A Bittersweet Time in the Garden

I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus.~ Henry David Thoreau

Just as the Farmer’s Almanac called it, this autumn has been on the milder side. It’s not to say we haven’t experienced our first light frost – that happened the weekend of October 17th and 18thand again the other night. Having Mother Nature remind you of the impending change of the season during a warm autumn can shock crops – depending upon what’s still in the garden and what you have done to prepare for extending the season and fighting a little frost.

Peppers ripening on the counter

The beautiful autumnal colors of reds, oranges and yellows sprinkled through the beds in the form of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and marigolds up until mid-October. At that point we decided to harvest the tomatoes and let them ripen indoors. We always choose to do this at the end of the season for 2 reasons: 1. Tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine and 2. Too many people, including us have left them out too long and Jack Frost has nipped them and that’s that.  This year due to the cool temperatures throughout the summer we still had tons of hot peppers fully developed but had not yet changed from their green color.  It’s not as well known, as there is some debate depending on what you read, as to whether you can finish ripening green peppers to their colorful counterparts once it has been picked. I had always thought that you could not do this; however, I have discovered that peppers that have started to change colors can be picked and they will continue to ripen of  But I have also read that as long as they are mature in size, given time, green peppers will finish ripening off the plant, according to Big Stone Bounty.
f the plant.

tomatoes ripening in bins


We’ve known this about tomatoes but not peppers – this good info. Of course, pulling any fruit off the plant before fully ripened results in lower nutritional content and they aren’t as sweet as their fully ripened counterparts, but I think anything from your own garden is way better than from anywhere else. Plus I usually only do this at the end of the season when I am worried about impending frost.

Peppers ripening in a bag with tomatoes

I’ve also read a lot of conflicting data about whether or not peppers react to ethylene gas or not. Ethylene gas helps stimulate the ripening process in many fruits including tomatoes. I’m currently conducting my own experiment to see if the peppers I put in the paper bag with the ripe tomato and ripening tomatoes accelerates the process of ripening the green peppers vs the ones one the counter on a dish. We have so many green tomatoes that I have been using unused earthworm bins that have holes on the bottom to layer the green tomatoes so they can ripen. The aeration helps the process. All the cherry tomatoes are in three bins and then I have a platter full of standard-sized heirloom tomatoes stacked up.


Cold frame is up

There can be so much to do to get ready for winter, particularly if we get a winter as snowy as last year. Once again the Farmer’s Almanac Winter Forecast confirms our fears that we could be in for a doozy. To finish readying the garden beds for winter, we need to be sure any remaining tender crops have all been weeded out and pull any weeds that may have crept in over the summer.  By doing so we remove any possibility of leaving behind vegetation which may add to the promotion of disease. We put a cold frame over part of one bed where we are currently growing some broccoli – our broccoli in the past has been attached so I tend to cover it up to provide a little added TLC to give it more of a chance. We put another cold frame upon a bed of lettuce, carrots and arugula.  The hay/straw mulch still needs to be put down and I need to gather some pine needles for the asparagus bed.  


Yesterday during a break from the computer, I went out and pulled the entire bed of remaining bean, cucumber and morning glory vines.  All of which will be dumped in the woods since I worry about the morning glory seeds taking over.  In a few days I’ll harvest some more herbs – the mint, rosemary, sage and thyme should be trimmed back – as should the oregano.  I will leave some long and wild for the birds and bees to continue to enjoy. There won’t be too many days left where the weather will allow me to be outside and to me there is nothing better than working out in the garden.

3.5 inches of much needed rain
Asparagus ferns

It rained 3.5 inches yesterday and last night – we desperately need it. It’s why I ran outside the day before to deal with the vines since I knew I’d be stuck inside to deal with computer work and filing if the weather reports were right.  There is nothing I rather do less than file, which is apparent since I am finding statements from 2011 in the pile.  The spare garlic, shallots and onions I managed to plant in some containers and the remainder of the two beds I had planted some in last week. We use a ton of all three when we cook and buying them – particularly shallots – can be expensive; so there is nothing better than growing your own.  At this point the garden is ready for it hay/straw mulch in some beds.  I’m still waiting a little while longer before cutting the asparagus shoots down to 2- 3″ and mulching; their ferns are just turning a yellowish brown but most remain green still.  Once we cut them down we’ll mulch with as many pine needles as we can rake up from under our own trees and top off with the hay/straw mulch we use to protect the freshly cut tops from the wind and frost.


Our Brussels sprouts are still coming along – its our first year growing them so there is a learning curve. We had some pests eat away at the leaves at one point during the summer but we planted enough that we only really only lost one to the pests – the rest now have started to sprout their little sprouts which it fun to see. The end of the season list continues with dumping the new compost into the the 12 foot bed we had to empty thanks to the morning glory infestation.  We need to throw down some new compost in a few containers as well before putting the straw/hay mulch down. 

It’s a bittersweet time of year for us. We have worked in our garden as well as in our clients’ gardens all season. Preparing soil, seeding, planting, staking and supporting, watering, feeding, weeding, waiting, watching nature do what she does so well – grow, thrive, produce, feed.  It’s the most satisfying feeling in the world, helping people grow their own food.  But alas, all seasons must come to an end and our business, Homegrown Harvest is coming to the end of our third growing season.  We were thrilled the other day to receive photos from one of client’s boasting about their garden.  It’s the best feeling in the world when you have one of your clients send you pictures of her garden thriving or her standing there with a Cheshire cat grin holding a huge platter of homegrown vegetables. We are truly blessed!

As the season winds down we can take solace knowing that the garden may be still but underneath the soil, wonderful things are taking shape to fill our palates next season. 

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. ~Alfred Austin


If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal – that is your success. All nature is your congratulations, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. ~ Henry David Thoreau

A Bountiful Summer leads to Several Seeds to Save

I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered and near a good market for the production of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects someone always coming to perfection. The failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one throughout the year. Under a total want of demand except for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”
~Thomas Jefferson to Charles William peel Poplar Forest, August 20, 1811.         
It’s hard to believe that we ushered in the fall of 2015 this week. Our business celebrated its third growing season and the busy season of that!
Mark working at a client’s garden we revamped this season
One of the best things that I love about gardening is that each season brings something new and different. We began seeding early in March as the snow ebbed and as soon as we were able to work the top few inches of soil. The peas are always the first things we get into the raised beds. Temperatures remained cool throughout spring and into early summer. It took a while for things to finally heat up which is why I still have plenty of tomatoes, beans and peppers ripening in the garden right now.
I reviewed the data on AccuWeather the actual temperatures that we experience this growing season I wasn’t too surprised to confirm what I thought was a cooler than normal season here in zone 6. This may seem contrary to report this being the “warmest summer on record” or the “summer of 2015 was earth hottest on record “. But explains why we still have plenty of green tomatoes and peppers growing in our garden right now couple that with less than average rainfall and you have a recipe for a slower than average season.
Highs and lows
temperatures
March
0
57
April
23
75
May
37
84
June
41
84
July
51
91
August
51
90
September *
49
94
 
Number of days about 90 degrees
July
3
August
1
September*
2
  
Number of days temperature was above 80 degrees in New Canaan, CT
May
13
June
10
July
24
August
26
September *
14
Number of days temperature was 75 degrees or below
March
31
April
29
May
12
June
13
July
2
August
0
September *
4
 *up until the 24th
The slower season doesn’t necessarily mean less productive however. We have had a tremendously productive season bringing pounds of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and beans. 
  
