Shaker Gardens Discussion Thread

Midsummer is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, so this seems like a good time to ask Shakers what they might be growing in their gardens, whether that be a patch out back, a bunch of containers on your apartment roof, or a single a pot on the windowsill. (Southern Hemisphere Shakers, please feel free to share your projects too, whether from last season, your future plans, or whatever winter gardening you might be doing.) No project is too small (or large) to share, and we're not fussy about how well-groomed it is, either. If you're growing something, or thinking about it, feel free to join in!

I have a number of things growing this year, and it's been a real learning experience. Although I have gardened in the past in Atlantic Canada and the U.S. Midwest, this is my first time with an extensive outdoor garden in the U.S. South. The good side: the long growing season means I can plant two summer crops and enjoy long spring and fall seasons of cooler weather crops. The bad side: omfg, THERE ARE MANY GIANT INSECTS, y'all!

We harvested our first black beans, corn (maize), and cherry tomatoes this week. Here are a few of the tomatoes from just before harvest time:


We have since eaten the ripe ones, and they were delicious! We also have some standard-size tomatoes going, but they're all still green. The corn was amazing as well; just boiled and eaten from the cob, no need for butter, thanks to its sweetness. I grew the corn in a patch with beans and cucurbits ( squash, melon, and cucumbers to be precise). It's a pre-Columbian farming method, practiced by many First Nations agriculturalists; the crops are dubbed the Three Sisters in Haudenosaunee tradition. According to my father, this interplanting is something my farmer-grandparents did back in the 1940s and 50s. I don't know if this was an old practice learned from Native family or neighbors, or something they picked up in one of the New Deal programs that paid them to try alternative farming methods. Anyway, it certainly works well. The beans happily vine up the corn and the squash (or other cucurbit crop) make a good ground cover. The corn and beans also give a bit of shade to the cucurbits as the days get hotter.


The corn and squash have also had serious pest problems. Some of the corn had been infested with European Corn Borer, a nasty little caterpillar that eats the ears of corn as it is developing. I'd say we lost about 50% of our corn to it. Our zucchini and summer squash, which had been producing prolifically for about 6 weeks, were infested by Squash Vine Borer, another caterpillar. The moth lays its hard-to-detect eggs at the base of the stem. They hatch and the grubs burrow into the stems, destroying the plant from the inside out. I performed radical surgery in an effort to save the plants, slicing open the stems and destroying as many borers as I could find, then piling up earth over the vine in hope that it would form new roots. Out of about 14 plants, 3 seem to have survived. On the bright side, the SVB has ignored our other cucurbits, and the watermelon, muskmelon, and cucumber are doing quite well. So well that I see a weekend of making pickles in my future!


I'm not trying to garden all-organic, but, as noted with the corn-beans-squash, I do use a lot of companion planting in the garden. I'm going to try radishes with my pumpkins to discourage the dreaded SVB. I have a number of flowers growing as companion plants. Marigolds snuggle up to the tomatoes, nasturtium help keep down the squash bug population, cosmos and zinnia both attract pollinators and serve as a good trap crop for Japanese Beetles. The zinnias have taken on a life of their own! They make nice cut flowers, too.


Shakers, what's in your garden? Share your projects, questions, tips and tricks below!

[Commenting note: Please respect that participants have different needs and goals with their gardening. For some, water or space limitations may be most important, while for others, pesticide-free methods are essential, or they may need to garden as inexpensively as possibly, etc.]

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