What is Companion Planting?

Just like people, certain plants get along best with other specific plants. Benefits of hanging out with the right crowd could include improved soil health, improved plant growth rates, and even increased yield from your garden!

Today, we are going to take a quick look into this idea of companion planting.

Companion planting is far from a new concept. In fact, it was a common practice among the aboriginal population in North America prior to the continent being settled! One technique that is still used today is the three sisters method where squash, corn, and beans are grown together.

Every plant have a different set of needs – some plants are heavy nitrogen feeders while others excel at replacing nitrogen that has been removed from soil. Some plants require significant amounts of water while other varieties prefer to be watered sparsely.

In the three sisters method, the large squash leaves provide a living mulch to prevent the growth of weeds while also keeping the moisture in the soil from evaporating. The prickly hairs on the squash vines also help repel some animals. Beans are a nitrogen fixing crop which means that they pull nitrogen from the air and put it back into the soil. The corn provides a trellis for the beans and squash vines to climb.

I had read about this method but was a little skeptical about its effectiveness. I planted 3 squash, 5 corn, and 3 bean plants together in my front yard. My site location was poor as it was shaded by the house but I was very impressed by the health of every plant in this system! As beans do, the vines climbed everything and produce a lot of beans! The corn produced a few ears but really needed more sun although every plant was quite healthy. The squash also suffered from a lack of direct sun and as such, did not yield any fruit. The health of each plant makes me believe that if planted in appropriate sunlight, this method would allow the plants to thrive!

By understanding what your plants need to thrive, you are able to plant your seeds or seedlings in group that ensure the best results!

Companion planting also has another benefit – pest repellent! Many animals and insects have that one or a couple plants they don’t want to be around. By having the plant you like near the plant that your pests don’t like, you can protect your favourite crop!

Here are some examples of plants that work well or don’t work well together:

Tomatoes: Plant with asparagus, basil, beans, borage, carrots, celery, chives, cucumbers, garlic, lettuce, marigolds, nasturtiums, or onion. Avoid planting with corn, dill, or potatoes.

Carrots: Plant with beans, lettuce, peas, tomatoes, or onions. Avoid planting with dill or parsnip.

Cucumbers: Plant with peas, lettuce, or celery. Avoid planting with cauliflower, potatoes, or basil.

Peppers: Plant with tomatoes, basil, or carrots. Avoid planting with fennel or crops that require a lot of water.

A simple Google search will yield an abundance of extensive reference charts on companion planting. I hope this introduction to companion planting will provide some insight into how to maximize your kitchen garden this year!

Feel free to leave any questions below!

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