Ah, the epic gardening struggle. Getting those fruits and veggie seeds and plants to grow and produce good eats. Navigating the minefields of weeds, pests, and plant disease can be tricky.
Are companion plants a legitimate option to help with these issues?
In The Beginning Of Companion Plants…
The idea of growing crops near one another so that they get needed nutrients, pest control benefits, and more yield upon harvest, dates back thousands of years. Native Americans have planted the “three sisters” (corn, pole bean, and winter squash) together for centuries. The corn stalks provide natural trellises for the pole beans to climb. The beans in turn help put nitrogen back into the soil. The squash grow along the ground shading the soil, helping to keep it moist and stifle weed growth (UMass Extension-Center for Agriculture).
The Native Americans perfected the “three sisters” arrangement through trial and error. Experimenting by many individual gardeners over centuries seems to be where much of the information about companion plant pairings comes from. In fact, floating out there in internet land are lots more wives’ tails and speculation than proven scientific fact about companion plants.
Given That Where Does A Person Turn to Get Information On Potential Beneficial Plant Pairings?
My go to sources for gardening information are state agricultural extension services in the United States or equivalents in other countries. Not only can you get a ton of general gardening information, but also lots of intel that is tailored to your particular geographic region.
Some great tips from agricultural extensions that apply across a wide variety of growing zones include:
- Put plant that grow more quickly (such as lettuce, radishes and spinach) with slower growers (such as tomatoes and peppers). When the more quickly growing plants are harvested, there will be room for the slower growers to keep on maturing before their harvest. (Michigan State University Extension).
- Place deep root plants near more shallow root versions so that they can absorb nutrients and moisture from different levels of the soil. Examples of planting companions with this strategy are carrots with peas or beans, asparagus with tomatoes and parsley, and beets with onions (Michigan State University Extension).
- Some plants secrete chemicals from roots and/or leaves that repel certain pests. This trait makes these plants potentially good companions for plants that are susceptible to insects. For example, rosemary, sage, and thyme repel cabbage moths. Aphids are no fans of chives, garlic, marigolds, coriander, and more (University of Florida/IFAS Extension).
- Certain plants do not play nice with each other and should not be planted near each other. Tomatoes and corn, as well as, members of the cabbage family are not meant to be besties or even cordial neighbors. Beans should not be placed next to garlic, shallots, chives, or leeks in the garden. (Virginia State University).
Relying on reputable sources, along with some small-scale experimentation based upon your own individual garden conditions is the smart route to go when it comes to companion plants.
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