The cucumbers keep coming in, we have had such a good season I was able to put a platter full to share with our neighbors. 


The Barnside sweet runner beans and Blauhilde beans, a beautiful purple being that turns green when cooked coming in so fast I have to freeze them since we can eat them fast enough.
 
September 23rd harvest
As the growing season winds down it’s the time of year to start collecting seeds for next year. Ultimately one of the best seeds to use in our garden are the seeds harvested from your own plants.  It’s an age-old tradition that’s extremely rewarding on many levels.  Preserving your heirloom, open-pollinated varieties, you help plants adapt to your local conditions thus increasing yields
Heirloom tomatoes
Understanding the difference between Heirloom and F1 Hybrid seeds 
“ Heirlooms have naturally evolved over the years and have been passed down over the generations from gardener to gardener.
F1 hybrid plants are not genetically modified but have been developed by gardeners and farmers for centuries. By cross pollinating two related varieties, breeders strive to take the best of both worlds from most plants characteristics such as disease and pest resistance, high-yielding and greater taste.
For the seed collector, the drawback to F1 seeds is that they don’t reproduce a true second generation. What this means is that the second-generation may not have the same characteristics as the first generation. 
It is for that reason that we do not collect seeds from F1 hybrid plants. F1 seeds have their place in the garden but when it comes to collecting seeds turn to your heirlooms. 
By collecting and preserving heirloom varieties, we help pass along to future generations delicious varieties that gardeners of shared with one another for over 50 years. Heirloom vegetables are open pollinated and remain stable in their characteristics from year-to-year.
 

A few do’s and don’t to remember when seed-saving
  • “ Don’t save seeds from f1 hybrid plants.

    • “ These seeds can be infertile or produce different traits from the original parent, which are less favorable

  • “ Don’t save seeds from the squash family and sweet corn

    • “ They can cross pollinate and hybridize, difficult to keep variety pure

  • Tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas are the best seeds to start with

    • They are easiest to harvest and require little attention before storage.

  • Save your seeds from your strongest plants with the most delicious fruit
    • To collect seeds from the vegetables simply look to take the seeds from a beautifully developed plant that is fully mature. Look for plants that have grown vigorously and have shown resistance to pests and diseases. 

  • Store seeds in airtight containers or individual envelopes kept in a dry place

  • Label clearly with name, variety, date collected

I prefer the airtight container since envelopes get wet and dirty in practice ultimately – hard to reseal – seeds fall out end up at the bottom of my purse…
When we save our seeds, it helps to preserve and promote genetic diversity. In turn this helps to strengthen and make more pest-resistant future generations that will thrive.

How-to collect seeds
1.    Slice open your vegetable to carefully remove the seeds with a spoon or a knife.
2.    Then place the seeds on cardboard or a piece of paper towel to dry out
a.    Tomato seeds are covered in the mucous membrane and it can be easier to use a cheesecloth
b.    Rinse the seeds out with water to release the membrane
c.     spread seeds out on a piece of cardboard to dry.
3.    place seeds in dry place
Have fun saving your seeds!

Succession Planting – a great way to extend your season

It is that time in the season when temperatures begin to rise, produce starts ripening and parts of our garden have emptying spaces. The previous soil tenants of lettuce, kale and cabbage have been harvested; and soon we will be pulling the garlic we planted last fall and other onions that overwintered as well. We are just finishing collecting all that can be harvested from the spring peas. At the start of the season, I planted a variety of Sugar Ann, Oregon Sugar Pod II and Mammoth Melting Snow Peas. We’ve enjoyed snacking on these yummy treats for a couple months now and I just gave a quart sized bag filled to the brim to the kids who will enjoy snacking on them during their camping trip this week.

As I look out upon the garden from my desk, the garden looks quiet right now. The rain a few minutes ago made all the birds head for cover. We’ve had more than a few birds feed on the kale and cabbage that I let go to seed. There are also a few heads of lettuce that I let go to seed as well. I decided to let some stuff go to seed for two reasons: curiosity and laziness. I’ll address the latter reason first. At the time the kale and cabbage started to go to seed we were very busy installing and planting our clients’ gardens. I was too tired and basically lazy to pull it out when it started to bolt. Curiosity got the better of me once I had watched a video about collecting seed from kale plants and thought it I should try it. Collecting seeds from produce that you grew can be incredibly satisfying however depending upon the variety will determine how easy or difficult it can be. Collecting seeds from tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant tends to be easier than collecting from green leafy vegetables. It is a little bit more involved and a topic for another blog.

julyIt’s hard to believe that it could be July 15th already; but there is still plenty of time to be able to seed quick growing crops in most zones. I don’t think many people realize that there is even plenty of time to sow seeds for certain vegetables that will give you a late-summer or an early autumn harvest. Here in Zone 6 by mid-July you can transplant your June started seedlings or starts bought from a local nursery for brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. However, if you were going to direct seed right into the garden bed there’s plenty more options available. Certain varieties work better than others when seeding this time of year. Varieties of spinach like Avon, Tyee and Indian Summer are all quick growers that are vigorous, high-yielding and have superb flavor all four seasons of the year. When looking for varieties, I look for quick growers that take under 50 days. As of today with 15 weeks left until November 1, that’s 105 days – it’s important to remember when you are seeding directly into your garden bed to add two weeks to the time to allow for germination and slower growth in fall.

After seeding it may be a good idea use a row cover to protect the freshly seeded area from the hot summer sun and wind.

Seeed carrots
Newly seeded carrots that germinated

Here in Zone 6, I still have time in from now until the end of the month to sow bush beans, carrots, radishes, beets, kohlrabi, turnips, kale, peas as well nasturtiums to add more color to the garden since they only take a quick 10 days to germinate.

 One of the most important and sometime overlooked thing to remember when sowing seeds during the mid-summer is always add compost to the area that you’re about to sow your seeds. By adding compost you are replenishing the nutrients that were depleted from the crop that you previously harvested. Food gets their nutrients from the soil and it’s very important to understand that once the crop is been harvested that compost needs to be introduced back to the soil to replenish the depleted nutrients.

The more food we grow, the more flavors we are exposed to, and the more vitamins and minerals are actually in our food.  Win-win-win!

