The Helpful Gardener
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I'm sure sage means nitrogen...

I'm quite sure there are some scientific truths and a few wives tales in there. Usually that is the case with such things. Trial and error is our best judge, but some leaps of faith can save us the discomfort of failure...

Sounds like the sorghum thing is a sure bet. I know too many smart people using marigolds for it not to be true on some level. Onions and garlic too.

AS, I agree about the root exudates, which as we are finding out, are how plants select soil biologies. It stands to reason that some coping mechanisms for competition were selected along with directly beneficial traits. Thousands, even millions of years of evolution can go into these selections, so why not? Strawberries don't want to compete with brassicas, so they select a pathogen for brassicas. Or vice versa. Sure.

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Do plants also fix other things besides Nitrogen into the soil?...
You can solve all your problems in a garden/laboratory.

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applestar wrote:
Vegetable growers report various instances of reduced yields of some crops following certain plants. It is the belief among muck soil truckers that carrots have a depressing effect on onions, celery, and lettuce. Cabbage is reported to depress the yield of corn, that is, the yield is lower following cabbage than when corn follows corn. (153)
Now this is interesting because I have been doing a lot of research, plant by plant, on growing requirements and such. I have come across multiple accounts while looking at carrot growing, as well as in the Companion Guide I put together, that carrots and onions are the best of friends. Again I have seen this multiple times, strange how this would come up. Who is right who is wrong, there are some many mixed ideas out there it is hard to say which is which. :?

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Sage you should join in at the book club. Plants pretty much run how soil works, at least around the roots. The plants themselves don't generally fix other things, but they attrract biology that does... and some plants do; Thoreau called potatoes Nature's potash works...

Good point, gixx. Science has been busy with the failed experiment of better living with chemicals and has therefor been ignoring the better living with biology side of the equation for a long time. Where science turns a blind eye, rumor and fable takes root...

So lets start experimenting ourselves and reporting obvious successes and failures here. AS's tomato/apple guild, my weed experiments this year; citizen scientists helping each other to find better means... what a great use for the Internet... :D

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well I'll start with a classic one I have seen do wondrous things:

corn, beans, and squash.

I've read before that the beans can't help until next season and I say that's bunk. Last season I accidentally "did the impossible", just putting cardboard down on grass, covering with compost (about 8 inches or so), and following a simple three sisters diagram.

Out of a tiny plot, I got many enjoyable corn dinners, and even had friends over for corn. Earworm seemed to have trouble getting in, but that is based on impressions. I may have had lucky timing.

It wasn't perfect. Stalks could have been stronger, and all that. But the production was spot on. Im crediting the beans and squash.
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Toil your glowing reports, and my reading on native horticultural techniques have convinced me to try the three sisters with the addition of some lambs quarters and purselane in just such a bed as you describe.

See, it's working already! :D

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And there you go, that is science you were looking for Toil. Just because it wasn't done with a microscope in an environment controlled lab doesn't mean it isn't science. :wink: :D

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Remember Gixx, it isn't science until you record your findings...

So keep checking in and writing...

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gixxerific wrote:And there you go, that is science you were looking for Toil. Just because it wasn't done with a microscope in an environment controlled lab doesn't mean it isn't science. :wink: :D
Heck, most science isn't even pure experiments. The very nature of designing the experiment will alter the purity which is why quite a lot of it is actually quasi-experimental design.

Edit: I was looking for good bean cultivars for three sisters and got a historical scientific book chapter on it. Wowsers.
https://www.nysm.nysed.gov/staffpubs/docs/16673.pdf
Last edited by Tigerlilylynn on Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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The Helpful Gardener wrote:Remember Gixx, it isn't science until you record your findings...

So keep checking in and writing...

HG
And this has to be on paper? :P

What I meant by this was why does it always have to be on paper or the net why can't this information just be stored in you brain. There it is recorded too. I have brought this point up before, the word science is taken too seriously. It's all about evaluation of facts or observations and it doesn't have to be written up in a formal document to be science. But I'm with you let's be informal and do it to it.
:wink:

:EDIT: Opp I just screwed up this post. now that's science or is it? :roll: :oops:
Last edited by gixxerific on Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Just recorded...

