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by Mary Perlmutter



I have been busy planning where each crop is going to go in the garden rotation. This year I am planning to plant one large 9m x 27m bed (approximately 25’ x 80') with a crop of buckwheat which will be tilled into the ground in October to enrich the soil for 1996. Buckwheat contains amino acids and high lysine. It matures in about 70 days, smothers weeds and entices bees which will pollinate the rest of the garden. We enjoy eating buckwheat as a potato or rice substitute at dinner.

The buckwheat does not need to be grown until seed kernels form if you do not wish to eat it. It can be cut green and tilled as a green manure into the soil in July. Late transplants such as a second crop of broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower, all heavy feeders, benefit from being planted in the turned-in green material. Crops such as buckwheat, red clover, rye grass and timothy can be planted in used beds in the fall, then turned over in May or June of the following year.

I mulch my whole garden with dry leaves, straw, hay or shredded paper – whichever I can get my hands on! Fortunately, for the past five years I have been able to get a whole truckload of acidic leaves delivered by the municipality. My soil is very alkaline and the oak leaves and pine and fir needles help to balance the high pH of my soil, which is limestone glacial till. When the leaf mulch is turned in the following spring, it soon breaks down and adds to the humus content of my soil.

During the growing season I often give my newly transplanted seedlings a dose of comfrey tea, kelp meal or liquid fish emulsion to get them off to a good start. Later in the growing season, I make equisetum tea to spray on the roses and fruit trees to prevent scab and black spot, both spore-borne diseases. Equisetum (horsetail), which grows in damp places by the sides of country roads, is a natural fungicide. I soak it 24 hours in water, strain and pour into a spray bottle. It can also be blended in a blender and strained, with the residue used as mulch for rose bushes and apple trees.

Plan to rotate your beds or rows every year so that different plants are taking different nutrients out of the soil. Rotation also confuses pests.

I plant legumes followed by heavy feeders such as corn, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflowers and squash. Perennials like rhubarb, asparagus and French tarragon need to have a good feed of compost or worm castings to carry them over the summer.



Copyright 1995. Mary Perlmutter.

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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