Saturday, May 16, 2009

Some Pest Repellent Hints

I prefer to use as little chemical pest control as possible in my garden.
Mosquitoes: The plant shown above, is a scented geranium, known as Citrosa, commonly known as mosquito plant. One plant makes a lovely shrub in a 15" pot. Two plants make a more magnificent, effective show. I make 2 pots of 2 plants each. One goes near our seating area on the deck, the other one beside the door, just close enough that the door brushes the leaves, and even sometimes pinches the leaves on opening and closing. This also reduces the number of flies that come into the house.
Just the presence of the plant does not repel mosquitoes--it needs to be rubbed a bit to release the scent. You can also rub the leaves and then rub the hands on exposed skin.
Gophers, moles and voles:
Castor bean plants (Ricinus) planted at the corners of the garden keep these burrowing varmints away. I used to have a problem with voles. Then I planted the castor beans about every20 feet on the long side of the garden. No voles that year. Next year, I forgot--still no voles. The next year they were back, but I still had castor bean plants--planted them, and the intruders left. Some of our customers say they drop castor bean seeds into the gopher holes with the same effect.
Aphids in Dill :
A lady came to our greenhouse today and bought a lot of our "Lemon Gem" Marigolds (also known as "Tagetes". They are strongly scented. She plants them near any plant that is aphid prone, such as Dill, and has no aphids--she travelled 50 miles to our place just for these plants.
Cabbage worms and other pests:
It is said that African marigolds (large-flowered ) keep many pests away from the garden. I believe this is a myth. Marigolds do repel root nematodes, but cabbage butterflies like my garden even with an ocean of marigolds (I plant tons of Crackerjack marigolds everywhere because I like the look of marigolds throughout my garden, and .......just in case).
For cabbage worms I dust with Rotenone powder--I bought an old-fashioned powdering pump so the dust would go farther and I can dust the undersides of the cabbages as well.
I rarely (Only twice in 26 years in this garden) get Colorado Potato Beetles. I hand-pick the beetles and the salmon-colored larvae.
I wish you all a pest-free summer.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Stick-Planting Mystery Revealed!!

Some Non-stop Begonias. Cheer you up on a weather-gloomy day?
You will have to help me reveal the stick-planting mystery, by using your imagination as I describe it. I would show pictures, but I won't really be planting sticks for a while.

Picture my garden, a 80'x60' rectangle, with a sturdy post at each corner. The rectangle orients in an east-west direction.

Picture a long yellow rope, with permanently-marked spots at: 6',( 2', 4') Repeat 12 times, then 2'and 6'. Now See Sigrun tying the rope along the north edge, between the posts. See Sigrun pound sturdy stakes at each spot on the rope. (This is not stick-planting; this is bed-spacing).

See Sigrun repeat the process along the south edge of the garden.

This creates 14 "beds"--not raised. The 6' spaces are for flowers, 4' spaces are the vegetable places, the 2' spaces are the walking places. The walking paths are in the same place every year.
Except for the spring rototilling and a bit when I'm harvesting, I never walk on the growing beds. This prevents soil compaction.
The bed farthest to the east gets sunflowers--a 55' row on the eastern edge. My other favorite flowers for this bed are: zinnias, strawflowers, calendula, forget-me-nots (self-seeded), and nigella (no nigella this year, forgot to get seeds). I started 28 gladiolus this year--my first time. They may have to go there.
I also save about 18" at the head and foot of each bed for flowers. The North end gets tall flowers: Cosmos, Cleome, Night-Scented Nicotiana and every 4th bed gets Castor Beans to repel moles, voles and gophers (really works). The south end gets smaller bedding plants.
My garden plan is a 6-year rotation. The veggies are always in the same order, and the following season, move 2 beds to the east. I make sure that no cabbage, onion type plants (prone to root maggots) grow over each other, and I make sure corn always grows over last year's peas and beans, because of the legumes' nitrogen-fixing ability (corn is a heavy feeder of nitrogen).
Back to stick planting.
Vegetable beds #1&2 (from the east) will get corn this year. 2 rows per bed, 2' apart. I plant my corn after the 1st of June, from plants started in the greenhouse, but I measure the rows and mark the ends of the rows with sticks (stick planting). In the middle of each bed of corn I plant pumpkins and spaghetti squash. For about 6' at the south end of the beds I plant 3 rows of White Night-Scented Nicotiana. Our entire yard is scented during the evening.
Bed #3 will get 18 celery plants, 18 clumps of Bright Lights Swiss Chard, 3 rows about 20' long of leeks, and the rest goes into 4 rows of Kohlrabi (white and purple). All these are marked off by sticks.
Bed #4: 5 rows of onions: Kelsea, Walla Walla, Candy, Spanish White, Red Burgermaster. 5 sticks at each end
Bed #5: Tomatoes: 2 rows, 2' apart, plants 18" apart in the row. No flowers since my 50 plants need all the space. Between the tomato rows I plant the lettuce--shaded by the tomatoes it doesn't bolt as early. 2 sticks at each end
Bed #6: Cabbages and Kale, interplanted with Crackerjack marigolds. Golden Acre, Early Jersey Wakefield, Red Cabbage and O.S. Cross for cabbage rolls. At the south end, 2 Zucchini plants. 3 sticks at each end
Beds # 7 & 8: Potatoes: each bed, 2 rows, 2' apart. Yukon Gold, Russet Burbank, Red Norland and Kennebec. I bought some all red and all blue seed this year to try. 2 sticks at each end
Bed #9: 2 rows carrots, 2 rows beets: golden, detroit red, and formanova. 4 sticks at each end
After I seed the carrots in the furrows, I very sparsely ( every 3") scatter radish seeds in the same furrow. The radishes come up very early, breaking the soil for the weaker carrot seedlings; harvesting the radishes (carefully) thins the carrots somewhat. I hardly have any maggots in the radishes since I plant them with carrots.
Bed #10: The center row of this bed gets about 20' of dill; the remainder in snapdragons (increases pollination in the cucumbers).
Then I plant cucmbers from started plants 1' each side of center row: Sweet Slice, Slicemaster, and Orient Express (English). Sometimes I plant a few feet of pickling cucumbers. 3 sticks at each end
Bed #11: Peas 2 rows 2' apart, for the northern 30 ', 3 rows of Peppers in the southern part. 2 sticks, 2 sticks, 3 sticks, 3 sticks
Bed #12: Beans: 4 rows, 10" apart: Royal Burgundy, yellow wax, Yellow Romano, Green Romano. Instead of flowers at the south end, Summer Savory--supposedly makes the beans taste better. 4 sticks at each end
Last 6' space: Anything else I need space for, or flowers, usually lots of Cosmos. This year I started some interesting Italian Pumpkins and some warted pumpkins (Knucklehead). They will likely go there.
Before we had the Greenhouse, and I was teaching (a 50-mile commute), I used to get in the garden very early in the season while it was still too cold to plant, and measure off and plant the sticks, so that, when the weather became suitable for planting, I could go out and plant just a few rows after school. I could plant the early crops early, because I knew exactly where everything belonged. Since my garden is close to the road, the neighbors would comment "Hey, Sigrun, I see that your sticks are planted. Are they growing yet?" Nowadays I'm always late planting the garden, but I start so much in the greenhouse, that in the end the harvest is just right. Last year I finished the garden on June 10th. On July 10th we had red tomatoes and fresh cucumbers.