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May 2003 II
Gardening in
"Little Siberia"

Advice and tips on
Companion Planting

© 2003 Janelle N. Seavey


"OBIG" Syndrome

This is difficult, so please, bear with me. I have "OBIG" syndrome. Ok, I’ve said it and I feel better already. Yes, I have "Obsessive-Behavior-In-Gardening" syndrome. As my gardening self-help group recites in unison at every meeting, "Hey, perfection never killed anyone, but I will try to ease up a bit." And you know, I have not planted anything in a straight row for, oh, let’s see now…an hour and a half.

Talk to anyone who knows me, and they will tell you I am a bit of a "neat freak". I like order. I like symmetry. I like all my little ducks lined up in a row. Naturally, all this was played out in garden after garden, year after year. For awhile, I used a device used by road construction crews to sight an absolutely straight line and a small, hanging level to make sure my strings were, you know, level! I know. It is sad. Perhaps I was struck by lightening out there while pulling microscopic weeds with tweezers, I truly don’t remember, but I did change my ways!

My garden had reached nearly unmanageable size, 35’x75’. I started in November plotting on graph paper, to scale (of course!), the next year’s garden plan. Needless to say, I missed Christmas and New Years that year. No one could find me beneath the mounds of balled up paper, eraser crumbs and gardening catalogs.

The garden stayed large enough to serve as a heliport for the local hospital, but going, slowly, were the rows standing sentry duty. To tell you the truth, I don’t recall how the seed was planted (pun intended), but I started reading and researching all I could find on companion planting. My first foray into it was planting thousands of nasturtium seeds amongst my 40+ hills of winter squash. It was amazing! It became a sea of contrasting leaf color, size and shape. The nasturtiums with their fiery blossoms of orange and sunset red crawled over, under and around every squash vine and its yellow, trumpet flowers. Every dish I prepared that season was garnished, in one way or another, with the edible, peppery, cabbage-flavored nasturtium blooms. Nasturtiums actually are at their best in poor soil. They keep aphids away from squash and broccoli. In fact, they are good buddies to all cucurbits, brassicas and potatoes, too.

My garden has gotten considerably smaller in size over the years. How many squash can three people eat? It is down to just 35’x26’ and this year I am returning another 10 feet of width to the weedy, hay-infused thing we in Maine call a lawn. I now just purchase my seed peas, which are typically the first thing we can plant here, and pick a spot where my pea fence won’t shade too many other future plants. I still sow somewhat of a row, but it really is more like a bed of about 12-18" wide and of varying lengths. I then sow the seed thickly, and I do mean thickly! Last year I used 5 pounds of seed to plant two such beds that were just 12’ long. You get more peas, the vines support each other and all the more nitrogen is left in the soil. From there it is a little treasure hunt as I research the things that benefit peas and vice versa and do a kind of "garden scrawl" outward and across the garden. No minute drawings or architectural quality blueprints. Just ramble and roll! Gone as well is what could clearly be defined as rows. It starts to look like a wild-west movie burial ground after the shoot out. Scattered about are these raised mounds of varying shapes and sizes, all marked with homemade stakes. All that’s missing are the cowboy hats resting on the stakes! With this method, I find I can go back all summer and plant in and around these raised beds with other favorable companions. The paths between them can be tilled at any time and planted with a good pest fighter, as well. So here I am, free at last! Now if I could only stop arranging my gardening library by publishing dates! As always, 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