February 12, 2011

Garden Gazintas

And what, you might well ask, is a gazinta? Doing gazintas is something DH says, when he's trying to figure something out. As in, "12 inches gazinta 106 inches 8 feet worth, with 10 inches to spare." That's the height of our kitchen ceiling, which give you a clue as to what he's working on. I'm trying to figure out next year's garden.

In the past I've always planted a somewhat traditional garden, with a row or two of carrots here, a row or two of tomatoes there, etc., etc. After reading Dick Raymond's Joy of Gardening, I started planting some things, like carrots or lettuce, in beds. I also started to plant radish seeds in with other root crop seeds as spacers and ground breakers.

I've dabbled somewhat in companion planting too, taking care what vegetables I planted next to one another, or what followed what in the same spot. I interplanted marigolds with my tomatoes, and while I'm not sure if they actually helped, I loved how they looked.

My 2010 tomato & marigold bed

This inspired me to dig a little deeper into companion planting, and I scoured the shelves of my county library. It didn't take me long to exhaust their resources.

Then, I got my hands on a copy of Great Garden Companions: A Companion Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden, by Sally Jean Cunningham. When I first flipped through it, I was a little disappointed and I wondered if I'd wasted my money, because it's aimed primarily at beginning gardeners. This isn't a bad thing, but I was afraid it wouldn't have the information I wanted. I set it aside.

One evening I was in need of some bedtime reading so I picked it up and discovered that it's very readable and contains a lot of good tips and ideas. The crux of it though, is not simply pairing plants as companions, but creating companion plant systems, which the author refers to as garden neighborhoods. In other words, she utilizes the same polycultural approach to vegetable gardening I had been reading about in Edible Forest Gardens , (but without being as technical) and Food Not Lawns (but with more how-to than why-to). The main difference is that those books focus more on perennial gardens, while this book addresses primarily annual garden vegetables. It was just what I was looking for.

Sally Jean's book offers several ways to approach this: grouping by botanical families, feeding families, performance families, or pest-fighting families. One consideration for me though, is seed saving. Apparently she is not a seed saver, which means she doesn't worry about cross pollination when she plans her groups. That made me hesitate. Then I read Mr. H's post, Seed Saving Schedule 2011 - 2014, and realized that I don't have to save every type of seed every year. It was onward ho after that.

My February gardening project then, is to develop a personalized plan for mixed beds of companion vegetables, with some flowers and herbs thrown in to round the whole thing out. I figure this year will be the hardest, because it's requiring a lot of research and planning. Once I get my companion groups established, I won't have to figure them all out from scratch every year. It will be a simpler matter of rotating where I plant them, or swapping out one thing for another. I can figure out my seed saving schedule from there. I'm sure I'll make adjustments, but hopefully, this system will work well and my garden will be happy. As soon as I get a basic plan for 2011 figured out, I'll let you know.

UPDATE: 2/18/11 - here it is, My Companion Group Garden Plan

Garden Gazintas © February 2011 by Leigh 


Kids and Canning Jars said...

Having just moved 6 months ago I am new to gardening here. My yard needs prep work. But, I am dreaming and planning. I have a few lettuce and spinach starts. I am working out the animals that like to eat up my garden. My husband took an organic gardening class and he really understands the companion gardening so much better now. Share your journey with us on it???

-Heidi said...

That sounds like a book I'd really like to read! I think you've got the start of a good plan!

Lynda said...

Oh Boy! I'm really looking forward to your posts: Garden AND New Kitchen! Yahoo!

Theresa said...

Isn't it wonderful when you have one of those moments that take both work and stress away and allow for forward movement and thinking! Glad the book really did provide what you were looking for!

Leigh said...

Melissa, I can so relate because this will only be our third garden in this location. Sounds like you are doing some serious study and planning. I'll share what I am learning too, and maybe we can all learn from one another!

Heidi, it's a great book. Maybe your local public library has a copy(?)

Lynda, thanks! LOL. We do have some big projects going on. I just hope they remain to be interesting reading.

Theresa, isn't that the truth. I'm so glad I didn't write it off altogether!

~ McKenzie Elizabeth~ said...

I think I will try and look up those book titles.
The picture of your tomato and marigold bed is so lovely!

