Monthly Archives: June 2010
Shut Up and Dig

On-deck watering, another update

 AAAMayOh, I whined about having to lug water to the deck to keep the veg garden going, but this year that problem is GONE.  In its place there's a crimp-proof garden hose that's fed from the spigot below through a hole drilled in the deck. It's turned on and ready to go all the time, with no leaking.  Brilliant!  Watering the pots you saw in the last post takes all of five minutes now.

Posted by on June 19, 2010 at 9:39 am.   This post has 14 responses.
Eat This

On-deck vegetable garden, the update

IMG_9193

In my second year of growing food, I can now recognize a few plants (big thrill there), I'm growing only container-sized varieties of plants, and I've added a few more containers.  Also, this time I'm just growing my favorites.  That means no more peppers or zucchinis, though they performed splendidly in their maiden year.

Above from left to right are the herbs I really eat, mainly basils and mints, cucumbers being trained to grow up the privacy screen, and two large planters of patio tomatoes.  Below are the cantaloupe, eggplant and watermelon.  Earlier in the season there were sugar snap peas and assorted lettuces.

How to Thin for Maximum YieldIMG_9194-2
Here's what I'd like to know.  See the square brown container on the right?  It holds two eggplant plants and I wonder: Would the yield be greater with just one in that container?  Same question regarding the two cucumber plants I have growing in a similar container. In order words, am I thinning seedlings the right amount, or not enough?

 

Posted by on June 19, 2010 at 4:18 am.   This post has 11 responses.
Uncategorized

Motherhood is Madness

Hen

My son just read William Golding's Lord of the Flies and found its bleak view of humanity very disturbing.

I tried to suggest two things: that Golding's experiences in the British Navy during World War II probably influenced this outlook.

And two, if the only thing that keeps us from behaving like animals is the constraints of civilization…well, animals can be very noble and self-sacrificing, especially in service of their genes.

Witness the hen in the photo above.  Notice the pale comb and beady eye of the fanatic.

For the last six weeks, she sits day and night on her nest, refusing to eat or drink, straining desperately to hatch out her eggs…even though those eggs are not fertile, since we don't have a rooster. 

Every day, I move her up and off and collect the eggs, but she's right back in her spot a minute later.  Broody hens don't lay, so she steals the other two hens' eggs to carry on this fantasy of impending motherhood. 

Obviously, sitting in perpetuity on eggs that will never hatch is not good for her health.  But she is so devoted to them!

Of course, I'm not surprised to learn that mothers of all kinds are devoted.  Given what unbelievable pains human babies are, the fact that the species even survived before there were courts of law and jogging strollers is a sign of our innate goodness. 

In hens, this fixation on motherhood seems to be a cycle dependent on a warm bottom–the kind you'd get, too, if you sat on a clutch of eggs for weeks on end.  So cool air is one of the recommended treatments.  I make sure to kick my hen out of the coop into the air every day.  I've even tried dipping her rear end in a bucket of cold water, which is also recommended as a last resort.  That not only made me feel stupid, it failed.

My country neighbor Rick has fertile eggs, and I thought about letting her hatch out two or three.  I could use a few more hens to fill the larder, since this one is too obsessed to lay!  The problem is, my family and I take a bunch of short trips in summer, and I don't want unsupervised chicks to be subject to the savagery of the pecking order that Amy Stewart experienced.  Wait, am I back at Lord of the Flies despite myself?

Rick and I have a plan.  He has a Buff Orpington rooster.  My hens are Buff Orpingtons, too, a lovely, even-tempered breed, the perfect city chicken.  In late August, we are going to arrange an orgy in his chicken tractor.  Then we'll let all three hens hatch out chicks simultaneously in September, after the vacationing is over.  And presumably, they'll be too busy with their own offspring to harass anybody else's.

Rick assures me that chicks are easy if their mothers are right there taking care of them.  The mothers keep them warm, make sure they don't get into trouble, and generally behave in that noble, self-sacrificing way that mothers are famous for.

Posted by on June 18, 2010 at 4:23 am.   This post has 16 responses.
Unusually Clever People

Guest Rant: Don’t Fear the Reaper


52 loaves

Please welcome William Alexander, author of The $64 Tomato, back with a new book on–well, I'll let him tell you about it.  And yes, we're giving away a copy!  Bread.  Anything about bread.  Your bread fantasies.  Your fondest bread hopes and dreams.  Bread, and wheat, and–well, toasters.  Make a clever comment and you'll win a book.

