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DUCHESS OF DIRT: Take the time to plan your garden before planting it

Leslie Cox
The Coxes’ ‘Ronde de Nice’ zucchinis did well in their garden. Photo by Leslie Cox

Leslie Cox

Special to the Record

As much as I am itching to get outside now that I can see most of the garden, the freezing temperatures chase me back inside quite quickly. Sins of my youth have promoted the advancement of arthritis in a few body parts and they definitely do not like this cold damp fog.

The alternative? Start planning the changes I am making to one of my garden beds this year and draft a schematic for the vegetable garden.

The latter is a tricky one because I want to add a few more vegetable varieties and possibly increase the production output a bit. Unfortunately, I cannot increase the actual size of the vegetable garden. It is John’s domain after all and he is more for ornamental plants, as long as he can stuff the greenhouse full of his tomatoes.

In case new readers are wondering, John is Master of the Back Garden and I am Mistress of the Front Garden. The rule is: we both have the right to make final decisions on our respective domains. This ensures there is no mutiny in the marriage.

Don’t get me wrong. We still give each other advice on what should be done in our respective territory but we can ignore recommendations, if we wish. (Sadly, John tends to do a lot of rearranging because he ignores my suggestions, or refuses to seek my counsel on design matters.)

Back to the vegetable garden. I have been making up my list of potential additions to our food garden. Have put question marks beside some after I added in their space requirements and calculated how many plants were needed to produce enough for our needs. Hmmm.

Well, some question marks may be rectified if I switch to dwarf-sized varieties and grow them in pots. An avenue to be investigated.

Another possibility… companion planting. This is the ideal time for me to embrace this garden concept more seriously. And a great time to rein in John’s tendency to plant too many zucchinis and beans. Okay, the zucchinis are not too bad. I have a lot of recipes and can freeze the remainder when I am totally done with the canning. But we don’t need nine plants. The beans, however, are a wee problem because he insists on only eating fresh. Must seriously work on him about that.

I am sure everyone has heard the phrase “tomatoes love carrots.” Basil is also a good companion for tomatoes because it deters aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites.

Did you know carrots also grow well beside radishes and rosemary? But not beside dill. Rosemary deters carrot rust fly but dill can reduce the carrot yield. Grow dill beside cucumbers instead. They will be protected from mites and aphids. Throw in some radishes and the cucumbers are protected from flea and cucumber beetles. Interesting.

Here’s one for you: plant your lettuce amongst your garlic, onions or clumps of chives. Apparently, the onion smell masks the scent lettuce emits. Going to try this one against the army of slugs that emerge out of the field every evening.

And hey. Onions also deter cutworms and borers. Must see if onions grow well with beans because every spring I lose half my seedlings to cutworms. Although, I am trying to shorten John’s row of beans.

Perhaps I should re-think my strategy a bit. Since I am the one who shoulders most of the preserving work, I should claim ownership of the vegetable garden even though it is in John’s territory. But then, he does do most of the watering and weeding in the veggie garden.

Perhaps I will just erect a white flag over the vegetable garden and call it “His ‘n’ Hers”. Anything to keep the peace.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at

DUCHESS OF DIRT: Looking back and looking ahead