Notes from Windward: #68
Oana tells Garden Stories
It's late October. We've already harvested a good crop of pumpkins and
a whole bunch of potatoes. We have plenty of turnips and leeks. The
beans grew well and we managed to save some seeds, but the rest of our
harvest hasn't been exactly stellar. Growing all our own food isn't
the main goal at Windward, but it's nice to be able to experiment with
thoughts of future lunches in mind.
pumpkins chillin' in the windowbox
This fall, as I've been watering the garden, I've been keeping an eye
on the progress of the crops. Before I'd arrived, though, the sheep
had slipped into the garden one afternoon and eaten many of the young
vegetables. The peas, broccoli, quinoa, salad greens, and a few others
were gone. The wax beans, leeks, turnips, rhubarb, and carrots
survived, although the carrots were planted too closely and were very
The Three Sisters (the name given to corn, beans, and squash grown
together) seemed to be doing very well. Watering the Sisters with
"green water" from the duck pond definitely encouraged their growth.
This should be a continuing practice, as the ducks will continue
creating fertilizer straight into their pond. This water is collected,
stored, and used in the garden instead of allowed to seep into the
Unfortunately the Three Sisters weren't able to fend off the aphids
that eventually attacked the corn leaves. This ruined pretty much the
entire crop of corn. However, those aphids got me thinking. There must
be a way of luring them to plants that people do not eat, keeping them
away from things we like.
aphids and ants on the corn
[Walt writes: For years we've relied on ducks to patrol the garden and keep bugs in control. In spring, they diligently patrol the garden eating every bug they can find, and every bug they eat is a bug that doesn't reproduce. They're another example of how what appears to be a problem can become a resource.
However, two winters back a pack of coyotes came through and wiped out our mixed flock of ducks and guinea hens. We don't mind losing a few birds to predators--we think of it as a "nature tax,"--but a total wipeout is something else entirely. Last year we purchased chicks to restart our flock, keeping them in a secure area to use as brood stock. This year we focused on learning how to incubate a wide range of eggs, and I'm pleased to report that we've doubled the size of our duck and guinea flocks. We're looking forward to having our fowl bug hunters back in action next spring.]
I did a bunch of reading and came up with a feasible plan of next
year's garden which included lots of companion planting. Companion
planting organizes the crops so that they help each other grow, either
by attracting beneficial insects which eat harmful insects, repelling
these harmful ones, or providing nutrients, shade from the sun, or
physical support. In the case of the Three Sisters, the corn provides
support for the bean plants, which curl up the stalks and provide
nitrogen to the surrounding crops. The squash crawls on the ground,
shading the sunlight to prevent weeds from growing.
aphids and ants on the corn
There are many other companions, however, the introduction of
marigolds and nasturtiums among the food crops seems like a very
beneficial move to make. French and Mexican varieties of marigolds are
said to be a "natural pesticide", attracting and killing several types
of harmful crop insects, especially pest nematodes. Nasturtiums are
particularly good at attracting aphids, keeping them away from other
plants. They also attract beneficial insects which feed on aphids.
Several things will need to be done to prepare for the new layout,
however. I plan to cut terraces into the slope of the garden to
improve water retention and outline the plots. This will have to
happen before the ground freezes and the snow comes in. November will
be a busy time. In February, I plan to start seedlings in Propagation
Greenhouse. Katie has found that starting seedlings produces hardier
plants which can safely be planted into the outside gardens. My
stomach is excited to see how this crop experiment will go.
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68