“Pulling weeds and pickin’ stones
Man is made from dreams and bones.
Feel the need to grow my own
‘Cause the time is close at hand.
Grain for grain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature’s chain.
To my body and my brain
To the music from the land.”

– The Garden Song written by David Mallett

girl_planted_seeds

The Importance of soil – Our lives depend on it!

It’s the first time in a long while since I have had the opportunity to sit at my computer to do something other than check my email, pay bills and write up invoices.  It doesn’t seem like it was too long ago I felt tethered to my computer as I was preparing presentation after presentation for our Spring Gardening Series at the New Canaan Library.   I’m not complaining at all – I have been blessed with nine weeks of solid gardening after a winter of 60+ inches of snow.  Our time following the thaw started off in April amending and seeding our raised beds and those of our clients.  Amending the soil on an annual basis is what we consider one of the most important steps in the process.

“Essentially, all life depends upon the soil … There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.”
Charles E. Kellogg, USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1938

Before becoming a full-time professional gardener and an accredited organic land care professional three years ago – I used to research food, water, and agribusiness companies for my brother’s investment company.  Over the course of a decade or more of reading about companies directly involved with our food production, my understanding of the importance soil plays in growing healthy fruits and vegetables has grown exponentially.

Today we find ourselves in a situation where the US and much of the world’s inventory of arable topsoil has been lost due to erosion, overuse of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers and other farming practices that leave the soil depleted.  Our planet is losing its usable topsoil at a considerable rate [75 to 100 GT per year].  What does that mean – basically it means   it’s estimated that there will only be about 48 years of topsoil left, if we keep up the pace.

“The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all.”
Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America, 1977

Fact: Food grown in nutrient deficient soil lacks the nutrients necessary to keep people healthy and declines in the nutritional values in food have been attributed to mineral depletion of the soil, loss of soil microorganisms along with changes in plant varieties.

Our food system is rapidly losing the ability to produce food with nutrient levels adequate to maintain the health of families because over the extreme levels of soil degradation we experience in the US.

“The alarming fact is that food – fruits and vegetables and grains – now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contains enough needed nutrients, are starving no matter how much we eat from them.” US Senate Document 264 (1936)

This is not a new problem, as the quote from the US Senate Document 264 stated back in 1936! Soil degradation has been talked about and debated for decades and is a problem that is not solely in the United States but is a global issue.

FAO-Infographic-IYS2015-fs2-enDeforestation, overgrazing and over cultivation have resulted in the degradation of soils in every region of the world.  The 68th UN General Assembly considered it worthy enough to turn their attentions to soil importance by declaring 2015 the International Year of Soils.

The fact of the matter is that soils have been transformed by human activity. Whether it’s been through physical degradation by removing natural vegetation, leaving surfaces exposed to the elements or biological degradation where soil has been exhausted of nutrients.

With erosion comes desertification in some areas – I’m sure many who live in the west probably have noticed the increasing number of dust storms. National Geographic recently covered a story, American West Increasingly Dusty comparing dust emissions to be reminiscent of the Dust Bowl Days.  In other areas, we see increased flooding or mudflows.  In the end, all culminating in a loss of soil and biological diversity which directly threatens our overall food security.

Today the nutritional value of harvested food is a major issue.  Over the course of a half a century of the over use of petroleum-based synthetic fertilizers – the commercial farming industry has brought about the destruction of the natural balance of carbon reserves in our soil.

Why is carbon so important in our soil?
The role of carbon is two-fold holding valuable nutrients as well as moisture for plants.  The destruction of carbon has caused our soils to lose the ability to grow healthy food since plants get their nutrients, important minerals from the soil.

Recent studies including one by the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry showed that there have been substantial declines in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B2 and vitamin C over the last century. The study goes as far as to point the finger at the multitude of agricultural practices used to improve traits like size, growth rate and pest resistance.

“Be it deep or shallow, red or black, sand or clay, the soil is the link between the rock core of the earth and the living things on its surface.  It is the foothold for the plants we grow.  Therein lies the main reason for our interest in soils.”
Roy W. Simonson, USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1957

Many other studies conclude similar and startling findings considering that they say an adult woman eating two peaches in 1951 would have to eat 53 in 2002 to get the same nutritional value!  If that doesn’t make the point clear, I don’t know what will.

It’s no wonder that our food has scarcely any nutritional content – in today’s global food system, consumers are guaranteed to find a ripe tomato any day of the year, in most any store across our country.  The average produce travels 1500-2500 miles to reach the grocery store; being harvested well before the fruit is properly ripened.[Pirog et al 2001]  Most fruits and vegetables contain 70% – 90% water and once it is separated from its source of nutrients – the tree, the vine or the plant – they undergo higher rates of respiration, moisture loss, quality and nutrient degradation and potential microbial spoilage.

Chemical preservatives are used to make produce look better to consumers, despite the loss of nutritional value.  While full color may be achieved after harvest, nutritional quality can not.  Tomatoes harvested green have 31% less vitamin C than those allowed to ripen on the vine. (Lee and Kader, 2000)  Plus commercial produce producers selects seed varieties for transportability, shelf life, not nutrient content or flavor.

So what can you do about this global problem?
The answer is as simple as looking in your own backyard or perhaps you get better sun in the front yard.  Grow Your Own Food. It doesn’t take a lot of space and the time you put into it is so rewarding and healthy for your body, mind and soul.

Food gets their nutrients from healthy soil and healthy soil leads to higher nutrients in crops.  A growing body of research supports Sir Albert Howard and J.I. Rodale, the founders of the organic movement who first hypothesized that soils rich in organic matter produce more nutritious food higher in antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals.

SoilQuality

Healthy soil is biologically alive and balanced in minerals and carbon content.  Soil organisms play an essential role in the breakdown of organic matter and other complex molecules.  These activities are also linked to processes that lead to the aggregation of soil particles into a friable soil structure that is beneficial for the growth of plants.  The inter-connected activities of soil organisms improve soil stability and underpin nutrient cycling on a global scale.

It’s a fact that healthy soils are responsible for the production of food borne antibiotics, vitamins, phyto-chemicals and amino acids – all of which are crucial the the health of humans.  The right soil will yield the most nutritious and flavorful food possible.  Old techniques which many still prescribe to today: things like roto-tilling and hoeing on soil can be very disruptive to soil organisms.  That’s just one of the reasons we like to use raised beds since they help avoid soil compaction which also effects soils organisms and the soil can be worked more easily without disrupting soil organisms too much.

Photo Credit: Daphne Sampson
Photo Credit: Daphne Sampson

Decomposition of organic matter is the organic content of soil, as decomposing organic material increase carbon content into the soil . This is also one of the many reasons people should compost.  I’d get more into composting but I can go on and on and I will leave that for a soon-to-be-coming blog post.

