Friday, October 21, 2011

Organic veggie gardening

Peas, red cabbage and broad beans, flourishing under shade netting.

Last summer the sun was so strong that my vegetables were burnt to a crisp in just one day. Then I was given the book "Companion planting" by Margaret Roberts, in which she states that her father predicted 30 years ago, that one day the sun will be too strong to grow vegetables successfully. There is a picture of her veggie garden under shade and she says that they love it. I decided that this is the only way forward and went out to buy white shade netting for the top and green for the sides. I want to keep the chickens out at the same time.
The white shade netting gives 12% shade. Obviously veggies need the sun in order to grow so I decided to start with that, and see how the veggies like it. I can always go up to 20% if it is still too hot. On a hot day one can immediately feel the difference under the netting - it takes the "edge" off the heat.

Red cabbage and Calendulas seem to be happy together.

The combination of red cabbage and calendulas is my own idea, and it seems to be a success. The red cabbage is forming beautiful heads and is hardly affected by insects. The Calendulas' leaves are quite chewed up, but I spotted a white eye eating insects off them, so there is quite some harmony there. I still have to make more use of companion planting, but so far everything seems very happy anyway. I am careful to rotate crops, and put beans in after brassicas to nourish the soil.
Peas looking happy.

The chickens scratched in the veggie patch through most of the winter, so I reckon the soil was nicely fertilised by the spring. I picked enormous broccoli heads which weighed more than a kilogram each. It is so nice to know that the broccoli has never been sprayed! Also there wasn't a single bug on it. Generally I don't have a bug problem at all. I think the chickens get rid of most slug and snail eggs. I hope that the garden in general is a harmonious place for all insects, so that there is no domination of one type over another. One  grub that is annoying is the cut worm, and to avoid it I place collars made out of yoghurt containers around seedlings.
You can see in the picture here that a seedling succumbed to a cut worm and is lying neatly severed. I was not expecting that to happen, so a bit belatedly have protected the others (I hope). I try to grow as many veggies from seed, but also get seedlings from a local supplier when I need a head start. It's a good idea to get tomatoes in as early as possible to avoid blight, so I started some of my seedlings in July. There are already small tomatoes on some of them. The bed pictured here is not under shade but gets afternoon shade. It is for tomatoes, basil and aubergines. Time will tell if they too need shade.

Can you spot the visitor to the compost heap?