Companion Planting for Vegetable Gardens

Companion Planting

Photo Credit: HerbCompanion.com

Companion planting has been used for centuries in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

When it comes to planning a vegetable garden there is an effective technique called companion planting that helps you to have a better, and easier to grow, garden. 

Companion planting takes into consideration the properties of the different plants and their ability to complement one another.

Companion planting can be described as a technique of cultivating two or more plant species near each other to enhance the growth of each. 

Why Companion Planting?
One big benefit of companion gardening is that it introduces biodiversity into your vegetable garden.  With companion planting you are eliminating a monoculture (where you plant only one kind of vegetable) in a specific area, such as a garden space consisting of only tomatoes.  This monoculture invites pests to have a non-competitive feast. 

Today many gardeners opt to plant compatible species near each other to achieve not only pest control but also for pollination and attracting beneficial insects, as well as increasing nutrient uptake, providing support, shade and shared resources. 

Then there are those plants which inhibit the growth of undesired species near them — alleopathic plants.  Herbs often fall into this category.  These plants release chemicals into the atmosphere or soil, insuring less completion from weeds. 

Photo Credit: Trueepicure,Flickr

Small space gardening can be maximized with companion planting.  These companion plants are ready to be transplanted.

For the green-minded gardener, companion planting means less work, less time and less money spent to achieve better vegetable garden results.

 

Science and Companion Gardening?
There is some controversy in the academic/scientific community about companion plantings.  Some focuses on what is perceived as little scientific evidence that certain things, like pest repellent activity, work.  Then there are those that find the “sensitive crystallization” theory to be unfounded.  

One interesting article by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott from the University of Washington, Puyallup titled “The Myth of Companion Plantings” discusses terminology and science. 

She prefers the terms “intercropping” or “polyculture,” while affirming that, indeed, any individual plant does modify its surrounding environment and that this will affect other plants in the vicinity. 

Still there are other scientists that find companion planting to be not only historically effective, but also that there is ample proof of the benefits companion planting can have in improving garden growth.

No matter what name you use, or whether you require scientific evidence of the technique, planting certain species together for the benefit of each is well founded in horticultural practice and extremely useful, especially in an organic garden. 


An Historical Example of Companion Planting

Three Sisters Planting

The “Three Sisters,”

Corn Squash & Beans

A famous example of companion planting is the “Three Sisters.”  Native Americans planted corn, beans and squash together.

The corn provided support for bean vines, the beans are nitrogen fixing plants giving the corn nutrition and the squash provides a dense groundcover shading out weeds that would compete with the corn and beans and providing mulch that conserves water.

The “Three Sisters” is in many ways a perfect companion planting, and is still widely used in home gardens today.  There are many other very beneficial pairings of plants that will also work well for almost any garden.

Which Plants are Companions?
The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) has an excellent document called “Companion Planting:  Basic Concept and Resources” that provides more than enough proven evidence that companion planting works well for gardeners interested in fewer chemicals, healthier plants and better vegetables.
Included is a nice list of plants that benefit each other as companion plantings.

Carrots and Onions

Photo Credit: manfred.sause@volloeko.de  / Wikimedia Commons
Carrots & onions make good
garden companions.

The Michigan State University Extension of Oakland County is another resource that has published an extremely comprehensive list of companion plants called “Problem Solvers” that you may want to cultivate together. 

They emphasize these these plants as companions are only suggestions, but we didn’t find any pairings that would be detrimental to your garden on the list. 
There are plants listed that grow in every Hardiness Zone in the country, so you can find something for every region without difficulty.

 

Resources
The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA)
“Companion Planting:  Basic Concept and Resources”

Wikipedia
Companion Planting

 

 

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