But composting and compost play a vital role in having healthy nutrient-rich soil year after year.  The soil we use when we install new raised garden beds is a combination of ingredients we mix together. The compost is the food, the nutrient sourse that will feed the growth of the plants coupled with peat which holds water and help keep the soil loose.  We also include some vermiculite, a rock which is mined and heated into little pieces that have nooks and crannies that hold water and nutrients in the soil.  It also helps keep the soil friable and less dense.  Vermiculite also adds a touch of potassium and magnesium but not enough to disrupt pH levels.  When we start with this mixture we have created a weed free environment that is organically balanced for growing food.  The only thing on an annual basis which is replaced each spring is the compost, since it holds the nutrients.  This is why Mark and I went around to all our clients’ gardens this spring and replenished the beds with fresh new compost.

IMG_0948

By growing even a small amount of vegetables you can boost your vitamin and mineral intake significantly. There is no travel time involved and you have controlled the environment in which it has grown. You save water as well, since home gardening is much more efficient than commercial farming systems.

When veggies are grown in your own garden soil enrich with compost, you pick them when you need your veggies minutes before a meal. They are ripe and ready when they are highest in nutritional content. Vine ripened red peppers have 30% more vitamin C than green peppers. (Howard et al. 1994) and vine ripened tomatoes have more vitamin C as well as more antioxidants and lycopene than those harvested prematurely, which is what happens daily in commercial agriculture. (Arias et al 2000).

Soil is a non-renewable resource; its preservation is essential for food security and our sustainable future.

“We are part of the earth and it is part of us …
What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.”

Chief Seattle, 1852

We love helping others learn the joys of edible gardening and discovering for themselves the nutritional benefits from even growing just a little of their fresh produce. If they need our guidance – we are always there to help. We have often said we consider ourselves to be gardening coaches to our clients. We love helping people discover their green thumb.

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Speaking about Organic Gardening

It’s been a whirlwind of new year for us at Homegrown Harvest. You wouldn’t think the dead of winter would be a busy time of year for a couple of gardeners, but it has been.

We’ve been putting together a new lecture series on organic gardening. A few months ago, I was asked by a friend to come speak at her volunteer organizations’ opening meeting.  I’d never been asked to speak – although Mark and I had talked about the idea earlier in our IMG_1039organizational days of beginning Homegrown Harvest- so I agreed.  I decided to do a talk on the whys and hows of healthy eating – why you should grow food and not lawns.  It was going to be the first time I was ever in front of an audience of people who wouldn’t fail the class for being absent. I had never ever given given a talk or lead a discussion like this before. High school, in front of a few Trinity classmates perhaps was the last time I did anything remotely close to this. In college at BU,  I made sure to stay away from speaking opportunities, the exception being in my photography class where they made you get up and present your photo before a firing squad as your “peers”.  Okay perhaps they didn’t riddle my work with bullet holes but each comment felt like a slap in the face of humiliation at at the time.

My years working for my brother in the hedge fund industry taught me how to put together presentations, so sitting down and writing out the discussions has proven to be a cathartic activity for me, reinforcing my beliefs in organic land care management.   It was a moment of clarity brought on my Dennis Hopper and an Ameritrade ad that helped me diverge from following my brother’s path any further and create my own.  My work on the Hows and Why of Healthy Eating turned into 52 slides filled with vegetable facts, flowers and photography with given some animation. Hours and days of numerous edits , dry runs with more edits and more dry runs in my living room with my laptop, projector, screen and audience of five four footed friends of mine.

Finally, the day arrived. with about 40 women attended the September meeting of the National Charity League that morning and my despite the fact it was to be my virgin takeoff into the world of public speaking – I was relatively calm and not afraid to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers.  Instead I found myself to be excited by the possible opportunity public speaking could lead to for Homegrown Harvest.  Afterwards many people came up to me to tell me how much they learned and enjoyed my talk. One used the word ‘inspired’ to describe how they felt afterwards – the best compliment I could ever hope to ever receive and it has given me more confidence to go forward.

I decided shortly after that lecture that perhaps I would approach the New Canaan Library with the idea for a Spring Garden Series.  They recently started up a seed bank so I though it would be a natural tie in for us as a local vegetable gardening business.  It seemed a much better way for us to get out message out to people that healthy home vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be difficult and the healthy rewards you reap are beyond comparison.

Mark and I consider ourselves to be garden coaches – why not? People have life coaches, sports coaches, spiritual coaches. We don’t just sell you a product and walk away. We help you as much or as little as you want. Many people are too busy to get things up and started or don’t know how or where to begin.  We help teach and guide people in the process – making it easier for them to enjoy all the healthy benefits that go along with growing their own harvests.

Before the end of 2014, I had the privilege again to be asked by another volunteer organization, the New Canaan Beautification League to wanted me to come talk to them at their February meeting. They asked me to do a Garden to Table talk – oh and by the way – we’d like to video tape it if you don’t mind and put in on our public access channel CH79 New Canaan! Videotape? Um? Okay…

What had I agreed to?  I’ve never been videotaped except in home movies and those are not anything to be shared! So now I am going to be on TV? Um, that heightened the nerves a bit. So now I had to come up with a cohesive presentation that made sense talking to fellow gardeners about setting up a vegetable garden and the inspiration it en-vibes on your meals.

At the recommendation of a good friend of mine, I decided to take an online Dale Carnegie class on public speaking.  I’ve been to a number of lectures and presentations in my professional career, where the speaker went off on tangents, jumped around in their thoughts and slides – leaving my confused just wanting to take the handouts to figure everything out for myself later.  I certainly don’t want to be one of those types of speakers.

There is tons of information you hope to share with your audience but its crucial to not give too much which could overload and just confuse matters.  I find when I sit down to start one of these presentations that I want to tell a story. The overall point being that we can all enjoy growing some of our own food and by doing so reap the multiple rewards that vegetable gardening brings to our bodies and our souls.

Our local library loved the idea of doing a spring gardening series and we set up two dates in February and two more in April. March was off limits as the town does a one book, one town sort of things and everything revolves around that in March.  So our first two discussions in February I decided to focus on organic small space gardening dividing the discussions into two; focusing the first on container gardening. February can be a brutal month, and this year has been a doozy! This morning temperature was 14 degrees which has warmed up from the at zero and below zero days we’ve been experiencing here in Connecticut.

IMG_1640The first program 28 registrants signed up for the free lecture – 12 brave soles showed up. The weather had been snowy earlier and bitter cold, proving too challenging even those with cabin fever to start thinking about spring gardening.  Tomorrow we have our second installment in the Spring Series – we have put together a discussion on the organic benefits of building a polyculture garden. A polyculture is an organic method that brings in variety to the garden, breaking up the monoculture, in turn helping to deter disease and bad bug infestation simultaneously adding health, beauty and color to the garden.  The weather is still frigid but clear and bright with a newly developed threat of snow later in the afternoon that hopefully will not keep people from coming out to enjoy learning about the vast benefits of growing your food efficiently and effectively through intensive planting.

