I feel so fortunate that I’m able to write blog posts on “Growing Green” for my friend Nia’s site. It’s such an amazing site. Nia, alone, is an incredible friend beyond words. Then to be part of this group of incredible women who’s ideas, passions and inspirations create such joy for others…well, it leaves me speechless…..
I thought I’d share the latest blog post for her site here:
Is it truly the end of June already? I swear it seemed like summer would never get here this year. The weather just wasn’t cooperating. Then suddenly (it seemed overnight actually) it was summertime here in Northern California.
I like to refer to my garden as a homestead (a suburban homestead to be more accurate). I think there’s some internal part of me that would really have liked to live back in a time when people were surviving on self-sufficient homesteads. Not that there aren’t people doing that nowadays. I have a collection of books and articles about people doing just that. I am truly in awe when I read about people who are living “off the land” and are self-sufficient or very close to it. It seems like such an adventure and, of course, a lot of hard but satisfying work. If you’re interested in this topic, I would like to recommend these books and magazines :
- The Backyard Homestead – by Carleen Madigan
- The Self-Reliant Homestead – by Charles A. Sanders
- The Urban Homestead – by Kelly Coyne
- Made From Scratch – by Jenna Woginrich
- Hobby Farm Home
- Urban Farm
- Organic Gardening
- Mary Janes Farm
This year, in my continual approach to live a greener existence, I’m really trying to stick to a completely organic and totally green gardening plan. I’m using organic mulch around my plants to hold in water and keep weeds at bay. I’m also continually searching for other “green” gardening tips.
My “Homestead” Garden
Here’s a list of the vegetables I’ve planted this year: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, string beans, peas, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli rabbi, lettuce, strawberries, garlic and cabbage.
I’ve actually planted many types of tomato plants this year as I was able to get a large variety earlier in the spring at a local Master Gardener’s Sale. If you’ve never been to one, I highly recommend looking to see if they have one in your area. There are so many passionate gardeners there that can help you make the right choices for your yard. The local one I went to this year specialized in tomatoes and peppers. I’m hoping to have so many tomatoes this year that I will finally have to learn how to can them this fall. So far so good as those little inch-tall plants I purchased have now grown to become beasts. For example this one:
(That’s basil to the lower right of it. I love to make bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, olive oil and basil!!)
I also have many different herbs growing (most year-round) in my garden. Oregano, chives, basil, marjoram, bee balm, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary, lavender, mint, and sage to name a few. I like growing herbs for many reasons, one of which is that they smell so good when I rub up against them while out there pulling weeds. Another great reason for me is that they’re just so easy to grow.
Here’s a little sampling of how other plants in my yard are growing:
This year, as with most years, the biggest culprits in my yard are snails, slugs and gophers. I’m really open to any tips anyone has for keeping my plants safe.
I’ve heard surrounding plants with eggshells can help keep snails and slugs away because they apparently don’t like to walk across them because they get cut by them. Um, when you’re a vegan, there aren’t a lot of eggshells available around the house. Before I gave up eggs I considered getting some hens, and now, I may have to reconsider this as they could eat the snails, and I could always find someone to use their eggs. I think it would be difficult to cover a lot of territory with egg shells though. I tend to plant vegetables in between flowers and other year-round plants throughout my entire yard, so again, this option might not be quite right for my garden. I’m definitely open to other options.
Another tip I’ve heard is to put little saucers of beer out in the yard to attract the slugs. They’ll sip, fall in and drown. Some people say this option just attracts more slugs to your garden and I don’t really need that. Plus, I’m not sure I’d do too well with finding a saucer full of dead ones to dispose of. I’d really just like them to stay away if possible. I’m still working on a solution for this problem and I’d love to hear ideas and suggestions from anyone who has them. At the moment, I sort of stalk them, pick them up and then move them outside the fence around my yard – which probably means they simply turn around and head back – ugh.
Because of this pest issue, and because our deck gets such amazing sun all day, this year, I also tried planting in “Grow Boxes”. I would say all is going pretty fantastic for these tomato plants and eggplants.
I would actually like to get a few more boxes to grow other vegetables in now that I’ve seen how easy they are to use. It’s also lovely that they hold so much water too. And I will admit, no pests on these plants…knock on wood.
On looking for a gopher remedy, a friend of mine told me about how gophers don’t really like Juicy Fruit gum and that putting some into a fresh gopher hole will keep them from coming back. But I’m wondering, if there’s a fresh gopher hole already there, doesn’t that mean they’ve already come through your yard?? Again, I’d really just like them to not want to come by at all. Any ideas?
