Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Companion Planting

I have heard references to "companion planting" occasionally but never paid much attention, other than to plant marigolds here and there throughout my vegetable garden because someone, at some time, said it discouraged some kind of garden pest. But this year I have done a little reading and have put together a compilation of various plants that may help (or hinder) others. I am going to try to use some of that information this year.
It seems that much of the evidence about the effectiveness of planting one vegetable with a "companion" is anecdotal. (Agriculture schools must not have big PhD programs or we would have some hard evidence.)

Some plants are referred to as "allies" of other plants and some are said to be "incompatible". In The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing (by Tanya Denckla) "allies" are plants that are said to repel insects "or enhance the growth or flavor of the target plant". "Incompatibles" may play a negative role in the other plants growth. Marigolds and Nasturtium appear as allies for a lot of vegetables and since they are edible I plan to distribute them throughout the garden. That way we get two for one - flowers to eat from plants that may help other plants in the garden.
I will take a closer look at those plants that are "incompatible" with what I am growing. If the information I have has any validity then I need to keep onions and garlic away from the pole beans - apparently they will both be happier - and the spinach and cucumbers away from the potatoes. [If anyone who happens across this post wants a copy of the chart I have compiled, let me know.]

Another concept that I heard nothing about until I looked at Vegetable Gardening for Dummies by Charlie Nardozzi is planting by the phases of the moon. Hard as it is to think how the moon would affect what you plant apparently ancient gardeners believed ("noticed" is the word in the book) that some vegetables do better when planted during the appropriate phase of the moon. If nothing else trying this gives a reason to go out into the garden at night (although it may be easier to look in the newspaper to see what phase the moon is in.) Supposedly the first seven days after the new moon (that is, no visible moon) is best for vegetables that produce their seeds on parts of the plant that are not eaten. Basil would be an example. The next seven days (half moon to full moon) plant vegetables in which the seeds are eaten, such as peas and tomatoes. The next seven days, plant root crops. And then when the moon is diminishing from half moon to nothing, don't plant. There are plenty of other tasks to do. By the way, I assume this doesn't mean you actually have to plant at night.
What about a carrot? It has seeds on the part of the plant not eaten (first seven days) but is a root crop (third seven days). Let's not get too serious about this.

1 comment:

  1. In my square foot gardening book, the author noted that a lot of the research done in big agriculture departments is done with commercial agriculture in mind, not backyard gardens. That's why he recommends a different approach. So maybe this is why you don't find a lot of good evidence about companion plants?