Monday, May 2, 2011

Companion Gardening

A suburban greenmom looks with envy upon those who live in parts of the country where Mother's Day isn't considered the first safe day to plant outdoors without fear of frost...

As someone about to leap into a permaculture-type edible garden (or rather, a garden where the ornamentals and the edibles and the ones that serve dual functions will all grow together, with nary a manicured row in sight), this chart is really interesting to me:

Companion Planting Chart for Vegetables

It shows what veggie plants work well near each other, and which shouldn't be grown too close...the good news is that I am not planning on growing potatoes or onions this year, and they pop up in the "antagonist" column a lot. On the same site is another page that may be even more helpful--a list of the ten best companion plants. This is the one that tells how tomato and basil, grown near each other, improve one another's flavor while the basil discourages the tomato hornworm. And how garlic grown near the roses repels aphids and other pests. And how radishes grown near my squash may keep the squash borers away. I love this. And I found another companion planting site here.

So...instead of putting my basil independently up front, maybe instead I'll plant it around the tomatoes. And I don't much love radishes, but if they'll help keep my squash healthy, I'll go for it. (I'm told fennel does the same thing, and I do like fennel.) Cucumbers too, in the same area, with nasturtiums and maybe dill. I've never grown leeks or carrots, but they supposedly do very well together, and both are vegetables I'd love to have around. And apparently lemon balm, crushed and sprinkled around the garden, is a great repellent for insects of all kinds--though it's not something you want to plant in a free area, since it's incredibly invasive.

Then there are other things like alfalfa, which is a really pretty plant that is apparently amazing for fixing nitrogen in the soil, as are most legumes and beans. And chamomile, one of my favorites plants of all time, is apparently a fabulous companion for pretty much any plant you can think of.

This is going to be fun.

Or rather, it will be fun once we get our topsoil, which can't happen until a local landscaper gets some dry dirt, since all anyone currently has after all the rain is topmud. So...we shall see...

Any advice from the experienced?

--Jenn the Greenmom

6 comments:

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Supposedly rosemary is good for anything in the cabbage family.

I don't know much about companion planting, but one thing I would like to improve in my backyard is adding a birdbath and birdhouses to attract some birds to eat the bugs off my plants. The cabbage moth caterpillars are going wild on my cauliflower right now.

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Unfortunately, rosemary doesn't winter here. Which kills me, because it's one of my favorite plants and herbs...

Some of those sites also list plants as "attracting predatory wasps." My first reaction was "ick!"--until I realized, those wasps eat the other nasty parasitical bugs that eat your plants! It's a tradeoff, I guess...

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Yeah, if I didn't have kids, I would definitely try to get some wasps to build nests near my garden. Wouldn't really work in my yard right now though - my youngest is even scared of flies, no matter how many times I've explained to him that flies don't sting.

Heather said...

I always plant tomatoes and basil together and the basil always does significantly better than when I plant it on its own. I haven't noticed any difference in the tomatoes compared to growing them on their own, though. I find I need to sow the basil seeds 3-4 weeks before the tomatoes in order to have them both ready to plant out into the garden at the same time.

Green Bean said...

I love to dabble in companion planting! I own Carrots Love Tomatoes and consult it heavily while planting. I didn't do as good of a job this year but in the past, when I've heavily interplanted to prevent deer and such (used to have a front yard edible garden), companion planting was my BFF.

Robbie said...

Last year, I completely overthought the whole process after reading a few seed books. I actually mapped out what could and couldn't grow together, and it looked like a jumbled mess: Here's the scan of it!

What I did find was radishes and carrots thrived together, as did my herbs and tomatoes. This year, I'm considering ventureing to the three sisters.

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