Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Companion Planting

When planning your garden space, one thing to research and take into consideration is companion planting. When you look around at nature, you're unlikely to find large standings of the same variety of plant. More commonly, lots of different species will be interspersed. Following a similar rule in gardening is generally beneficial. Some plants make good companions, and others should be separated. Pairing up certain plants can help limit pests and disease as well as increase yield. You may also find "more" space in your garden. We have 600 sq ft of raised bed space, plus another 170 sq ft of in ground space, but we can plant a bit more densely when we intersperse certain things.

Check out the links above for more detailed charts of what things go together. A few general guidelines:
*plant shallow root and deep root plants together so they can draw nutrients from different areas of the soil--this works for companions like carrots and onions
*put together plants that are typically eaten together. I haven't read this anywhere, but it makes sense to me that perhaps our culinary traditions arise in part because certain things were easy to grow together and harvest at similar times---tomatoes and basil; spinach and strawberry
*listen to what your grandmother taught you. If you're fortunate enough to have contact or family history stories from those who lived through and immediately after the depression (especially if they were in the same area of the country you're currently in), they probably have a wealth of information to share. It's amazing how adept you become at gardening when it really is a matter of producing food or going hungry---Marigolds can deter aphids, tomato hornworms and cucumber beetles; onions and garlic repel several pests; nasturtiums repel squash bugs
*experiment, but within reason. Some plants are known to do poorly together, either by competing for nutrients or attracting pests/disease that feed on both plants. Do a quick online search and see if what you want to try is already known to be a poor match. If you can't find much information, give it a try and record your results so you know whether to repeat the pairing next year.

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