If you are looking to maximize the available room you have in your yard or on your property, while at the same time promoting healthier plants through better soil and other means,companion planting is the way to go.
Companion planting is a great way to combine various plants in a single location all of which work in conjunction with one another as opposed to competing with each other for the same nutrients. The most widely known method for companion planting and the easiest to understand would be the Three Sisters Method.
The three sisters gardening method is a Native American technique where you grow corn, squash and beans together in the same general location. The corn will provide support for the beans, while the beans provide nitrogen for the corn and the squash creates protection for the root systems. This is just one of the many companion planting examples, it just happens to be the most widely known.
Another great example is planting deep rooted crops such as carrots with tomatoes as noted in the widely popular book by Louise Riotte, Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
“Companion planting is a wonderful way to encourage the best, most bountiful harvest from your gardens - both edible and ornamental,” says Gina Samarotto a Master Gardener and an award winning landscape designer. “An age old practice, this method of pairing certain plants and varieties utilizes the principles of Integrated Pest Management while it makes the most of your soils readily available resources.”
There are literally countless number of combinations a home vegetable gardener can use when it comes to companion planting. Gina recommends that you, “Do your research. If your gardens are plagued by aphids, make room to plant Anise. This herb, fragrant with the scent of licorice, attracts predatory wasps - a natural enemy of aphids. Love tomato salad? Make sure to plant plenty of basil between your young plants. In addition to providing a delightful accompaniment, basil can subtly add to the flavor of tomatoes (particularly container grown) and is helpful in repelling Thrips, Flies and Mosquitoes.”
Is companion planting for everyone? If you are a beginner, your best bet is to continue developing your gardening skills and only move on to companion planting when you feel comfortable enough that you are ready. As you become more knowledgeable on what works and what doesn’t work in your garden, your success with companion planting will go a lot further.
“Everyone should try their green thumb at companion planting. In addition to making the most out of your gardening space, companion planting is a wonderful way to create gorgeous groupings while limiting the levels of pesticides and herbicides your garden needs to thrive. It's a green practice that can enhance your gardening experience overall,” says Gina.
Are there any drawbacks to using companion gardening? Just one. You could plant “like-kind” plants next to each other without knowing it. When this occurs you may use up the soil’s nutrients at a faster rate which in turn will yield less growth. Just be sure to do your research and you should be ok. Just avoid planting vegetables that are in the same family and be sure to mix deep rooted crops with shallow rooted ones (i.e. carrots with tomatoes) as a rule of thumb.
An excellent resource on in depth companion planting is a book by author Brenda Little titled, Secrets of Companion Planting: Plants That Help, Plants That Hurt , which contains some nice lists on good companions and bad companions.
About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us and the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook.
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