Not surprisingly, growing your own food is becoming more and more popular. As such, avid gardeners are searching for cost effective, and natural ways to make the most of their backyard garden. One of the ways- and a very traditional way to accomplish this task is that of companion gardening. It’s easy to do, and just takes a bit of research and patience.
What is Companion Planting
If you talk to any experienced gardener, chances are that you’ll find that certain plants seem to do better when planted together. If you’re familiar with the idea of the Native American Three Sister Garden, you’re been introduced to the idea of companion gardening. Certain plants, either through supplying needed ground cover, nutrients, or structure to grow on can exist in a type of “working relationship” with each other. Here are a few examples:
- Corn, Beans, and Squash: Traditionally referred to as the “Three Sisters” these plants work well together on many different levels. When planted first, the corn stalks provide a type of trellis for the runner beans to support themselves on, while the beans supply much needed nitrogen fixation, which allows for the soil to become more fertile. The squash, which is usually planted last, offers low, bushy ground cover to help prevent bug infestation.
- Cabbage, Broccoli and Mint: Mint, although highly invasive is a fantastic way to discourage the presence of aphids, flea beetles and white cabbage moths- all of which are a bane to the cabbage family of plants. Mint also provides some much needed nutrients back into the soil. The cabbage family of plants with their slow growth and dense nature can form a fantastic barrier to help slow down the mint’s spread through your backyard garden
- Marigolds, Chives, Onions, and Garlic: While these plants don’t have to be planted together, they work well with many different flowers and vegetables found in your garden by providing a natural form of pest control. These plants, with their pungent scent will help to repel various critters such as rabbits, deer, moths, and other non-beneficial bugs.
- Tobacco Plant and Tomatoes: Sometimes the best way to control pests is to give them something more tasty to eat. If your garden is starting to get overrun by various spider mites, beetles, aphids, ants, and other destructive critters, consider planting a few tobacco plants in the region. The broad leaves and aromatic scent of the tobacco plants attracts these bugs, and offers them a much bigger, and more satisfying meal. Chances are they’ll leave your other plants alone.
The trick is, of course, is understanding how plants grow. Certain plants, like strawberries, runner beans and tomatoes like to climb or run along the ground. They need something to grab a hold of. Plants such as corn, which have a heavy stock can form great trellises for these plants. Also, if you’re worried about weed infestation around your bigger, slower growing plants like squash or cabbage, consider planting smaller, but faster growing plants around them to fill in the gaps.
Companion planting, in its simplest form is about understanding relationships. Plants, like anything else, work best when they are part of a relationship and a community. There is a lot of information and resources concerning the idea of companion planting, and here are a few that are worth checking out.
Dave’s Garden: http://davesgarden.com/
Grow Anything: http://www.growinganything.com/companion-planting-charts.html
Jerry Grows Crazy Survival Garden: https://www.youtube.com/user/Jerrygrowscrazy
The Garden Toad: http://www.gardentoad.com/index.html