My go-to garden ground cover

Many, many times previously, I’ve mentioned my prefered ground cover of buckwheat and clover. Since even immature buckwheat helps soil structure, I tried to sneak in one last planting before frost with seeds from the earlier plants:


To be completely honest, I’ve planted a few different clovers and I’m not longer aware which variety is depicted above. It is either dutch white, crimson or medium red clover.

Since the first frost occurred, all of the buckwheat is gone as I explained here. Yet the clover is still thriving and a deep green!


My companion plantings

I promise to do a recap on the justification for the companion plantings soon, but I want to show the progress of the plants so far.

Before I begin, I want to state a few general companion plants that I use everywhere.

Clover is planted with all of the nitrogen hungry plants, especially hops. I also mulched around the persistent clover in the asparagus and blueberry beds as they too are pretty heavy feeders.

In the fallow garden beds, I grow clover under buckwheat to utilize the nitrogen fixation of the former along with the immense soil conditioning properties of the latter. Both provide nectar to my honeybees as well as native pollinators.


Now for the specific cases.

Geraniums and oregano with grapes:


Nasturtium, marigolds, basil (not shown, but it now towers over the asparagus) and dill with asparagus:


Strawberries, bay laurel and yarrow with blueberries. Strawberries were a partial failure because I let the bareroot shipment begin rotting before planting and yarrow is a failure as it never germinated… or I misidentified them with weeds and either pulled them or chopped them with a weedwacker while trimming the garden aisles.


My king companion so far:



Genus Persicaria but species unknown. When it flowers I should be able to determine the species. This weed has drawn most of the japanese beetles. I will let it grow wherever it pops up as it allows me to more tightly focus my soapy water extermination efforts of said beetles.


Problems with pests

Two plants in my garden are getting hammered by something.

I can venture a guess that deer are responsible for eating every single clover leaf as it is nearing maturity leaving untouched stems as well as the few flowers that have had a chance to develop. Of the potential wildlife culprits, turkey are ruled out as we have only ever seen 1 on the farm in 20 years of owning the land. I do not know enough about fox behavior to rule them out. Rabbits are a prime suspect but I feel the distance from the farm to the nearest brushy area is too far for rabbits to feel safe in traversing that distance. Leaving stems uneaten puts deer and groundhogs at the top of the list. I have scoured for tracks and found none!


I must not procrastinate on fencing the garden any longer, which I will do this week and write a handful of posts regarding its design.


The pest eating the hops is a bit tricker as they are likely bugs as the hops are elevated up a small string of hemp twine beyond the reach of any animals, even skilled climbers. A few vines are completely defoliated at the end of the leaf petiole. If my ruined grape plants are any indicator, japanese beetles tend to skeletonize leaves rather than consume them entirely. Most of the documented pests like slugs or beetles still leave holes in leaves, not entirely defoliate the plants. Maybe some sort of caterpillar? I counted over 20 different species of butterflies in the garden this morning.

So with the hops, I am not entirely sure. However I have networked with monthly informal meetings of local growers and will ask around!


I present to you: Bronn, my newest sellsword

Sorry, I’ve been re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire.


These guys and gals have moved into my garden in huge numbers which makes me very happy. I’ve noticed the brown mantises like to hang around the hops, blueberries and barn wall that faces the garden. These huge green ones  have flocked to the blooming buckwheat.


Unfortunately, I held one up to a huge group of japanese beetles but she showed no interest 😦






The hops are flowering!


Why I don’t remove broadleaf weeds from my garden

Laziness is certainly partly to blame.

Curiosity is where the remainder of the blame lies. My knowledge of identifying trees and their scientific names is excessive; bordering on obnoxious by the opinions of friends with whom I share outdoor adventures. My skills with identifying herbaceous plants are weak but as I am actively working to improve, each of these plants offers a learning opportunity. So I generally let them go.

Side Note: my skills on identifying grasses are all but nonexistent.

In addition, most of my garden beds are fallow and contain animal manure/bedding. Root action of any kind alleviates my concerns that the beds have not composted enough to be cultivated by next spring. I certainly remove any weeds that interfere with my garden plantings. To be fair, I will probably be less generous to the weeds once my soil is ready to be cultivated fully.

Most broadleaf weeds are annuals thus not presenting much of a threat to the garden. Some of them, like false strawberry, are biennials. However the one thing they have in common is providing nectar and/or pollen to pollinators, both the native and my honeybees. Along these lines, they attract the pollinators to my crops!

This last point can be coupled with the one on curiosity- with my biological approach to farming, any one of those weeds may possess characteristics that make it a valuable tool as I found out with the unexpected Savior from Japanese Beetle Destruction.


Persicaria (?spp.?), my Savior weed: organic control Japanese Beetles


The japanese beetles decimated my young grape plants by eating most every leaf in the week I was gone for a wedding. So I set out to find a biological solution to combat these pests.

Chickens and other fowl will eat the larvae from the ground decimating the adult population of beetles preemptively. But this is not much help in my current situation!

Another common solution is good old fashioned hand removal of beetles into a bucket of soapy water. If you have chickens, just drop the beetles into the bucket of water and use them as treats for the chickens once the beetles drown. This has been my course of action.

Beetle traps are not recommended because they attract more beetles from far away leaving the gardener to deal with the beetles widely surrounding the garden instead of only those in close proximity of the garden itself. Plus some research has shown that beetles deploy pheromones to attract others when an individual finds a food source. Certainly not ideal!

Yet I was surprised not to find any documented plants that trap or at least attract japanese beetles away from the harvestable crops. Again, simple observation has proven its power.

This plant has drawn all the beetles in the garden to it. Clearly they are heavily feeding on the leaves and clearly they are making the next generation of beetles atop this plant. Instead of many many beetles on the remaining 10% of my grapes leaves (decimate is to be taken literally both times in this post), there is usually one every few days. This plant is drawing them away from the valuable crops allowing me to focus my soapy water removal strategy on the two places where this plant grows opposed to every grape and hop plant in the garden.


I’ve been trying the key this plant and figured out the genus: Persicaria. I will have to wait until it flowers and maybe fruits to find the genus. Needless to say, this plant will be in my garden every year!