Here’s one way to get the attention (if
not necessarily the affection) of a bookstore audience in Portland, Oregon. “I
know you’re proud — and justly so — of your local food movement here,” I began.
“But I don’t want to hear any ‘locovare’ nonsense from anyone tonight. I can
out-loco any locovore in this room.”

I
was referring to the fact that when I baked a loaf of bread from scratch, I
really meant from scratch — starting
with planting the wheat.  Surprisingly, growing
wheat (organic wheat, at
Wheat that) is rather easy — much easier than, say, growing
tomatoes (doubters, see The $64 Tomato).
But read on before you rush out to plant your own waves of amber grain, for it’s
turning that wheat into flour that’s the hard part. In fact, I’m convinced that
if we all had to do this ourselves in order to eat bread, we’d be a nation of
rice eaters. 

But
more on that later. I planted my crop (four garden beds) of winter wheat in October.
In its
early stages
it resembled nothing as much as crabgrass, going dormant after
the first hard frost (along with my crabgrass). Months later, as I write in 52 Loaves, “in the first days of
spring, despite looking deader than a bale of straw on a Halloween hayride, it
had reawakened the very same week as its swanky suburban cousin ryegrass, and
by late spring it had grown
Wheat3 to  a straight, strong, three-foot-high stalk.” 

Of
grass, though, not wheat. The wait for it to form seed heads and turn from
green to something even remotely resembling wheat seemed endless, but watching it blow in the wind
made it worthwhile.  Then, suddenly,
it was wheat. The seed heads, just a few days earlier so proud and upright, turned
to the earth in a graceful
arc
, a biological mechanism that protects them from rain, which might
cause the seeds to sprout uselessly on the stalk.
Wheat2

It
seemed a touching gesture, the swollen seed head bending over to face the very
earth it had sprung from, bowing as if offering its head in sacrifice. But sentimentality
quickly yielded to the blade, and all was well until the next step, the process
of freeing the wheat berries (the seeds) from the seed head — threshing.  Having no idea how to approach this, I
turned to a venerable
Wheat4source, Pliny the Elder, who, writing in 77 AD, described
several methods in favor at the time, including using a team of oxen to trample
the wheat and beating with a flail — two heavy wooden rods connected by a
short, heavy chain. Well, my oxen had wandered off (again!) and a flail looked like
something more likely to be found smacking the buttocks of a
Wheat5member of  Parliament
in a London S and M den than used in the preparation of food. So, after the
wheat had defeated an old broom and the back of shovel , my wife, Anne, and I
resorted to pounding the seed heads on a chopping block, with a small wooden
mallet a handful at a time,  for hours on end. 

You can watch a video here and read more
details in 52 Loaves, but Anne said
it best when, after a full day of threshing, she flopped onto the lawn,
sunburned, exhausted, and looking every bit as threshed as the wheat, with just
one request.

“Promise
me next year you won’t grow cotton.”

Visit the 52 loaves gallery
for a photo and video album of planting, growing, threshing, winnowing, and —
yes — grinding wheat by hand.

Posted by on June 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm.   This post has 22 responses.
Uncategorized

Paradise Under Glass: We Have a Winner!

Thanks to everyone for playing along last week.  Our winner is Truc–anybody whose conservatory fantasy involves a head gardener with a handlebar mustache and a gimlet in a teacup is all right by me.  Here's the winner comment:

My
conservatory fantasy is simple: melons. All I want in life is a
conservatory with a precise, measured Victorian-esque system of melon
vines hanging above me, with careful nets supporting the developing
fruits. And a head gardener (I don't care if he's the only one, his
title is still "head") with a handlebar mustache to tend to them while I
breeze through holding a gimlet in a tea cup. And possibly also
cucumbers from above carefully trussed with long glass bottles to make
sure they grow straight. No crooked cucumbers in my tea sandwiches, if
you please.

Posted by on June 17, 2010 at 9:22 am.   This post has Comments Off.
Unusually Clever People

There’s a Map for That

Usgs map

image credit:  USGS

This just in:  The US Geological Service (USGS) has released a fancy new Land Cover Vegetation Map of the United States.  The map geeks have already left to go check that out, but for the rest of you, I'll explain: They've compiled insane amounts of data on 551 categories of ecological systems and detailed exactly what is growing all over this great nation of ours. 

Thanks to their efforts, I now know that a ravine near my house is made up of Mediterranean California Foothill and Lower Montane Riparian Woodland, along with a little California Coastal Redwood Forest, bits of Introduced Upland Vegetation–Treed, some California Coastal Woodland Live Oak and Savanna, and a little  North Pacific Hypermaritime Sitka Spruce Forest. Oh, and a little Introduced Upland Vegetation–Annual Grassland (that may be the softball field next to the ravine.)

This is all very cool (and serves a useful purpose: to track the migration — or lack thereof — of species and ecosystems over time), but what I want to know is:  Where's the iPhone app?  How cool would it be to have your telephone informing you every time you enter a North Pacific Hypermaritime Sitka Spruce Forest?

I've written to USGS to ask where my app's at.  I'll keep you posted.

via Science Daily.

Posted by on June 16, 2010 at 5:38 am.   This post has 13 responses.
Uncategorized

Clash of the Cute Baby Animals

Ida and possum

My husband managed to snap this cell phone picture of our four month-old chicken, Ida, during her first encounter with a baby possum.  The presence of a baby possum in our backyard is not a good thing–possums, skunks, and raccoons will all go after a chicken dinner when they can–but it was nonetheless quite entertaining to see little Ida process this new information.  She's quite bold for such a little thing–the other chickens flapped their wings and ran away in terror, but Ida marched right along behind the possum until he finally vanished.

For those of you who have been wondering how our separate flock situation is working out: we do still have them separated.  The two youngsters, Ida and Lady Bird, are sleeping in a makeshift pen in the run, and the adults sleep in the coop as usual.  They are now able to free range without supervision during the day.  They mostly stay away from each other, and if they do get too close, the younger birds are big enough and fast enough to get out of the way. Soon it'll be time to start locking them all up together for short periods while I sit outside and listen for signs of trouble.

Like I've got that kind of time.  But for now, anyway, it seems like the only way to get them back together as a flock.

Posted by on June 16, 2010 at 4:17 am.   This post has 12 responses.
Designs, Tricks, and Schemes

Thanks a lot, Martha!

Ingredients
There were a few moments early in the process yesterday when I thought “Why?” A friend had finally convinced me to spend an
afternoon making hypertufa
containers
, which, as most of you probably know, are DIY planting vessels made
from a mix of Portland cement, perlite, and peat moss (all items I never have
on hand, so had to buy). 

This garden craft had never tempted me before; I had always
found plenty of containers I liked pre-made, and I just didn’t see the point of hypertufa. It results in an interesting rustic-looking object, but you
have to want that look. And although the containers are a bit lighter than real
stone, they still seem just as heavy as most ceramics.  They’re not really an answer to the
problem of moving heavy pots around.


Ball
So it was with low expectations—just to please a friend—that
I went into this. I have to say that it was fun. The mixture comes together
easily, and adapts itself really well to the molds. As an interesting
alternative to containers, I had seen hypertufa spheres on Frances/Fairegarden’s blog, and decided to try some of these.  I had been unable to find the smooth
children’s balls Frances advises, so I cut open some soccer balls that were
handy and filled them with the mixture, first pressing some fern and other
leaves into the sides of the balls. They are drying now, along with a
traditional rectangular container.

It was not hard, not really that messy—most descriptions
make it sound much worse than it actually is—and I think I want to make more. Any
other hypertufa dabblers out there? (I know Susan is an expert in it.)

Posted by on June 15, 2010 at 4:47 am.   This post has 20 responses.

Making art from Oriental bittersweet

Article "For an artsy couple, the vine inspiration.  Ecological threat acts as their muse  .

Work displayed at B'side. Couple of scultpros who collect the vine to create art.

Posted by on June 14, 2010 at 8:04 am.   This post has Comments Off.
Uncategorized

Compost Alone Cannot Explain This. Or Can It?

IMG_3332

Two North Star pie cherries in my vegetable garden last week.  I planted four of these in the spring of 2009.  All of them are doing well, but the one on the left is doing scarily well.  The only difference is that the one on the left sits at the head of my asparagus bed, and asparagus, which I love, gets favored treatment, including much of my limited store of kitchen compost in early spring.

This spring, I made sure that all my North Stars got a shovelful of compost.  But the other three don't yet seem to be catching up to the freakishly healthy tree.

Posted by on June 14, 2010 at 4:32 am.   This post has 17 responses.
Uncategorized

Awards Night at the American Hort Society

Notes on semi-crashing the AHS Awards gala honoring book authors and "Great American Gardeners":

Amy Stewart's Wicked Plants won a book award and I got to accept it for her, wIMG_9116hich was great fun and led to all sorts of people congratulating me later on my award.  I may have stopped correcting them after a while.

Dan Hinkley's Explorer's Garden was also a winner.  Here he is looking totally cool and, before he removed his aviators, totally unrecognizable.  I asked him if he has any rants to get off his chest and apparently he has plenty.  So coming soon, a Dan Hinkley guest post right here.

Other book awards went to The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, and Parks, Plants and People by Lynden Miller.  Another writer, William Cullina, won a special Communications Award.

The Urban Beautification Award went to the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston for their Roslindale Green and Clean program, which creates "green and attractive oases within the town's urban environment".  With the spotlight so clearly on food-growing these days, it's nice that somebody's still recognizing plants for their beauty, especially in cities.

Hort professor Steven Still won the "most prestigious award" for his work with perennials but I embarrassed myself by asking him all about his blogging experiences, of which he has none because it's Steve Silk who's the blogger at Gardening Gone Wild.  Dr. Still had no idea what I was talking about but was steadfastly cheerful about it all.  Hey, at least I didn't confuse him with Stephen Stills.

Congratulations to all the winners (but especially to Amy). 

Now about the semi-crashing.  The person who invited me as her guest couldn't attend after all, but I went anyway.  Pretty amateur party-crashing by Washington standards, but still.

Posted by on June 14, 2010 at 3:23 am.   This post has 3 responses.
Unusually Clever People

Distilling your garden in a bottle

Photo 

All it takes is neutral 190 proof alcohol or Everclear,
fiberglass netting, a jar, and flower petals. I am intrigued by a recent New York Times piece on people who make
their own perfume from their gardens.

Gardenia, lily, and wisteria are some of the flower scents I
love but have never been able to find in a commercial perfume, though many
claim to have captured them. Lucky Scent—which distributes a wide array of the
rarer perfumes—will send you samples for a few dollars, but they’ve all been
disappointing in terms of being true to the flower. Some flowers—roses, violets, carnation—seem easier to distill,
and good citrus is very common. Others, like lavender, are all over the
place—some can be very medicinal and way too strong.

The Times story tells about a few home perfumers who blend
scents from such plants as laurel, yarrow, rosemary, plum and peach peel,
passion flower, plumeria, and jasmine. 
The tinctures are totally natural and aren’t anywhere as strong as commercial
scents.  The women in the story
seem to be making their own perfume for reasons that have nothing to do with
commerce or even wanting to smell nice—it’s more about strengthening their
connection with their gardens and the earth.  

Fascinating—and worth a try. 

Posted by on June 13, 2010 at 5:46 am.   This post has 5 responses.
Taking Your Gardening Dollar

Home Depot’s “Welcome to Gardening”

IMG_8500

The other day I walked into the Home Depot near me and noticed this enticement to enter the gardening part of the store – Kill, kill, kill those plants and bugs!  Not a plant in sight but plenty of plant-killers.  And this photo hardly conveys the impressive array of killing products extending as far as the eye could see.

I wonder what the Home Depot stores in Canada display in their gardening department, now that all pesticides have been removed from the shelves.  Maybe something that's more inviting? 

Posted by on June 12, 2010 at 2:35 am.   This post has 38 responses.

News from the BBG

xxxLocal Law 37 passed in 2005 prohibits several classes of pesticides on city-owned property, including the BBG and the NYBG.

xxxInterview with Mark Fisher, there 26 years, now top hort.

xxxLocal law 37 passed in 2009 in NYC  restricted pesticide use. 
THey spray with Neem as insecticide and fungicide on M ondays when
closed.  Sara Owens (rose curator) bruoght in Alyssum to the rose garden,
too.  Neem also good for mildew on lilacs.
Rose rosette disease is a problem, so they're trying beneficial predatory
mites.

xxxRose garden: Mulch used – buckwheat and cocoa (smells great).  Also
pruning and using diz-resistant cultivars.

xxxFerts are organic.

xxxMost problemmatic plants in the garden – orchids, roses.  Mainly
thrips.  Also, cockroaches chew on flower buds.  Urban gardening!

xxxThey use IPM.

xxxThey use compost tea, but not for disease prevention but for nutrients, and
combined with compost itself.  (cow manure, too).  feeds SOIL.

xxxxxFound tropical plants improved when they switched from city water to well
water.

xxxxLawn:  top dress with cmpost and use tea.  Fert:  3 apps/year
normally, this year only one.  (Three because high traffic – 3/4 millino
visitors year.  Wear and tear.

xxxxDefinitely an urban botanical garden.

