Through more then 50 years of trial and error gardening at the Hugh Cargill Community Gardens in Concord, I have been delighted and thrilled at the discoveries that still amaze me to this day. Companion planting is the most fun. Here are some easy ideas for your 2022 garden. Combine rows of beans and carrots. Beans will be harvested fairly early. Cut the bean plants at ground level when they’re done. Pull so as not to disturb the carrots. Mix coffee grounds into the carrot row to repel root maggots. Carrots are slow to germinate, so mix carrot and radish seeds together – when you pull the radishes, you thin the carrots at the same time. Then the carrots can grow into the holes left by the radishes. Radishes act as a ‘trap” plant for insects who love the radish tops and roots. Plant radish seeds around cucumbers and squash. Combine squash and onion. Plant quick-maturing crops like lettuce, radishes and spinach between slow-maturing crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
Interplant lettuce with the broccoli plants, The greens will love the partial shade under the broccoli. Some plants do not make good companions. Broccoli does not do well near tomatoes, beans or strawberries, but will do O.K. near onions and potatoes. Beans and peas do not like to be near onions. Clumps of chives will improve the flavor of carrots and parsley.
Planting basil near tomatoes will help their growth. When I set in my tomato plants, basil seeds go between, or around each tomato. Marigold flowers, planted next to a tomato, will repel insects. Another great tip for wonderful tomatoes is to work in lots of compost, wood ash and potassium for strong stems. I also throw into the hole a banana skin and two tums tablets. The banana skins are rich in silica, potassium, phosphorus & potash and the tums provide calcium which helps prevent blossom end-rot. Sprinkle a tablespoon of epsom salts around each tomato plant to correct magnesium deficiency. Wait to fertilize again until fruits reach about an inch in diameter. Mulch to help retain moisture. Provide at least 2 gallons of water per week. This would also help around peppers and eggplants. Getting back to compost for a minute, save those kitchen vegetable scraps, create a compost pile in your yard, and recyle back to the earth.
Confronting the Bugs and Wild Life
A major problem with organic gardening is the battle with insects and animals. There are several things I have tried over the years. Some work better than others but I will share them all with you. Hopefully you will have some luck with these suggestions. Planting of nasturtiums seems to repel white fly, squash bugs, and cucumber beetle. Also, marigold plants repel insects. And garlic planted around lettuce and other greens helps to repel aphids. Speaking of aphids, this is fun: a shallow, very bright yellow plastic dish pan, 3/4 full of water, makes an effective “trap” for aphids. They are attracted to the bright yellow color, land on the water, can’t get out, and in a day or two sink to the bottom. Plant horseradish in bottomless buckets among your potatoes to repel blister beetles. Mix 2 tablespoons of red pepper powder and 6 drops of liquid soap in one gallon of water. Let the mixture sit overnight, stir thoroughly, then pour into a spray bottle. This mixture will help protect all members of the cabbage family. A rhubarb tea is sometimes effective against aphids and red spider mites. Wood ash contains potassium & phoshorus and is useful as an insect repellent around zucchini, cabbage, beets, turnips, onions, carrots, beans, peas, and lettuce. Note, however, that ash around germinating seeds should be avoided. Cayenne pepper on the foliage of beans, corn and tomatoes will repel rabbits, squirrels, woodchucks and birds. Garlic will repel insects and woodchucks. Spray with 1 part garlic and 20 parts water. Apply mineral oil to the silks at the top of the ear of corn as soon as the silk begins to dry and turn brown. Do not apply oil before this or pollination will be insufficient. Helps to prevent black beetles and corn ear worms. Vinegar is 5% acidity. Mix with a few drops of liquid soap and spray. Red pepper powder repels cucumber beetles, spittlebugs, leaf hoppers, and cabbage lopers. Are slugs a problem? Try putting out a shallow pan of stale beer, or 1 teaspoon dried yeast in 3 ounces of water. Cutworms can destroy a tomato or pepper seedling overnight. Stop them with a 3 inch cardboard collar, set around the plant, about 1 inch into the ground. Strips of aluminum foil on the ground beside rows of bean plants will befuddle aphids and provide more reflective light. A final solution is when I use fabric row covers. A lightweight blanket made of spunbonded polypropylene which is sunlight, rain, and air permeable. Avoid planting the same crop in the same location year after year. Mix up your plantings, plant partial rows at different locations. This will confuse the bugs.
Woodchucks, Deer and Moles!
The damage that woodchucks and deer can cause in the home garden can be heartbreaking. Fencing will not keep woodchucks out of your garden. They are great climbers. Try a foot-wide strip of black plastic around the garden perimeter. It has been reported that woodchucks will not cross over plastic. The deer situation is more difficult. A friend of mine who farms in New Hampshire has had good results with Irish Spring Soap. Stick a bar of soap on a nail which is on a 4 foot pole. The smell is very strong. I’ve also had good results with hair: human hair from a barber shop (lower chemicals than from a salon). Put the hair in mesh bags and hang them around the garden. I also stick a clump of hair into the soil around the plants or just scatter some about.
For a mole, soak a rag with peanut oil or olive oil and push the rag into the hole. It becomes rancid very quickly and they should move out.
For areas that receive only 4 to 6 hours of sun per day, the following could produce a decent harvest: arugula * chard * collards * cress * kale * lettuce * spinach * mustard greens.
Our growing season is short. Our frost-free dates are from May 20th until September 20th. The following are some suggested planting dates for our area. Good luck with your garden. Be healthy ! Eat organic!
Beans May 15 to July 1
Broccoli May 1 to June 15
Carrots May 1 to July 1
Kale April 20 to July 1
Lettuce May 1 to August 1
Peas April 15 th July 15
Peppers May 25 to June 20
Potatoes April 15 to June 15
Spinach May 20 to June 20
Tomatoes May 25 to June 20