Companion planting

 

Some plants flourish next to others – either by providing protection, nourishment or physical benefits like loosening up the soil.


The Three Sisters – this is an old American Indian combination of sweetcorn, squash and climbing beans.  They all need the same rich, moisture retentive soil, but the beans add nitrogen and use the sweetcorn for support, the squash has large leaves that act as a weed suppressant and provide shade at the roots of the others.  Individually they could also take up a lot of ground, but because they use different parts of the space, they can all be grown together in just one bed.


Far left: sweetcorn

planted in a grid to ensure pollination (it is wind pollinated, so needs to be grown in blocks, not rows)


Left: The Three Sisters beans grow up the sturdy sweetcorn plants and squash sprawls underneath




Carrots planted in the same bed as a strong smelling herb or allium may deter carrot fly  


Other good combinations:  nasturtiums and brassicas (known as a trap crop) – the theory is that cabbage white butterflies will be drawn to the nasturtiums – I have found this works better when the nasturtiums are planted right away from the cabbages etc, otherwise they tend to go onto both….



Nurse crops

This is where one crop protects another –  broad beans can be planted in the furrows between potatoes. The beans act as protection for the developing potatoes, add nitrogen and save on space.


Marigolds (French, not African)  attract hoverflies and deter aphids, but all marigolds attract pollinating insects.  They are also said to repel whitefly if planted near  tomatoes or in greenhouses.


Polyculture

This, as the name implies, is the opposite of monoculture (growing a single crop) and has been proven to increase the yield of many crops.  It is similar to the way plants would grow naturally.  Permaculture is an extension of polyculture, mimicking natural ecosystems more closely.


Use Nature’s pest controllers and pollinators

Apart from worms, there are many other beneficial creatures that should be encouraged into the vegetable garden.  Plant nectar-rich flowers like the poached egg plant, sweet peas and Verbena bonariensis to attract bees and other pollinators.  Set up over-wintering places for lacewings and ladybirds, whose larvae devour aphids – they spend the winter in hollow stems, so leave your pruning/tidy up until the spring, or make a ladybird hotel with short,hollow bamboo canes in a sheltered place.  Other friends to encourage are: the ground beetle, the robberfly, spiders, slow-worms, frogs, toads, bats and hedgehogs.


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