Thursday, April 28, 2011

Springtime Bedtime Stories

 I do like to delve between the pages of a good espionage book before falling to sleep at night. It satisfies my thirst to learn and the pace is intrigueuingly fast. But, this past week, I've been reading The Vegetable Gardener's Bible before the Sand Man checks in on me. This is a good book!! It is for gardeners up north in cooler climates. And as much as it has stirred my little brain you'd think I'd be dreaming about gardening. Well, maybe I am but I can't remember any of them. The only dream that has stuck with me is the one where I lost our youngest grand daughter. I hate those kind. How come they are the ones you always remember?   
 After browsing through the pages, I'm determined that this year will be the year I do wide rows. I've toyed with the idea for several years and then in the push to get my garden in, I always end up doing the single rows or double rows, once again. Nope, this year it will be different. I've even bought hula hoops for one kind of corn, the Painted Mountain. We'll talk about my idea for them later but what I want to impress upon you is how much more you can get in your garden with beds versus rows. The picture above is of beets. Both illustrations shown are for the same amount of room, four feet wide.  The one on the left is single rows and the one on the right a bed of beets with four beets across then three, then four, etc. to maximize plants per space. The left illustration holds thirty plants. The one on the right seventy. You heard me seventy. More than double the amount of production in the same amount of space.

The only caution is to not get your bed so wide that you can't reach to the middle from each side to weed. As you plan your bed, they recommend spacing your plants so that the leaves just touch when nearly mature, not crowding them. This shades the soil so that weeds are inhibited. I can vouch for that since I usually make my rows so close together that you have to find foot size openings to get around and our son always cursed me with his big feet because they just didn't fit and yet he was suppose to be harvesting vegetables for me. BU...T their were very few weeds. This shade also helps to impede water evaporation, lowering your water bill. Water isn't cheap here, so that's a big deal.

Planting in beds mean that the soil doesn't become compacted from walking on it and that the plants will have more room to spread their roots, thus they obtain more nutrients and grow larger.  This is where I might insert some info on  when to and when not to rototill but I'll have to save it as I'm running behind today. Kirk was home sick yesterday and with the help of a couple shots, he's doing much better today. BUT... I've two kiddos that aren't doing so hot and that slowed my day down considerably. So I'm going to for once stick with one idea. Don't be so shocked, this post might even be short, well, for me that is.
The other thing I want to really shift over to is the inter-planting of crops like in this photo. Companion planting with crops that grow well together and are done at different times allowing more space for others as they mature. I've also inter-planted root crops which needed lots of foot room and crops that needed more head space but there again I did it in rows closely spaced together. This year, I'm going to do carrots planted with the help of chicken wire to aid in the spacing. And carrots that mature at different times.

The book showed this example of onions, lettuce, and broccoli all interplanted and stated that bugs ,and I'm talking about the bad guys, are attracted to their prey by smell. You know how much tomato plants smell, well, the author of the book said that interplanting diffusing the smell because it is so mingled with others, making it harder for the pest to find a hearty meal. Some plants also repel bugs, which he talks a little about  being a good grouping in a bed. This is one book I wouldn't mind owning. I borrowed it from the library, one of my favorite places. 

 Something I learned in Junior High school at the science fair was that not only do plants love classical music and hate hard rock but some types of plants will cry out for help sending out an S.O. S to the good guy, bugs to come and rescue them. We just can't hear the pleas with our ears limited reception range. Other plants emit a nasty tasting chemical making themselves less desirable. Just as with humans, the bad guys are looking for weak prey. The first line of defence is healthy soil so that the plants are getting all they need. I'll go into this some later.

But besides interplanting plants to diffuse their odor keeping bad buds confuse, another book I read recommends planting broccoli for instance in two or more locations in the garden making it harder for the bad guys to find all of the crop. This means that in one area you might loose your crop but not all of it because it was also some where else. Row covers can protect if place on before the bugs arrive and with broccoli, the only way I can keep from finding just skeletons after the flea beetles have arrived is to start the broccoli in the basement and put them out as plants, not direct seeds. The flea beetles with damage the larger plants but not anilate them. This year, I may also try the shop vac trick and suck up bugs with it. Read about that one in a book too. Books aren't just to put you to sleep at night.

So join me and get out your companion planting guides and host a few parties, inviting friends that get along well and group them together. Plants silly, not people but then if your social, I guess you can do that too.

Remember the corn planted in the hoop that I want to try? Well, I've the small hula hoops from the children's toy section of the store and I'm planning on putting corn around the inner rim, a pole bean in the middle to climb on the corn, and white clover sprinkle in between to supply nitrogen for the corn. I won't do a very large section as this is pure speculation on my part that it will do well.

As for putting pumpkins in my corn patch, it didn't work. The corn shaded the pumpkins too much and they remained puny. I just don't think we get warm enough up this far north for that project. I did see in this book where I could put lettuce in the corn patch as it shaded it, keeping it cooler, and hence extending its season. That is one to think about trying.  As for mulching your tomatoes, if you live where there isn't very much warm weather -- don't. Last year I tried it and it kept my tomatoes roots too wet and too cold so they didn't do so well. That is one of the big reasons for experimenting with fewer plants and leaving the rest in the old way just in case it is a flop.

Well, got to go and vacuum before the hubby arrives. He'll probably be pretty tired tonight.    

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