My name is Ellen Alley and I started gardening when I was about 10 years old, that being about 50 years ago, one can guess how old I am. I have always had a passion for digging in the dirt.
My husband, Lee, says I am an artistic gardener. I like to plant unusual varieties of different colors or different types of the same old thing. It looks better in circles, or squares, or a mosaic of colors! I was never good at taking the time to can or freeze what we couldn't use during the summer.
I rarely used fertilizer or insecticides, and a few years back my production began to go downhill. With the kids gone, I had cut down to just growing potatoes, tomatoes and peppers with a few onions or herbs here and there. The tomatoes got diseases and potato production dwindled.
Quite an awakening for me. Growing up in a farming area one would think I would understand the need to rotate crops and replenish my soil - but I didn't. I began what I call my thesis in crop rotation.
As I began to research crop rotation, I also came across companion planting. That made sense to me. Then I thought, why not rotate crops using companion plants while not loosing the benefit of rotation by family. Thus after a year, I came up with a plan for crop rotation using companion plants and warning against using plants near each other that don't like each other.
My potatoes, tomatoes and peppers, where all taking the same nutrients from the soil, and leaving the same diseases. Now I use composts and green manures to enrich the soil and rotate and also plant things I was not planting so all the little plants are happy.
We started a farmer's market in Platte County Wyoming last year and this has given me a reason to get back to my love of gardening and working with many varieties.