Here will work... why not?

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But yes, science is about DATA. Otherwise it's just rumor and opinion.

So it needs to be measured. It isn't really very scientific to say when I planted corn with beans and squash I think the corn yield was improved. That's nice, but it is anecdotal.

It is scientific when you say, I planted 400 square feet of corn with beans and squash and it produced x number of filled out ears of corn and produced y amount of beans and squash. When I used to plant the same 400 sq ft of just corn it produced z number of ears of corn and no beans and squash.

Why it isn't enough to be recorded only in the brain is 1) I don't know about your brain, but my brain isn't likely to remember all that 5 years from now when various other gardening experiments have intervened and 2) part of what science is about is SHARING KNOWLEDGE and having replicable data. So if you get 50% more corn by doing 3 sisters in your garden and I try it and get less corn than I used to (but of course still more beans and squash), then we know that either it wasn't the 3 sisters method that led to the increased corn production or it only works under the conditions of toil's garden but not in the conditions of my garden.

Science is about replicable data. If it is only in your brain, then I can't learn from it and try to replicate it.

Science doesn't have to involve scanning electron microscopes, computers, multivariate analysis of variance, etc (though all of those are wonderful tools). It does involve careful observation, recording, and sharing of data.

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Google "Carrots Love tomatoes" tater

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rainbowgardener wrote:
Science is about replicable data. If it is only in your brain, then I can't learn from it and try to replicate it.
My anecdote regarding the three sisters is not science. But as a gardener, I don't tend to use science as a point of departure. Sometimes, and quite often, established science lets me see through the garbage, but then I do always have to remember that the value of a technique is not derived from the quality of someone else's description.

Anecdotes are a great jumping off point for scientific investigation, but further, they are crucial to establishing a network of shared experiences. Those experiences are the foundation of our regional gardening traditions, and those traditions are important to gardening as an art.

The point, for me at least, is to practice this art, as a subset of the art of living well. I make try to make use of all the arts and sciences and people I can find, paying closest attention to anecdotes, but always thinking in terms of broader theory. This organizes things in my head, and allows me to distill anecdotes into lessons, which are easy to store and recall, and can often be combined to make new personal discoveries or inspirations.

to be clear though, your definition of science is incomplete. I know I am a bit obsessive about words, but please put up with me. Semantics and etymology, and the hidden meanings and subtleties of words are a passion of mine. My work often involves the interpretation of texts from past eras, and it often makes me sad, because our language has lost its way. I believe the chief culprit is English hegemony. Speakers of related languages forced to learn English have an easier time connecting with the past, because so many words gain new dimensions, becoming living, breathing organisms possessing many dimensions and living not just in the moment.

I'll quote from wiki:

Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is, in its broadest sense, any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a correct prediction, or reliably-predictable type of outcome. In this sense, science may refer to a highly skilled technique, technology, or practice, from which a good deal of randomness in outcome has been removed.[1]
(to put this in perspective, in modern usage, western boxing is called "the sweet science". It's not just a cute name, it's an appropriate description)
In its more restricted contemporary sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on scientific method, and to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research.[2][3]
The scientific method:
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[1] A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.[2]
and an interesting sidebar:
Karl Popper denied the existence of evidence[68] and of scientific method.[69] Popper holds that there is only one universal method, the negative method of trial and error. It covers not only all products of the human mind, including science, mathematics, philosophy, art and so on, but also the evolution of life. Beginning in the 1930s and with increased vigor after World War II, he argued that a hypothesis must be falsifiable and, following Peirce and others, that science would best progress using deductive reasoning as its primary emphasis, known as critical rationalism.[70] His formulations of logical procedure helped to rein in excessive use of inductive speculation upon inductive speculation, and also strengthened the conceptual foundation for today's peer review procedures.

