Garden Planning 101: He Loves Me; He Loves Me Not1
I would imagine that as much folklore has grown up around gardening as any other subject. Which makes sense. Until modern times, home gardens were primarily subsistence plots, and crop failure was more than an inconvenience - it could be a life or death matter.
Over the generations people have experimented with planting just about every imaginable combination of vegetables and herbs. When things grew well together, the combination was repeated. If this happened consistently, it was assumed that for some reason these plants liked to grow together. Conversely, when plants did not grow well together consistently it was assumed that they didn't like each other's company.
Science has, for the most part, been skeptical of the notion that certain plants will help others grow or do them harm. A notable exception is the research done with marigolds. Science now concedes what our grandfathers always knew - that you will have healthier tomatoes if you plant marigolds nearby. Granddad didn't know why, had probably never heard of nematodes in the soil, but he knew that it worked.
Another scientifically proven bit of garden lore is that black walnut trees produce a chemical that will harm other plants. I found this out first hand when I lost an apple tree that had been planted too near a walnut. It did well the first year, then died the second. It was just at the edge of the walnut's root line. Even leaving walnuts on the
ground instead of gathering them can harm nearby plants.
But most of the conventional wisdom concerning companion planting is scientifically unproven. This doesn't mean it's incorrect. It just means that no one has taken the time to find out if the garden lore is right or not. Here's how I look at it. Until science proves the traditional pairings are wrong, I'm going to assume that they could be right. Better safe than sorry.
Multi cropping also keeps the soil from being depleted as different crops take different nutrients from the soil. So, if you have room, do plan on rotating the beds used for your vegetables. A three year rotation is a good goal. So you will need to divide your garden into thirds and alternate what goes where from one year to the next. If possible, leave one third unplanted except for a cover crop which can
then be turned under. Unfortunately, most of us don't have a large enough plot to allow us to do this.
Next time we'll talk about preparing the soil in your garden and discuss soil amendments and organic versus inorganic fertilizers.
Below is a list of which plants go together and which ones don't. I have chosen what I think are the most commonly planted varieties in home gardens in the northern hemisphere. They are listed alphabetically, so you can scroll down to the ones you need information about. I obviously can't list every food plant that it's possible to grow, so if I've missed your favourite, then just ask and I'll pass along any information I have to you. And I apologize to our researchers
who live in the tropics or in the southern hemisphere. I don't know enough about the crops grown in those areas to make intelligent comments about them.
For more detailed information, I recommend Good Neighbors: Companion Planting for Gardeners by Anna Carr.
- Apple - Do not plant Potatoes near apple trees; neither will
do well. To prevent stinkbugs on apples, plant Mullein beneath each tree. A ring of Chives will help prevent apple scab. Most apple varieties need a pollinator.
- Apricot - Do not plant apricot trees near Plum trees or near Tomatoes or Potatoes. They grow well will Pecan trees.
- Asparagus- Asparagus is a perennial vegetable, so choose a spot for it where it won't need to be disturbed. Asparagus will grow better if planted near Parsley or Tomatoes.
- Basil - Basil grows well with Tomatoes, but will die if planted near Rue.
- Bean - Beans and other legumes add nitrogen to the soil. Beans will improve your Corn, Cabbage and Squash crops. Carrots and Strawberries may help the beans bear heavier. If you plant beans and corn together make sure that the beans don't bloom when the corn is tasseling. To repel Mexican bean beetles, plant Marigolds nearby.
- Beet - Don't plant Beets near Pole Beans. They do well when grown with Cabbage or Lettuce and Spinach.
- Blackberry - Plant near Grapes.
- Black Walnut - Few plants grow well near Black Walnuts. Black Walnuts will kill Apples, Blackberries, Blueberries, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, and Tomatoes. Beans, Corn, Grapes, Onions, and Raspberries will tolerate the Walnuts.
- Brassicas - (Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Collards2, Cauliflower, Kale) - These plants are helped by interplanting with aromatic herbs such as Dill, Sage and Rosemary. Beans, Celery, Onions and Potatoes are good companions. Brassicas will harm Grapes.
- Carrot - Do not plant Carrots near Dill. Their flavour will be improved if planted near Peas, Radishes and Sage. They intercrop well with Tomatoes and Cucumbers.
- Celery - Celery grows well with Beans, Cabbage, Onions and Tomatoes. It will tolerate more shade than most vegetables.
- Chives - Plant with Carrots, Grapes, and Tomatoes, but not with Beans and Peas.
- Cilantro (Coriander) - Will harm Fennel.
- Corn - Native Americans never planted Corn alone. Plant with Beans, Melons, Squash and Sunflowers.
- Cucumber - Grow Cucumbers on a fence or trellis to save space. Cucumbers grow well in salad beds of Lettuce, Radishes, Scallions3, Spinach, and Tomatoes and with Beans, Cabbage and Corn. There is evidence that intercropping with Broccoli will reduce cucumber beetles.