Time to Dream and Plan

heirloom onthe plantIt’s 5 degrees out this morning here in our neck of the woods.  It’s even colder where some of the kids are up at college like Burlington where it’s -18 right now and 4 degrees in Ithaca feeling like minus 4.  In Boston where our other one is at it’s 5 degrees but the winds up there are making it feel more like 10 below. Brrrr…it is cold out there today. It’s around this time of year that we start to jones for one of our homegrown heirloom tomatoes. Thank god weIMG_0007 made sauce at least. The garden is covered with a thick quilt of hard-packed snow about 20 inches deep burying our overwintering vegetables and Charlie the gnome.

The new year has brought us a new Sears Craftsman riding lawn tractor. We decided to get the snow blower attachment so we could us the things year round – mowing and mulching during the summer, snow blowing now.  We’ve already had the pleasure of clearing the driveway 6 times in the last month – quickly making back some money on our investment. Making me think we should have done this a long time ago.

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Right off the truck before the snow

Getting to know the ins and outs of snow blowing our own driveway has had it’s ups and downs but nothing that hasn’t been resolved quickly.  Day one, Mark threw a pin trying to clear a path to the garbage shed – not to self watch the  natural rock wall on the left hand side of the path.  Day two I’m clearing the front of the driveway by the mailbox when Ruby – yes we’ve named her – decides to stop throwing snow and emit a slight burnt rubber smell.  Thankfully, that too was fixable although not sure exactly why it happened – the belt to the auger seemed to have stretched or the cable did…regardless Mark was able to trouble shoot and we were back to throwing more snow in no time. According to the groundhog, we have 6 more weeks of winter so it will be a while before we get to take the snow thrower attachment off and put the lawn mower deck on the bottom.

On frigid cold days like these where Jack Frost is nipping more than just the nose; it’s best to stay inside and grab one of the many seed catalogs that have been pouring into the mailbox last month.  I’ve been really busy preparing for a number of lectures on the schedule for February, just finishing the first one this past Wednesday.

GardenToTableI gave a Garden to Table presentation to the members of the New Canaan Beautification League at the New Canaan Nature Center.  There is a lot of material to cover when you want to paint a picture for an audience of why and how they can grown some of their own delicious food. So much material that the next programs I have coming up is actually a 4 part spring garden series where I can go more in depth to areas like composting, setting up polycultures, and container gardening.  The spring garden series will be hosted by the New Canaan Library which I am really excited to being working with. Our library has recently set up a new Seed Bank – so I am excited at the possibilities going forward that there is an increasing interest in edible gardening locally.

I’ve lived in my town for the last twenty years, raising my kids and working for my brother most of that time, but volunteering in my community is ways like coaching girls lacrosse. My fiance and business partner, Mark has been an EMT at our volunteer ambulance corp – NCVAC for past two years. The members of the Beautification League volunteer to their time to helping keep our pretty little village looking it’s best via working with nature. Volunteering has always been a big part of my life. When I was a teenager. my mother was at one point the President of the YWCA of New York City. She had started at the Y as a volunteer coordinator and her work ethic and passion for the place propelled her to president at lightening speed. The woman knew how to make things happen.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to a community or organization you feel passionate about. It’s a great way to get out and meet like minded people who enjoy similar passions. I purposely use the word ‘volunteering’ as opposed to ‘community service’ because at some point in today’s world, the legal system has dished out ‘community service’ to many making it sound more like a penalty than something that can be very rewarding for the volunteer, them-self. It’s a shame that to a generation of children the words ‘community service’ doesn’t sound like something you would want to do but have to do.

In the gardening world, ‘volunteers’ means something different than people giving of their time to do something for free. Instead when you hear a gardener refer to a ‘volunteer’ they are referring to a specific plant that wasn’t purposely seeded but successfully growing where ever its seed lay.  Last summer we had a number of ‘volunteers’ come up in our backyard and not all in our raised beds.  We had a couple tomato plants come up over in wood chipped area and two more in the raised beds – one in my designated 3 Sister beds and the other in my cabbage bed.  The ones in the raised beds fared better than the wood chipped areas – most likely since we had composted the beds and perhaps the wood chips reduced the ph too much for the tomato plants to fruit. The two plants in the wood chip grew pretty big – one just flowered but didn’t fruit, the other fruited but very late in the season and we only were able to take some of the cherry tomatoes off before they had a chance to ripen on the vine.  Conversely, the volunteers in the raised beds gave off a lot of fruit – both of those were also cherry tomato plants.

From our garden a beautiful snap pea begins to bloom.
A beautiful snap pea begins to bloom

I’m reminded of all this when I was preparing my presentation and was scanning my hundreds of photos of our garden and our client’s gardens.  The pictures get me thinking about the possibilities for this season.  What varieties should we plant this year?  Peas for certain will be among the first things, along with a variety of lettuce…The seed catalogs have sat untouched by me until just the other day.  I was afraid if I opened even one I would be too distracted to work on my Garden To Table presentation.  Later in the night, the day of the presentation, I finally cracked open my first bit of what we fondly refer to as garden porn.  Beautiful photographs of the most delicious looking fruits and vegetables are coupled with mouth-watering descriptions which causes you to have eyes bigger than your garden beds.

I was proud of myself, I didn’t go seed crazy and deliberately focused on edible flowers in as I checked out Annie’s Heirloom Seeds catalog and then also the strawberry starts – had to get those before they sell out like last year. Oh, then there is the potatoes – had to get some of Binje potatoes to try this year…Luckily I was exhausted form my day and that was all my tired eyes could handle at the time.

A few days have past since my seed binge and now we have these wicked cold temperatures outside, I think it’s the perfect time to start breaking out the paper and pen and start listing what we want grow this season.  I’ll need to check the cupboard where I keep our seed supply in neatly labeled plastic containers with pop-tops for one handed handling when out in the garden.  It took me a while to figure out the best way to save and keep seeds organized.  I like the plastic containers because they keep seeds dry and safe, whereas envelopes don’t reseal always and get wet and then compromise the seeds. Or land up at the bottom of your pockets, purse, garden bag, truck…

February is the best time to plan your garden – remember to consider crop rotations into your plan. Crop rotation is the practice of growing related vegetable families in different areas in consecutive years.  There are four plant families that benefit from crop rotation: the cabbage family, the carrot family, the cucumber & squash family and lastly, the tomato & eggplant family. Rotating these vegetable families will help prevent soil borne disease from building up and help keep and provides a principle mechanism for building healthy soils and organically controls pests.

When you plan things out on paper first it makes it a lot easier for to take into account things like crop rotations and companion planting. This way you can also makes sure that the proper companion plants are not only coupled together but the plants which should be kept away from one another will always stay away from one another.

