24 thoughts on “The Revised Garden

  1. This looks cool. I have a question about those cantaloupes, though. I can’t figure from this diagram which way is north, and you want to be sure that the shorter plants like that don’t get caught all day in the shadow of the taller peppers and tomatoes.

    It also looks to me as if you have room to add some lettuce or a leafy green like kale or turnips, so you could have something you can eat before the rest of it starts bearing. Put them up abutting the spinach bed on the sides (or, for lettuce, plant it in the tomato bed, where it can flourish until the tomatoes get tall) and you’ll expand what you can grow in the same space.

    If it were me, I would add eggplants, which do really well around here, but I realize that not everyone loves them the way I do. And some radishes.

  2. Okay, here’s my gardening question of the day – I don’t have a way to start seeds indoors, because I have some very vegetation-oriented and dirt-digging cats. I worry that simply transplanting store-bought seedlings is cheating and unrewarding. Can I sew any seeds directly in dirt, outside, at some appropriate time? I think I’m being paralyzed by the available choices.

    B, I hope you don’t mind my asking – these are sunday gardening open threads, yeah? Apologies if I’ve misunderstood.

  3. Rachel, yep, these are open threads in which we who don’t know ask questions and hope those who do know come on by.

    But, hell yes you can sew any seeds you like directly in dirt after the last chance of frost has past. I think, with the exception of rosemary, which doesn’t grow well from seed at all (though it does from cuttings quite nicely).

    Someone can correct me, but I think the only reason to start from seedlings is to have vegetables earlier.

  4. NM, the top is north, mostly. Considering how my lot is situated, it’ll probably be slightly north northwest.

    My other question is where we can borrow a tiller.

    And my plan is to still leave three feet between rows and beds and such, but to fill some of that space with marigolds.

  5. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong – and I welcome being corrected – but shouldn’t hot peppers kind of grow in their own little area? Don’t they have a tendency for their spiciness to infect the plants that grow around them? If so, you might want to move them away from the broccoli. Of course, I like spicy food, so hot broccoli wouldn’t bug me…

  6. Rachel, it is not cheating to grow transplants you have bought. Really, it’s not. Due to my complete inability to get viable transplants of any sort of nightshade (tomatoes, eggplants, all my favorites), I buy them (or beg friends like B to start them for me). If it makes you feel better, you can buy organic and/or heirloom transplants from local growers.

    But if you want to start plants directly outside, you can do it even before the danger of frost is over if you get a little cold frame or if you cut down milk cartons and use them as cold frames for individual plants.

  7. B, my local hardware store (Cumberland Hardware) rents tillers. There’s a reasonable daily or half-daily rate, which is all it should take. I sort of assume that most local hardware or landscaping places have them available.

    And I think Beth is right that your hot peppers are still too close to your sweet peppers. Maybe you can plant your hot peppers where you have your peas? Because the peas will wind up their season around the same time as the peppers get going, so they shouldn’t get into each others’ way. Also, if you do that, you will have lots of beautiful southern sun on your cantaloupes.

  8. Thanks, all.

    By the way, I watched something on PBS yesterday about Oaxacan cooking, and they showed three sisters gardening, although they didn’t call it that.

  9. Broccolli up here is a spring and fall kind of a plant. It keels over quick in hot weather. Are you envisioning planting all this simultaneously or are you planning for the broc to be done before the hot peppers really get going? Also, broc up here gets to be pretty tall. Depending on the placement and sunshine, you might get some shading probs.

    I agree that you might have cross-pollenation issues with your hot and sweet peppers.

  10. Only till what you’re willing to hoe. I find it hard to stop when I get behind a rototiller because it just seems like such a fine thing to churn up all that earth…and I always regret overdoing it. It looks great for about three days and then those opportunistic invasive plants move in and it’s blister/callus city for the rest of the summer.

  11. The purpose is planting symbiotic crops together to maximize yield and minimize cultivation. These three crops produce more when planted together in hills (rather than European-style row cultivation). The pole beans vine up the cornstalks and replace some of the nitrogen in the soil; the corn rhizome produces a sugar that feeds the beans; the squash leaves vine out to keep the soil moist and discourage the growth of weeds. It’s an ancient American method of planting that was adopted by Europeans until the late 18th and early 19th century, when a rage for “scientific” planting (and rejecting all cultural knowledge from Indian people) meant that 3 sisters cultivation fell out of favor. However, people on the Appalachian frontier continued to plant like this into the early 20th century…it’s particularly well-suited to the mid-south climate.

  12. As much as I really like nm’s first comment (largely because those are 3 foods that I do really like), wow, adding things seems intense and like lots of work. I’m just so scared that this is too ambitious for the first time in the yard. And I concur that the peppers will probably all be hot growing there together.

    As for the till, I probably know someone who lives up the road from you who will be renting one soon. Maybe we could all coordinate our efforts and money and get things done in one day or weekend? I’ll get with him for more info as right now this is all second hand knowledge, and then I’ll talk to you more.

  13. Professor, the lettuces, radishes, kale and things like that go into the ground earlier than the later crops, so it’s not really adding intensity to the work, just starting it sooner. Not that I’m always good about getting it done myself, but in theory you’re just getting started a little sooner. Except for eggplants, which have pretty much the same season as tomatoes, peppers, and that lot.

    As for sharing a tiller, sure. I have a very small space (unless I really can get rid of the old BBQ, in which case I’ll have two small spaces) and I don’t till every year, but this year I think it’s time. The main challenge would be in transporting the thing.

  14. I’m still a gardening novice so I have nothing constructive to add other than, How exciting! I’m still trying to summon the courage for my first attempt at a three sisters garden, in the wake of a long essay I recently wrote about the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) who came up it.

    And I’m all for allowing a touch of capsaicin to seep into your broccoli. My favorite greens are the ones with peppery and bitter notes. But then, I’m Asian so my flavor spectrum is probably a little different than, um, others. ;-)

  15. You know, spicy broccoli may indeed be exactly the way to salvage broccoli, which I always love fresh, but find kind of blands out the longer it sits around. But spicy broccoli? Hmm.

    I haven’t tried the three sisters garden yet, either, but after reading about it and having folks here in last week’s thread talk me into it, I’m really excited. I mean, if something’s worked on this land for hundreds of years, who am I to argue?

    I’m of the opinion that, once you commit to having hot peppers anywhere in your garden, your committing to having all your peppers be hot. But I take y’all’s point and will consider moving them closer to the house.

  16. nm, I’ll be traveling to MS next month and will make a note to check on the rattlesnake beans for you – and wisteria for B. I might have to go to the local feed/seed store, but it’s on my way. I’ll keep you posted.

  17. The hotness of peppers traveling around your garden is a legend. The main way to make your peppers harvest spicier is to deprive them of water at certain times to increase their oils. Heat is going to vary based on climactic and environmental factors anyways. I grow them as hot as possible and haven’t had any issues with hot green beans being in the next row.

    If you collect seeds from your peppers the cultivars can cross pollinate with hotter varieties and make the next generation hotter, but not the current one that you’re eating.

    Be aware that peppers, tomatoes and eggplants are all susceptible to the same pests and diseases and should be planted as far apart as possible to prevent cross contamination and the loss of everything in case of infection. Do not use any kind of tobacco products or handle your plants or seeds after handling tobacco to limit transmission of tobacco mosaic virus x. Verticulum wilt is a bitch too.

  18. Saraclark, don’t peppers pollinate each other?

    Beth, thanks. And anyone who wants some Chinese bean seeds to plant, just let me know. I’m not going to plant them this year, so it’s give them away or cook them.

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