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August 2003 I
Gardening in
"Little Siberia"

Advice and tips on
Companion Planting

© 2003 Janelle N. Seavey


Companion Planting Ė 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

The Tower of "Bambi-lon"

By Janelle N. Seavey

Each growing season I try to alternate bush green beans with pole green beans. By doing this I figure Iím working on two different, and very needy, parts of my body. During the bush bean season, I am constantly bending at the waist, weeding and then harvesting those tender, long, green delicacies. With the pole bean year, I am reaching, sometimes stretching my arms above my head to flick off those voracious Japanese beetles or to pick the bounty of beans. Bush beans help my hamstring muscles to stretch and tighten and pole beans carve those triceps (every womanís nemesis) from the flabby things they usually are into the sinewy, well-defined things they can be.

This year I have found myself fascinated, if not obsessed, with all things Ďrustic" in the way of furniture and garden plant supports. Of course, this is not a "new" fad or discovery. The so-called Adirondack furniture has been around for generations and interest and the making of it has seen a re-birth, if you will, in the past ten years, or so. As I live on land that is abundant in several varieties of "junk" saplings, I have made this the year for building all kinds of garden structures. Keeping oneís land and perimeters free of invading bushes, trees, vines and picky bushes can be a full time job. Every few weeks, I walk my land, loppers and pruning shears in hand, doing a medieval jousting with the seemingly unstoppable growth of these species. Finding long sleeves and pants cumbersome, I usually have the scrapes and scratches of said battle all over me. I figure itís a small price to pay for all this cost-free construction material.

A large part of my property is waterfront, fed by several, small streams. Here in Little Siberia, alder trees seem to take to the water like the proverbial ducks and my little 4 acre "ranch" has not proven to be an exception to that rule! The great thing about alders is that they grow relatively straight and can be, when green, bent, twisted and nailed into just about any configuration you can think up. They lend themselves especially well to arched and looped supports, though trellises are an easy project, as well. Young birch and poplar trees are great for this purpose, as well.

The first thing I made was the common "erectus tee-peeus supporti for beanae", known also as "a bean tee-pee". After the long, relatively exercise-free winter, my arms were in need of some serious stretching. I actually used a small bucksaw to cut four, three-inch diameter alder trees. I removed the branches and cut the ends that would be driven into the ground into somewhat of a point. After positioning the poles in a 3-foot square, I pushed them into the tilled garden soil and brought the upper points together and lashed them with baling twine.

I then made a small moat around the base of the poles and planted my bean seeds. This year I planted a "Fortex" pole bean that I got from Johnnyís Selected Seeds of Albion, Maine, which is close to where I live. Johnnyís specializes in hybridizing seeds for short, cooler seasons such as ours. They have a great, folksy catalog in which the descriptions often sound like those in the LL Bean catalog! Some of their seeds are a little on the pricey side, but they are of exceptional quality and fully guaranteed. You can check their website at www.johnnyseeds.com They have also signed the "Safe Seed Pledge" as well.

No sooner had this wonderful tower begun to fill with the sky-seeking, green tendrils of the bean plants then it commenced to emit some secret, only-heard-by-deer, signal. Nary a deer had been seen up to this point, but grow a green bean plant and "KAPOW", I had a back-lot for a Disney movie sequel. Yes, my rustic attempts at bean support had become "The Tower Of Bambi-Lon". Now, Iím not easily flustered. I respect the fact that the deer were here long before me. Their first attack/visit, however, never fails to cause me to mutter a few, very un-Disney-like words. I quickly recover my composure and remember (again) that the three of us can certainly share a bit of our bounty with the wildlife. I mean, how many green beans can three people eat? To prevent a total stripping of the garden, though, I have found that simply hanging bars of soap, tied with string, over supports and fences, works well. I also stroll about, whittling chips of soap right onto the ground around plants. Most any soap would probably work, but Iíve always used "Safeguard".

Since then, Iíve found no evidence of return visits by Bambi and her buddies, though there are plenty of tracks and droppings to remind me that we are quite possibly straddling the "Deer Highway of Maine". Even living here all my life, I am still amazed that such a graceful, beautiful animal, the size of a small horse, walks around our yards, fields and woods, not to mention the 1000-plus pound moose that amble about!

To re-visit an earlier article, Iíd like to say a bit about the good friends of beans. Like a lot of members of its family, beans feel just grand alongside summer savory and corn. As I wrote previously, I planted a container with summer savory and alternately have put it under the bean tee pee and on my front deck. Tonight (late July) I picked the first of the beans, steamed them and then seasoned them with a bit of butter, salt and pepper and some chopped savory. If I do say so, they tasted grand! Everyone here in Little Siberia is complaining because there hasnít been much to eat yet because of our slow, late, wet, cold spring. Itís finally beginning and soon weíll be wondering what to do with all the bounty.

Some of the things pole beans would just as soon not see are onions, sunflowers, beets or kohlrabi, but radishes and beans seem to do a happy, little dance together. They also thrive with most brassicas. Like all beans, they also treat the soil to a good olí nitrogen feast which they have fixed from the air.

As all my bumps, scratches and bruises can attest, Iíll keep combing the bushes for that perfect sapling. One thing you can count on, however, is the promise that, unlike Disney, Iíll never kill her or her mother!

Happy harvesting!

 

copyright 2003 Janelle N. Seavey