Early in my second week at the farm, I discovered a 5-page list on the kitchen bulletin board entitled “Lending Library,” and found out that these were books that Theresa has in her collection that apprentices are permitted to borrow – books on farming, food systems, agricultural practices, collections of essays, cookbooks, etc. I quickly pulled out my journal and made a list of all of the books I wanted to read over the next several months, which turned out to be at least half of the list. As a recent college graduate, I’ve done plenty of reading in the last four years, but have only had the opportunity to read two or three books for fun – just leisure reading, no tests involved. Having time for leisure reading has been wonderful, and I’ve been keeping fairly well to my goal of reading one book each week. I’m hoping to share the books I read here on the blog – giving enough information that anyone interested can find the book themselves, notes on the content and/or format of the book, and a few interesting notes or facts that I learned from reading it. My first book-related post is about…
Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte, was published by Storey Publishing first in 1975 and again in an updated edition in 1998. The book provides a wealth of information and tips about companion planting (as the title suggests) – how different vegetable, fruit, herb, ornamental, and wild plants interact and how they can be combined in the garden with positive effects on crop yields and plant health. For example, the chapter that addresses vegetables states sweet peppers grow well with okra, because the taller okra plants serve as a windbreak for the more delicate pepper plants. In addition to making recommendations regarding favorable crop pairings, Riotte discusses pairings of plants that do not do well in close proximity and may negatively affect each other. For example, tomatoes and all members of the cabbage family repel each other, and tomatoes should not be planted with potatoes or fennel. The book also contains a chapter discussing specific plants that help control pests, a glossary of poisonous plants (did you know that both the flowers and the leaves of lily-of-the-valley, and daffodil bulbs, are very poisonous?), and several garden plans that take advantage of symbiotic relationships between crops. I read the book cover-to-cover, but it might be a bit more digestible if used as a reference book to look for suggestions regarding specific plants that are chosen for a garden.
And now, a few pieces of information I learned from the book! Several of the tips I wrote down relate to specific pests or crops we have here on the farm – I was specifically looking for suggestions to combat cucumber beetles and Colorado potato beetles, as we have discussed both here and spent many hours picking the potato beetle eggs, larvae, and adults off our plants.
– “Eggplants growing among green beans will be protected from the Colorado potato beetle. The beetles like eggplant even more than potatoes, but they find the beans repellent.” – “Dead nettle, flax, and horseradish repel potato bugs.” – “Sow two or three radish seeds in cucumber hills to protect against cucumber beetles. Do not pull the radishes, but let them grow as long as they will, even blossoming and going to seed. Cucumber beetles may also be trapped by filling shallow containers about three-fourths full of water into which some cooking oil has been poured.” – “Tansy repels striped cucumber beetles.” – “Fruit and nut trees almost always do better if at least two of each kind are planted.” – “Have at least two different varieties – any two – in a blueberry planting.” (Yum – blueberries!) – For rabbits: Onions are repellent to rabbits. An old garden hose cut in lengths of a few feet each and arranged to look like snakes will frighten away rabbits. A thin line of dried blood sprinkled around the garden often acts as a repellent. Wood ashes, ground limestone, or cayenne pepper shaken on plants when they are wet with dew also deter rabbits.
I’ll pass on one more tip on the topic of pest repellent, from one of our CSA members (if I knew who, I’d cite them – if it’s you, let me know!) – to keep deer away, hang bars (or half-bars) of Irish Spring soap around your garden. It has to be Irish Spring soap – the smell is very strong, and the deer don’t like it. At my mother’s house, we’ve had deer munching on our flowers for years. I told her about the Irish Spring soap, and so far, our astilbes are still intact!