Garden plans are moving right along! This last week, I made a list of the vegetables and herbs I’d like to plant, started graphing the garden, determined which seed company to use and placed an order, researched companion planting, and dug my soil samples.
Thursday, January 11, 2018, was a blissful “heat wave” that provided an opportunity to dig the samples. At 8:30 p.m., the National Weather Service recorded 57 degrees in Kalamazoo – 26 degrees warmer than normal, and I took full advantage of it. With a bucket and shovel, I ran around the garden, digging about 3 inches down in ten different spots in the section of the garden that I did not test last year. The soil is currently sitting in a bucket in the garage. The next step is to blend the samples together, scoop a cup of it out, and spread it out to dry naturally. I’m hoping it will dry on an old cookie sheet in the garage – visions of centipede eggs hatching in the basement are preventing me from drying it there. I will purchase the kit from the local MSU extension office this week if my nerves can take the white knuckle winter driving to get there and back on a lunch hour.
While researching companion planting, “three sisters garden” kept popping up. This is a Native American method of planting corn - grain/carbohydrate, with beans – protein; surrounded by winter squash - vitamin A/potassium. In addition to the nutritionally sound trio, sisterhood is also noted in the way the plants support each other. The beans climb the corn stalks for support and the combination provides shade for the squash below that thrives in a shady, humid environment. The prickly squash leaves also keep raccoons away and shade the soil - limiting weeds and assisting with maintaining soil moisture. Another level of sisterhood happens underground. Corn sucks nitrogen out of the soil, beans put nitrogen into the soil, and squash decreases the soil erosion that can occur with planting rows of corn. Fascinated by the subject, I’ll give it a try using the “three sister mounds” information found on the nativeseeds.org web site.
I have a lot more companion planting reading to do and have ordered the following books from the Michigan Electronic Library or MeL.org:
Louise Riotte Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening
Dale Mayer The Complete Guide to Companion Planting: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Garden Successful
Sally Jean Cunningham Great Garden Companions: A Companion Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-free Vegetable Garden
They should arrive at my local library within two weeks. Meanwhile, after perusing many vegetable seed sites, I decided to place an order from burpee.com. The buy-one-get-one-free email was enticing plus I have grown Burpee seeds before without any issues. I ordered two varieties of sweet corn and one is RED! I ordered purple pole beans (love to watch them turn green when they cook) and winter squash, zucchini, summer squash and pumpkins to complete the three sisters lineup. Beets, carrots, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, Big Boy tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, lettuce, dill, parsley, and lemon balm completed the order.
And as you can see from the photos, I have started to map out the garden. Once I do more reading about companion gardening, I’ll be able to plan the rest. Sowing seeds indoors, and weed control are on my mind, and I’ve solved how to keep the deer and rabbits out – with a motion detection pest deterrent sprinkler system. There will be more on these subjects to come.