Interplanting Instead of Mono-Culture on a Small Scale
My new perspective on planting the potatoes takes planning. Interplanting is an idea new to me, shared at the last Organic Garden Club meeting. To confuse the bugs and make the most of the soil minerals, I'm told to break up the plot from the mono-culture concept (one type of plant in each plot) and plant many different plants which "get along" in the same area. Keeping it mixed up year to year.
This info broke a mental stalemate I was in, uncertain where to plant what, and how to keep to a crop rotation when we do not plant equal amounts of plants in the varying categories to do it "the correct." I'm so fastidiously trying to do something "right". Usually I work hap-hazardly, which sometimes works, and other times, not so well.
My gardening friend said that she was reading a book called Solar Gardening, which gives the ideas of which plants will take the sun now, get harvested before their neighbors need the sun. Also she said that the concepts from Square Feet Gardening which advocates placing many different types of plants in small spaces.
If my description of these books seems rather weak, you are reading clearly. I have not read the books, I heard the idea from my friend, and combining those ideas with the help of companion planting book Carrots Love Tomatoes (which I do have and read and consult quite frequently), this year's garden plan is looking very different.
Of course, its late to be planning, and time to be doing!
Here's some of my beloveds waiting until its warm enough to dig in to the soil. These are tomatoes which I will attempt to plant with carrots (though its late to seed them). And the carrots like to be near parsley which is also ready for planting.
All the plants go out to the sunshine for hardening off
And then get put back in the greenhouse for a safe night's rest
Next day same thing, over and over
They are beginning to tell me that they wish to spread their roots deeper into the soil,
let's go already gardener!
"Achoo" I tell them, and find the energy to take another nap.
I hope you are not too bored, looking at these trays. I'm not showing all the plants which are impatiently waiting to be planted!
Yes there was some planting done since my last post.
To place the onions and leeks at the correct distance, I made up a Plant Measure Stick from the stalk of last year's sunflowers, straight and light weight (so if it rolled onto the plants it wouldn't hurt them). I marked 4, 5 and 6 inch intervals with a marker and used my wonderful Hori Hori knife to make the planting hole.
A soon after planting not-interplanted bed of onions. Some of them are now (one week later) more vertical, some not.
And the new strawberries also were planted.
Finally I did take the strawberry companions out to join their buddies in the soil. Chinese Greens and spinach do well with strawberries (so says the companion planting book). Also the borage herb was moved to their place beside the strawberries.
As evidence of how tired I felt, I did not even think to take a photo, though the camera was in my fanny pack. I'm almost done with these cold symptoms and the next few days will be good for planting. I have my list of what to mix in with the potatoes. The plot is ready, with string marked rows and deep straw. Just have to figure out the spacing between the plants and how many companions I have to mix in. Its a very exciting time for me.
Dear Readers, another reason for the long space of time between posts is that I've been trying to figure out WordPress as this blog software, RapidWeaver, does not integrate very well with Blotanical, a gardeners' blog central which I enjoy. But instead of studying tonight, I prefer to share, even if all the bells and whistles do not yet function.
May all energy, focus and timing flow through you in synch with Nature's rhythms.
We began to build this greenhouse, after studying what the “right” way was, just the best way that we could. We had a Southern exposure, a space and we had materials. So, all was put together to offer a “well lighted place” to nurture plants, and to be nurtured in their presence (and flavor!) Oh, savor the flavor.
We added two large beds, surrounded by cedar wood. The garden’s wonderful soil, amended by what seemed right went in. Two really deep beds, about 2 feet high, connect to the soil, ground, strata of gravel, whatever you’d call it. Those beds were also amended and left on their own, looked like the right side of this photo.
I had small delicate strands of onion, leek and chive seedlings to put in, and imagined they would be mangled and destroyed by the rubble. So I utilized some tools which were ordered from Bountiful Gardens (www.bountifulgardens.org). They are kind resourceful helpful folks there, who spread the gospel of growing good healthy food around the world. The soil sifter resting in the white pan below comes through them. It helped me smooth out the top inch or so of the bed until it looked like the left side of the photo.
So smooth, so soft, a well made bed.
Below is what I used to sift the soil. The two buckets on the top received the detritus, stones and rough stuff on the left.
Donations for the compost on the right.
The plastic spade pressured the soil through the seive, into the pan.
Then the kinder gentler soil was replaced on top of the bed, and smoothed out.
Above, the sieve is used to prepare the worm castings. A small colony of worms worked for over a year. The ones that survived my learning curve of how to care for them, created a couple of bags of nutritive castings soft enough for the tender seedlings. I knew that the onionettes would need the food value of the castings, so I made tiny channels in the bed, filled with castings and laid them in.
There were about 200 seedlings.
We like to cook with onions. How many onions do we use in a week? (4) In a year? (4 X 52). Which varieties will store well? How many of each kind? Perhaps a sweet onion that doesn’t store will be able to grow in the greenouse over next winter.
So how many to plant now? We have leeks, chives, long keeping browns, short keeping sweet reds, and vidalia style sweet onions. We’ll see what happens.
Some of the onion seedlings were really too small to transplant, but the job took two days as it was. I really didn’t want to put off finishing it. Two days of bending over the bed, arduously putting the tiny things in and gently covering them.
I used a wonderful tool, also from Bountiful Gardens (www.bountifulgardens.org). It is just a slender curved piece of stainless steel, it is perfect for working in small dimensions with delicate roots and fragile stems. I couldn’t figure out what it was in the catalog, but trusted them when they said it was useful. Indeed. I’ll put a photo of it in tomorrow.
The seedlings that didn’t have enough leaf/stem to stick out of the soil were placed under the soil. I’ve been waiting to see them push through. Seems that a few new onion stems have come through, but I’m still waiting on more.
What I really like about the onion bed - it is so simple to differentiate the weeds from the onion family. If it has any bit of a circular leaf, out it goes. If it has the tip of a grass stem (like a lance or arrowhead point), out it goes. Only the smooth cylindrical shaft, without ornamentation remains in this bed.
Planting the seedlings was harder than putting in onion sets. The little ones are so tender.
These plants will go in the garden when the soil and temperatures are right, and when they are pencil thick and ready to transplant. Seems like it will take years for that to happen. They are growing quite slowly. I’m told that’s normal for onions.
The photo above was taken on 1/22/09 just after they were transplanted.
Below, was photographed on 2/12/09. You might see multiple and slightly thicker leaves .
Also, notice how easy it is to tell which little green growths are weeds!
I love making my fingers into tweezers and excising the little weeds,
pulling straight up so their roots slide out without disturbing the onions.
How I started my first seedlings this 2009
Using Lisa’s seed starting method, soaking the seeds in water with a dash of hydrogen peroxide until they open. Then using a tiny baby spoon, rescue them from the water and place in cozy seed starter material, at an appropriate depth.
Add light, the right temperature and of course, an extra helping of patience.
These onion sprouts look ready for a new home.