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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gardening? Gardening!

Trent at The Simple Dollar has a post up about gardening as a way to save gobs of cash. I agree wholeheartedly, coming from a family of inveterate gardeners. My grandmother once had every square inch of her property planted, even the old wrecked tractor. I try to carry on the tradition, but with less work involved. Besides, it's a way for the Cat & I to spend some time together out in the sun.

Trent's on about tomatoes-- and I would recommend:

--Companion Planting--

This is not about taking a pot of fennel to the Singles Bar to find a mate. Rather, certain plants work well together. Others don't. And planting certain plants in groups-- the kinds of groups you might find out in nature-- they become more resistant to pests & disease. I even think they taste better.

A standard companion planting, or "guild:"
  1. Tomatoes mmm
  2. Asparagus mmmm
  3. Basil mmmmmmm
Keep them away from potatoes & cabbage. They don't get along. Turf wars!

Maybe the most famous "guild" is the Three Sisters, which the Native Americans knew & loved:
  1. Corn (which is tall)
  2. Beans (which climb the corn & fix nitrogen)
  3. Squash (which hangs out down below, filling in the space left over)
The main idea, then, is to fill in all the available spaces in your garden. Nature does this of her own accord when left alone, and it makes for a healthier system; humankind tends to put things in neat rows, which requires more land & labor, as it frees up space for weeds to come in, breaks up & leaches healthy soil, and allows weaker plants to thrive, thus inviting pests & disease.

There are a lot of great books on the topic, like and . But most importantly, try things out and watch your space. Then, as you learn what does and doesn't work in your soil, your climate, and your available light, you can make small changes to improve the system. Books are a good (nowadays, even necessary) place to start, but nothing-- absolutely nothing-- beats experience for gardening & farming.

And remember to design your pets into the system. Zooey has a nice sideline as a night watchcat, keeping the local squirrel population out of the proverbial larder.

(I also like to prep my plantings with some super-nutritious worm castings, but maybe I'm getting ahead of myself... And disclosure: I have a very modest sideline as a permaculture designer, though I prefer the science of it to the hippie stuff it's picked up in America. I'm too much of a redneck to do my sun salutations.)