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May 10, 2014

Saturday Gardening Thread: Bi-Polar Edition [Y-not and WeirdDave]

Owing to the vagaries of a thing we call Life in a place we call Meat Space, today's gardening thread has two topics: "Ain't Got Time" and "Companion Plants." See if you can tell which is which. (I'm not sure I can!)

This thread brought to you by the avocado:


Ah, the Seventies! The era of avocado green appliances and fourteen-fingered housewives.

Take it away, WeirdDave:

Folks, my part of this thread is going to be brief. Iím annoyed that Terrance West got drafted by the Browns instead of the Ravens,* so now the best NFL prospect ever from my alma mater is playing for a division rival, plus I have a huge professional issue that has come up and Iíve got to figure out what to do, so Iím taking blogger shortcut #2 to fake content: Lots of pictures, so the thread looks a lot longer than it is. (blogger shortcut #1 is loads of links**).

Letís start with azaleas. Right now, they are in bloom, and my house is surrounded with them. Thereís a whole bank of them in my backyard.


We also have them out front, and one bush in particular is interesting. Itís white, but it has one branch thatís bright pink. Itís not a graft, itís not a shoot from a different bush pushing through. This white azalea has 2 pink branches.


The interesting thing is that the white blooms are variegated, which Iíve never seen in an azalea.


Last year, we ran across azalea bushes for sale for $2 each at the Lowes, so we bought a bunch (26!) and put them in on the front hill of my house. Hopefully in a few years weíll have a whole bank of wall to wall color when they bloom in the spring.


See how well prepared for the thread I was? I took a picture in the dark. I mulched about 2/3 of the hill last week, Iíll do the rest this weekend

Finally, I had a few people last week express interest in the faux pho soup I make, so I thought Iíd give the recipe. I start with Bulgogi meat. This is thin sliced beef that you can buy pre sliced at most Asian markets. Bulgogi is a Korean dish, quite good. I buy the meat in bulk at the local market and then split it up into baggies, 4-5 slices in a bag. I freeze it and have thin sliced beef on demand for soup, cheesesteaks or anything else that needs some beef, just thaw and use.


Bulgogi meat

Thaw the meat about halfway, then cut it in half. Put it in a bowl. Put 3 cups of water on to boil and dig a packet of beef ramen soup out of the cupboard (I know the soup packet says 2 cups, but trust me). When the water is boiling, put the noodles in to cook. Take a couple of onion slices, quarter them, and dump them in the bowl with the meat. Add the flavor packet from the soup, sriracha sauce, soy sauce and a tablespoon of better than bullion, just leave it in the tablespoon and let the hot water wash it out.


At this point it doesnít look to appetizing

After three minutes, when the noodles are done, pour them into the bowl. The hot water will cook the beef. Stir everything up, garnish with fresh basil from your garden (see? This does have something to do with gardening!) and enjoy.


Faux Pho

Well, that was weak. Y-not, got something better?

*A Raven's fan upset about the draft? Cry me a river. -- Y-not (Redskins fan)

**Hey! I resemble that remark! -- Y-not

And now from your co-hostess, Y-not:

A few weeks ago I was thinking about what plants to try this year and I discovered that last year - completely by accident - I had stumbled into a beneficial "companion" plant for my tomatoes. Nasturtiums are considered by some to be good to grow near tomatoes because their bright flowers attract pollinators, which tomatoes need. I only grew them because they are pretty and edible!

It occurred to me that other than knowing that legumes can revitalize soils through their ability to "fix" nitrogen and having been told long ago that marigolds are great for repelling garden pests, I don't really know very much about companion planting, so it might be an interesting topic.

To get us started, here's a brief primer on the subject courtesy of Vertical Food Blog:

Successful farmers and growers are well aware of their nutrient demands their crops place upon their soil or aquaponic/hydroponic systems. They know that some plants in particular, like legumes, fix nitrogen and add to soil nutrition while others demand a great deal from the soil or nutrient solution without giving much back throughout their life cycles. Some plants even produce various chemicals that can affect the growth of other plants around them.
Each of these factors play a large role in determining how well plants grow together.
While some plants can inhibit the growth of others, helping to produce maximum yields, surpress pests and facilitate better pollination, pairing the wrong types of plants together can lead to poor or stunted growth and a frustrated farmer/grower.
ďCompanion PlantingĒ involves planting different plants near each other for overall greater production.

Although this is an old article (circa 1981) from Mother Earth News, it provides a helpful list of plants that should - or should NOT - be planted near one another. For example, here's their entry for kohlrabi:

Plant near: cabbage/cauliflower companions (except tomatoes)
Keep away from: fennel, pole beans, tomatoes
Comments: kohlrabi stunts tomatoes

I like that it's such an extensive list and that it has some explanations of the "whys" of their recommendations, but I wish there was a little more reasoning provided. For example, they say to not plant basil near rue, but they don't say why.

This more recent article provides a Top Ten list of companion plants.

We have a lot of tomato growers in our group, so courtesy of Tree Hugger (I denounce myself!), here's a recommended list of companion plants for your tomatoes: borage, chives, marigolds, nasturtiums, basil, calendula, carrots, peppers, sage, onions, garlic, and leaf lettuce. In this particular case, the gardener is doing container gardening, by the way.

And, for our rose gardeners, the folks at HeirloomRoses provide this list of companion plants for roses.

Although there are some differences of opinion (for example, did you know that the "marigolds are good companion plants" chestnut is controversial?), one commonality is that companion plants should be from a different plant family. The idea being that if you plant highly related plants together, they're likely to compete for the same resources AND attract the same pests.

Courtesy of Penn State University, here's a brief article about the principles of plant rotation for the home garden, as well as a table summarizing the family relationships between common garden plants:

In general, it is not recommended that an area be planted with plants of the same family in succession to avoid the buildup of shared pests. Some plants should not follow members of other families either because of susceptibility to common pests. For example, strawberries (and other members of the Rosaceae) should not be planted after members of the Solanaceae (and vice versa) because they are all susceptible to the disease verticillium wilt. Keep in mind that various weeds also belong to these same families and can also host the same pests. Knowing plant families can also be useful in determining appropriate pesticides to use, when warranted. This can apply to both targeted effects and non-targeted effects such as being toxic to desirable garden plants.

Plants can be rotated to manage soil fertility. This is done by including plants in the rotation to improve the fertility status of the garden soil and rotating among plants that are heavy users of certain nutrients. For example, members of the Fabaceae (legume family) can be grown to add nitrogen to the soil and many members of the Liliaceae are heavy users of potassium.

What have been your experiences with plants that do well together OR that do poorly together?

To wrap things up, how about some Mozart?

The Mister and I are going to go see this opera tonight.

What's happening in your garden?

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posted by Open Blogger at 01:03 PM

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