"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress and keep it". Genesis 2:15

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Onion Subirrigation, Onions in clumps, Herbal Tea Garden, Companion Planting

This year I tried using subirrigation with my onions. In this picture you can see a buried soda pop bottle. The bottle has small holes poked all over it, and when you fill it with water the water slowly leaks out to water the plant below the surface of the soil. This puts the water right where the plant needs it, saves water, and helps control weeds by keeping the soil surface dry. I think it worked quite well with the onions.

Another thing I was trying here was planting the onions in groups instead of the traditional rows. I had read on another blog that you could plant them in a clump and the onions would have no problem pushing themselves away from each other as they grew. I found that this worked very well, and it saved a lot of room. I planted my usual three bundles of onion sets in a fraction of the space they usually use up when strung out in long rows. My three onion set bundles were clustered around about 6 buried bottles with about 20 -25 onions around each bottle.

Onions from around one bottle.

All my onions drying before I put them in onion braids. By my estimation I have about my usual onion harvest, with about the same ratio of big and little onions. Admittedly I could do a better job at growing onions period, but I haven't yet done an extensive study of growing onions in a low maintenance garden. 

Here is a picture of my herbal tea garden the family planted a few years ago using sheet mulching over the lawn to get it established. This year I changed the direction of the rows so that I have a circle within a circle. This gave me more planting space. The garden is coming along fine and I added quite a few plants this year - apple and pineapple mint, more lavender, cat nip (protected by the can to keep the cats from rolling on it), bee balm, anise hyssop, cat mint, rue and verbena.

I have been reading a lot about permiculture on-line and I realized I had made a mistake by separating my flowers and vegetables from each other - flowers in front yard and vegetables in back yard. I should have know better since my inspiration was my French Grandmother's pottage type garden. My herbal tea garden in the front was buzzing with bees and beneficial insects, but in the flower free vegetable garden there was nothing there for the beneficial insects to eat. I had read about companion planting before but thought it was some funky wives tale. I had an "Ahha" moment when I realized the purpose was to give beneficial insects places to hide and feed, so that they would lay eggs on your vegetable plants. Then their larvae will attack vegetable pests. I went right out and bought a bunch of my favorite flowers (what a great excuse!), and not so favorite marigolds, and some clover seed, and planted a row of this right down the middle of my vegetable garden. 

I chose to plant a row of permanent perennials flowers (with the annual marigolds) to keep the work to a minium every year. Since I rotate my veggies around the garden every year I will not have to rotate and plant a bunch of annual flowers too. I can cut clover and other plants like comfrey when I get them and use them as mulches around the plants that would benefit from that companion. The flowers will attract beneficial insects and the marigolds will hopefully concentrate aphids away from my other plants. This will be an ongoing experiment.

This last not very good picture is of a blue mud dauber on my parsley blossom. A lot of these were buzzing around in the tea garden. It was windy and I could not get a very good shot. Anyway I had fun watching them and did a little research on them later. It turns out that the adults eat pollen and nectar, and the larvae eat the spiders that the adults stuff in with them when they make their mud daubers nests. The blue mud dauber particularly likes Black Widow spiders, so its all right by me. I call that a beneficial insect.