Marion Owen


When not tending 20 raised beds of vegetables, herbs and flowers, Marion Owen of Kodiak, Alaska is a master gardener, professional photographer and "Fearless Weeder" (President) of PlanTea, Inc., the company that developed PlanTea, the original and patented organic plant food in convenient tea bags (available online at

She also co-authored the bestseller, "Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul."

April 12, 2009

Here's a collection of amazing, wonderful, and sometimes humbling facts. If you have a favorite bit of science or garden trivia to share, please email them in.

To make one pound of honey, bees must tap 2 million flowers.

Earthworms are 72 percent protein and less than 1 percent fat. If they were prescribed as the only food in your diet, you'd probably lose weight. (If it were left to me, I think I'd pass.)

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Here's the scoop on how geckos feet stick to smooth surfaces. The bottom of a gecko's foot is covered with millions of tiny, adhesive hairs. These hairs are incredibly strong. In fact, scientists estimate that if a gecko used all of its toes at once, it could support almost 300 pounds. These microscopic hairs, called setae, end with 1,000 or more even smaller pads appropriately named spatulae.

So, when a gecko plants a foot down, the foot hairs split, like a wet rag mop on the floor. This allows the billion or so spatulae to fan out and increase surface tension and thus, stick. Researchers are now trying to develop synthetic versions of this sticking ability. Imagine being able to climb up the wall to get the cobwebs off the ceiling! (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
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The top 1 inch of the forest floor contains an average 1,400 living creatures for each square foot. Also, in one teaspoon of soil there are 2 billion bacteria and millions of fungi protozoa and algae. (Source: "Pilgrim of Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard)

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Say "NO!" to mulching with plastic
Topsoil is 50 percent air and the soil actually inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide down to several feet of depth. The top 5 inches of soil is completely renewed every hour by this process. (Covering soil with plastic suffocates the tiny critters and blocks all-inportant sunlight).
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Trees create 99 percent of their living parts from scratch each year.

Water going up tree trunks travels at 150 feet per hour.

In a single season a large elm tree makes about 6 million leaves.

The bark of a sequoia tree is almost as fireproof as asbestos.

The petals of the orchid Tricoceros parviflorus imitates a certain female fly so perfectly that the male fly of the species will attempt to mate with it. In so doing, it pollinates the orchid.

There are over 500 varieties of carnivorous plants that eat any kind of meat from insect to beef and use many cunning methods to capture their prey, including tentacles, stickly hairs, and funnel-like traps. (Source: "Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh" by Matthew Fox)

Even as a child, George Washington Carver was known for his ability to heal sick plants and to discover what plants could heal sick animals. He said, "All flowers talk to me and so do hundreds of little living things in the woods. I learn what I know by watching and loving everything." Carver created hundreds of products from the peanut and the sweet potato, including peanut butter, axle grease, cosmetics, and printer's ink. He said, "If you love it enough, anything will talk to you."

The total length of roots and root hairs of a single rye plant is 7,000 miles. the roots grow over 3 miles per day in search of microorganisms.

There are prairie grasses in the Midwest whose roots are 10,000 miles long.

Need relief from the heat?

A single tree can provide the same cooling effect as ten room-sized air conditioners working 24 hours per day. For example, a 45-foot eucalyptus tree will transpire (give off) over 80 gallons of water per day. Compare that with a a willow tree that transpires 5,000 gallons of water per day.

Talking about heat relief, termites build mounds up to 15 feet high. The mounds are oriented to the sun and face east-west in order to catch morning and evening warmth while minimizing noonday heat. They also contain elaborate ventilation systems, including air-cooling chimneys.

Bamboo can grow 3 feet in 24 hours.

Squashes have been measured to exert a lifting force of 5,000 pounds per square inch.

Sites that feature garden trivia and fun
(Please let us know if any of these links don't work)

Gardener's Net Spud jokes, garden trivia, garden jigsaw puzzles, and more.
Heirloom Seeds -- Growing a Taste of Yesterday Features a long-g-g list of "past garden trivia" at the beginning of their site.

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row