Hello fellow novice gardeners!
Last night my husband took me on our first date in months and even though the food was terrible and service slow, the conversation was amazing! It was so much fun to go out without taking at least five diapers, two toys, and a 4 oz. bottle. We didn’t talk about anything deep, earth shattering, or Nobel prize winning but this little garden and everything it represents for our future life has been laying heavily on my heart. I love our daughter dearly but it is incredible the difference it makes when the hubs and I can be alone together. I was waiting all week to have an uninterrupted conversation without distraction about our desires, hopes, and plans. Right now I’m only planting a few tomatoes but with hard work and a little luck by next winter we’ll have canned soups and sauces, frozen veggies, and dried herbs. Right now I’m digging some dirt, saving a little money, but maybe in a year or so we can be planting some roots of our own.
I know it sounds like a lot to put on a little apartment garden but that’s why we’re seriously committing this year to a more sustainable lifestyle. To amp up my eco-game I’m getting prepared with a little Pinterest-inspired research. Which brings us to this post! Match-Making and Marigolds: some fyi on companion planting. What is companion planting? Well, similar to our experience in the human world, some plants make better friends than others; some keep pests off their neighbors while others just mooch. To whip out some Webster’s for you:
Companion planting is the close planting of different plants that enhance each other’s growth or protect from pests.
It’s a good idea to plant vegetables next to a friendly neighbor so they can:
- Help each other grow – tall plants can provide shade for any sun-sensitive shorter ones
- Use garden space more efficiently – vining plants can either be used to cover the ground while upright plants, like bushes, stand upright – or – vining plants can be trained up a trellis opening space for ground dwellers below
- Prevent pest problems – some plants, like onions, repel most pests while others can be used as bait to lure pests away from more desirable plants
- Attract beneficial insects – it’s also a good idea to attract insects of the insecticidal variety
Although, after sifting through infographs, articles, and cheat sheets some of the information out there on companion planting is very contradictory. Quite a few articles state the exact opposite of each other. So do tomatoes like cabbage or don’t they? Should I plant my peppers next the beans or away? One article even stated that all plants in the bean family detest marigolds which according to everyone else, are the Numero Uno wingman of the vegetable world. So to stem the spread of confusion I’m going to side with the majority on this one when it comes to planning my planting companions.
For my garden:
Tomatoes are best to plant near: marigolds, sweet basil, sage, beans, and cucumbers (just to name a few)
Tomatoes DO NOT like: fennel or black walnut which inhibit growth
Bell Peppers get along with: tomatoes, onions, and basil
Bell Peppers DO NOT like: beans, kale, or the cabbage family
Zucchini/Squash are friendly with: parsley, peppers, and tomatoes
Zucchini/Squash DO NOT like: potatoes
String Beans plant well near: tomatoes, cucumbers, marigolds, rosemary
String Beans DO NOT plant well near: fennel or onions
A few general good-fella’s in your garden include:
- Marigolds – they repel certain insects, (including mosquitoes!) and rid the soil of dreaded nematodes (I have no idea what a nematode is but they sound like awful warty buggers)
- Yarrow – another garden friendly herb that keeps away nematodes and pests. Plant it freely among your other crops. Yarrow is actually a flowering herb whose tea is good for hang overs. 😉
- Callendula – is a flower that makes a great bed companion for most vegetables
- Onions – do not pair well with all vegetables but are excellent pest repellent for those it does pair well with
Unlike the friendly plants above, fennel is apparently the farm bully! If you are planting fennel give it it’s own bed because it is a big hog who doesn’t like to share or play well with others.
Another thing to consider when vegetable matchmaking is nitrogen. A word on nitrogen! Plants need nitrogen, pure and simple. Like we need air, water, and cans of spinach to make us big and strong, vegetables need nitrogen. What is it? Nitrogen is a plant nutrient released by all dead plants and some living ones! Beans and Alfalfa, for example, add nitrogen back into the soil during growth. However, not all veggies are so giving. Tomatoes, corn, and leafy greens are huge nitrogen hogs who just want to gobble it all up as fast as they can! Most herbs tend to be moderate nitrogen users. How does knowing this help us and what does it have to do with companion planting? Well, the other side of companion planting is crop rotating. Say you plant a nitrogen hungry plant this year which will deplete your soil, next year it is a good idea to plant a nitrogen producing plant in the same plot instead to re-enrich your veggie bed! Or you might want to spread some nitrogen rich compost down after a year of a crop like corn. But don’t over do it! Balance in everything is key. Just like you don’t want to raise your vegetables in an over watered swamp patch, adding too much nitrogen can also harm your crops.
Feeling overwhelmed? (If you are a first timer like me then you probably want to choose the easiest vegetables to plant and if that is the case then don’t worry about having the perfect soil or making sure every single vegetable is near it’s best friend. Take this information and make it work for you – not the other way around.) Don’t sweat it!
My tentative plan right now is to plant:
Be – M – T – Ba – P – M – Z/S
That’s beans, marigolds, tomatoes, basil, peppers, marigolds, zucchini/squash. I’ve decided to add basil because I LOVE fresh basil and planting it near tomatoes is supposed to make them sweeter.
Here are a few links with more information about companion plants: