Companion Planting - A Beginners Guide
Companion Planting Your Garden
Sounds like a dating site for plants, right? Well, maybe not a dating site, but companion planting is growing different plants together in a way where each plant plays a part in helping the others grow efficiently; creating a symbiotic relationship. Together, a group of plants could help shade the area from too much sun, offer a natural trellis, help the fertility of the soil and suppress weeds and pests from destroying their area. So there is some craft in matchmaking plants. But to help take some pressure off, most plants are friends rather than foes when it comes to planting, so you don’t have to become hung up on your matchmaking. To give you an idea on what works well, and the occasional things to watch for, we’ll cover the most common vegetables in your garden.
Pairing Them Up
The most well known companion plant technique is the Three Sisters. A tradition that came from the indigineous people of North America. It is the practice of growing corn, beans and squash together. The corn acts as a trellis for the climbing beans, while the beans load up the soil with nitrogen, which the other plants love. Then you have squash, with its large palm leaves and big vines, shading the ground and keeping the moisture in, all while protecting the surrounding plants from pests and weeds with its prickly leaves. But they’re not the only stars in the show. Here are others you can swing with in the garden.
Basil - Say the word, and immediately Tomato pops in my mind. Think marinara sauce. Grown alongside also with peppers and lettuce, basil helps enhance the flavors of these plants.
Beans - As I said earlier, these buddies are nitrogen boosters for the surrounding soil. Legumes in general tend to beef up the fertility with any plants they’re around.
Beets - These ruby root veggies pump minerals into the soil. Not only that, their leaves contain magnesium. So root and leaf are super healthy to add to your salads. They grow well alongside onions, garlic, lettuce and brassica plants.
Broccoli - Planting calendula near your broccoli plants will help keep those aphids away. The flower does well with other brassica plants too. On top of trapping those pests, their sweet nectar attracts pollinators, so it’s always a plus when planting around a garden.
Carrots - To help boost the flavor, plant chives alongside your carrots. They can protect against aphids and mites.
Dill - This tasty herb can attract ladybugs, which eats aphids and mites. But make sure not to plant this herb near carrots. They can hinder the growth of this root vegetable and also cross pollinate.
Melons - Planting flowers that attract pollinators near your melons is key to an abundant crop of juicy globes. Flowering herbs like dill and parsley are great companions.
Onions - Part of the Allium family, these stinky vegetables can ward off aphids, mites and slugs. Most veggies do well with them nearby, but in particular tomatoes, beets and carrots will prosper.
Peas - Did I say onions do well with most veggies..? Well peas in particular are not big fans of onions and garlic since they can stunt the growth of your cute little pods.
Potatoes - These tubers go hard on the nitrogen, so definitely plant some beans nearby. They can help increase the size of those taters. Cilantro is also a great assisting in keeping the aphids and potato beetles away.
Radishes - Plant between some nasturtiums and lettuce. Nasturtiums do what nasturtiums do best and distract bugs from munching on plants, but they also help enhance the flavor and promote growth of your radishes. On the flip side, you can also use radishes as a flea beetle trap.
Pumpkins (Squash) - Here comes those nasturtiums again to help protect those plants, all while looking pretty when doing it. On top of the already large lists of bugs they attract, they can distract squash beetles from destroying your squash plants. Pumpkins being part of the squash family can do well with other squash plants. If you have a particular weedy spot in your garden, planting squash plants with its leafy cover can be a deterrent.
These vegetables are just some of the wonderful plants that can be paired well with others to maximize their potential. There are many others you could use in your garden, so don’t be afraid to get creative. Planting flowers around your vegetable garden is always a good idea, as this attracts those pollinators crucial to any thriving garden. In the end though, it’s all about sun, water and soil you give your plants.
There is no exact date when companion planting started, but it was believed that it began when the hunter-gatherers started to lay down some roots, and they began farming. Over the thousands of years, all over the world, many cultures have performed companion planting. Usually with whatever the main crop is in that part of the world.
In ancient Greece and Rome, they had their own technique for growing grapes for wine. In China they used companion planting with their rice crops. But when the age of industry and mass production came into the scene, it was all about large scale planting.
In the 1930’s when the great depression hit, large scale farming was encouraged as more and more people extended their hand with agriculture, westward. As they expanded, they removed native grasslands that played an important role in holding water and the soil together. So a combination of drought, high winds and poor understanding of the ecology of these areas, led to the top soil being blown away causing dust storms that would reach from Texas to even Washington D.C.; thus creating an ecological disaster that led to an economic one.
When the 70’s arrived, the organic farming movement came into view, and along with it companion planting. People were getting a better ecological and sustainable understanding of how to grow crops, and that utilizing smaller areas for gardening produced more to harvest.
Keep It Up
When it’s planting time and you go out to survey your plot, even if it’s a small area, there is much that could be yielded from it. Companion planting comes into play automatically when you garden in small places. The other thing to keep in mind is that companion planting also helps with soil erosion. So that well plotted garden can help with some trouble areas if you play your cards right, or in this case, your seeds.
Customize Your Garden!
Are you ready to get your new garden started? Customize a garden today with Seedsheet at https://seedsheets.com/pages/customize-garden
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