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May 2003 I
Gardening in
"Little Siberia"

Advice and tips on
Companion Planting

© 2003 Janelle N. Seavey

 


Gardening in "Little Siberia"

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 sleddin’." 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 we’re 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, I’ll start with just one or two vegetables.

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 I’ll be writing about in the months to come. Next time I’ll touch on some of the garden layouts that have worked well for me. Happy planting!

copyright 2003 Janelle N. Seavey

Companion Planting – a gardening system using the natural affinities of plants to promote or inhibit growth in their neighbors. Knowing which plants like each other and which ones don't can increase the health and vitality of your garden, improve the taste and nutritional value of your vegetables, confuse pests so you can eliminate toxic chemicals, attract beneficial insects and add to the enjoyment of gardening.'

Janelle gardens on about four acres on the Messalonskee Stream, an outlet from Messalonskee Lake, one of the Belgrade Lakes Region Lakes, one of which is Great Pond, made famous in the movie "On Golden Pond". 

She is an "enthusiastic and a tad obsessed" gardener who has been companion planting for over 20 years.

Gardening in "Little Siberia" index

also see Books - Companions