Every time I step foot into the garden, I ask myself questions. I love to understand how and why things work the way they do. Although Gardening isn't always a well balanced equation, thanks to Katie and Google, I have made a few discoveries along the way that I thought might be fun to share with you. I promise to not talk about gophers this time, as I haven’t quite mastered the art of escorting them out of the garden. In fact, I have googled “how to get rid of gophers naturally” so many times, that I’m pretty sure my computer thinks that’s all I want to know about. But there I go again, letting them take over. Darn gophers. (ahem) Moving on...
When I started helping Katie in the garden, she would always say that we needed to tuck the wood chips around the plants to keep them warm. I just assumed she was being poetic until I saw the steam rising off of a wood chip pile on a frosty morning. We had several late frosts this year, and the majority of our plants held up because of our warm little blanket of wood chips. However! Mixing wood chips with the soil is not beneficial. They will decompose too quickly and can quite literally burn your seeds or plants—I learned this the hard way. When you mix dirt and wood chips together in your pile, it can also be a breeding ground for weeds. Take care to keep your wood chips pure because when you do they will naturally keep the weeds out, keep the seeds warm, and help retain moisture.
Planting flowers in your garden is also a huge advantage. Not only do they look beautiful, but they attract pollinators. The garden needs pollinators in order to produce fruit. Petunias attract several different pollinators, but get this:they also repel nasty little pests like aphids, leaf-hoppers, and tomato worms. Petunias compliment basil, tomato, beans, grapes, and peppers. Marigolds are also another super beneficial flower to have in your garden. They act as a natural pesticide, and look beautiful too! Unfortunately they aren’t friends with beans and cabbage. We like to plant them as a border in our garden as a sort of hedge of protection.
Speaking of pairing well, some plants just make friends easily with others. Peas and carrots are great friends. (Did you just say that line from Forrest Gump? Because I sure did.) Dill and basil actually enhance the flavor of tomato plants. They also act as a natural pesticide as their strong smell confuses pests and keeps them away from eating our precious tomatoes. Leeks and onions are also fabulous neighbors in your garden. Not only is it glorious to have fresh onions, but you’ll also have a natural pesticide. Hooray for no chemicals!
Now, we all want a tidy garden. Keeping weeds out of the garden is like keeping the toys off the floor-we don’t want anyone to see that. However, when you are doing raised beds like we are, having some weeds in the walkways is actually helpful. There’s no magical way to completely get rid of pests so having a few weeds actually creates another environment for them to find shade and make a home in besides our beloved plants. So, step over those “toys”, there’s life happening here.
One of my favorite plants in the garden is asparagus. Did you know that once it's established, it will grow and produce for 20+ years? Find a sunny little spot in your garden, and you’ll enjoy a lovely harvest in the Spring and Fall. I love coming into the garden and seeing their little shoots come up. These “eels” of the garden, as I call them, seem to appear out of nowhere overnight-poking their little heads up from the ground, long and lean reaching for up for the day’s offering of sunshine.
Gardening is an adventure. If you have a heart to learn and you don’t let a few mistakes or pests knock you down, then you’ll reap what you sow! What sort of things have you been learning in your garden lately?