One of the easiest ways to know that your plants are healthy and happy is by ensuring the right plants are growing with each other. Companion plants are one of the best sought after techniques used by urban gardeners. 

The basic idea behind companion planting is both simple and sensible: many plants grow better near some companions than they do near others or when alone. By itself it will not work miracles, but applied in a well-maintained garden, it can produce startling results. It can drastically improve the use of space, reduce the number of weeds and garden pests, and provide protection from heat, wind, and even the crushing weight of snow. In the vegetable garden, all this adds up to the best thing of all – increased yield.

Since most companions must be planted very near each other in order to have any effect on each other, companion planting is especially well-adapted to small gardens where plants are grown in close proximity and space is at a premium. Gardens that use raised beds, wide rows, or intensive square foot gardening methods make natural candidates for companion planting. It is also a natural ally for organic gardeners, since much companion planting is designed to control pests.

companion-planting-with-marigolds

Where a conventional vegetable garden creates a series of small monocultures (all the lettuce is grown together over here, all the tomatoes there, and never the twain shall meet), companion planting encourages a carefully planned and densely planted mix to take advantage of the many possible relationships mentioned above. The mix alone tends to repel many flying insect pests, which actually get confused and give up if they don’t find what they’re looking for soon enough

If the long lists of compatible vegetables at various sites online leave you dizzy, you can instead focus on a couple of basic principles and keep in mind a much shorter list of Don’ts. The principles follow quite directly from the discussion above:

Avoid monocultures.

  1. Plant short, shade-tolerant plants beneath taller, bushy plants.
  2. When you mix sun-loving plants, put tall ones at the north end of the plot and small ones at the south end, so all will get needed sun.
  3. Plant herbs throughout the garden, especially basil, mint, sage, and dill. EXCEPTION: Keep dill away from carrots.
  4. Plant marigolds and chrysanthemums here and there in and near the garden to repel pests and encourage beneficials that prey on them.
  5. Do the same with chives, garlic, or onions EXCEPT near or amongst beans.
  6. Exploit the different maturation rates of different crops: plant lettuce, cilantro, spinach, or chard early where you plan to set out squash and melons later, so that weeds don’t have a chance to move in, and you get two crops instead of just one.

Here are the Don’ts:

  • Don’t mix dill with tomatoes or with carrots.
  • Don’t plant garlic, onions, or chives with beans.
  • Fennel does not mix well with most other plants; keep it in its own corner.
The famous 3 Sisters - Beans, Gourd and Corn
The famous 3 Sisters – Beans, Gourd and Corn

Companion planting is not a sure-fire single-item ticket to garden success. It must be accompanied by other good gardening practices, such as deep and timely watering and careful spacing of appropriate plants. Soil is particularly important in companion gardening, since intercropping and sequential cropping make more demands on the soil than does conventional gardening.

Finally, each garden is unique, and what works for one person often doesn’t for another. It’s important, therefore, to keep good notes and to experiment with different companions from year to year until you find the best recipe for your own success.

companion-garden-planting-chart

Source: Planet Natural

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