I was organizing my ever-expanding collection of plants and gardening books when I came across a title that caught my eye. An hour passed quickly as I sat reading and re-reading some insightful observations and recommendations from Sally Jean Cunningham’s âGreat Garden Companionsâ (Rodale Press, 1998). It was now evident that this was a book that I should have carefully read and assimilated years ago, given that it sat on my shelf for over two decades and contains more wisdom than that. that one might expect to find in several dozen books, collected together, on horticultural subjects. By the way, there are many copies of “Great Garden Companions” available from internet vendors, and most of them are priced under $ 20.
Most gardening books have a lot of information, but you don’t necessarily come across the wisdom in their pages. When it comes to gardening books, wisdom seems to be characterized by contempt for conventional views where the author’s eyebrows are raised in the face of widely accepted practices. Simplicity triumphs and an attitude of letting nature take its course prevails.
Almost always gardening books are too involved in outside inputs or quick fixes. It is as if the proper use of soil amendments, fertilizers and pesticides alone can make us good gardeners.
Yet, by doing something as simple as keeping several inches of mulch on the surface of the soil, you will find that soil amendments and fertilizers, over time, may not be necessary as the decaying organic matter. in the mulch enriches the soil and provides all the minerals that the plants need. Mulch also decreases the frequency of irrigation as it minimizes the evaporation of water from the soil surface and eliminates the need for herbicides as it smothers weed seeds before they can germinate. By incorporating these plants that attract or protect beneficial insects that attack harmful insects into your vegetable garden, insecticides of all kinds will soon disappear from your mind.
Cunningham says she owes much of her vegetable garden’s success to planting a select group of herbs and flowers side by side with her crops. Herbs usually belong to the Umbelliferous family (alternatively called the carrot or parsley family) and are distinguished by their lacy foliage: parsley, cilantro, dill, fennel. She also recommends “planting fragrant herbs like basil” which “can confuse or repel pests.” As for the flowers, Cunningham relies heavily on those of the aster or daisy family: marigold, zinnia, Shasta daisy, cosmos, coreopsis, bachelor’s buttons, yarrow, and especially tansy (Tancetum vulgare), “probably the best. attractor of useful insects. “
Ground covers are highly recommended as they provide shelter to both beneficial insects and spiders that prey on pests. Gazania and the highway daisy (Osteospermum) are ideal in this regard as they fill the beak both as a ground cover and, as members of the daisy family, present flowers that are magnets to devouring insects. of parasites.
She also praises borage. âHe sows himself every year but he’s not aggressive. This plant is truly a charmer with hairy, drooping flower buds and blue star shaped flowers. Borage is a billowy specimen up to two feet tall and attracts pollinators. It is recommended that you plant it next to your strawberry field, as the horde of bees that borage attracts will also visit your strawberry blossoms, resulting in more fruit. Spreading a packet of borage seeds will make any garden much more friendly and welcoming, not only to pollinating insects, but also to humans. Although it is annual, borage self-sows with enthusiasm from year to year. The seedlings taste like cucumber and can be added to your salad.
Cunnigham is generally against the purchase of beneficial insects which, although effective on farms or in other commercial applications, are not necessary for the home garden because “we can attract all the help we need by planting. the good attractive plants and providing water and shelter “. She suggests setting up an “insect bath – a large clay saucer or aluminum pie pan with pebbles and small stones in it.” Add just enough water to cover most of the boulders and pebbles, leaving some exposed as landing sites for the “goodies,” which would include ladybugs, lacewing, parasitic wasps (about the size of the tip). of a pencil) and hoverflies (which look like tiny bees with gold stripes on the back or a metallic blue or green coloring).
If you still want to bring in an army of ladybugs, but want to prevent them from flying away, set up a house for them, made of damp straw, under which they should be placed when they are removed from their container in the evening. shipping. . You will want to have food on hand for them, available from garden supply companies, which you will spread on a sponge near the ladybug release point so that they have an added incentive to stay in your garden. Still, it would appear to be easier to simply plant the umbellifers and daisies that ladybugs are naturally attracted to and where they are inclined to lay their eggs.
â¢ â¢ â¢
âI wonder what you think of using the Kurapia ground cover in a mostly north facing area next to the concrete pool deck. The total space is approximately 880 square feet. Concrete on one side, fence on the other side. I’m hoping for something that doesn’t require a lot of water or maintenance. – Barbara Tucker, Orange County North
I think it might work well for you as long as the area is open to good light exposure and is not shaded by trees. However, you may want to experiment with planting a small segment of the area (50 or 100 square feet, for example) to see how it grows before you engage in the entire area. In general, it’s a good idea to plant a sample of the ground cover you are considering for a large area to see how it performs before making a final decision on whether you want to invest more seriously in that plant.
Kurapia (Phyla nodiflora) is not a grass, but rather a relative of evergreen verbena with pinkish-white flowers. It reaches a height of two inches. Although it can absorb light foot traffic, it is not suitable for playing sports. You establish it from caps, grown in plastic cells planted 15 inches down the center in a triangular pattern. On kurapia.com, 72 caps are offered for $ 158.40 and their coverage when planted at the above spacing is 97 square feet. The optimal planting time is March through September and it takes four months for full coverage. You can plant the kurapia any time of the year, but it will grow and fill up more slowly in the fall or winter. Kurapia produces flowers from May to November and you don’t need to use a trimmer or weed-eater unless you want a decidedly grassy look and prefer not to see the flowers. .
Once set up, you won’t need to water the kurapia more than once a week except in very hot weather, where two weekly waterings will suffice. Annual fertilization is done in March, at a rate of 1/2 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, and you can re-fertilize in the fall, if you wish, to keep it greener in the cool season. A study at UC Riverside has shown that the water requirements of kurapia approximate those of Kikuyu and bison grass.
Tip of the week: Besides kurapia, two lawn alternatives with low water requirements are worth considering as we enter another drought summer due to a lack of winter rain. One of these is ‘UC Verde’ buffalo grass. Buffalo grass is native to the North American plains. However, a professor of environmental horticulture at UC Davis was able to select a cultivar suitable for California yards. ‘UC Verde’ uses 75% less water than tall fescue and 40% less water than Bermuda grass. It can grow in full sun up to 50% shade. If you want a natural meadow look, you can let it grow six inches high, but you can also keep it as low as an inch high by mowing it every two weeks during the growing season. It experiences winter dormancy and will turn semi-brown during this season. You can cut it very low in November and cover it with wildflower seeds so you have a colorful expanse to look at before it starts to green again in warmer weather. AT ucverdeplugs.com, you can buy 128 outlets that will cover 128 square feet for $ 81.28.
The dwarf carpet of stars (Ruschia lineolata ‘Nana’) is a succulent ground cover that grows two inches tall and serves as an alternative to evergreen lawn that tolerates heavy foot traffic. White flowers with pink stripes bloom from late winter to early spring. Water consumption is up to 75% less than that of many varieties of grass. The cost for 72 outlets at California Lawn Alternatives (californialawnalternatives.com) is $ 50.40. At the recommended planting distance of 12 inches, these 72 plugs would cover 72 square feet.
Please send your questions, comments and photos to [email protected]