Nourish – July 2016

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Loaded Cauliflower Recipe

Companion Plants for Vegetable Gardens

Watering Woes

Loaded Cauliflower Recipe

Judy's loaded cauliflower is always a hit at our meetings

Judy’s loaded cauliflower is always a hit at our meetings

by Judy Reich, Master Gardener

Ingredients:
1 large head of Cauliflower cut into bite size pieces (approx 6 cups)
6-8 strips of bacon cooked and crumbled (Cooked in oven at 400° for 20 mins)
6 Tbs chopped Chives
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 cup Sour Cream
2 cups Colby Jack Cheese ( may use cheddar)
8 oz container sliced mushrooms (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425°
In a large pot boil water and cook Cauliflower for 8 – 10 minutes, drain and let cool.
In a large bowl combine sour cream, mayo, 1/2 of crumbled bacon, 3 tbs chives, 1 cups of cheese, mushrooms(optional) and cauliflower and mix well… place in baking dish and cover with remaining 1 cup of cheese and rest of bacon crumbles. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted. top with remaining 3 T chives and serve.

Companion Plants for Vegetable Gardens

Companion planting of carrots and onions

by Jamie Gunther, Master Gardener

As many of us are keenly aware, when undesirable insects such as a squash bugs or tomato worm infest the garden, we will do almost anything to get rid of them. After all, we tend to plant our gardens with the intention of feeding ourselves and our families and hopefully have so much produce that we extend our bounty to our friends as well! After the initial shock and dismay at finding such rude invaders wears off we can begin to consider the best ways to keep infestations from occurring or provide the ammunition necessary to put up a good fight when pests come calling.

A couple of good methods to try are companion planting and border planting. According to Garden Toad, companion plants are those that are used to “confuse or repel plant pests, to encourage the growth of other plants and to act as a trap for pests and parasites. Companion plants may also be used as a “nurse” crop to provide food or possibly an attractive home or habitat for beneficial insects.” Companion planting can attract pollinators into the garden as well which is also a good idea. So how do we go about adding these plants into the garden?

Research has shown that certain plants do better when planted near other specific plants. It could be because the plant may attract beneficial insects into the garden or repel unwanted ones. Whatever the reason, planting certain plants together equals a better opportunity for them to thrive and provide us with our desired fruits or vegetables. A few examples of this are:

  • Allium when planted near carrots, tomatoes and fruit trees. Allium repels aphids, weevils, carrot flies, red spiders and even moles.
  • Basil when planted near tomatoes and asparagus. Basil repels aphids, flies, mosquitoes, mites, tomato hornworms and asparagus beetles.
  • Borage when planted near tomatoes, strawberries and fruit orchards. Borage repels tomato worms and attracts honeybees.
  • Coriander when planted amongst a variety of vegetables. Coriander repels aphids and attracts bees.
  • Dill when planted near cabbage. Dill attracts beneficial insects and honeybees.
  • Nasturtiums when planted near cucumber, squash and other vegetables because they repel aphids, cucumber beetles, whiteflies and squash bugs. Nasturtiums also act as a trap crop for aphids and repel borers near fruit trees.

Border plants are planted on the edge of the garden to help control pests and attract beneficial insects instead of directly in the garden. There are many to choose from including both annuals and perennials so finding some that will work should be easy. A few examples of good border plants are alyssum, anise hyssop, Canada anemone, penstemon/hairy beardtongue, yellow coneflower, beebalm, cup plant, columbine, blue lobelia, pale-leaved sunflower, joe pye weed and butterfly weed. Because the bloom time of each plant varies it is worth planting a variety along the garden’s edge to provide continuous sources of nectar, pollen or shelter.

Many of the border plants mentioned are native flowering perennials which is an added benefit for the gardener as well. Native plants require less watering and fertilizer, are better adapted to Michigan soil; can actually improve soil, help filter water and resist pests themselves much better than nonnative plants can. When falls approaches there is less need to prepare native plants for winter because they are already adapted to the cold so going native makes good sense.

