A Gardener’s Diary: Tomatoes love marigolds

Jocelyne Sewell shares some of her favourite tips for growing vegetables in the North Okanagan.

What a beautiful rain we had Sunday and all the plants surely appreciated it. The soil was so dry and in the clay, it is like concrete. All the rain barrels are full again and this should keep me going for a little while.

In my book of companion planting, Carrots love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte, I found some interesting ideas. I don’t know if they work in all cases but I always try to use them whenever I have the chance. Tomatoes interplanted with marigolds will grow and produce better. Marigolds help deter weeds and may be planted as a crop against invasions of ground elder also called Bishop’s Weed, bindweed and ground ivy. The older types with strong odour in both foliage and blossom are considered the most useful.

Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) or calendula planted in the vicinity of choice evergreens will repel dogs. This is an old-fashioned herb whose dried flowers were used by our grandmothers to flavour soups. You can use the fresh petals in your salads but some people might be allergic to them.

Grasshoppers are very difficult to control, especially where they come in from surrounding fields, but this spray will help: Grind together two to four hot peppers, one mild green pepper, one small onion and add one quart (one liter) of water. Let stand 24 hours and strain. This mixture is also good against aphids.

The little yellow flower buttercup is capable of raising blisters if children bite the stems and leaves. The garden monkshood (Aconite) is even more dangerous, being poisonous in all its parts, while other members of this family which are more or less poisonous are delphinium, columbine and peonies. They are beautiful, but grow them with care.

We all are familiar with the nitrogen-fixing traits of legumes which draw nitrogen from the air and “fix” it on their roots. Actually there are many plants which get only about five per cent of their nourishment directly from the soil. After a thunderstorm, the plants, particularly grass, look greener as a result of the electrically-charged air which frees its 78 per cent nitrogen content in a water-soluble form. Rain and lightning are fertilizing agents. Each time lightning strikes the earth large amounts of nitrogen are charged into the ground. Rain also brings nitrogen in some areas as much as 20 pounds (nine kg) per acre annually. Sulphur comes down with the rain and rain water also contains carbonic acid.

Snow furnishes not only nitrogen but phosphorus and other minerals. Even fog contributes to the soil’s fertility, especially along the seacoast where it brings in large quantities of iodine, nitrogen and chlorine. Dust, though sometimes disagreable, has its good points too, containing minerals, organic matter and beneficial organisms often in substantial quantities essential to plant growth. Dust may be carried for very long distances, even being held suspended for long periods in the upper atmosphere to be washed down eventually by rain. Many believe that dust is one of the most significant factors in restoring minerals to the exhausted soil and that it also contains bacteria important to healthy soil life. (Now I know why my plants grow so well in the house. I will look at dust in a different way.)

This Saturday will be my last plant sale at my house for the season. I have a few plants left and some young fig trees.

For more information: 250-558-4556 or plantlady1@shaw.ca

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of the Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.