Companion planting: how to get your vegetables growing even better
Plant tomatoes in one bed and basil in another and you'll
get good results. Plant tomatoes right next to basil in the same bed and
watch them both boom! Thats what companion planting is all about. Planting
vegetables with specific herbs or vegetables that have a beneficial effect
on each other.
So how does it all work?
Some vegetables deplete the soil of particular nutrients. Sweet corn
in a gross feeder that takes a lot of nitrogen (and plenty of other nutrients)
from the soil. Plant some climbing beans at the base of each growing corn
stalk. The stalk will support the climbing beans, while the climbing beans'
roots will fix nitrogen from the air into the soil where its needed most;
next to the sweetcorn's hungry roots. Beans and other legumes (like peas)
grow well with other nitrogen hungry vegetables, like cabbages, broccoli
Another way of companion planting is growing together two different types
of vegetables which feed at different soil levels. The best example of
this is growing carrots and onions together. Onions' roots are very close
to the top of the soil. Carrots on the other hand feed very deeply. By
growing the two together you boost the productivity of your beds.
Carrots and onions are good companions for another reason. Carrots tend
to attract a few pests with their fine feathery leaves. Onions give off
a pungent smell to insects. They don't like eating onion leaves. By interplanting
rows of carrots with rows of onions you can confuse the pests and keep
them away from your carrots. A lot of organic gardeners use the same principle
by confusing pests with the smell of Marigold flowers. Marigolds are also
good at protecting your tomatoes from nematodes.
Then there's the vegetables that grow especially well with a companion...
for no apparent reason. Scientists can't explain it. Gardeners just know
that if you plant basil with tomatoes they'll both boom like mad. Basil
also seems to work well with capsicums. Parsley likes being next to capsicums
and tomatoes too. There's also the three sisters. Native Americans knew
for centuries that climbing beans, sweet corn and pumpkins (or squash)
grow incredibly together. I've also had similar success substituting the
pumpkins with melons and cucumbers.
I've only written about the vegetable companions I've had success with.
There are plenty of sources on the Net (see right) with tables of which
vegetables grow well with each other. I've had a look at a few of them.
The problem is they contradict each other quite a bit. So I just stick
with what I know works. The examples I've given throughout this article
also work with crop rotation. I don't believe in companion planting being
supreme. I'd rather rotate my crops and practice companion planting where
possible. That way you can garden using the best of both worlds.
23 October, 2008
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