I’ve gotten so much feedback on Facebook in response to my cry for gardening help. My dear friend Mimi Pate absolutely jumped in with both feet and I’m going to post her suggestions and help here so I don’t forget any of it.
Remember, people, this is gardening for dummies – I know NOTHING! So, thank you so much, Mimi, for all of this:
“This is what I have learned from 2 years of an organic vegetable garden (not much, I admit!): Chard is my very favorite. You can plant it almost as early as spinach, and it keeps coming all summer long and on into fall. As long as you keep cutting it. I cut the leaves with a scissors. (You can also continue to seed all summer long if you prefer to pull out the chard by its roots when it’s mature.)
Rabbits ate every one of my pea plants to the ground last spring when they got to be about 3 inches tall. Now is the time to plant peas in N Carolina I think. Carrots are super easy, nothing eats them. But I have a hard time thinning them out. I hate to rip out any plants, but you have to give them room. I hate to thin my zinnias too. Oh, your grandmother loved them!
I lose all my squash every year to squash root borer. I thought I could use aluminum foil at ground level on the stem, but didn’t work. Also cucumber beetles put a virus in cukes. (Unless you will use poison, I don’t know the answer).
Note: Broccoli takes lots of room. Each plant is huge.. . French haricots verts are the most prolific. ALL summer you can pick. They’re great!!!!Plant potatoes on Good Friday. (That is connected to the phase of the moon right for roots)
My response: Oh, my gosh! Thank you so much for this!
How big is your plot? I’m definitely planting carrots and broccoli. Broccoli is so beautiful!
And the rabbits ate pea plants! I watched a rabbit sit and eat every stalk of parsley I had one year – and I had a lot! I know that little guy ended up with quite a stomach ache. But he was so cute! Started at the top of every single shoot and ate all the way down to the ground..
French haricots verts? I’ll have to look that up… Oh, green beans!
And, no, I don’t use chemicals.
Mimi’s next message:
“Each broccoli plant took up the circumference of a bushel basket. So give them that much room. You might want to put them in with your perennial border.
I put my peppers and tomatoes in front of my zinnias in my border along the fence row. I didn’t rent a tiller when I dug out my garden plot, So I dug one garden space one year and a matching one the next. Probably about 10′ by 10′ or so (each). With matching curved corners. Kind of a half-moon with a path across the middle. I know that’s hard to visualize, but I am trying to avoid too regimented a look.I started digging out each plot the fall before. And added rabbit shit, compost and peat moss periodically so it would be ready by spring to just rake and plant.
I think that the dead looking ground is SO ugly! (Compared with a perennial garden, for example) so I have put a lavender plant at each corner and I think that gives them a nice definition. The lavender blooms most of the summer, you can cut and dry all season long and give as gifts, and attracts lots of bees. I definitely recommend.
There is a path between the two plots and I was going to put a trellis on each side. HOWEVER, this year I had to try to fence out the rabbits. In June I got the posts intending to do a 3′ chicken wire fence. I was seduced by the dark green plastic 3′ imitation chicken wire. So I used that instead. The little devils stayed out for about a month, then they chewed through it. So I left the posts and this spring I will use the real chickenwire. The rabbits got my peas because I planted them along the picket fence, thinking they would climb up (they–the peas– have to climb on something). They were not inside my protected area.
Also either squirrels or possums climb up the tomato stakes and eat both green and ripe tomatoes. It is SO aggravating because they just take one huge bite, then discard the rest. They seem to be particularly fond of the heirloom varieties. I tried bird netting with some success, but it gets really tangled by the end of the season. . .If I had a handyman I would build a frame and net my whole damn yard!!!!!” (don’t you just love her?)
Okay, I’m hooked. I want to join in on this too.
I have questions galore for you/Mimi.
1) How do you keep aphids – organically – off your brocolli. I have never been able to harvest brocolli, cauliflower or brussels sprouts because they end up drowning in aphids (ick).
2) Living in Australia, I have different problems I suppose. My back yard has no rabbits. But I have possums. No easy way to keep them out of things. They love strawberries; they eat the new leaves, not just the berries. Frank and are are considering building a prison cell ala gitmo in the back yard for tomatoes and strawberries. Any other suggestions?
3) My squash (any kind of pumpkin or squash or melon) gets a weird leafy mould. If left alone it kills every leaf and then you get no melons because the plant has no energy left for it. I mix a bit of baking soda in a spray bottle with water and a bit of dishwashing soap (to make it stick) and spray it on every leaf, top and bottom, every few days. It is time consuming but keeps the mould at bay. If you guys know how to get rid of the mould for good (it must be in my soil and compost) I’d love to hear it.
4) Have you ever tried growing ginger or horseradish? I’ve planted both that in theory take over like weeds. Then I moved (oops). I tried ginger in the next house in a pot and it worked okay, but never grew in the abundance I’ve dreamed.
I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts / comments later and plan to stay active here.
Laura, I think I read somewhere else about aphids invading broccoli. I planted mine in late summer to be a fall crop the first year I started gardening. The broccoli came in real late, it never formed big heads, BUT there were no insect problems.
Someone in an organic gardening store was telling me about neem as an effective pest deterrent, but I have not investigated that. Now would be a good time, I guess, for me to check it out. I think they said it needed to be applied before there was a problem.
You know you can’t plant the same crop in the same spot the second year?
Thanks to you two for inspiring me to get started earlier this year!!
Wait, what? You can’t plant the same crop in the same spot the second year. Oh, this is already harder than I thought…
Mimi and Karen,
That whole crop rotation thing is probably one of my problems. Not that I’ve had fantastic crops that require rotation. I assume it is not as simple as swapping your spinach and broccoli each year.
Do you still need to rotate if you add a heavy dose of new compost and dig around a bit? I have a LOT to learn.
My broccoli gets aphids about 2 hours after anything resembling a head forms. I’ve read that making a spray from crushed garlic keeps them away. It didn’t. Or I didn’t use enough garlic? Maybe I need to apply it when I see the first shoot.