One of many harvestsSo grab your hot beverage of choice and that stack of seed catalogs and enjoy dreaming about what can be. Fresh delicious harvests that will inspire most every meal!

If you are just starting a new garden and would like some ideas, I highly suggest looking at organic seed websites perhaps with your laptop or iPad or other mobile device to see the different types of delicious food you possibly could be growing in your backyard, porch or balcony. If you are in the Fairfield County, Connecticut area and need help you getting your garden started, please reach out for us to help at info@homegrownharvest.com – that’s what we do. Elsewhere, check your local listing for organic land care professionals that may help get you started. Here is the northeast we have NOFA – the Northeast Organic Farming Association but I am sure there are many regional organizations like NOFA which are committed to promoting and supporting organic land care practices.

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August/September – Where did the summer go?

It’s difficult to imagine that Labor Day weekend has already come and gone.  I have been negligent in writing a monthly blog entry this summer.  Once again the busy season whirled by us – selling gardens; installing gardens; going to events; talking to people about their gardens; helping people maintain their gardens.  The company’s second growing season has kept us on our toes from March all the way through until the last days of August. September’s arrival has us preparing for our next event at Live Green CT coming up September 13-14th. and we are working on a presentation about the health benefits of having a small vegetable garden which we will present at the season opening meeting of the National Charity League.

Most of August I spent time in our clients’ and our own garden pruning back the tomato plants – particularly the wildly big cherry tomatoes we planted this year. There are many gardeners oIMG_1129ut there who don’t prune their tomato plants at all. There is an old gardener’s adage: if you do prune you will have less but larger fruit, than if you don’t prune your plants. Towards the end of the summer, I like to prune our indeterminate plants because I believe that by pruning the unnecessary leaves the plants energy is diverted into the fruit and flowers instead of the foliage.  I also like to make sure the plant has plenty of airflow circulation to prevent disease from building up by clipping back the branches filled with leaves, which tend to catch the wind.  I have some plants in containers which if I don’t trim them the leaves get so clustered together that it catches the wind and on a gusty day I have found my container on it’s side!  A clear sign I needed to prune back the foliage so the air could cut through the branches giving plant healthy airflow.

Many times, early in the morning, as I am watching the dogs trot through the backyard I have considered that I should go over to my computer and write an entry about all the things we have been doing. But instead, I would head out to our garden with my camera and coffee in hand and try to capture beauty of the garden in the morning.  The cooler temperatures this season more often than not have forced me to put a robe on which did nothing for my bare feet on the cold grass from the wet morning dew.  I think we only had 3 or 4 days where the mercury rose to 90 degrees of above this summer. We have had to be patient waiting for the peppers to fully ripen to the various shades of red, orange and purple; I believe it takes a little more heat in order for them to fully flourish.  This Labor Day weekend was hot and steamy and it has continued to remain humid.  Hopefully the peppers will appreciate this little spell of hot weather.

Last week I felt the urgency to get my fall/winter garden seeded. With the way time flies the frosts of winter could be here before we know what hit us.  Particularly if the threat of the polar vortex making a possible early appearance in September topped with El Nino winter not too far behind.  About a month ago we put in another new raised bed, a beautiful cedar 4′ x 8′ raised bed from our friends down in North Carolina.  I had to drag out the dog fence so the pack wouldn’t run around and mess it up like they had after the fresh compost was added days earlier.  I seeded a bunch of cole crops: arugula, kale, broccoli, cauliflower along with some carrots and onions. The carrots I selected for this garden were Autumn King, Giants of Colmar, Paris Market and Meridia. In our Maine Kitchen Garden bed between the tomato and pepper plants there was a bunch of space so I seeded Harris Model Parsnips, a few varieties of lettuce: Winter Density, Winter Brown and Marvel of 4 Seasons; as well as a couple of varieties of spinach: Palco and Winter Giant.  I look forward to the promise of what this autumn/winter garden could possibly provide my family. Just think of the salads, soups, sauces and sides we could enjoy!

IMG_1627So far we have managed to can 9 quarts of tomato sauce for the winter and with the looks of things in the garden we will be able to do a lot more canning before the season is through.  We filmed a video about canning which I need to edit first but once it’s ready to go I will do a whole blog entry dedicated to canning. Smells trigger memories and standing over a simmering pot of tomato sauce can transport me back in to the garden with all its colors and fragrance even on the bleakest of winter days.  Every time we crack open a jar of our homegrown homemade sauce that we canned, we recapture tiny moments of summer which flew by all too fast at the time.

Chase away the Winter Blues and Plan Your Garden

groundhog_001Right now it’s raining on top of the three or more feet of snow that has accumulated this winter.  The groundhog cursed us by seeing his shadow and foretold of six more weeks of winter. It is historically now the 7th snowiest winter on record in this southwestern CT area. SWCT is lost between being the part of CT and NY. The rest of the state ignores us and roots for the Sox and Pats while most of us down here are either Yankees, Mets, Jets and Giant fans. We are the New York country cousin dare I say we should be dubbed East New York. That’s an inside joke between myself and my other half, Mark that I will let you in on. If you are ever perusing the real estate section of the New York Times and such you may stumble upon a place named “West New York”. At first I thought they were talking about the Westside of New York, beautiful place with some captivating views of the Hudson River and GW Bridge and apparently of West New York too. You see West New York is actually in New Jersey! So since the towns and villages of SWCT are filled to the brim with NYC commuters and people like myself who are just trying to make a living right here and we follow NY teams over the New England teams, we may as well be “East New York”.

So what does this have to do with gardening – absolutely nothing, other than the fact that if you live in the North, city or suburbs, chances are you have been dealing with a lot of snow. Spring seems months away not around the corner. How can anyone think about planning a garden right now? Actually now is the perfect time to plan a garden. The fresh blanket of snow gives your mind a blank canvas to work with, eliminating the distractions around you.

If you live in an apartment and have plenty of sun, you have many options available to you for growing some food in your home and you explore them all without putting your boots on.  Simply go online and check out the Tower Garden, our aeroponic system that we offer.  If you have a yard put on your snow boots and take a walk in your own back yard, you will be amazed at what it can do to help you start thinking more about spring.  Be careful if you haven’t walked out there for a while – I know I have broken through a few ice chunks in certain areas making walking tricky depending on which part of the yard I’m navigating.  The dogs have done a great job making a few runs – so I can stick to those in most places.  Our garden is in the sunniest part of our yard so the snow should melt quicker there once the temps start to rise.  Since we already added our new garden beds for the season and have everything all set, I have been playing around on paper some ideas for how I plan on incorporating more crop rotation into our garden.  It will be nice having another bed to use that will allow for easy rotations when the time comes. Crop rotating is an important part of gardening that benefits your crops and garden in the long term. Many gardeners don’t realize that the constantly planting the same things year after year in the same space increases the chances of soil borne disease occurrences. Even with proper soil amending to prep the beds, soil borne diseases won’t always go away.

