Friday, April 22, 2016

Tips for Planting Your Garden Using Companion Planting

Companion planting is a concept used in permaculture. The principle is this, in the wild no plants grow in beds of just one type of plant. There are always other types of plants growing with them. Most of the time it is a symbiotic relationship. They grow together because they help one another accomplish a certain growth advantage, whether that be helping to repair the soil, provide nutrients or provide bug control.

As my families permaculture journey continues we knew that this would be a concept that we would want to apply this year. Last year, during the drought here in California, we planted in rows. The weeds grew tall and once picked the plants baked in the dry soil. We also were very efficient at creating a bug oasis given that everything else around our garden was dead. Don't get me wrong we harvested all we needed for the year but we were unable to provide the assistance that we normally do for other families.

So this year we are learning and applying some of the permaculture principles to our garden in hopes of getting a better yield, having healthier plants and making our job easier because less weeds will be growing. That's right more yield and less weeds! Who could ask for more?

In this blog I am going to show you the setup that we have chosen to fit our needs. We have our own tastes and we grow the maximum amount of items that we know we can easily preserve for the year. I am sure you may want to delete some items and add some others in their stead.

Here is what our garden plot looks like and what we have planned:

This image is just one of our many gardens on our property but it is our main annual producer. We have raised beds at an alternate location on the property. I have carrots producing seeds there now. The seeds will be resown into that bed. I also have volunteer tomato (and cucumber) plants that pop up there and are good producers. That being said, we are only going to add basil, lettuce and thyme to this bed and let the annual seeds that volunteer grow up big. Research has shown that tomatoes and carrots grow well together (and they sure did last year). Plus, I found out that lettuce grows well with both of these and basil not only improves the flavor of these plants but it is also a great pest deterrent.

Moving into the main garden, my family loves corn, fresh and canned. We are increasing our corn production in a big way this year. Last year my squash and cucumbers were torched by the sun and didn't produce well at this site. Upon researching these companion plants I found out that squash and cucumbers both grow well with corn. The corn will provide them shade and a place to climb without hurting the corn plants. In the past though, I have noticed that when you plant cucumbers and squash together sometimes you end up with a weird high-breed. To avoid this, we are going to separate the two with bush beans which also enjoy growing with the corn. The corn will still be planted in rows with the ground plants staggered in between them. Having these low growing plants in between the corn will greatly reduce the amount of weeds growing in between the corn plants.

The areas marked as green rectangles will not be planted as rows but rather as a random conglomeration of vegetable plants, herbs, and marigolds (which help keep bugs away). You may notice that many of the squares contain tomato plants. We love tomatoes as well, both fresh and canned. We can chili sauce, stewed tomatoes for tomato based meals and whole tomatoes to use whenever.  While I was researching permaculture I came across the idea of spreading out your tomato plants rather than planting them in a row. This way if you get tomato worms (which we do every year) they can't just crawl down your row of tomatoes, eating as they go.

You will also notice that herbs are included in every box. This is because many herbs can be very beneficial to your vegetables. Basil make the flavor of tomatoes and lettuce better. That's why it's going up to the upper bed. Parsley is beneficial for corn and tomatoes so we will plant it by our tomatoes in the beds. Oregano, thyme, marjoram, and tarragon are good to plant with all your vegetable plants so we are going to do a mix-up of these herbs throughout.  Dill needs to be kept away from carrots so it will not be in the upper bed but we can mix it freely in the main garden.

Starting with the box on the top left we will grow two tomato plants mixed with beets and garlic. Beets don't necessarily benefit either of these plants but we had space and beets is another item that we can heavily for the winter months. In the top right box we will grow two tomatoes, eggplant and spinach. Eggplant is beneficial to tomato plants and spinach is beneficial to the eggplants. The box in the middle on the left will have mostly just potatoes in it. Potatoes should not be planted by cucumbers, as cucumbers will cause blight in late potatoes. Basil is very beneficial to potatoes as it deters potato beetles and marigolds are also very efficient at deterring bugs from potatoes so these two plant types will be the main accompaniment in this bed.

In the middle right bed we will have two more tomatoes which grow well with peppers (type is not specified but we grow green, sweet peppers). Peppers also grow well with onions and basil but we will include other types of herbs as well. In the bottom left bed we will grow onions and more beets, which are a good accompaniment, with chard and dill. All of these plants are companions. The final bed on the bottom right will have more tomatoes and beets.

I hope I have given you some food for thought for growing your own garden. If you would like to see a full list of companion plants, the Mother Earth Website has a great guide that you can print out and plan you own companion garden full of the goodies your family loves to eat and preserve. 

Sara F. Hathaway
Sara F. Hathaway is the author of the The Changing Earth Series: Day After Disaster and Without Land. She also hosts The Changing Earth Podcast which blends her fictional stories with educational survival tips. Sara grew up in the country where she developed a profound interest in the natural world around her. After graduating with honors from The California State University of Sacramento with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, she launched into a career in business management. In her fictional novels her research and experience with survival techniques and forgotten life-sustaining methods of the generations past come to the forefront in a action packed adventures. She has used her background in business management to pave new roads for fictional authors to follow and she delights in helping other achieve the same success. She currently lives with her husband and two sons in California where she is at work on the sequel to her first two novels. For more information and a free copy of “The Go-Bag Essentials” featuring everything you need to have to leave your home in a disaster visit:
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