About ten years ago we gave up on the long row gardening method, in favor of beds. Most of our beds are not framed with wood, we simply created a grid of 4’x12′ plots in the area that had previously been arranged in the traditional way. The bed system has allowed us to grow our garden more efficiently in a number of ways. For instance, it allows tighter plantings and more variety with easy access for cultivation. One of the things is has made much easier is companion planting.
What Is Companion Planting
Companion planting is a way of keeping compatible plants in close proximity. Sometimes this may mean interplanting two vegetables that utilize different layers of the soil profile, like tap-rooted carrots and fibrous-rooted tomatoes, to get more production per square foot. In other instances, plants may be placed in close proximity because of the way the utilize the space above ground. The classic example here is the Three Sisters: corn grows tall and straight, pole beans climb the cornstalks and squash rambles on the ground.
Many culinary herbs like basil, chives, parsley and dill have wonderful abilities to protect and improve the vigor of various vegetable crops. Because of the dynamic relationships among various plants and plant groups, companion planting can be directly linked to your crop rotation, or can be done in a less formal way, depending on your needs.
How We Use Companion Planting
The first way we employed these benefits was by eliminating our separate herb garden and mixing the herbs in with the vegetables. Now basil is planted with tomatoes, dill with cucumbers, oregano with cabbage, and so on.
Companion planting has also allowed us to bring flowers such as marigolds and nasturtiums into the garden. In addition to brightening up the place, they help to attract pollinators and act as living mulch, shading the soil and suppressing weed growth. Understanding the principles of companion planting has helped us to tweak our crop rotation and succession planting plans to produce more favorable results.
How You Can Get Started
The first book I read on the subject of companion planting was Carrots Love Tomatoes , and it is never steered me wrong. Initially, the lists of potential companions can get a bit overwhelming, so I recommend beginning with what you already grow and adjusting the placement to take advantage of the beneficial relationships. Further, there may be things that you have wanted to grow but thought you didn’t have space for. This may be the way to make it happen.
A Few Examples Of Popular Companions
- Beans: corn, potatoes, summer savory
- Cabbage: onions, potatoes, dill, chamomile
- Carrots: tomatoes, leeks, parsley
- Corn: beans, vine crops, potatoes
- Cucumbers: corn, beans, dill, nasturtium
- Melons: corn, radish, nasturtium, oregano, marigold
- Onions: beets, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes
- Peppers: onions, tomatoes, parsley, basil
- Potatoes: beans, cabbage, corn, horseradish (just a few)
- Squash: beans, corn, radishes, mint
- Sweet Potatoes: bush beans, “Irish” potatoes, dill, thyme
- Tomatoes: cucumbers, carrots, basil, garlic, marigolds,
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