Sunday, March 10, 2013

Old gardeners' tales

Old gardeners' tales are rampant, even these days.

Companion planting advice as shown in this graphic is freely passed along as gospel of the garden. But most of the companion planting pairings (compatible or incompatible) have not been verified with scientific methods.  Nevertheless, books have been written about plants with human emotions such as "love" or "hate" used in their titles.
Don't fall for these old gardeners' tales.

In my research for "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida," I found that the more important thing to keep in mind is the botanical family of the plants so your crop rotation from one season to the next includes different crop families for at least two rounds. This keeps the specific pests guessing and allows the soils to be replenished.

One of my go to resources for garden myths is Linda Chalker-Scott's website, The Informed Gardener. She's an urban extension agent in Washington State and she has access to the professional journals where she researches various gardening traditions to find if the science proves them to be true or not. She's also published two books listing some of the most common myths.

I planted a row of tall sunflowers away from other gardens.
I planted two seeds in each pile of compost.

Sunflowers are one of the exceptions

Sunflowers (Helianthus spp) are one type of plant that kills or stunts its neighbors. So when you grow them, it's best to plant them away from other plants and dispose of the dead plants at the end of the season so that you can take advantage of their built in herbicide such as using them for a path mulch.

While the danger of frost here in north Florida is not over, it's becoming less and less likely. So I planted two types of sunflowers this week. I'd been piling leaves and other dead stuff raked from the lawn before our first mowing in a line along the back edge of the raised septic drain field. The soil is extremely sandy up there, of course, so I needed the pile of dead stuff to hold the moisture. Then I nestled shovelfuls of compost along the row of leaves. Finally, I planted two seeds in each pile of compost.  These are tall sunflowers with supposedly easy-to-harvest sunflower seeds to eat. The directions stated eight inches apart. I think my planting falls into that range. After the seeds were planted, I covered them with a pine needle mulch.

I also planted some shorter, multi-headed sunflowers at the back of the herb garden for a change. I'll plant basil somewhere else. I'll let you know how they do.  Meanwhile, read my article from a few years back for more information on sunflowers and how this American native became Russia's national flower. Sensational sunflowers.

Sunrise the other morning from our front yard highlighted a buttermilk sky.

I wish you beautiful sunrises and now that it's daylight savings time, maybe you'll see a few more.

Green Gardening Matters, 
Ginny Stibolt

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