As for the three sisters approach, let's start with observation. What do we know about it? Who used it, for how long, and how successfully? What does that imply?
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Nice post toil.

RBG your points are taken as well, but I lean somewhere between your method and Fukuoka-san's abandonement of science. I think toil's post shows an acceptance of intermingled ideas, a group meme towards growing, as a "data set" we can expand and gain more value from as the data set grows.

Non-correlative data will eventually sift out; bad science never stands for long. Regional differences will become clearer, and will eventually be worked in to the equation. As we expand the data set, certain strategies and tactics will become clearly suited for some, or unsound for others. The more we all share and compare, the more we all know. And in the end, science is knowledge.

So perhaps my semantics need tweaking, perhaps not, but the idea remains sound to my mind. There has been little science in this area due to lack of scientific interest, and there, we are far ahead of the scientific community. So shall we forge ahead of the testubes and microscopes, armed only with our interest and the interest of others?

I say we are the better armed for the task...
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So what I'm trying to say "science what"?

How about instead of calling it science we call it "data accumulation for the fun of it and we'll try again next year and if it works than that is good no need to write it down or tell anyone or test it against other factors because I know it works and it doesn't matter if you believe it or not because I do and that's all that matters so I will try that again and hope for the best and probably throw a twist in anyways so we shall see where that goes and all will be good until next year when things get changed up yet again but all for the better maybe the worse but that is how things go". :P :lol:

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Your version seems a little long, Gixx, but you forgot "and I'll compare my findings with other people doing the same thing..."

My shorthand may be controversial, but it IS easier... :lol:

I'm thinking of how permaculture sprang up. It began with Fukuoka-sensei, but the rice and barley model makes no sense for Mollison and Holmgren in Australia, so they come up with new methodologies for Oz. Then as permaculture spreads to other places, with new people certifying all over the planet, they begin to develop tactics fromtheir local environs, with all that still being disseminated to the permaculture community at large...

So as the movement grew, so did the shared data. Certain ideas like keypoint water retention stay the same no matter where you are, but plant guilds are as specific as the ecosystem you are living in. The baseline info becomes the central teaching and regional differences inform all the rest with new specifics.

In this manner, in about three decades, Fukuoka's legacy has spread across the planet and continues to do so. Mainstream science has largely ignored this strategy as this strategy largely ignores mainstream science. But it is not hubris on either part; it is simply that lab science is about specifics, and permaculture is about holistic views where overall effect is more important than any particular part. No suprise one has little use for the other...

The good news is science is getting a little more holistic and permies are starting to gauge some of the specifics, so there may someday come a meeting of minds there. I hope so; each has important things to share with the other.

So that's the thought I'm having here talking about "science" in our backyards and fields. The sharing of information is the seperating issue for humans from the rest of the species (although I do see some interesting new stuff about animal learning), and it remains our best evolutionary "trick" we've learned to date. Every great human advance has been preceeded by a sharing of a meme, so why not us too?

HG
Last edited by The Helpful Gardener on Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:09 am, edited 3 times in total.
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I trust experience more than science. I believe, that science finds what it is paid for. That's why it still "can't" find a cure for cancer. Cancer is a huge bussiness.
Onions are very good around squash and cucumbers - saves them from the bugs.

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Cancer is big business, but so is anti-cancer. Who ever comes up with a real cure, especially one less debilitating than current treatments, stands to make millions of dollars and a nobel prize! It's very difficult, because cancer isn't one disease it is many different diseases, each one with likely multiple causes (genetic vulnerability, plus environmental insult, plus likely some viral intervention). The causes and mechanisms involved may even vary from individual to individual as well as over time...

But I probably shouldn't even have commented, because all of us are way off topic here on a companion planting thread!

