Did you know that many plants will grow bigger and produce more if they are planted near other plants that they like? Companion gardening is the idea that many plants will help each other when planted nearby one another. It is a tried and true way to garden that has proven beneficial for both plants. With just a few simple tips, you’ll be able to introduce companion gardening in your own backyard!
Having a proper plan for the garden is crucial to making sure that friendly plants get the chance to be planted together. Planting flowers among your vegetables can help in deterring pests from harming all of your vegetables before you can harvest. Mixing up where you put things makes it harder for pests to find all of your tomatoes if they aren’t all together in a group. Flower scents and colors also confuse pests and can keep your garden from getting totally destroyed overnight.
Think of your garden as a small city: there will be some upstanding citizens who help everyone, there will be some that don’t do much for anyone else, and then there will be some that will purposely bully the rest of the group. Watch out for bullies in your garden that can take more than their fair share of soil nutrients, water, and sunlight. Vegetables like cucumbers tend to take up a lot of extra space and are water hogs so plant them off in a patch by themselves or near vegetables that don’t need too much extra water. Other plants, like the black walnut tree, give off juglone that can stunt the growth of nearby plants and really affect the production of a garden.
An age old and proven technique that was introduced by Native Americans is the idea of Three Sister Planting. This technique involves planting beans, squash, and corn all in the same area for maximum growth potential. The beans will naturally produce nitrogen in the soil for the corn while also using the corn stalk as climbing support. The squash, which is usually pumpkin, grows fast and has broad leaves that help shade the area from weed growth. These three plant varieties work together in order to grow well and each has its own unique addition to help the others.
Growing two plants together that normally are harvested at the same time is a great option in companion planting. Things like tomatoes and basil like the same conditions that include hot temperatures and lots of sun. They are also ready to pick at the same time too, meaning that they are frequently used together in many summer dishes. Check the back of seed packets to plant those varieties together that will benefit from being in the same spot in the garden as well as ready to eat around the same time.
There are many native plants in your garden that will help to attract beneficial species to the area. Choosing to plant milkweed around your garden will naturally attract monarch larvae to make your garden home. Help to support those baby monarchs once they emerge by having nectar-producing flowers nearby in order to encourage the butterflies to stick around for a while. Choosing native plants that are accustomed to the area and naturally diverse in supporting both parts of a pollinator’s life will benefit the entire garden in pollination and maximum harvest potential.
Companion gardening is an important aspect that every new and longtime gardener should be practicing in their garden. Consider choosing plants that work together to support helpful pollinators as well as those that enjoy the same growing conditions. Other factors to keep in mind while planting include mixing up flowers with vegetables as well as keeping bullies away from other plants. Follow these tips while introducing the many benefits of companionship in your own garden.
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Kristina Phelan is a freelance writer and her parenting column, Mama Bear Moxie, is printed in a few newspapers across the country. She lives on a farm in the Midwest with her husband, three kiddos, and too many animals.