Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gardening 101-3: Companion Planting

Okay, so we didn't make this all in 1 week but I wanted to get to this before any of you actually started putting plants in the ground!

Now that we've selected our plants, we can move on to how we are going to plant them.  Sure, you can just toss them in however floats your boat but plants, like people, get along better with some plants than others.  Other plants act like Great Aunt Martha and tend to discourage the growth and fruitfulness of certain other plants.  Still others, when they are placed together will actually improve production and health of the plants.

(Sorry - I usually write much better than this but there just aren't many synonyms for a generic word for "plant".)

There are many ways to find out which plants are "best friends" and which are "mortal enemies".  My personal favorite is where people have already done most of the work for me.  These Companion Planting Charts are just some examples of the W-I-D-E variety available on the internet. 

Courtesy of Hines Farm Blog

Courtesy of Hines Farm Blog

Courtesy of EDC and Prepping Blog

Courtesy of Fantastic Farms
Depending on how you learn and process one may speak to you more than the others.  Companion planting does more than just encourage growth, it can reduce the amount of pesticides needed and create better soil conditions.

For example, let's say you want to grow corn, beans, and squash.  You have limited space in your garden.  You can plant the corn with the pole beans right next to it and the squash intermingled among it.  The pole beans will actually train and trellis up the stalks of corn and the squash as it grows and vines will help prevent weeds at the base of the corn and bean plants.

But wait, it gets even better!  The beans actually put nitrogen into the soil as part of their "waste product" as a plant.  The corn and squash need that nitrogen to grow!  These plants actually form a symbiotic relationship with each other and thrive because of their relationship.  These 3 plants together are known as the Three Sisters Garden. 

Courtesy of GardenWeb

The Three Sisters Garden is an example of an advanced kind of companion planting called "interplanting".  There are many more examples available if you're interested from The National Gardening Association.  Sometimes the Three Sisters are even used to create architectural design in a garden designed for viewing pleasure as well as edible yumminess adding vertical height and a neat, full presentation of greenery.

Courtesy of American Indian Health and Diet Project

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