I've been working on my raised bed garden since just before the pandemic really got crazy... so not very long. It's not a self-sufficiency garden (yet) so I feel comfortable using it just for learning.
I have encountered a few lessons and challenges on the way. So I guess the learning is going well!
- Salad lettuce and carrots grow really well for me with little trouble from pests or weeds.
- When you grow your own lettuce leaves, you don't have to harvest it by the head - just take leaves from a few different plants and leave enough to photosynthesize (thanks Charles Dowding for that one)
- Snails like to live in and around my cedar log raised bed borders. Snails eat a lot of different plants... Ducks eat snails (but I don't have any ducks)
- Neighborhood cats really like bare earth and use it as their litter box, kicking up the dirt. They don't mess things up when you have enough plants growing though!
- Not all of those things are friendly lady bugs! Some of them are imposters... And they like to eat leaves of nightshades, so I suffered when I planted potatoes next to tomatoes...
- Some seeds are picky... and I have to actually pay attention to what I'm doing to get them to grow.
- Some "perennial volunteers" aren't troublesome for the plants I'm trying to grow... but they do make it difficult to harvest my veggies. Vetch growing among my lettuce puts out tendrils that tug on my salad leaves!
- Apparently stomping on your seeds after you sow them packs in the soil so they wick moisture better and improves germination rates.
- Bindweed is... a force to be reckoned with.
- Cucurbit leaf beetles eat all my cucurbits... I'm really hoping I can get one kabocha plant to grow to produce squash so I can save seeds from it that are resistant to them.
- People keep saying soil nutrients influence pest resistances too, but the details on this are really difficult to track down. How can I engineer my soil to stop those leaf beetles from devastating my squashes? Do I need to do something different for cabbage moths? What about those lady bug imposters?
- Round wood log borders for my raised bed are pretty, quaint, and rustic... but they're space inefficient. I could possibly have squeezed in another raised bed in the same space if I had used dimensional lumber or metal borders.
- Gardeningpermaculture style is like a hands-on course in practical biology.
dokudami (Houttuynia Cordata) is apparently allelopathic? Which makes me wonder whether I should purge it from my raised garden. It does seem to be inhibiting growth around it.
I think of dokudami as plant that does well in harsh areas and won't get eaten by animals, so I would give the raised garden space to a more tender plant and move the dokudami somewhere where nothing else seems to grow. I haven't noticed it being particularly allelopathic, but it's not really in our garden near other plants, it was already growing near the road outside the fence and it's happy there.
For the beetles and cabbage moths last year we ended up covering our plants with those white, row cover sheets, the word escapes me right now. You've probably seen it in other peoples fields...Once the bugs move along, the cover can come off. We also spent a lot of time checking for eggs under the leaves and squishing them.
This year we have chickens, so will try getting them to eat the bugs. I did notice that some of the extra starts that I had planted here and there in a more polyculture way, stuffed amongst many other plants and weeds, didn't suffer much damage. They didn't produce much either as I was completely neglecting them as experiments. This year I will try to tend them a little better and more purposefully choose the plants around them.
I did notice last year that the little black beetles preferred a weed with little pink flowers over the curcubits. I'll try to find it in our plant books.
Lew Johnson wrote:People keep saying soil nutrients influence pest resistances too, but the details on this are really difficult to track down. How can I engineer my soil to stop those leaf beetles from devastating my squashes? Do I need to do something different for cabbage moths? What about those lady bug imposters?
This made me think of this:
Redhawk said, "Plants that are healthy will not be sought out by pests animals as readily as those plants that are not getting the nutrition they need, these "sick" plants send out chemical messages that attract the insects that love to feed on the plant, these "sniffles" can be in the form of exudates, pheromones released through the stomata to the air and through electrical messages that travel through the fungal network as well as the root surrounding soil.