A Disappointing Season With Lessons Learned


Jennifer QuinnMuch planning and anticipation went into my garden for 2015. I added a couple of new beds, went a little wild with companion planting, and decided to try a new crop: cabbages. On a tip from a gardening seminar, I planted my bush beans between rows of potatoes to deter Mexican bean beetles. Most of my vegetable beds were laced with beneficial flowers and herbs, such as alyssum, thyme, cilantro and artemesia, along with the obligatory marigolds, nasturtiums and dill. I planted sunflowers in both corn plots on the theory that they increase corn yields.

cabbage patchsunflowers

Many people in my region had trouble with their gardens this year due to dry conditions. Mine was no exception. Seedlings would fail to appear, or would emerge only to shrivel, or vanish without a trace. Some would emerge but fail to grow, staying the same size for weeks! Some would emerge only to be bitten off near the ground — possibly the work of cutworms, though I seldom found any. By mid-summer I was besieged with grasshoppers, crickets and katydids, eating large holes in all my leafy crops.


Meanwhile, the apple trees I had carefully pruned, mulched and fertilized succumbed to rust and apple maggots, rendering inedible the seven apples that remained after the deer and raccoons ate all the rest.

Besides all this, a groundhog took up residence (or possibly the one from last year never left?) producing two youngsters for good measure. For most of the summer they contented themselves with munching on the grass and clover, but by late summer the one remaining groundhog was devouring everything in sight — including my entire fall brassica crop!

10/28/2015 2:23:06 PM

Jack-- Yes, those are carrots. I didn't actually do any companion planting with the onions or carrots, since I haven't come across any suggestions for same. My carrots are never much good, though I keep trying. I forgot to put in the lessons I learned about carrots. First: they should have consistent moisture, and must not be left in the ground too long, otherwise they crack and/or become tough and woody. Also, having them mature in hot weather will make them bitter. And you need to have very fine, stone-free soil, not too heavy, if you don't want to have deformed and forked carrots. They're really hard to grow in clay soil. As for the onions, I've never had much trouble growing those, but this year's were much bigger and had better skins than usual. What didn't turn out well about your onions? I attributed my success to the fact that I did more watering and fertilizing this year, especially in my strawberry bed, which is where the onions grew biggest and firmest. The companion planting is mostly to deter various insect pests, and I don't seem to have had that sort of trouble with either onions or carrots, though I think some of my carrots this year did have aster yellows, which I think is spread by some sort of bug. I've been finding most of my answers to these problems in the Rodale Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (not the exact title) and also another Rodale book--the Organic Garden Problem Solver, or something. Hope that helps! --Jennifer

10/15/2015 7:55:44 PM

Jennifer - Quick question, are those carrots besides the onions? I've had limited success with both onions and carrots and I'm wondering if I shouldn't try a little companion planting with the two.

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