Sources:

A list of companion plants to consider can be found on Garden Toad’s Companion Plant Guide www.gardentoad.com/companionplants.

A user friendly chart for native flowering plants is available through Michigan State University Extension in the article “Attracting Beneficial Insects with Native Flowering Plants.”

A variety of native plant information can also be found through Michigan State University Extension at: http://nativeplants.msu.edu/plant_facts/local_info/north_lower_peninsula

Watering Woes

Buckets of Rain installs a gravity fed drip irrigation system in San Mateo, Guatemala. Photo by BucketsofRain.org

Buckets of Rain installs a gravity fed drip irrigation system in San Mateo, Guatemala. Photo by BucketsofRain.org

by Bethany Thies, Master Gardener in Training

I happen to love gardening in raised beds.  They allow for greater control of the planting soil, better containment of mulch and easier weeding, to name just a few of their benefits.  And, probably most importantly for me, my children can’t accidently run through them, destroying all my hard work!  In fact, all my vegetable gardening is now done solely in raised beds. 

When I started with two beds it was easy enough to hand water every few days with my trusty hose and shower wand.  Now that I have 10 raised beds to deal with, though, my thoughts have been turning to a more automated irrigation system.  Several days of searching the Internet has led me to what I see are essentially four possible ways to water an existing raised bed garden:  sprinkler, drip, olla and SIP systems.

Sprinkler systems — Of course the cheapest and easiest way to automate your watering system is to run an inexpensive sprinkler head off a timer attached to your outside water source.  If your beds are large or you have several close together, a sprinkler system like this might work just fine for you.  But be aware there are negatives to this type of system.

Sprinklers are indiscriminate and therefore can be wasteful.  They are designed simply to irrigate large swaths of land regardless of what is in its path.  So walkways and other unplanted areas between and around beds are given as much water as the plants which need it.  And because water is shot through the air with a sprinkler, additional water can be lost through wind and evaporation. 

Sprinkler irrigation is also discouraged on vegetables prone to foliar diseases such as powdery mildew and early blight.  Water left on leaves from sprinklers not only can create favorable conditions for these diseases but the splashing of water from a sprinkler can also spread the disease organisms from plant to plant.

Photo from groundreport.com

Drip system – A step up from the hose and sprinkler head routine is a drip irrigation system.  This type of system relies on narrow tubing to deliver low pressure water from your outside water source directly to the plants in your raised beds or containers.  Materials for a drip system can be purchased individually or in complete kits from several different manufacturers and can be found readily on-line or at the big box stores. 

Several types of drip systems are available, including:

  • In-line drip tubing – Emitters are pre-attached to the tubing every 6, 12 or 24 inches.
  • Soaker hoses and soaker tubing– Emits water along the entire length of the hose.
  • Bubblers, drippers or micro-sprayers  – Different types of water emitters are placed where needed to water individual plants.

While these systems are most often attached to an outside source of your house water, they can also be rigged to work with rain barrels or other large containers of grey water.  Online articles at Mother Earth News  (http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/grey-water-irrigation-zmaz09aszraw.aspx) and Permaculture Ideas (http://permacultureideas.blogspot.com/2011/06/gravity-drip-bucket-irrigation-system.html) have step-by-step instructions on how to set up this type of barrel drip system.

Whether you use house water or grey water, the big advantage with a drip irrigation system is that it can be customized to the needs of your planting bed.  Water goes directly to the plants that need it, resulting in less wasted water.  In addition, soaker hoses and tubing often can be placed directly under mulch which helps reduce water waste from evaporation.  Timers and even water gauges can also be attached to most of these systems to increase their efficiency and ease-of-use.  Set your timer once and you’re free of watering duties for the rest of the summer!

