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brimming with broccoli

September 25, 2012 Gotalottie, Tips 4 Comments
good companions

We’ve been at the allotment again on Saturday – clearing the last of the weeds left from 3yrs of neglect.

We didn’t do this clearing the easy way – with a strimmer; oh no, muggins here had to do it by hand with a pair of shears and secateurs and a fork on the thick stuff. Some would say stubborn, but it was possible to learn about the humps and bumps of the plot at close hand with a pair of shears. It’s a little like the touring holiday that I took around France on a cycle.. sometimes hard, but saw more of France and the people – warts and all.

Our plot has a lot of warts and not unlike France – a lot of snails.

In reality, the neglect extends to 10 years, the previous tenant didn’t do so much by all accounts and the history that we’ve traced, describes a garden which was in good use up to around 2001. It was Zinas husband who tended it well, brought in vast amounts of manure and grew some magnificent veg in his tenancy which started 10 years before that. Sadly, Zinas husband went to sleep forever while on the allotment one evening; we hope that he’s looking down on us, with a smile at our efforts – stubborn or not.

life on an allotment - post WW1

life on an allotment – post WW1

Clearing by hand has uncovered some of that history: old paths and edges, terraces made from old house bricks which have long since been covered by composted weeds which has then become baked over hot summers. It’s all there – quite fascinating.

Our ‘Time team’ excavating has unearthed some unusual and quite rare artifacts; pieces of flint in odd man-made holders – probably used to light fires in the distant past; strange spherical objects - some with quite unusual markings – possibly an owners mark or signature; late Elizabethan drinking vessels.

In reality, no NE allotment would be without it’s share of dead cigarette lighters, golf balls or rusting beer cans, even a composted whippet.

 

 

 

Apart from the ‘pile’ at the front corner, there was no broken glass, no buried rubbish and no barrels of glowing flourescent liquid.

So, 12 weeks in and we have cleared the weeds, laid some beds and grown some veg. Most importantly, we have sustained the enthusiasm, despite some serious setbacks and looking back, we have made these things in the correct order.

It’s now time to begin looking forwards, to winter evenings, planning our sowing and plantings for next year. Those seed catalogues - thrust into our innocent hands at the Harrogate Flower Show - make a scintillating read, especially at bedtime.

Our dreams are of filled beds, lush compost crammed with Cabbage, brimming with Broccoli and bursting with Beetroot. In our dreams, this veg is green, healthy and has companions.

good companions

good companions

 

Companion planting is the practice of planting complimentary plants and vegetables in close proximity to each other. These companions help each other in nutrient uptake, pollination, pest control and in many other ways which increase productivity and crop longevity.  This practice has been studied and performed for countless years in cottage gardens in England and is a science which emanated from Asia several centuries ago.

spot the caterpillars

spot the caterpillars

The seemingly humble Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus, that self-seeding triumph of English amateur gardens is a wonder; it can fill a border, discretely cover a scruffy area and compliment a fence in a way that is difficult to replicate with any other plant. They triumphantly flower throughout the Summer and well into Autumn with hardly a care for whatever the weather can throw at us.

 

The Nasturtium, not only providing a blaze of colour, is an absolute Bee magnet and heaven-knows – our Bees need help.

It is the plant equivalent of pie and chips, at least to caterpillars and you’ll find every striped wriggly on the plot drawn to its succulent, quite leathery leaves.

Dwarf Nasturtiums will adapt well to limited space adjacent to a path and would become a perfect companion for the Cabbages all summer and early autumn.

We commented on companion planting in an earlier post, when we visited RHS Harlow Carr in August. The kitchen garden, whilst only a display, is a fine example of the clever, if not prudent, use of herbs and flowers within the vegetable beds.

 

companions on all levels

companions on all levels

 Plant Marigolds among your tomatoes to keep off harmful root nematodes. Cucumbers, squash, pumpkins will all benefit from marigolds planted around them.  The stronger the scent – the better. Scatter seed heads around also later in the season.  A warning though – Beans and Cabbage do not grow well around Marigolds.

The list is long and some useful combinations include:

Lavender – Deters moths, aphids and fleas
Horseradish – Plant along with your potatoes to keep away potato bugs
Dill – Cabbage will grow better and stronger when planted with dill but don’t plant it near your carrots.
Lovage – Good to grow with most plants since it improves their health and flavour; also attracts beneficial insects

Onions – Repels carrot flies
Carrots – Repels onion flies (what a combination and some very dizzy and confused flies)
Parsley – Parsley left to go to seed will attract parasitic wasps, which are very beneficial; great with leeks
Peppermint – Deters cabbage white butterfly and aphids
Rosemary - Great with beans, cabbage, carrots and sage. Repels cabbage moth, bean beetles and carrot flies
Sage – Companion plant for broccoli, cauliflower, rosemary, cabbage and carrots. Deters cabbage moth, beetles and carrot flies. Avoid it near the cucumbers
Yarrow - Attracts beneficial insects and great as a tea to cure upset stomachs (an old Russian cure that really works)
 
There are some unhappy combinations; carrots and dill for example and potatoes are a difficult neighbour for many plants – particularly other veg. Some of these combinations might not end up in a punch-up but growth for both plants is usually inhibited and best avoided.
 
We’re planning a host of annuals and half-hardy plants around our paths, insect life is going to benefit and we will be rewarded with a mass of colour.
 
During the next few weeks, we’re going to be spending time with our heads stuck in the seed catalogues, but not for too long, as some of this will need sowing now – to build a great root system for next spring.
 
Where’s the potting compost?

Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Nome says:

    Lovely post. I’ve had mixed results with companion planting – I think combinations work differently depending on local conditions. But I have a good patch of flowering herbs (lovage, rosemary, mints, thymes) which attracts lots of bugs, and I always have loads of nasturtiums, marigolds, borage and poached-egg plant among my veg that I happily allow to self-seed all over the place!

  2. I planted nasturtiums with cabbages this year and they looked beautiful, found they can get a bit thuggish (even in this summer) but dont object to a bit of heavy handed thinning out. : )

  3. Lee says:

    Nice post, I’m with you on the nasturtium-praise. Also, they’re delicious. Nasturtium, chard and sorrel have been the leaves (and flowers) that have made it onto our salads all summer. Have pickled a jar of the seeds too, which are great.

  4. wellywoman says:

    Lovely post. The buried whippets bit really made me smile. My nasturtiums have been a real success this year growing in amongst the base of my squash teepee. We’ve eaten them loads in salads and a breadcrumby topping for fish. I don’t do companion planting as such but do make sure we have lots of flowers on the plot providing food for beneficial insects. I don’t need to use any chemicals and I get real pleasure from seeing and hearing the buzz of insect life. I’ve already started on the seed catalogues but I think my eyes are bigger than my plot!! Restraint is difficult but necessary. ;)

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