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Archive for April, 2009

For centuries, people have observed beneficial and detrimental relationships among plants in specific configurations.  Companion planting (CP) is all about cultivating vegetables and flowers that will be beneficial to your plants and ultimately, enhance your harvest.

Know Your Plant Families for Companion Planting

Know Your Plant Families for Companion Planting

But because of the complex interactions among plants, animals, the chemical composition of the soil and air, and even extraterrestial influences that some gardeners swear by like the phases of the moon, certain guidelines are more consistent than others.  In many respects, edible gardening is an art that we in our unique locations must tailor for our own ecosystem.  We need to draw on our powers of observation and common sense if what was prescribed did not produce the desired results.

Generally, companion planting addresses various objectives such as:

  • Yield enhancement
  • Natural pest control
  • Attracting beneficial insects
  • Watering requirements

What you’ll discover in doing a Google search is that there are CP guidelines that are consistent across different environments (i.e. may have a valid biological/chemical basis), and then there others that are “hit or miss” (i.e. may have originated from anecdotal evidence subject to conditions that cannot be duplicated in most environments).

To understand companion planting, it helps to know your basic plant families.  We created a Garden Vegetable Family slideshow to acquaint you with the basics, so that if you see the term “nightshade”, you’ll immediately think of tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers, and how it’s often not recommended to plant them near each other.

Our next blog entry will talk about the common blunders in companion planting.  While there is no shortage of companion planting books and guides, our objective is to provide guidelines that are almost universally agreed upon — with this thoughtful caveat:

“Experienced gardeners will commit themselves to few rules and even fewer certainties with companion planting.  Most of us need to experiment with several approaches and will usually discover that success depends upon location, soil condition, and other factors in addition to the combinations themselves.  Bearing this in mind, it is good practice to keep detailed records of each attempt so that similar conditions can be repeated whenever a successful outcome is achieved.”

Derek Walton, http://www.organicguide.com

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Starting “Hard Seeds”

Parsley seeds can be tough to germinate.

Parsley seeds can be tough to germinate.

Certain seeds with a hard seed coat take a bit more patience and work to grow successfully.   Here we hope to give you a few pointers that can help you get some of those challenging seeds to sprout.

Here is a partial list.  The first five belong to the Parsley family (Apiaceae).  I am sure others will suggest more and we will keep this list updated.

  • Celery & Celeriac
  • Parsley
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Cilantro
  • Swiss chard (don’t need to soak overnight, just 1-2 hrs)
  • Peas (can also be soaked in an inoculant)

Start by soaking seeds in warm water (90-100F or 32-38C).   I like to start with a small cup and fill it halfway up.  2-3 hrs. later, add some more warm water.  Soak overnight.

Some people put seeds on wet paper towels and wait until visible signs of sprouting and then plant the paper towel with the seed in the soil.  If you wish, you can cut the paper towel into strips and line it with seeds. Keep the paper towel water wet.

For both approaches, use warm water when you plant the seeds.   You can use water from a garden hose that has been out in the sun.  Always put your hand in front of the stream and test before watering.  If it is really hot and sunny this may be too hot, so use caution and common sense.

There are other methods like “mechanical scarification” — nicking, sanding, and filing the seed coat, but I’ve had success with the warm water approach. We’d love to hear which hard seeds you’ve started and your technique to get them to sprout!

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