Thursday, May 20, 2010

Companion Planting in your Home Vegetable Garden

Last Thursday I posted a simple question on our vegetable gardening Facebook page. I asked, do you use one crop to support another in your home vegetable garden? The comments and feedback were tremendous. Many people use this simple technique to take advantage of the limited space that they have.

Most home vegetable gardeners, me included, do not have the land size of what a traditional farmer would have; therefore we have to utilize what we do have. There are many methods you can go with such as vertical growing, crop succession and more. However, the one method I believe works best for everybody is the one I am going to talk about here and that is companion planting.

Companion planting is the process by which you plant your fruits, vegetable or herbs close together because they compliment one another. For example, plant your corn twelve inches apart, but in between each corn plant, plant some peas, beans or other vegetable or fruit that is an indeterminate vine. Indeterminate simply means you do not know how long the vine or plant will grow. The peas or beans will latch on to the corn just as it would a trellis.

There are a number of combinations you can go with such as planting carrots, a deep feeder, next to your tomatoes which is considered a shallow feeder. You can also take a plant that creates shade such as a sunflower and plant some spinach or lettuce underneath of it. There are entire books on the subject and combinations of good companion planting.

You can also utilize companion planting to help with insect control. For instance aphids love to feed on tomato plants and ladybugs love to feed on aphids. Would it not make sense to plant something near your tomatoes that attract ladybugs to keep the aphids away? Of course it would and good plants to do that would be dill, fennel or cilantro. These three herbs serve more of a purpose here then to just be grown for consumption, they will actually aid in the maintenance of your garden by attracting beneficial insects. Remember not all insects are bad.

In our earlier example of growing peas or beans alongside corn, I would recommend that you start the peas 3 to 5 days after you start the corn. Give the corn more time to get large before the peas or beans germinate. If you are going to go with a different indeterminate plant that grows as a vine, avoid ones that produce heavy fruit such as watermelon or pumpkins. You want the corn to have a companion, not a wrestling partner.

Most seed companies will put on the back of their packets other vegetables, fruits or herbs that make for great companions. When in doubt, look there before you decide to go through a lengthy Google search.

Just because you have limited space in your home vegetable garden, does not mean you have to limit what you grow. Take advantage of companion planting and the many benefits it has to offer and you will be well on your way to increasing the size of your harvest.

About the Author
Mike is the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening group on Facebook and the very popular Seeds of the Month Club. You can now join the Seeds of the Month Club risk-free.

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