From talking wtih Kathryn glass, vp of marketing:

native plant collection – the first one there (100 years ago).

Publications:  edible g'ing book, and topseller is g'ing with children.

Eliz Peters – dir of publications.  Takes 90 days lead time.

BUG Brooklyn Urban Gardening – new program, train teh trainer (in greening
up), like MGs.  NYC has maser Composters, not MGs.

Love this:  Greenbridge is contest for greenest block in B'lyn, in
July.

Posted by on June 11, 2010 at 5:08 pm.   This post has Comments Off.
Uncategorized

Impossible!

IMG_3342

Here's a legume that's out of control…Baptisia 'Prairie Twlight Blues,' the two giant mounds next to my porch.  Each plant is four feet tall if it's an inch and expanding to the size of an SUV.  This is hybrid vigor on steroids.  'Prairie Twilight Blues' is spectacular in bloom, and not at all blue–more of a moody purple and yellow.  It's spectacular out of bloom, too, a great plant if you are trying to fill a perennial bed the size of a football field.

But proving problematic in a crowded city yard!  Last year, I had kniphofia blooming with the same red Asiatic lilies you can see in the photo above:

IMG_2461
I LOVE kniphofia.

This year, the baptisia have shaded them to the point that they are doing nothing.  They are also shading my Alba Maxima rose, crowding out a tree peony, and giving me no view whatsoever of a spectacular biennial foxglove and some dahlias.

They have got to go!  Somewhere else.  Though baptisia are hard to move by reputation–they send down a long, strong taproot that doesn't want to be broken off–I don't care.  Next spring, they will either be further in the background of this picture, or out.

Posted by on June 11, 2010 at 8:22 am.   This post has 9 responses.
Uncategorized

Prettier!

IMG_3339

My Rant partner Elizabeth Licata sent me some martagon lily bulbs last fall and told me that they like shade and acid soil. 

I'd forgotten where I planted them, and the foliage of the lilies in the photo above came up in such a compact fashion, I just thought it was something else I'd planted and forgotten: some unfamiliar shade-loving perennial.  I don't think my inability to remember what plants I've stuck in the ground is early-onset Alzheimer's.  I think it's an overloaded mental hard drive, something that happens to working mothers with book projects on the side who buy a lot of plants.

Then, these perfect tiny lilies appeared yesterday.  Wow.  I love the contrast between the rust-colored stamens and the pink/mauve flowers.

These are as pretty as any giant Oriental lily.  Maybe prettier, because more unexpected!

Posted by on June 11, 2010 at 6:34 am.   This post has 10 responses.
Uncategorized

Pretty!

Here are two of the prettiest vegetables I've ever planted.

A crimson flowered fava bean from Thompson & Morgan…

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And a blue-podded soup pea from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds…

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Considering how many of the best-looking perennials in the vegetable garden are legumes, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Posted by on June 11, 2010 at 2:30 am.   This post has 8 responses.
Unusually Clever People

Down & Dirty Under Glass

Y'all please welcome Ruth Kassinger, author of Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden.  We're giving away a copy of her book to the commenter with the best conservatory story or conservatory fantasy.  Enjoy!


ParadiseUnderGlass1

I do all my gardening indoors, in the glass-filtered light of a conservatory nestled into the crook of our L-shaped house in suburban Maryland. No outdoor gardening, with its hammering heat, mosquitoes, and horrible hundred-legged beasties, for me. My soil comes, bug-less, in plastic bags. Water––into which I carefully measure half-teaspoons of fertilizer––comes from the spout of a watering can. 

None of my potted plants are native. They all hail from well south of here, and that is my challenge: nurturing a tropical paradise where none has a right to be. The pleasures, though, are equal to the difficulties. This past February when snow piled up waist high in the backyard and the three-foot-long icicles hung from the eaves, I saw it through a scrim of palm fronds. When outdoor gardeners were reduced to reading seed catalogs, I was harvesting bright-red coffee cherries, Meyer lemons, and Meiwa kumquats.

