Companion gardening has been around since people planted seeds and cared for them.
NATIVE AMERICAN PRACTICE
The classic companion gardening in the Southwest was used by Native Americans. They planted corn seeds at the beginning of our monsoon season, then a week later beans around the corn stalks, and then another week later, squash or gourds.
The beans took atmospheric nitrogen (yes we have nitrogen in the air) and transferred it to the soil to supplement the corn, which is a heavy nitrogen feeder. The corn acted as a trellis for the beans. Squash shaded the soil to slow evaporation and keep the soil cool during the hot July and August months.
SO WHAT IS IT?
Companion gardening can mean many things to many people. To me, it is planting herbs and veggies that complement each other in some form, whether it is adding nutrients, drawing pollinators, or repelling insects that damage the plants. I also think of companion gardening where a plant that is thought of as decorative is grown with an herb or veggie and they help each other out.
For example, gardeners have been planting garlic with roses for many years because the garlic repels several insects that damage roses.
Marigolds repel many insects because of the smell. I plant marigolds around most of my raised beds to confuse insects, but I have found them especially helpful with melons.
I plant lavender with any vegetables or fruits that need pollinators. Bees and beneficial wasps are drawn to the lavender flowers, then discover the other plant flowers awaiting the pollination process.
Nasturtiums are great with cucumbers because they repel the cucumber beetle and attract beneficial insects such as spiders and ground beetles.
Radishes will draw leafminers away from your spinach and lettuce in your winter garden. The leafminers will attack the leaves of the radishes instead of your tender greens, but its fruit underground will be fine.
A CHART TO HELP YOU
I have attached a 02-2 Companion Planting Guide, but if your head begins to swim and it feels too complicated, apply the KISS approach: Keep It Simple Sister! Plant flowers around plants that need pollinators and sprinkle herbs among all of your plants to confuse predatory insects. As time goes by, you can begin to apply some of the details.
Whatever you do, find joy in companion planting from its diversity and beauty. Don’t get caught up in the details until you are ready.
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