Gardening in Maine is, at times, tough. Whenever people
think of Maine, three things come immediately to mind, cold, snow and
lobster. Such thinking is not far from the truth. There is an old saying
here (imagine the infamous Maine accent), "Maine has nine months of winter
and three months of poor sleddiní." In reality, our summers, though short,
make up for the long and often dismal winters. We have at least one or two
weeks of temperatures reaching the high 80s or 90s and humidity is never
hard to find. Not to mention the fact that weíre all eating lobster 3
times a day, it is so cheap and plentiful!
Other challenges include heavy, clay soil, rocks, black
flies and mosquitoes. It has been suggested many times that the last two
replace the black-capped chickadee as our state bird. Of course, we are
neighbors with New Hampshire, "The Granite State", and there is evidence
that a lot of their granite secretly escaped to Maine. As for clay, I
truly believe I am living on the single, largest, deepest, "un-drainiest"
deposit of clay in the world. When my husband and I started our first
vegetable garden some 25 years ago, we literally took an axe and a pickaxe
and chopped two rows in the ground, threw in seed potatoes and hoped for
the best. Trust me, "the best" was not very good!
Twenty years of soil amending later, we have somewhat
of an upper hand on the clay. And as to the black flies and mosquitoes,
you just give in and scratch. What I refuse to give in to however, is the
need to use awful chemicals to control all the other little visitors to my
garden. Therefore was born my deep interest and pursuit of companion
planting. Which, if you do not know, is simply planting things that are
beneficial to each other in close proximity. As an introduction to what I
hope will become regular, helpful advice, Iíll start with just one or two
Lettuce, while seemingly so easy to grow in most areas,
actually suffers a great deal from aphids, in particular. This year, I
have planted dill on the western side of my lettuce to shade subsequent,
staggered plantings from the hot, late afternoon sun. In doing so, I have
given the lettuce a great aphid fighter, as well. Chervil is another enemy
of the little pest.
Other vegetables that benefit from the lettuce are
radishes, strawberries, carrots and cucumbers. Lettuce has a remarkable
tendency to create a humid environment that these plants thrive on. It has
been proven as well, that lettuce can absorb natural antibiotics in the
soil, which then can be good for other plants and us, too!
Hopefully, this gives you a bit of insight as to what
Iíll be writing about in the months to come. Next time Iíll touch on some
of the garden layouts that have worked well for me. Happy planting!