Notes from Windward: #68


Garden Updates

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 tiny.

tiny carrot

     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 ground.

     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