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.
- when was that seed planted,
- when did the sprout come up,
- when did it start to wilt, brown, or
- when fortune smiles upon us, when did it flower?
All these questions can be answered with Garden Record Keeping. Certainly this is not an easy or simple task. There is so much data to track.
I remember trying to keep track of life when we used those little sticks of wood and graphite and dried sheets of wood pulp to make records. Then we’d have to leaf through all these pages to find what we wanted to know and correlate data both manually and use up valuable brain cells to think it through.
Now I rejoice in all the digital record keeping tools at my fingertips. Here’s an example:
One of my gardening friends, upon visiting my greenhouse wanted to know when the growth of the lettuce (at this point, I’m forgetting a word she used to describe the growth pattern. Let me digress to investigate. We corresponded by email, so I go to my email program to do a search on mail with her name in it. I didn’t have to go far, only to the next item on my dock - yes, I’m on an Apple, but don’t worry -even Windows users have these cool tools.) accelerated.
Hmm, I said. I don’t know. Let me consult, not the oracle - but the visual record. Moving over to my Photo database, I created a folder and labeled it “lettuce growth”. Then scanning through the photos from the time the lettuce seeds were planted. Oh, how did I know the date?
By consulting the calendar program. I have a calendar which shows up in a different color for each of my life paths (all integrated on one monthly page). Recently I’ve added several to accommodate all the gardening areas. My favorite one is for yearly activities. I set each item to be repeated once a year, so as I learn what needs to be done, when, in this Ozark environment, my trusty computer can let me know when its time for what.
Yes, I’m giving a computer a lot of responsibility, which means I have to BACK UP frequently. I’m sure that my rusting brain cells can remember to do that. Much better than they can remember all the details of everything I’m planting and growing and having to do to keep the garden growing.
Back to the Calendar program, input in search field “lettuce” and I can see when I planted them, 12/31/08. Back to the photographs at the beginning of the year to see more details and place representative pictures of the lettuce growth in the folder marked “Lettuce Growth.”
I love photography. But in the old days, though I had a good camera, I didn’t feel that good about the cost of film and development. And I never liked the date burned onto the photograph. However, I love the date that comes with digital photos! And the ability to label each one and sort them into folders.
Frequently I take the camera with me into greenhouse and field just to note what is going on, so when the questions come up later, there’s the answer!
I planted too many different types of seeds into one tray yesterday. I have little mini popsicle type sticks as the labels that fit in the tray. I know that they can easily be dislodged. And I’d really like to know what variety and color of which plant each seedling is. To keep it straight, I photographed the labels in the tray in order so I will be able to put the puzzle back together if it falls apart. Digitally assisted gardening!
Back to the lettuce - Wow, they were transplanted into the greenhouse bed on 1/5/09 (photo below). That’s fast!
Then (below) the lettuce plants started to overlap on 2/6. (That’s probably when I should have started to thin them, but my “right to life for plants” perspective is not today’s focus.)
I find great beauty in the unfolding leaves.
And below, complete overcrowding occurs on 2/20. My friend received a couple of photos and the answer in her email!
Another example of digital recording keeping: I’m preparing a post on a comparison/review of two brands of watering cans. I couldn’t remember one of the brand names and the photo did not show the logo clearly enough. Back to my digital records in the Mail department. I did a search for “watering” in the body of the emails and came up with the email receipt for each item, including model number and brand name. Hazaah! No wonder the Baby Boomers and the Digital Age are such good friends! Whatever my little mind forgets, the super-big hard drive kindly remembers. I just have to recall what word to search for... However you garden, May you have joy in both the remembrance and the forgetting!
I have to harvest it frequently just to give enough space. Well, I did plant it all too close, thinking that I’d be able to plant it outside, but it grew up way beyond my expectations. I was planning also to cut off every other one as they grew too big. However, it got so overgrown that I have to do surgery just to find the stem to do the cutting.
Notice the one plant above that stands up straight and slightly darker green. This is a mix of Bibb and Romaine and I really like the upright posture which keeps the leaves out of the dirt, keeps the water running off of it and makes a tighter head. Its a lot easier to deal with.
The photo above is of a group that had the outer leaves thinned a couple of days ago. You can see some of the inner leaves of the Bibb lettuce, they are a bit crisper and crinkly and seem to come together almost like a head. I think that to give them a really fair trial I ought to thin out the plants and leave them room to leaf. I could put some in pots and start hardening them to the outside, maybe bringing them back inside for foul or frosty weather.
The greenhouse will be jam packed soon. Its time here in the Ozarks to start the nightshade seeds and its hard not to go too overboard on them. Hoefully this year if I have too many plants started, there will be neighbors or people at the Farmer’s Market who would like to take them home.
Above are my favorites. Crisp and crunchy, well behaved Romaine or Cos lettuce. They are much easier to care for as the leaves don’t touch the dirt and I can have them closer together. Of course, the question is, for how long will they be able to be so close together. If I can keep on eating salad twice a day, I’ll be able to trim off the outer leaves - but I doubt I can stay ahead of this growth.
Below is today’s favorite tool for harvesting the lettuce, leaf by leaf. If the heads were much bigger, thicker and I were whacking off a whole head, then something bigger would be good. But for the kind of trimming from the outside of the head, these little clippers, shown here in their plastic pouch, are very easy to wield. They have a very precise response. I’ve seen them in craft stores.
The greenhouse beds the lettuce are growing in were given good amendments last year and when the lettuce starts were planted they were planted in some worm castings. Probably could use some more, if I could get through the plants to the soil.
I always do this, try to plant more than what is recommended for the spacing. Its hard for me to believe what it says in books or on the back of the seed envelop. Must do the mistakes myself, often more than once. I think I can get away with it, but rarely does it turn out to be good. When the lettuce was really little, it seemed like lots of space. Below is how they looked on January 5. Yes, they look too close together then too.
Alright, it must be time to re-supply the neighbors.
So whatever lettuce you choose,
May you be Growing Ever More Joyful!
The greenhouse spinach was cut down to the bone to remove aphids (aphids again!) I’m wanting to be in the kitchen preparing spinach and eggs, yum. But I’m glued to the screen of my computer, working on communications to people I’ve met on a gardener blog community. I’ve spoken to many people in the past who are devoured by “social networking” on the web. But this great place, www.blotanicals.com is more than social, it ties in to my strong focus on growing food.
See, the title indicates I’m going to tell you about the new sprouts that came up in the last two days and the cool tools that came by UPS, but no, I’m getting right to the blotanical focus, so just to proove I can, I’m signing off Blotanical and going to the kitchen, n o w.
Global Growing Inspiration and Information in a friendly sharing web environment is a reality in a network of garden bloggers called Blotanical.com
Its such a delight to connect with gardeners who love to grow from myriad perspectives, flowers, food, native biospheres and suburbs. All supporting and communing and reading each others’ blogs.
An example of how much I am enjoying this creative web family is what happened when I returned home from a long day trip to the nearest city. I left garden and greenhouse supplies in the car and brought inside the edible delights. In the hallway was a big box containing long awaited garden tools. The box label read “Haws.” Wow, my watering can and garden knife. And for the last 3 hours, the box is unopened!
I went right away to the computer, opened my mail. I was faved! (That means a reader on Blotanical wants to continue reading my posts. I feel very honored and excited.) Soon I was deeply involved with editing and publishing today’s blog. Then I remembered that there was an excellent snack which I’d brought from town. Blotanical is so delightful I forget to eat my goodies, that’s quite amazing.
All gardening friends are invited to check it out. Its a safe, well-lit place for the plant oriented people. Welcome!
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.