McKenzie Elizabeth

City Sister said...

I love the idea of not saving seed from everything every year...it's such a duh idea, but one that didn't cross my mind...thanks!

Woolly Bits said...

maybe you can just move the planned "beds" around each year, when you've checked that the combinations work? there are lots of interesting things to consider, though sometimes I have a feeling it's a bit "like and dislike" of the gardener as well. e.g. everybody says to plant carrots and onions to deter carrot fly - but when you check it out closer, most people admit that you need huge amounts of onion rows around the one or two carrot rows to make it work. I tried to put up a fleece "fence" around the carrots because carrot flies apparently don't fly that high - and this worked much better for me! it's probably why they're saying that a garden is never finished - there's always new info somewhere that works better than the old stuff:)) good luck in figuring this all out!

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

You really are one of the most organized gardeners I have ever seen. Good luck on the kitchen plans. It will be fun to see it come from beginning to end.

Mr. H. said...

I might have to try reading that "Great Garden Companions" book. Mostly, we are always looking for ways to keep the bad bug populations down but so far have not had much luck with things like marigolds and even catmint...boy did that backfire. We read that catmint keeps aphids away so I planted them in between our broccoli plants one year...and, oops, forgot about them. They promptly went to seed and now we have as much catmint as anyone could ever want.:)

If you come up with any companion plants that seem to work I would love to know. I do think that growing beans in with our tomatoes seems to help the tomatoes do well, we have done that for 3 years now.

Mama Pea said...

I guess it just goes to show that we can make gardening as simple or complicated as we wish. Did the old-timers have as much information as we do? Or were they wiser when it came to the "natural" (companion planting, etc.) ways to do things? There truly is something to learn each year when gardening. Keeps things interesting anyway!

P.S. I've been told that the "stink" has been bred out of marigolds and so they don't do the same job of repelling bad insects as they did a generation or so ago. Rats.

Jennifer said...

It seems we have similar thoughts on our mind!

I will have to check out that book!

Heather said...

I will be watching out for your gardening posts! I like to do companion planting and have had dreams of a potager... just have never done the research and the work to make it a reality. Thanks for the inspiration.

Doyu Shonin said...

It's exciting to watch this happen. We've learned here that polyculture confusing plant predators and helps prevent nutrient depletion. The only disadvantage is you can't always find everything that's ready to be harvested -- which was the rationale for monoculture, but led to so many other ills, we don't mind missing the occasional tidbit.

Leigh said...

McKenzie Elizabeth, they are all interesting books. For me, they were a new and exciting way to look at both gardening and landscaping. Hopefully I can figure it out!

City Sister, gardening is like that, always something to learn and I don't think a lifetime is enough to learn it in! You'll enjoy saving seeds. It's just as rewarding as harvesting all those veggies.

Bettina, that's the idea. So theoretically next year and following will be easier! I read the same thing about marigolds as you mention about onions. Still, I figure it can't hurt, and as Risa says below, part of the battle is one by confusing the enemy.

Oh Jane, if only that were true!

Mr. H, I've read that about several things folks let go to seed. Hopefully I'm not creating a monster I later regret, LOL Hopefully I'll have some helpful companion results to report later this summer.

Mama Pea, I did read a couple of interesting articles on marigolds, but drat if I can remember where they are. Baker Creek (and somebody else) listed marigolds reputed to still have their but deterring power. I read too, that for nematodes, what's needed is an intensely planted bed of marigolds rather than intermingling with other plants. No matter, they are a lovely garden flower.

Jennifer, it's a great way to garden! I'm using some of the websites you link to in your post. It will be interesting to share results.

Heather, Interesting you should mention a potager. Parisienne Farmgirl (http://www.parisiennefarmgirl.com/2011/02/potager-101-lesson-1-and-giveaway.html) has just started an online class on this very subject. I'm following along because it's close to what I want to t do too.

Risa, if I can accomplish that much I'll be satisfied. I suppose if I were growing a production garden or farming, I'd stick with monoculture. Like you though, I think that has enough problems to warrant another approach. I'm kind of excited about trying this one.

Benita said...

Yes, but you have to admit, you are really enjoying the learning as you go. When all this is old hat, you'll look for the next area to educate yourself about.