My Version of Companion Planting

People may say, “I did this…” or “I built this…”, but do they really mean they did it all alone, by themselves, with no help?

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” –Mother Teresa

I don’t do much all by myself,  that is why I need to give credit where it’s due and share one aspect of my life: My Version of Companion Planting. According to Oxford Dictionaries, a companion is defined as a person or animal with whom one spends a lot of time, or one of a pair of things intended to complement or match each other. Understanding gardening relies on symbiotic relationships, balances in nature and collaboration with others, I would like to introduce some of my companions.

Maria and PieMaria, My Partner Gardener Together we have planted, harvested and processed vegetables from our large garden, on an old time farmer’s homestead in rural Kenny Lake. She and her mother, Teresa, who is now 94, are my gardening mentors. Patience, attention to detail, generosity and friendship, are what they have shown me gardening is all about. She has selflessly shared her wisdom, supplies, energy and her bounty. Together we made my first sauerkraut, pickles, and pies. She introduced me to two of my most often used UAF Cooperative Extension Publications, Sauerkraut and Rhubarb Recipes.

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Daks, My Son and Muscle Daks is the “you can do things I cannot do” part. We’ve been companions on deck commercial fishing, as the last two left home, and just because I need him. When it comes to hauling and stacking, I want him on my side! I sometimes remind him when we’re too tired or tired of …, No Way Out But Through, and he perseveres and he pulls me through with him. He’s most definitely got my Irish!

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Bruce, My Husband and ‘Can Do Man’ Truthfully, my husband can do just about anything! He’s a builder, designer, fisherman and my companion in life. We planted my first garden together, in Rochester, NY, 25 years ago. We grew so much eggplant and tomatoes that year, we would ring and run as we distributed it to our neighbors. He is more recently the driving force of the homestead garden. I did create a temporary small one this year and the future vision is looking much bigger! He levels, rips up, cuts down and we clear, haul, rake and stack. (The pictures of Daks and Bruce are evidence of our recent achievements.)

20160731_160158Zeus, My Faithful Companion My loving lab, who sometimes, especially when it is most important, understands boundaries. It may not be on my couch, but in the garden he understands he can come just inside the gate, to be close, but must lay down, and be patient. He sticks around, loves laying in the cool newly turned dirt on a hot day and is getting better at keeping his lab tail away from my planters. None cuter!

In rural Alaska, resources are limited, options to hire out are more limited, but somehow you get by with a little help from your friends. Family is always relied on and worked hard, and good friends become family. Living in Kenny Lake sometimes feels similar to what I could imagine it would be like in small town Lake Wobegon. What better to complement beautiful Prince William Sound Spot shrimp and halibut, but fresh homegrown broccoli and zucchini? How would you make a better corned moose Rueben? With homemade sauerkraut. When you don’t have a greenhouse yet and your friend does? Our bounty from the sea is a great exchange for cucumbers and green beans. One reading which I found most applicable was Burpee’s Companion Planting Guide. To me it clearly shows how gardening is so similar to human relationships, reliant on support and if nurtured, grow strong. As I am one of three, I love the mention of the Native Americans “Three Sister Planting”, reinforcing good companions work in support of each other.

As a gardener, you’re the both the mayor and the city planner for the city that is your garden. By growing plants with good companions, you bring peace and prosperity to your town.” —From Burpee’s Companion Planting Guide

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