“The most valuable art is deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil.” -Abraham Lincoln
Plants like or dislike others; keen observation is required to match plants with complementary physical demands. Though recognized for centuries, companion-planting needs more research.
“Focus on the whole bed to create a thriving ecosystem with beneficial relationships.” -John Jeavons
Maximize optimal plant health and yield by: choosing symbiotic plants; avoiding intercropping within the same family; and, alternating heavy and light feeders, tall and short plants, fast and extended harvests. Companion cropping helps plants thrive by providing food, shade, support, and pest protection.
Companion planting can enhance plant health, vegetable and fruit flavor, soil health, visual garden appeal, and can provide natural weed and insect control.
Health. The following pairings improve overall plant health:
•Beans and Strawberries
•Beets and Bush Beans
•Basil and Tomato
•Spinach and Lettuce (1 spinach per 4 bibbs of lettuce)
•Legumes increase available nitrogen
•Root vegetables bring up nutrients from the subsoil and concentrate sulfur, potassium, calcium, iron, phosophorus, and potash
Weed and Insect Control:
•Kale, Rape & Mexican Marigolds reduce weeds for sensitive plants such as beets, cabbage, and alfalfa.
•Perennial herbal or floral borders attract beneficial insects and repel undesirable ones. Good border plants include Marigold, Nasturtium, Garlic, Chives, Onion and others with spicy or stinky leaves.
Yin and Yang: Some pairings make marginal gardening spaces fit for more varieties of veggies.
•Corn provides shade for Cucumbers
•Shallow-rooted Beans use topsoil unneeded by deep-rooting Corn
•Radishes mature more quickly than slow-going Carrots – planted together, your soil yields more vegetables
Pairings to Avoid:
•Onion family plants inhibit growth of peas and beans.
•Beets and Pole Beans do not get along.
•Separate heavy feeder nightshade plants (potato, tomato, eggplant) by location and season.
Companion planting is also a good way to improve the rotation of your vegetable garden. To use agricultural recycling to preserve nutrients, follow heavy feeders (corn and tomatoes) with heavy givers (legumes, clovers), then light feeders (root crops).
Finally, companion planting gives you the opportunity to bring more visual appeal into your vegetable beds. Floral borders are pretty, and intercropping fills in the blank spaces between plants while providing visual diversity. Get creative with your borders – they don’t have to be straight lines, but can be interspaced bunches, circles, or even intricate patterns in the old European style.
Resources on the Web:
John Jeavons’ Website
Weekend Gardener: How to Rotate Your Crops for Healthly Plants and Soil
Garderners Network: List of Companion Plants
Tomato Casual: Companion Plants for Tomatoes
eHow: Companion Herbs