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Episode 149 Comprehensive Companion Planting

Its hard to define sometimes but its essentially using the inherent characteristics of one plant to benefit other plants.  Its building an ecosystem!

Reasons:

  •  Improve taste or effectiveness of a crop.
  • Draw in beneficial insects.
  • Fool plant predating insects.
    • Trap Crop
    • Shield Crop
  • Physical advantages
  • Nutrient advantages

The best companion plants may often times be a few weeds.  Not enough weeds to choke out your young plants but enough to draw in naturally the beneficials you want.

Improve Taste

Companion plants grown for this purpose are said to improve the taste of one of the companions.  This – of course – is a highly debatable subject.

Plants high in volatile oils seem to improve taste of watery fruits and veggies.  Tomatoes improved by basil.  Cucumbers said to by dill.  The general rule is that plants that go together on the plant go together in the garden.

Plants high in volatile oils improved by plants such as nettles. I can’t really discover why this is the case.  Early mediterranean gardeners found that planting Basil (sweet) next to their tomato plants gave them larger, healthier, better tasting tomatoes. Perhaps the tomatoes’ roots absorb some root exudate of the basil, or “breathe” some secretion of this sweet smelling herb.

Study:  http://orgprints.org/6614/

Draw in beneficial insects

Any plant that makes tons of flowers is going to help nearby plants.  Flowers draw in among other things parasitic wasps and most plant predating insects go through a larval stage that is vulnerable to these wasps.

Parasitic Wasp on Calendula Flower

Yarrow, dill, lettuce (bolted), radishes, turnips, carrots, beets (in second year).   All in all sunflowers are king.  Buckwheat is good also.

Honeybee on a Turnip Flower

You need a comprehensive flowering plan.  Know what flowers when.  Make sure you account not just for bloom times but also colors.

Large plants sunflowers but also corn.  Corn has tons of nooks and crannies for lacewings.

Flowers mean bees.  Especially orange and yellow flowers, draw them in.  Calendula is great in this regard.  Don’t just think about insects.  Tubular flowers also draw in hummingbirds which can decimate a whitefly infestation.

Trap Crops

Grapes take the cake as the best trap crop made.  Aphids will go straight to grapes and they can’t really harm a strong grapevine but they will draw in tons of beneficials just by being there.

 

Eggplants seem to work pretty well as a trap crop for flea beetles, also groundcherries.  Pick a plant in the same family of the one you want to protect, just make sure that plant is more appealing.

Shield Crop

Things with strong smells or release things predating insects don’t care for.

Garlic – the aroma fools.

Nasturtiums – very peppery and strong.

Cilantro – stinks to me and to bugs.

Mint – easy to grow also.

Lemon basil and lemon balm – citronella

Physical

Provides support.  Grew beans up grapes.  Beans up corn.

Provides shade.

Also includes co-planting and nurse crops.  Co-planting is essentially planting two things so they grow at once (at some point).  Like sowing clover and wheat.

Nutrient advantages

Things like alfalfa mine the soil for nutrients.  Bring those up.  You can chop the plant and use it as mulch or let the fungi work their magic.  Dandelions

Bad Companions

There are bad companions too.  Alliums next to legumes.

Fennel is said to be the worst companion.

Disease and pest proximity.  Same family plants close by is a no-no.  Tomatoes and potatoes- same blights.

Corn and tomatoes – rootworm.  I noticed that parsley next to carrots is a no-no.  The parsley drew in parsley worms (black swallowtail butterfly) and they also ate carrots.

Planning

Need to have a plan for companion planting.  You garden layout should basically revolve around companion planting.

 

 

3 comments to Episode 149 Comprehensive Companion Planting

  • So, do the sunflowers need to be the tall ones that produce big edible seeds?  Or are the smaller cutting sunflowers just as good as the big ones?  I’ve only grown the sunflowers that produce a lot of seed that we eat, so have never looked at the actual flower on the cutting flowers.

  • Jason

    Well, the larger ones are definitely better but the smaller ones will do a lot of good also.  Yellow and large, attracts tons of bees!

  • […] was listening to Jason Akers on The Self Sufficient Gardener podcast about Comprehensive Companion Planting the other day.  Of course this was about companion planting.  At one point he mentioned that […]