Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Companion Planting

In researching my pea/onion dating situation I was frustrated by the sheer volume of charts that graph companion planting but the limited few that go into details as to WHY plants should be kept at a distance. And none that I found so far give any ideas as to what constitutes ‘companion’, how far away do these combatants need to be kept?

The best info came from Seeds of Change , Garden Toad , and Mother Earth News - which is actually an excerpt from the wonderful and ’soon to be purchased for our reference library’ book …

From what I understand, onions will inhibit the growth of peas; there doesn’t seem to be any negative effect on the onions. Since the nearest I planted onions to peas is about 4 ft. I will keep track of how these little guys respond and compare them to the ones in beds where onions are absent….I’ll keep you posted.

Another tidbit on companions comes from Sheriden Gardens which gives info on the benefits of certain herbs inter planted with veggies.

Originally posted on October 29th, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Peas, Peas, and More Peas

We planted peas everywhere this year.... they are poking up between our 2-yr. old orange trees....

...and here they are along the ‘dog’ fence in front of broccoli and soon-to-be-planted shallots. I need to do a bit of research on how far away peas need to be from shallots. They’re not good companions but I’m not sure why or at what distance they will start bickering….I’ll let you know :)

More info on Peas, specifically geared toward CA but applicable to pretty much any warm winter climates, can be found on the UC extension web site. Our Central Valley is just much too hot for summer plantings and tho it will get below freezing in the winter, it’s not consistent and when it snows here, we cancel school and write about it in the newspaper :)

The following is an excerpt on weather conditions for growing peas ——

Edible pod peas require consistently cool growing conditions and do not produce well in hotter areas. Peas are cool-season vegetables with optimum growing temperatures between 55′ and 65′ F (13′-18′ C) in colder growing areas where peas are grown year-round, growth and development are considerably slower during winter months. Flowering and pod set are sometimes interrupteded by frosts, but plants recover and produce normally if frosts are brief.

Plants may tolerate some high temperatures during vegetative growth, but flowering is initiated when plants are smaller. Pod and seed development is so rapid that quality and yield are reduced by high temperatures. High temperatures in desert and inland growing areas severely restrict the growing season. In milder areas, yields and quality may be adversely affected for short periods by unusual warm weather.

Friday, November 14, 2008


This is one of our backyard gardens; it’s actually the original garden that we started probably 15 years years ago. The fence is to keep the dogs out …wish we could say the same for the cats .

And this is one of the reasons we feel we are out-growing our little home garden. We have only one compost pile which we add to all year long, grass clippings, vegetable waste from kitchen, yard cleanups, urine (icky but a very good fertilizer …can actually be put straight into the garden diluted with water at a 10/1 ratio). Unfortunately, when we need to use the compost, the good stuff is at the bottom of a very large pile. We started a second pile this year with the intention of only adding to that pile, letting the other decompose so it would be ready to use next summer. Unfortunately, our budget once again reared it’s ugly head and we decided we needed the wonderful compost that was surely resting at the bottom of our original pile, plus the 2nd pile was taking up valuable garden space, so……in we go.

The top part of the pile had to be move temporarily, and then as we got down to the brown, dirt looking stuff we started sifting. We made a sifter thingie (technical term) out of heavy duty wire mesh that we folded up about 3 inches on the sides. The compost is then shoveled into the sifter, hand sifted and the sticks and bigger pieces remain to be thrown back into the pile when the box is emptied. It’s a long, strenuous process and though we ended up with probably $100 worth of rich organic compost, a change must be made. Ideally, we will be looking at building 3 bins in the new garden and moving the compost 3 times a year. This will aerate the piles and provide a point where two piles are not being added to, allowing them to decompose. No sifting should be necessary in the 3-bin system; we are simply too old for this kind of effort.

ps. if you were wondering about the No allo written on the side of the compost bin…we used the wood from an old fort that our sons had built and painted….No girls allowed.

Front Yard Fun

It may just be the smallest front yard in town but we are determined to get as much produce out of it as possible. We also have peas planted along the picket fence behind the broccoli. More pics will be posted as veggies grow bigger and taller.

The ’stone’ is broken concrete that we chisel to look a bit softer. You can get the concrete just about anywhere; most cities are constantly tearing up sidewalks and the waste just goes into a landfill. We’ve even gotten our city workers to drop it off in the driveway…one of the joys of living in a small town.

We have a total parcel size of 50′x150′ but with several trees and out-buildings (storage shed, son’s studio apartment) plus quite a bit of concrete (basketball court/ pool pad) the usable garden space is at a premium. In past years we have had to listen to complaints from our kids as every spring we steal a bit more of their play space…but since the youngest is close to 15 years old now, and all of them are busy with sports, school, and jobs, the consensus lately seems to be anything that lessens the amount of lawn needing to be mowed is a good thing.

One less patch of Grass

This is a picture of what was a patch of grass that we, actually the boys took turns, pulled out and planted with green beans and tomatoes. That was at the beginning of the summer. Since then we pulled out the last of the grass in the front yard and planted winter vegetables. Our yard will be the test plot for other places.

The Beginning

Sharecropper… A tenant farmer who gives a share of the crops raised to the landlord in lieu of rent.

We are a family of 6 (though technically 1 son is away at college) who are outgrowing our home garden and have decided to ‘rent’ a plot of land (1/2 acre) in exchange for vegetables grown there. With food prices going up and organic fruit and veggies at a premium, growing safe, healthy food as close to home as possible seemed like a good idea. We live in a small town (pop. 10,000), near a fairly large city (pop. 120,000) in the middle of the Central Valley CA and the amount of uncultivated land is pretty impressive. We have approached a local woman (ok, so she’s a relative) with our idea and are still hammering out the details.

This blog will follow the planning and progress of the project and hopefully our ultimate success in this endeavor. We plan to raise chickens for eggs and eventually for meat, goats for milk and cheese and possibly pigs. In the meantime we will chronicle our continued efforts in our expanding home garden, including our recent change from grass to veggies in the front yard (can’t wait to hear from the neighbors:)

Though we have gardened for years, it was always a luxury more than a necessity. Our efforts allowed us to eat organic homegrown produce but failure wasn’t a concern as we could always suppliment with store bought produce. As our budget tightens we now are taking our ‘farming’ a bit more seriously. What we grow, raise, produce…will be a major part of our diet. We are amatuers setting out on this road and hope to learn and share along the way.

Come with us.