- Dill - Dill is harmful to Carrots and Tomatoes, but will improve the flavor of Brassicas. It does well with Lettuce and Onions.
- Eggplant4 - Plant Eggplant near Tarragon and Thyme.
- Fennel - Do not plant near Beans and Tomatoes.
- Fig - Rue will harm Figs.
- Garlic - Garlic can be intercropped with everything except Beans and Peas.
- Geranium - These lovely flowers will repel cabbage moths, cornworms and Japanese beetles.
- Grape - Grow near legumes and Blackberries, train up standard-sized fruit trees or grow with asparagus. Do not plant near Brassicas or Radishes.
- Lettuce - Grow Lettuce near Beets, Cabbage, Radishes or Strawberries. Do not grow with Broad Beans.
- Marigolds - Very helpful to Potatoes and Tomatoes.
- Melon - Grow with Corn, Peanuts, Sunflowers and Sweet Potatoes. Do not grow with Potatoes or near Cucumbers, Gourds or Squash.
- Mints - These herbs are very invasive. But they are supposed to repel a variety of harmful insects including ants, aphids and flea beetles.
- Nasturtium - Will repel insects. Plant with Cabbage and Peppers.
- Onion and Leek - Do not plant with Sage. Onions and leeks are good companion crops with Beets, Cabbage, Lettuce and Strawberries.
- Oregano - This aromatic herb is said to repel insects.
- Parsley - Plant with Chives, Lettuce, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme.
- Pea - Peas do better when trained on a trellis or fence. They provide an early-season windbreak or sunscreen for tender vegetables when they are first transplanted to the garden. Peas are good companions for Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Radishes and Tomatoes. Do not plant with Onions and Garlic.
- Peach - Grow with Asparagus, Corn, Grapes, Strawberries and Walking Onions5. Garlic is helpful at the base of Peach trees.
- Pear - Traditionally Currants have been planted with Pear trees.
- Pepper - Peppers do well planted as ornamentals in flower beds. They will grow with Carrots and Onions and aromatic herbs, but will not grow with Fennel or Kohlrabi. Hot Peppers can be used as insect repellants.
- Petunia - Pink Petunias will repel Mexican bean beetles, potato bugs and squash bugs.
- Potato - Plant potatoes with Lettuce, Onions and Radishes. Intercropping with Horseradish is said to improve potato yields.
- Radish - Plant with Carrots, Lettuce, Onions, Parsnips and Peas. Do not plant near Grapes.
- Raspberry - Do not plant near Blackberries or Potatoes.
- Rhubarb - Rhubarb contains oxalic acid and a tea made from its leaves will repel aphids, leafminers and red spider mites.
- Rosemary - Like other aromatic herbs, Rosemary is said to be an insect repellant. It is thought to be successful against slugs and snails.
- Rue - Do not grow Rue with Basil, Cabbage or Sage. It will grow well with Figs.
- Sage - This herb is beneficial when grown with Cabbage, Carrots, Marjoram, Strawberries and Tomatoes. Sage doesn't grow well near Onions and will harm Cucumbers.
- Spinach - Plant with Cabbage, Celery, Eggplant, Onions, Peas, and Strawberries. Beans and Tomatoes can be planted among the early Spinach.
- Squash - Pumpkins and winter and summer Squashes are traditionally planted with Beans, Corn, and Sunflowers. They will harm Potatoes.
- Strawberry - Plant Strawberries with Beans, Lettuce and Spinach or to trap fruit moths around Peach trees. Do not plant with Cabbage.
- Tarragon - Tarragon will grow with all vegetables and is said to improve their flavour.
- Thyme - Like Tarragon, this aromatic herb will grow just about anywhere and improves the flavour of vegetables.
- Tomato - Interplant Tomatoes with Asparagus, Basil, Cabbage, Carrots, Onions, Parsley and Sage. Do not plant near Fennel or Potatoes.
- Turnip - Grows well with Beans, Lettuce and Spinach.
Whew! After all that I'm ready for a snack. This week's recipe uses whatever fruit is in season.
Fresh Fruit Crisp
- 6 cups - 1lb 4oz, 1.1kg - peeled, thinly sliced apples, peaches or pears (about 6 to 8)
- ¼ cup -2floz, 60ml water
- ¼ cup - 2oz, 50g - firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup - 4oz, 100g - old fashioned or quick oats6, uncooked
- ½ cup - 3oz, 75g coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds
- ¼ cup - 2oz, 50g - firmly packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup - 2oz, 50g - butter, melted
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (optional)
Heat oven to 350ºF - 180ºC, Gas Mark 4. In a large bowl combine the fruit slices and water. Add the sugar, flour and cinnamon and stir until the fruit is evenly coated. Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish. Combine the topping ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the fruit is tender. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.