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Wild Ideas A column by Mary Keck


May 30, 2012 - I've heard you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but in the case of gardens, I'm not so sure this saying holds true.

Vegetables like to form cliques. So when we planned our garden, we kept companion planting in mind. Our tomatoes grow right next door to garlic while our pole beans share space with carrots. As the upward growing veggies rise, their rooty buddies will have plenty of room to ripen below ground.

With our neighbors' help, we filled our raised beds with their composted manure, which has a fluffy texture and a rich, dark chocolaty color. Our tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots took to it right away. Usually when you think of gifts that keep on giving, dirt isn't the first idea to pop into your mind; however, our friends' dirt offers the essential ingredients our veggies will need all summer.

As thanks for helping us, I baked our neighbors a cobbler made from fresh rhubarb sprouting up in our backyard. Just one plant provided enough for two batches. Since it's one of my husband's favorites, I couldn't give it all away.

Some garden pals can't be rewarded with sweet treats, though. For example, our unexpected neighbor, a light brown snake we call Woody, has graciously offered to pick off pesty invaders.

On occasion, Woody rests in the sun on a log near our garden, and we're hoping he'll snatch unwanted insects. Although our cat, Snickers, had Woody shaking in his scales for a while, he's since returned to observe our garden on sunny afternoons. If he can slither clear of felines, he'll likely catch snacks as they come scurrying by.

Unfortunately for us, Woody's got his work cut out for him because our enemies are neighborly too. Our spinach, basil, and cauliflower have already had visitors who've left behind holey mementos. To counter their social calls, we've sprinkled our leafy greens with biological insecticide.

Next time caterpillars come hankering for veggies, they'll get a fatal case of indigestion when they drop in.

I think I'll keep my friends close and my enemies as far away as possible, for now. Otherwise, I may not have much to harvest at summer's end.

Clarkston News reporter
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