Thursday, June 17, 2010

It Seemed Like Such a Good Idea!!

Yesterday, I posted a few photos of my grass-choked garden to show you guys why it's a bad idea to plant grass in your garden. I have another photo to share with you on that same topic. This photo also illustrates the principle of companion planting. Or rather, it illustrates the principle of companion planting gone awry.

Companion planting is based on the idea that some plants are beneficial to other plants and if you plant them in tandem, they form a sort of symbiotic relationship. An example (and the plants I used for my first experiment in companion planting) is squash, corn, and pole beans. Native Americans discovered that when those three plants were planted close to one another, each plant did better than those that were segregated. It is called "The Three Sisters". Google it. It's real.

Corn is a heavy nitrogen user, typically eating up all the nitrogen in the soil and needing to be supplemented. Beans (like all legumes) are nitrogen fixers. Basically, they take nitrogen from the air and stick it in the ground. Squash provides more of a mechanical than chemical advantage. By the very nature of squash, it spreads out and becomes huge and has very, very prickly stems. By planting squash between other plants, you are 1) mulching and keeping weeds down because the squash plant shades the ground from the sun, and 2) helping to keep critters at bay because of the prickly pokey stems. The idea is that you plant all three of those together, let the beans run up the corn stalks instead of the traditional trellis or teepee, and plant squash in between.

Makes sense, right?

In theory, yes. In practice, at least in MY practice it was a very, very bad idea. I'd been wanting to try this for a while, so when the day came, I loaded up all my seeds and hit the garden with high hopes. I planted and planted. And watered and watered. And finally, things grew. Some grew faster than others though, which is what caused the first problem. The beans completely out grew the corn. I had bean vines that were four or five feet long that should've been running on corn that was only up to my knees. So, I had to put up trellises after all. Fail number one.

Next, the squash, which was supposed to spread out and kill weeds and smother grass and be prickly and pokey and keep bunnies away, did indeed spread out. But it has not succeeded at it's preordained task of keeping weeds at bay. The only thing planting squash in the corn patch has accomplished is to make weeding VERY difficult and VERY uncomfortable. Not only have it's prickly, pokey stalks kept bunnies away, they've made weeding nigh impossible without the implementation of long sleeves and gloves...which is ridiculous because it's so unbearably hot.

Now, I know I could suck it up and deal with squash prickles, and I guess I will. But, it's the principle of the matter, people! This wasn't even supposed to be an issue. And if it had worked it wouldn't have been. OR!! If I had segregated my garden it wouldn't have been. Alas, it seems that I am an equal opportunity gardener, a melting pot gardener. So, I will have squash prickle splinters before the day is over.

Here is a photo of my failed attempt:

And here is a photo of our newest grass-in-the-garden control method:

Three chickens in a movable,open bottom cage do a much better job of killing grass than squash could ever dream of. Eat it squash! Next year, you're fired!

And here, Sancho Panza shirks his duty. There was actually a very brazen crow just outside the frame.

And here (cause it's fun), making his first official Little Farm Blog appearance, the one, the only


Sherlock Combs!!!!

I LOVE that rooster. He's one of the chicks we bought when we bought too many chickens. He's a Tolbunt Polish and he cracks me up. He's just learning to crow now and he sounds like a twelve year old boy whose voice is cracking. We have five of these chickens and they will be totally useless as farm birds. They aren't good layers and they're skinny, so no good for meat. But I am SO glad we got them. They are hilarious and they make me smile every time I see them.

And the name Sherlock Combs? It came to me in a dream. No really. It honestly did. I woke myself and B up late, late one night laughing. Sound asleep and laughing my head off. I was dreaming that someone had a chicken named Sherlock Combs. So, naturally, I stole the name from the dream person and bestowed it upon that handsome fella. I think it suits him!

Anyone out there actually have a successful companion garden? Please tell me about it! I'm discouraged and need tales of hope!


  1. I have no successful companion garden stories...but I love Sherlock Combs! So cute!

  2. I know, right? And he takes himself very seriously. He's a very dignified rooster, but he reminds me so much of Beaker from the Muppets, I have to laugh whenever I look at him.

  3. YES YES YES to the Beaker reference!!!