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Showing posts from June, 2010

Away With Holey Leaves: Offing the Pests

I can't stand the tell-tale signs of garden pests: the leaves with holes, the failure to thrive. I believe in early assault with organic deterrents. Kate has great faith in plants' commitment to survive.  She considers holes in leaves to be a mere cosmetic blemish.

Like politics and religion, getting rid of pests in a garden is sure to cause a community donnybrook (or at least rapid words over ice water in the lounge chairs).

To do organic warfare against pests means using one or more of these tools:

Finding Community in a Garden

Next to composting, I'm entranced by companion plants. These are plants that when sowed together keep away pests that are harmful to one or the other of the companion plants. They are indispensable to the organic gardener.

One of the best known pairings is marigolds and tomatoes. Marigolds keep away those monstrous horned, green worms that so love tomatoes. When you use companion planting, you never have to worry about whether the plant got entirely coated with pesticide or was washed off in the last rain.  Companion plants work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No worries about getting poison your harvest either.

They work in a variety of ways from smell to chemistry to having mutually beneficial waste products or impacts on the soil.

Here are some other common combinations for a companionable garden:

First Tomato Sighting of the Season

Our first green tomato is visible under the leaves inside the tomato cage.

It always amazes me how quickly and dramatically a gardener can go from impatient waiting to an avalanche of harvest.

Tomatoes especially arrive as genteel newcomers and grow into sprawling monsters. When the first crop of tomatoes start greening up, it seems almost scandalous to pick them for fried green tomatoes (or baked, which we discovered we preferred last year. 

When they start turning red, there's no end to them. Until you start trying to can them or turn them into sauce.  Then it seems as if we should have just plowed up the entire backyard and planted "Fink Tomato Farms."

This year, I've promised myself that I'm going to scout out the perfect tomato sauce recipe.

New Acreage Sowed at Fink Farm

Well, maybe not acreage . . . but a very nice flower bed, indeed.

Along the wall of the house, we planted hollyhocks and sunflowers.  If they grow as hoped, it will shade that wall this summer, keeping the den cooler.  But the wild cards in this vision are the fact that the sunflower seeds were old and the hollyhock seeds harvested from dead heads found along the streets on a dog walk last summer.

The next row has zinnias and gallardias,which have never grown before at Fink Farms.  The zinnias are quick sprouters though.  We also planted a pot of coreopsis and a six pack of  gazanias.  We added in one small dill plant which seems to love its new location.

Kate had a chance to use her favorite piece of gardening equipment, the Mantis tiller. An amazing chewer of soil, it is. She started down another piece of land on the north side of Karen's house, but there are mighty tree roots in that bed that will need more attention than we had Sunday.

Meanwhile, the cabbages are slowly balling…