So to get back to companion planting: I've never grown borage before, but started some from seed this year (VERY easy! stuff grows like mad!) because bees are supposed to love the flowers. After I already had it growing I read that it is a good companion plant for tomatoes. So I stuck some in the bed where the tomatoes will grow. Put it in the ground yesterday, because the stuff is supposed to be frost tolerant. It's out there now under plastic. I'll go check pretty soon be sure it made it through the night. Anyway it's kind of like one of those jokes about having a tiger barrier around your house -- see it's working, no tigers! :) The borage is supposed to repel tomato hornworms. But I personally have never seen a tomato hornworm anyway, so how will I know if it works! But I figure attracting pollinators is always a good thing...

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How true RBG. If well dispel all the possible myth of this plant helping this plant and this plant hurting that plant. We still have the beneficial insect attractors in our gardens and that counts for something right. Plus a lot of companions will pretty up our garden.

I have a bunch of different seeds of helpful flowers. I have been thinking about mixing them together and than direct seeding that way possibly around the edges of the garden. If nothing else it will look more attractive than just a Veggie garden. Plus attract many good bugs and hopefully repel the bad bugs. We shall see. :D

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Borage grows pretty big, so don't put too many in there. Also, they self-seed. Last early spring, I had what I thought looked like pumpkin volunteers in my garden, and they turned out to be borage. So be vigilant about picking the flowers (they're good AND PRETTY in salad), then let a few to go to seed. Leaves are edible cooked (though some people say young leaves are supposed to be good in salad, I think they're too fuzzy to eat raw).

Bees do love the flowers. I do too. I was constantly picking them to eat for snack last summer :cool:

I have a bunch of borage recipes if you like. I'll have to check them for forum-worthiness. :wink:

Well, this one's from a CSA website:
https://www.mariquita.com/recipes/borageleaves.html

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I like the elixir for melancholy! :) I agree, I had read that you could put the leaves in salad, but now that I have seen them, they are very prickly! It is not inspiring me to put one in my mouth! But I love putting flowers in my salads.

Borage is another one of those great discoveries. Every year I try to grow something I've never done. Some times the are a bust (I was not impressed with heliotrope or flax the years I grew those) and sometimes I find something that I love and grow every year after that. Nicotiana was one of those a number of years ago. Now I don't even really have to plant any, it self seeds (but I do have some under the lights just in case). Borage may turn out to be another- it is so easy to grow and cold hardy. It's planted in the ground already (under poly tunnel).

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:wink:

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I picked up some barge and chamomile seeds the other day. Good to know they are easy to grow. I like easy. :D

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I'm finding the borage super easy. The one time I did chamomile I direct seeded in the ground in an area with not great soil and a lot less than full sun. Not surprisingly it didn't do real well. Have to try it again some time and give it a better chance!

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Borage is very easy. Sow it once and it will keep seeding itself. You can eat it too - flowers and young leaves, and juice older ones(they are too spiky to eat).

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Joyfirst wrote:I trust experience more than science. I believe, that science finds what it is paid for. That's why it still "can't" find a cure for cancer. Cancer is a huge bussiness.
Onions are very good around squash and cucumbers - saves them from the bugs.

People are curious beings and like to investigate. In past science often began with experience. People noticed something and began to collect data about it. Not every human experience is (very well) investigated yet. It takes money to do that.

The only companion planting I currently use is planting parsley and tomatoes together. I sprinkle parsley seeds among the tomatoes while planting them. It works very fine and I have every year wonderfull tomatoes and parsley.

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edit: made some mistakes in typing
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Anne makes a good point; we have given science over to scientists, but in the beginning scientist was a moniker you plunked on yourself because you tried experiments yourself. Joseph Priestly started out writing a book about the electrical scientists of the mid eighteenth century and ended up becoming the greatest of them all because he found it so interesting.

So our "science" of the backyard springs from not so humble roots; Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics was a monk with a garden! We need not have PhD's to do great things in the garden. Mrs. Meserve and Polly Hill and Father Fiala among countless others have shown us that those with a love of gardening can make great contributions without a doctorate. Keep experimenting, and if you really want to get scientific, document...

HG
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