Pest Paranoia Means Garden Mostly Marigolds

Container garden 6/2010 Laurie Sterbens

My container gardens are growing cherry tomatoes, mini bell peppers, herbs, squash and a whole lot of marigolds.

A couple of months ago I was inspired to plant a small vegetable garden. Besides being a major national trend, I had heard that if my child was involved in growing vegetables, he might actually consider eating them. I have my doubts about this since he has so far proven to be a pretty unshakeable pastavore, but it worked on my neighbor’s kid, so I am hopeful.

Also, my son had grown a plant from a seed in kindergarten and it was starting to look a little depressed in its plastic cup. I thought Trevor would enjoy replanting his seedling and watching it grow.

I only have one squash plant, but it has lots of blossoms.

The only problem with this was not a small one. For my entire life I have been so incompetent with plant life that I seriously wondered if I should be allowed to have children.

My last attempt at growing vegetables was a complete disaster. My mother sent me two Earth Box gardening containers so I could try to grow tomatoes. She had four of these boxes on her deck and from them every year grew an 8-foot-high wall of plants that produced a bountiful crop of beautiful tomatoes all summer. These boxes were self-watering. She was probably thinking that surely I couldn’t mess this up.

Squirrels don't appear to have discovered the mini bell peppers yet, but if they have, they were repelled by a healthy dose of cayenne.

But I did. Instead of an 8-foot wall of lush, productive tomato and pepper plants, I ended up with two boxes of emaciated green sticks and one tomato, which was removed and destroyed by a squirrel. Then one day I found the plants completely covered in little black worms. Eeek! I emptied the boxes, stored them in the garage and was too traumatized to attempt even a small container garden for years.

Though I had seen some appealing plans for small, raised-bed gardens in such magazines as Better Homes and Gardens that were as simple as buying three planks, sawing one in half and attaching them, I never seemed to be able to get this done. Plus, with my history of crop failure, it didn’t seem sensible to devote even a 4 x 8 plot to what might end up being a tomato graveyard. The two boxes in the garage would be just the thing. Baby steps.

I selected a sunny spot near a water spigot and on the opposite side of the house from the squirrel-infested orange tree. Then Trevor and I were off to the home improvement store to select our plants. Keeping with my theme of “baby steps,” I chose two cherry tomato plants and two miniature bell pepper plants. I also added one squash plant because everyone seems to do well with squash. I added a couple of herbs — rosemary and tarragon because we eat a lot of fish, and oregano because it’s very versatile. I would like to have put in some thyme, too, for the same reason, but I had to make room for marigolds.

Last year I wrote a story about a group of friends in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., who were trying to drum up interest in community gardening. One thing that stuck with me from that interview is that the rows of vegetables in their organic garden were dotted with the occasional marigold plant to repel insects.

After my experience with tomato-plant-devouring worm invasion, I was all about repelling insects. The more marigolds the better. Plus, Trevor’s little seedling was a marigold so it would have company. Lots of company.

I bought some organic dirt, too. It was probably more expensive and I’m not sure what made it better than plain dirt, but organic was the theme and I was sticking with it. Well, to a point. With our trunk full of organic gardening supplies, we stopped off at a McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home for a happy meal. Like I said, baby steps.

So, as you can see by the photos, so far, so good. Amazingly, I haven’t killed anything yet. I could end up being one of the state’s leading marigold producers. Trevor enjoys going out to check the garden with me every day, and his little marigold seedling now has two tiny buds on it. Maybe we will build that 4 x 8 bed after all.

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One thought on “Pest Paranoia Means Garden Mostly Marigolds

  1. Kelly I love pink but some colors do bring up different things for some people.I have always loved Star Gazer Lilies those with the deep pink in the middle of the leaves and they have a really strong sweet smell. After doing a jillion memorial flower arrangements and funeral sprays ,the smell is sickening to me and they arent as pretty to me as they used to be. They remind me of funerals and loss . So I will love pink zinnias for you cause they are my very favorite. My uncle floyd williams who you may or may not remember was a little before his time being a health food “nut” and a natural fertilizer and pest control person. He talked George into it too,they both planted marigolds in their gardens for pest control , they both used soap and water to rid plants of bugs instead of the seven dust I was more familiar with and they used Peroxide for fertilizer and it worked . there is a book dont recall the name of the author but it is all natural gardening ideas I gave it to the Protection Library there are all kinds of ideas in there like making a concoction of tobacco juice etc to do different things in your garden ,if you are over check it out.

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