Companion Planting 101

As you know, this year I started a serious crop rotation system. I’ve got all my brassicas, nightshades (solanaeceae), and cucurbits together in separate beds. But just because I’ve gone gung-ho with that system, doesn’t mean I’m not game to try yet another organic strategy to fake out the bugs and diseases that could take down my crops. I’ve begun companion planting. I’ve read about companion planting before, but I’ve never really practiced it. A girl just can’t take in so much new information at once. But, I’m ready now.

Before a trip last month, I went to the book store to get a book for the plane. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that I bought myself another gardening book. I really wanted to buy the book I recently heard about, Carrots Love Tomatoes, but it wasn’t available. So, I went with the super cheesy, but informative one for a newbie companion planter, Soil Mates. Yep, like soul mates. It literally says on the back of the book, “Cucumber + corn = friends with benefits.” Despite its silly descriptions of vegetable and herb love connections, it actually has some useful information, that’s pretty straightforward and to the point. There are some interesting recipes in it too! According to my new book,

A conscientious placement of plants that are beneficial to each other – known as companion planting – will boost your harvest while reducing your work battling weeds, pests, and diseases.

Here are some pairings I’m trying out in my garden this season:

Lettuce and radishes

Besides being companions in salads, they grow well together because they like a similar soil temperature and spring sun.

Cabbage and dill

I’m not sure if this combination is really going to have its desired affect in my garden though because my cabbage is getting huge and my dill is just sprouting. It’s worth a try!

Zucchini and nasturtium

This was an easy one – I’ve been growing nasturtium with zucchini (ok, I pretty much grow nasturtium with everything) for awhile. According to the book, they’re complimentary because the sprawling nature of nasturtium and its big umbrella-like leaves provide a refuge for beneficial beetles and spiders. I think the biggest benefit though is pollination. I have seen many a bee bury itself in huge nasturtium blooms and you can’t have zucchini without bees. So the more I can attract them to my squash bed, the better!

Borage and summer squash

The benefit here mainly has to do with pollination since borage has big purple blooms that attract pollinators. Don’t be fooled by this picture – it’s squash from summers past. My squash plants are just wee little seedlings right now.

Tomato and basil

Tomatoes and basil like similar conditions – warm soil, sunny weather, and warmer nighttime temperatures (think 50 degrees like tomatoes). They go well on my plate and in the garden.

Eggplant and marigolds

Marigolds and eggplant go well together since they both like full sun and well-drained soil. I only just planted my eggplants and have not yet planted the marigolds along with them, but I will, if not just for the hope of seeing the purple and orange combination I see in my head.

Garlic loves everyone

My garlic is pretty much in one area right now, but apparently its strong odor helps deter pests, so it can be an asset almost anywhere. Because it’s compact, it won’t take up too  much room. While it’s a pretty good companion for most vegetables, my book notes that beans, peas, and potatoes aren’t’ the best match for garlic.

Bonus: Perennial companion

Hostas and daffodils (and heuchera)

These two perennials go well together because when the daffodil plants die back, the hostas come up. Their beautiful, broad leaves hide all the dying daffodil foliage and fill in a space that was once filled with those yellow spring blooms. I just learned last weekend that you should leave the leaves on the daffodil plant for a while because they give energy back to the renewing bulbs beneneath the soil. For no other reason than asthetics, I am also smitten with the combination of golden heuchera and hostas. They make me smile every time I walk though the gate. So in my book, that’s a winning companion!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday on A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.

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