I have a client who lost a whole bed of tomatoes that she had been using for over three years – 13 plants! A shame too since she claimed the same thing had happened the summer before but not to the degree it was happening when she showed us where most of the plants were drying up and dying on the vine. That should have been the first clue that something in the garden was amiss.  Luckily for our client, we were able to plant some new starts in other beds she had that were not filled and she had fresh tomatoes throughout the summer. We recommend that she incorporate a crop rotation plan for the following seasons.

Benefits of Crop- Rotation

  • Simplest way to reduce occurrence of soil-borne diseases
  • Provides principle mechanism for building healthy soils
  • Major way to organically control pests

ImageWhen we planted the new beds we incorporated companion plantings to enhance the health and flavors of the plants as well as attracting beneficials to the garden.  Companion planting is the practice of closely planting herbs and flowers with the vegetable plants.

  • It brings variety into the garden helping to break up the monoculture, in turn deterring disease and bad bug infestation.
  • It’s a holistic approach to working with the intricate layers of the ecology of your garden.
  • Reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Many vegetables and herbs store natural substances in their roots, flowers and leaves that repel unwanted pests and attract beneficial insects.
  • Enhances the beauty as well as the flavor and overall health of your garden by working in harmony with nature.

If it tastes good on the plate – it will work in the garden together too – like tomatoes and basil, strawberries and lettuce, peas and carrots.

Speaking of peas, I can’t wait to start planting some peas in the garden. As soon as the top layer is workable I will be seeded peas, carrots and few other cold crops week after week.  What are cold crops you may ask – well that a topic for another time. Until then, I will hold on the fact that spring is less than a month away and enjoy the return of the birds who recently I have been awaken by as they chirp outside my bedroom window.

January Gardeners Dream & Scheme

ImageJanuary can be a tough month for some people. Here in New England it’s cold, snowy, and icy one day and the next its in the 50s, rainy and grey. The sun shows up once in a while, faking us out from time to time making us feel it should be warmer than it actually is.

In order to help beat the winter doldrums, on crummy you-want-to-stay-in-bed-days, I love pouring over the seed & plant catalogs, dreaming and planning what this year’s garden should contain.  We will be sure to get our orders in by the months end as the general rule of thumb, “You snooze, you lose” applies to ordering seeds and starts. On the nicer days, I take the time to get outside, walk the backyard and scope the areas where bushes, trees and shrubs may need some pruning; check the garden beds for the crops that were planted in the fall and have been overwintering like garlic and carrots.

Last fall we installed one of our new products to our backyard garden, the lawn slowly giving way to more and more raised beds. It’s an 8’ x 12’ deer-fenced Maine Kitchen Gardens, 65 square feet of new growing space to plant this spring! The new growing space will make crop rotating much easier for us going forward. I’m so glad we installed it when we did so there will be no reason to get it all planted up once the time comes.

Outdoor thermometerJanuary is the perfect time to plan and install a new garden. After all, spring is only 61 days away. Many people make the classic mistake of waiting until April or May and by the time they get everything all said and done (if they do it at all) they have missed an important part of the growing season – early spring.  Cold crops love just that – the cool temperatures of early spring when it’s between 40º F and 70º F.  If it gets too warm, the cold crops bolt and go to seed.

There are a few cold crops in particular which you can directly sow outdoors since their seeds germinate in soil temps as low as 40º F. Peas germination and growing temp ranges between 40ºF-70ºF. Arugula & Lettuce enjoy germination and growing temps between 40ºF-60ºF and potatoes germinate at 45ºF. If you see your daffodils in bloom, start planting your potatoes in the garden! At the end of this January, early February we will start a few seedlings indoor, for the other cold crops that need higher temperatures to germinate, like strawberries, spinach, Swiss chard and onions.

In New England, regardless if there is snow on the ground St. Patty’s day is the time to plant our peas outside and it will be here in the blink of an eye.   That’s why the planning stage in January is so important despite the possible snow that could be in your yard right now.  It can be hard for some to envision which is why we try to help people as much as possible in getting their gardens up and running; so people can enjoy growing their own.

For Better or Worse – A Guide to Companion Planting

Many experienced gardeners already know that having a diverse mix of plants helps give you a beautiful and healthy garden.   Some also believe that certain plant combinations have extraordinary powers for helping each other grow.   Scientific study of companion planting has confirmed that some combinations have real benefits unique to those combinations, while experience has demonstrated to many gardeners how to combine certain plants for their mutual benefit.  

How can companion plantings help you?

  • Companion plantings brings variety into the garden by helping to break up the monoculture, this aids in deterring disease and bad bug infestation.
  • It’s a holistic approach to working with the intricate layers of the ecology of your garden.
  • Reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Many vegetables and herbs store natural substances in their roots, flowers and leaves that repel unwanted pests and attract beneficial insects.
  • Enhances the beauty as well as the flavor and overall health of your garden by working in harmony with nature.  

How close should the plants be to each other?

  • Take the average spacing between the two varieties.  

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Ancient Companions Over the centuries, companion planting has played a vital role in the survival of people throughout history. The Iroquois American Indians in the Northeast used the “Three Sisters” or De-o-ha-ko. De-o-ha-ko literally means “our sustainers” or “those who support us”. When companion plantings are used they help one another grow, thrive and produce higher yields efficiently and with little impact on the environment.  
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Scientific Foundations for using Companion Plantings

Trap Cropping – one plant will lure bugs and pests away from another plant and serves to distract.  
Symbiotic nitrogen fixation – legumes (peas, clover, beans) fix atmospheric nitrogen for their own use and benefit of nearby plants via symbiotic relationship with rhizobium bacteria.  
Biochemical pest suppression – certain plants give off chemicals in their roots or aerial parts that suppress or repel pests and protect neighboring plants.  
Physical spatial interactions – tall growing plants which love sun sharing space with low growing shade tolerant plants gives higher yields in less space, as well as yielding pest control.  
Beneficial Habitats – or refugia is when companion plants provide a desirable environment for beneficial insects and other arthropods, like predatory and parasitic insects which help keep the pest population in balance. Agroecologists believe this is a good way to both reduce pest damage and pesticide use.  
Security via Diversity – a mixed variety of plants, herbs and vegetables helps limit the possible destruction that can be caused to a single crop or cultivar. Simply mixing cultivars will achieve the diversity needed as the University of California demonstrated with broccoli.

As much as there are plants that are compatible together, there are some that are just as incompatible together as well.  Please refer to our Companion Planting Guide that also gives hints as to certain ways that plant may be used to deter certain critters, big and small.

Condensed Companion Planting Guide
Asparagus Plant plant with Aster family of flowers, basil, tomato, parsley, dill, coriander, comfrey, marigolds. Do not plant with garlic, onions, potatoes.    