It’s not dirty in my conservatory, which is just as well since this is where we eat all our meals and have come to live our lives, but it’s real and it’s definitely chaotic. Tall Alocasia bend over the Victorian wirework dining table, and a strawberry guava and three Bird-of-Paradise reach for the skylights. Pots of peace lilies hoisting graceful white spathes, pink-veined prayer plants, and variegated Dracaena cluster on the floor. My vertical garden––a hydroponic version I invented––covers one wall and is filled with marbled Pothos, red-leaved Fittonia, creeping fig, various ivies, and flashy bromeliads. The Pothos, to my delight, are now sending runners across the ceiling.

But give me Anthurium for creating the spirit of the tropics. These South American natives have large, heart-shaped leaves on long stems, and their flowers (spathes, actually) look like shiny, plastic plates that warped in the midday sun. I have varieties in every color on the L’Oreal nail polish display: traffic-cone orange, stoplight red, hot peach, sultry magenta, you name it. Best of all, these beauties are easy to care for, and they keep their colors for weeks and sometimes months.

My husband is not so fond of Anthurium as I am. They make him uncomfortable. I know why: rising from the glistening spathes are five-inch-long, cylindrical spadices that look for all the world like erect penises. Catch Anthurium in bloom and you seem to have caught them in flagrante delicto. In these summer days, it feels like we’re eating breakfast in a bordello. I don’t get messy or sweat-streaked in the conservatory, but here among the aroids, we’re definitely getting down and dirty.

I’m intrigued by the fact that Europeans didn’t understand that flowers are all about sex until about 1700. Instead, flowers were symbols of purity and the Virgin. I suppose that if the flowers you knew were violets, cornflowers, lilies, roses, daisies, and other modest and sexually discreet species, you could be forgiven for such naiveté. I’m certain, though, that if my vulgar companions had evolved in northern climates, the secret would have come out long ago.

Ruth has events coming up at Northshire Books in Manchester, Vermont on July 10 and at Politics & Prose in
Washington, D.C. on July 17. Check her website for more.

Posted by on June 10, 2010 at 1:33 am.   This post has 17 responses.
Unusually Clever People

Wicked Bugs Poisoned by Wicked Plants

Beetle Photo by Stephen Ausmus, ARS

This is awesome.   The USDA is doing research into the potential of geraniums to fight back and actually kill Japanese beetles.  Now, I'm lucky not to have to deal with these pretty-but-still-really-horrible beetles here in California, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.  So I find the USDA's graphic description of the beetles' death remarkably satisfying:

Within 30 minutes of consuming geranium petals, the beetle rolls over on
its
back, its legs and antennae slowly twitch, and it remains paralyzed for
several
hours. The beetles typically recover within 24 hours when paralyzed
under
laboratory conditions, but they often succumb to death under field
conditions
after predators spot and devour the beetles while they are helpless.

Great stuff.  Keep it up, USDA.

Oh, and by the way.  Wicked Bugs. That's a little hint about my new book.  Coming in May 2011.  Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the garden.


Posted by on June 9, 2010 at 4:43 am.   This post has 16 responses.
Ministry of Controversy

Is there proof? And do we care?

Sister
This quilt representing the Three Sisters is by M. Joan Lintault.

For decades, the theory of companion planting has been
common wisdom in organic gardening circles. We even feature a book about it on
our sidebar, Sally Jean Cunningham’s Great Garden Companions (it’s a fun read
too).  But every once in a while, a
minor debate pokes its head up—how do we really know this works? Has it been sufficiently
tested? Is there really any difference? (This discussion was recently in
progress on the garden writers’ listserv.) Our friend Linda Chalker Scott
prefers the term
 “plant associations,” because although she lists some tested benefits, she feels the term
companion has become too loaded down with anthropomorphism and pseudoscience.

There seem to be mixed results from field testing, but for
the average gardener, companion planting happily falls under the category of
“why not (what harm could it do).”  It is often used for vegetable gardening (mixing marigolds
and zinnias among the cabbage, for example), which would certainly make the
vegetable garden more attractive if nothing else.

One thing that I have found about plant diversity is that
roses mixed with perennials seem to do much better than roses alone. I’ve had
both and ever since I started adding more tall perennials, my untreated roses
seem to suffer less from the dreaded midge—against which there is no palatable
recourse.  But I have had less
success convincing my husband, who thinks that a big bed of all the same thing
looks peaceful and elegant. So even on the aesthetic side there is
disagreement—at least in my house.

Posted by on June 8, 2010 at 7:31 am.   This post has 19 responses.
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