Brae and Tylor

Brae and Tylor
What th...

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Plant association and weeds

Thinking about BJ's allotment, here are a few reasonable plant associations to go into spring with, together with an interesting look at weeds.

-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. Nasturtiums are reputed to repel cucumber beetles, also good as habitat for predatory insects, such as spiders and ground beetles.

-Peppers and ..Nah dont bother 

-Cabbage and dill: Dill is a great companion for cabbage family plants, such as broccoli and brussels sprouts. The cabbages support the floppy dill, while the dill attracts the tiny beneficial wasps that control imported cabbageworms and other cabbage pests.

-Lettuce and tall flowers: Nicotiana (flowering tobacco) 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 ladybirds and other predators that help protect cauliflower. Cauliflowers look nice, but who the hell wants to eat them (voluntarily)

-Collards (greens) and catnip: Studies have found that planting catnip alongside collards reduces some f'kin bug or another. Of course the catnip encourages .... Cats -  who will roll about over your plants and dig up all your other vegetables in order to make their own massive toilet

Forget about catnip and for that matter, Collards (just buy them from a greengrocers).

-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.

-Stinging nettles, wasps and burglers: burglers look just great with a stinging nettle rash and wasp stings. Plant them next to your valuables.

What about those f'kin weeds -  its just a matter of perspective. 

Learning to live with a few weeds is a gardener’s mark of maturity, not unlike that moment when you suddenly stop fretting about the fact that you’re too tall, too short or whether your bum looks good in this and simply decide to get on with life.

Weeds compete with your desired, cultivated plants for water, nutrients, sunlight, and growing space. Left alone, they will overrun your garden. If you doubt this, observe an empty allotment or untended garden for just one growing season and watch the weeds take over.
And yet the organic gardener is well served by cultivating a healthy tolerance for some weeds. Complete eradication is unnecessary unless something as insidiously invasive as Japanese knoweed, ground elder or bloody 'Granny Pop Out Your f'kin Bed' crops up in your garden or allotment.

By tolerating a few weeds, you will make your entire gardening experience more relaxed and enjoyable. And your garden will still be beautiful. There are as many shades of green in this world as there are of gray.

In the Eye of the Beholder
The concept of “weeds” is a human invention, a way to describe those plants that grow where we don’t want them. The mint that I planted last year is my idea of a weed. Yours may be volunteer tomato plants from last year’s crop that show up in your flowerbed. One strategy for becoming more weed-tolerant is to rework your definition of a weed. A common gauge for weed tolerance is the relative difficulty of getting rid of the plant; perennials with spreading roots or deep taproots are the most persistent, so you will want to nuke these bastards.

Many plants maligned as weeds are highly attractive to beneficial insects that will help pollinate your plants and eat aphids, thrips, and mites. Others are actually delicious edibles. These include dandelion and common purslane.

Some serious invaders such as  blackberry and pampas grass were prized as ornamentals before they bolted beyond the back garden (it was common knowledge that local swingers would grow pampas grass in  their front gardens).

Because their seeds are typically amazingly mobile, weeds can take over quickly. They’re spread by birds, the wind, running water, and car tires. Swapping plants with friends and neighbours often means trading weed seeds, too. In fact, anytime plants are brought into a new environment, they have the potential of bringing weeds with them.

An Ounce of Prevention
Even if you do embrace a more casual attitude toward weeds, you’ll want to control their growth by focusing on prevention as well as eradication. Weeds are opportunistic plants, popping up wherever conditions allow. With that in mind, think about all the things that you do to stimulate plant growth. Now, to suppress weeds, do the opposite.

Yank them young
Your first defense against weeds is to pull or hoe them before they get established. Learn to identify weeds as young seedlings and nab them as they emerge.

Stop the seed
If you don’t get them as babies, at least don’t let them go to seed. As the old gardening saw goes, “One year’s seeding makes seven years’ weeding.”Remember this when the local council decides not to cut the verges until the dandelions have set a plague of seed (you know who you are).

Organic mulches include compost, shredded leaves, wood chips, bark, dried grass clippings, and other biodegradable material. A 50mm to 75mm layer will keep sunlight from reaching the weed seeds, preventing their germination. Apply mulch immediately after weeding or digging your soil. Take care to keep mulch an inch or two away from plant stems to prevent rot caused by moisture retained in the mulch. Your mulch material will also conserve water, keep roots cool, and nourish the soil as it decomposes.

Plant densely
Grow plants close together, and they will consume the available space, nutrients, and sunlight, thereby bullying the weeds out of the way - this is my favourite.

Remember not to yank perennial weeds. You’ll break off the root, and another weed will appear. Use a long screwdriver or weed-pulling tool with a forked end. Hand-pulling becomes easier as your soil improves.

Pick your day
Weeding can be an absolute joy after a deep, soaking rain, but don’t do it when the soil is soggy. You’ll create clumps. And be careful where you walk and kneel: You don’t want to compress your soil. Stay on paths and lean into your planting beds instead. Dont do it in the rain or it becomes depressing - there are better things in life (masterbating for example).

You may need to use a shovel to dig out persistent perennial weeds. Get as much of the root and runners as you can. It may take several diggings to eliminate something particularly tenacious, such as couch grass

Use a Dutch hoe to scrape off the top layer of annual weeds. To avoid harming the roots of your cultivated plants, don’t dig deeper than 1 inch. Deep hoeing also exposes buried weed seed to sunlight, allowing it to sprout.

Some gardeners use plastic sheeting, newspaper, and weed-barrier cloth as mulchlike covers. You lay the material over your planting areas and cut holes for your plants to grow through. This blocks out light and smothers young weeds. Other people (like me) feel that nonorganic mulches are somewhat out of place - particularly when you see the old carpet and lino turn up at the allotments.

Trying to achieve a weed-free garden or allotment is a demanding, unrealistic goal. By simply accepting a few weeds as part of the mix, you will encourage diversity, welcome tasty additions to the salad bowl, and find yourself with more time for valuable gardening experiences, such as afternoon naps in the hammock, something any civilized person can relate to.

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