Basil plant with tomatoes, peppers, oregano, asparagus, petunias; helps improve flavor and growth and aids in repelling thrips, flies, mosquitoes, deer. Do not plant with rue, sage   

Beans are wonderful to plant with most vegetables and herbs (carrots, cauliflower, celery, chards, corn, eggplant, radish, strawberry,
potatoes, cucumbers, cabbage)Beans help to enrich the soil with nitrogen Do not plant with (alliums) garlic, onions    

Beets plant with lettuce, cabbage, onions, kohlrabi, garlic, mint. Beets are good for adding minerals to the soil (leaves are made of up of 25% magnesium), valuable addition to the compost; beets flavor is improved by garlic and mint.
Do not plant with pole beans.  

Broccoli is great to plant with basil, bush beans, cucumber, dill, garlic, hyssop, lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, potato, radish, rosemary, sage, thyme, tomato.   Celery, onions and broccoli improve broccoli’s flavor; broccoli loves calcium so pairing it with plants that don’t need calcium like nasturtiums and beets – free up the calcium in the soil for broccoli.  Do not plant with grapes, strawberries, mustards, rue.  

Cabbage Family includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and cabbage are all wonderful when paired with celery, beets, onions, potato, spinach, chard, sage, thyme, mint, rosemary. Chamomile and cabbage improves flavor while celery and cabbage improves growth and health. Do not plant with tomatoes, strawberries, pole beans, peppers, eggplants, grapes, lettuce.   

Carrots plant with leaf lettuce, onions, peas, onions, leeks, chives, rosemary. Do not plant with dill, parsnips, Queen Ann’s lace     

Celery plant with potatoes, spinach, bush beans, onions, cabbage families, leeks, tomato, cosmos, daisies, snapdragons. Do not plant with corn, potatoes, aster. Carrots can be infected with yellow disease from aster flowers  

Chards plant with beans, cabbage family, tomato, onion and roses. Do not plant with cucurbits, melons, corn or herbs    

Chives plant with carrots, tomatoes, apples, brassica family, mums, sunflowers. Improves growth & flavor of carrots and tomatoes; chives keeps aphids away, drives away Japanese beetles and carrot rustfly; Do not plant with beans and peas.

Cilantro(Chinese parsley, the seeds are coriander)   Anise, caraway, potatoes, dill. Cilantro repels harmful insects(aphids, spidermites & potato beetle) 

Corn  Amaranth, white geraniums, lamb’s quarters, melons, morning glory, parsley, peanuts, pumpkin, soybeans, sunflower, potatoes, peas, beans, squash, cucumbers. Corn feeds off of the nitrogen left behind by the beans when interplanted together. Do not plant with tomatoes

Cucumber plant with beans, corn, radishes, peas, sunflower, dill, beets, nasturtiums.When planted with nasturtiums growth & flavor improve and when planted with dill it attracts predatory beneficials. Do not plant with cauliflower, potatoes, basil, sage, rue.  

Eggplant plant with amaranth, beans, spinach, tarragon, thyme, marigolds, peppers         

Garlic plant with most herbs, roses, raspberries, apple trees, pear trees, celery
cucumbers, peas, and lettuce. Garlic accumulates sulfur, a natural fungicide which prevents disease. it helps in offending codling moths, Japanese beetles, root maggots, snails and carrot rootfly; time release capsules planted at the base of trees deters deer.

Lettuce plant with beets, broccoli, bush beans, pole beans, carrot, onion, strawberries,  sunflowers radishes, cucumbers, dill. Do not plant with cabbage, parsley    

Marigolds, French plant with most plants but do not plant with beans, cabbage French marigolds keeps soil free of bad nematodes and discourages many garden pests/insects.

Mint plant with cabbage, tomatoes. It improves the health of cabbage & tomatoes. While it also deters white cabbage moths, ants, rodents, flea beetles, fleas, aphids by attracting beneficials like hoverflies & predatory wasps.

Onion plant with beets, carrots, leeks, kohlrabi, brassicas, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, dill, chamomile, summer savory. Onions & strawberries help the berries fight disease; intercropping with leeks and onions with carrots confuses carrot & onion flies. Do not plant with peas or asparagus.   

Peas plant with corn, cucumber, celery, eggplants, bush/pole beans, radishes,
spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, turnips . Do not plant with chives, potatoes, onions, gladiolus, grapes.     

Pepper, sweet bell plant with tomatoes, okra, parsley, basil, carrots, marjoram, petunia, onions. Do not plant with fennel, kohlrabi, apricot trees    

Pepper, hot plant with cucumbers, eggplant, escarole, tomato, okra, swiss chard, squash, basil, oregano, parsley & rosemary.  Chili peppers roots exude a substance which prevents root rot and other fusarium diseases; teas made from hot peppers can be used as insect sprays   

Potato plant with bush beans, celery, carrots, corn, cabbage, horseradish, marigolds, peas, petunias, onions, French marigolds. Do not plant with asparagus, kohlrabi, rutabaga, fennel, turnip, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, sunflowers, cucumbers     

Pumpkin plant with corn, beans, radishes, peas, oregano, marigolds, squash, melon, nasturtiums. When planted with marigolds deters beetles, planted with nasturtiums deters bugs & beetles, with oregano for the pest pest protection   

Radish plant with beets, bush beans, pole beans carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, parsnips, peas, spinach, members of squash family, nasturtium. Planted with squash helps deter squash borers; deter cucumber beetles & rust flies, chervil and nasturtiums improve radishes growth & flavor; lure leafminers away from spinach. Do not plant with hyssop, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips.

Spinach plant with peas, beans, cauliflower, eggplant, onions, strawberries, squash, fava bean.

Squash plant with beans, pumpkins, corn, cucumbers, onions, melon, mint, borage, marigolds, oregano. When planted with borage deters worms and improves growth & flavor; marigolds deter beetles, oregano best pest protection. Do not plant with potatoes.

Strawberry plant with beans, borage, lettuce, onions, spinach, thyme. Borage strengthens resistance to insects and disease.  Do not plant with cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi.

Tomato plant with asparagus, carrots, head lettuce, mint, nasturtium, onions, beans, basil, lettuce, garlic, cucumber,celery, chives, peas, peppers, parsley, marigolds. Basil helps repel flies, mosquitoes, deer and improves growth & flavor; bee balm, chives & mint improves flavor & health of tomatoes. Do not plant with dill, fennel, apricot trees, potatoes, kohlrabi, corn.

Turnips plant with peas and cabbage. Do not plant with potatoes, radishes or other root vegetables, delphinium, larkspur, mustard.

Zucchini plant with nasturtium and flowering herbs.

It’s a lot in information and I have plenty more which is why this only a consolidated companion growing guide.  We love to work with companions in our raised beds and there a wonderful way to help guide you while putting together containers.  Happy Gardening!