The two disadvantages can be time and money.  It does take some time and planning to set up one of these irrigations systems.  And, depending on how many beds need to be irrigated, material costs can start to add up.  The planning part is key.  Do your research and know what you are getting into before you start buying and cutting tubes.  Again, on-line sources are helpful and many have step-by-step guides for building your own drip system. 

Photo by durablegreenbed.com

Olla system – I have to admit that this form of irrigation was somewhat new to me.  But, it is one getting a lot of attention in areas west of the Rockies where drought conditions have led to water rationing in many communities. 

An adaptation of an ancient method of irrigation that is thought to have originated in Africa over 4,000 years ago, ollas (pronounced “oy-yahs”) are essentially porous, unglazed clay pots with a narrow neck that are buried in the ground and filled with water every few days.  Osmotic pressure pulls water from the pot to the roots of the plants situated around it.  Keep the pot filled with water and you will provide a steady source of irrigation where and when your plants need it.  And since the pots are covered and buried, water loss due to evaporation is almost nil. 

Whereas you can buy traditional ollas online, they are a bit pricey.  Making one seems to be a simple enough endeavor, though.  Take a large unglazed terracotta pot and plug its drain hole with a wine cork.  Bury it almost up to the top in the soil near where your plants will be.  Fill it with water and add a terracotta saucer as a lid.  There, you have an olla. 

How many ollas you need to keep a bed irrigated seems to be up for debate and varies by size of olla and type of plants being watered.  Dripping Springs OLLAS, a Texas-based distributor of ollas suggests one 2-gallon olla can easily irrigate a 3 foot by 3 foot area on up to about 4 foot by 4 foot.

If you want to take this system a step further, you can create a clay capsule system, which is basically a string of ollas fed by a drip irrigation system.  The pots are closed off except where the tube from the drip system comes in and then almost completely buried in the planting bed.  Again, these capsules can be bought online, but they can also be made from terracotta pots, saucers and silicone sealer.

While all this may sound great, one big drawback to the olla system for people Up North is our winter temperatures.  As we all know, water, terracotta and freezing temps are not a good mix. To avoid cracked clay pots, ollas will need to be dug up and stored indoors each fall before the first hard freeze. 

Photo from Brooklyn Seed Company

Sub-irrigated planters or SIPs — Finally, if you are in the process of creating a raised bed or don’t mind digging out your existing one, sub-irrigated planters or SIPs might be the way to go.  Sometimes also referred to as wicking beds or self-watering planters, this technique has been getting a lot of buzz in the permaculture community lately.  The process involves creating a reservoir of water at the bottom of the raised bed which allows water to wick up into the soil as needed.  Plant roots stay consistently moist, there’s less evaporation and you don’t need to water as often or as much. 

The process for creating a SIP seems pretty simple.  Start by lining an empty raised bed with heavy plastic.  Then place perforated drain pipe on top of that at the bottom of the bed.  This creates the reservoir.  Some type of tube or funnel is placed into this drain pipe so that once the bed is filled in with soil water can be placed directly into the reservoir.  An overflow hole or spout is also drilled into the bed or container.  Next, landscape fabric is placed on top of the perforated pipe and then the soil and plants are added. 

Two great tutorials on how to create your own SIP can be found on The Family Handyman website at http://www.familyhandyman.com/landscaping/planters/build-your-own-self-watering-planter/view-all and at the Verge Permaculture website at http://vergepermaculture.ca/blog/2011/05/30/guide-to-wicking-beds/.  But, if you search sub-irrigated planters online you’ll find hundreds of similar instructions for planters and raised beds of all shapes and sizes.

For a complete listing of all the various ways you can water a garden, whether it is raised or not, see “Choose the Best Garden Watering Systems” from the Mother Earth News website (http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/gardening-techniques/gardening-watering-systems-zm0z15amzsto.aspx?PageId=1).  It provides a wonderful overview of irrigation techniques, from simple soaker hoses to sunken beds and planting pits.  It also has several DIY tips for implementing these systems without spending a fortune.


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