This year, I’ve been lucky so far and by chance I’ve managed to do some companion gardening to help ward of other plant pests. I happened upon this article on the Organic Gardening site about companion gardening only to find that I had accomplished some of these plant pairings already. Here’s what the article suggested:
Roses and chives: Gardeners have been planting garlic with roses for eons, because garlic is said to repel rose pests. Garlic chives probably are just as repellent, and their small purple or white flowers in late spring looks great with rose flowers and foliage.
Tomatoes and cabbage: Tomatoes are repellent to diamondback moth larvae, which are caterpillars that chew large holes in cabbage leaves.
Cucumbers and nasturtiums: The nasturtium’s vining stems make them a great companion rambling among the cucumbers and squash, suggests Sally Jean Cunningham, master gardener and author of Great Garden Companions. Nasturtiums “are reputed to repel cucumber beetles, but I depend on them more as habitat for predatory insects,” such as spiders and ground beetles.
Peppers and pigweed or ragweed: Leafminers preferred the weeds to pepper plants in a study at the Coastal Plains Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia. Just be careful to remove the weeds’ flowers before they set seed or you’ll have trouble controlling the weeds.
Cabbage and dill: “Dill is a great companion for cabbage family plants, such as broccoli and brussels sprouts,” Cunningham says. “The cabbages support the floppy dill,” while the dill attracts the tiny beneficial wasps that control imported cabbageworms and other cabbage pests.
Corn and beans: The beans attract beneficial insects that prey on corn pests such as leafhoppers, fall armyworms and leaf beetles. And bean vinesclimb up the corn stalks.
Lettuce and tall flowers: Nicotiana (flowering tobacco) and cleome (spider flower) give lettuce the light shade it grows best in.
Radishes and spinach: Radishes attract leafminers away from the spinach. The damage the leafminers do to radish leaves doesn’t prevent the radishes from growing nicely underground.
Potatoes and sweet alyssum: The sweet alyssum has tiny flowers that attract delicate beneficial insects, such as predatory wasps. Plant sweet alyssum alongside bushy crops like potatoes, or let it spread to form a living ground cover under arching plants like broccoli. Bonus: The alyssum’s sweet fragrance will scent your garden all summer.
Cauliflower and dwarf zinnias: The nectar from the dwarf zinnias lures ladybugs and otherpredators that help protect cauliflower.
Collards and catnip: Studies have found that planting catnip alongside collards
reduces flea-beetle damage on the collards.
Strawberries and love-in-a-mist: Tall, blue-flowered “love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) looks wonderful planted in the center of a wide row of strawberries,” Cunningham says.
Here’s a link if you’d like to read more on this topic:
Other Green Gardening Ideas
I have two other goals this year in moving my yard towards being more “green”, one is rain water collecting and the other is composting.
Though we usually don’t see much, if any, rain here in Northern California from around May to around September, I figure collecting rain during the rainier seasons can only help during these drier times. From what I’ve read, it’s as easy as putting out extra plastic garbage pails to collect the rain. Covering them with a screen can help keep out pests. I’m researching types of containers and barrels now and will keep you updated on my progress.
I had a compost pile last year and then something went really, really wrong with it…as in lots of maggots and horrible smells kind of wrong. So, I dismantled it, cleared the space it was taking up and planted in its former location. Now, I truly feel like I need to begin anew with a compost pile. I may even try getting a little worm help too. I see this as a sign: the other morning, while I was out walking my dog, I came across these 2 compost bins in the front of a neighbor’s house with signs on them stating they were “free”. If that wasn’t a sign for me, I’m not sure what would be. I can tell you, I’ve never walked back to my house so fast so I could grab my truck to return to pick them up. No excuses now and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
If you should want to try composting with worms, the Savvy Gardener site has really easy instructions on worm composting here:
Basically, all you need is a container made of wood or plastic, redworms (500-2,000), bedding (which can be shredded newspaper, corrugated cardboard and/or leaves) and food waste (fruits and veggies) and you’re on your way.
They also have simple information on regular composting and troubleshooting your compost pile. Apparently I could’ve used this information on my last attempt.
Please feel free to email me or leave comments here with any suggestions and ideas you’d like to share for keeping your garden green. I’d love to hear them.
I’d also like to share a couple of other links that I’ve used as they may come in handy for you.
That’s all for this time. Thanks for reading.
Be healthy, green and well,