Do you ever wish your garden produce would grow a little bigger? Many plants will grow bigger and produce more if planted near other plants they like. Companion gardening is the idea that many plants will help each other when planted nearby, and it is a tried and true way to garden that has proven beneficial for both plants. If you're new to gardening, it may seem daunting, but with just a few simple tips, you’ll be able to introduce companion gardening in your own backyard!
Mix Up Your Plant Combinations
Having a proper plan for the garden is crucial to making sure that friendly plants get the chance to be planted together. Keep these things in mind when arranging your garden this year:
- Planting flowers among your vegetables can help deter pests from harming them
- Spreading plants, such as tomatoes, across your whole garden instead of one large group can make it harder for pests to find
- Flower scents and colors confuse pests and can keep your garden from getting destroyed overnight
Beware of Bully PlantsMfigure>
Think of your garden as a small city: there will be some upstanding citizens who help everyone, some that don’t do much for anyone else, and then some will who purposely bully the rest of the group. Watch out for bullies in your garden that can take more than their fair share of soil nutrients, water, and sunlight. Vegetables like cucumbers take up a lot of extra space and are water hogs, so plant them in a patch by themselves or near vegetables that don’t need too much excess water. Other plants, like the black walnut tree, give off juglone that can stunt nearby plants' growth and affect the garden's production.
Get to Know Three Sisters Planting
Three Sister Planting is an age-old and proven technique that Native Americans introduced. This technique involves planting beans, squash, and corn in the same area for maximum growth potential. The beans will naturally produce nitrogen in the soil for the corn while also using the corn stalk as climbing support. The squash, usually pumpkin, grows fast and has broad leaves that help shade the area from weed growth. These three plant varieties work together to grow well, and each has its own unique addition to help the others.
Grow Plant Groups That Will Harvest Together
Growing two plants together that normally are harvested at the same time is a great option in companion planting. Things like tomatoes and basil like the same conditions, including hot temperatures and lots of sunlight. They are also ready to pick at the same time, meaning they are frequently used together in many summer dishes. You can check the back of seed packets to plant those varieties together that will benefit from being in the same spot in the garden and ready to eat around the same time.
Use Natural Diversity
There are many native plants in your garden that will help to attract beneficial species to the area. Choosing to plant milkweed around your garden will naturally attract monarch larvae to make your garden their home. Help support those baby monarchs once they emerge by having nectar-producing flowers nearby to encourage the butterflies to stick around for a while. Choosing native plants that are accustomed to the area and naturally diverse in supporting both parts of a pollinator’s life will benefit the entire garden in pollination and maximum harvest potential.
Whether you're new to gardening or have been using your green thumb for years, companion gardening is a technique that can help any harvest thrive. Before starting this year, consider choosing plants that work together to support helpful pollinators and those that enjoy the same growing conditions, mix flowers with vegetables, and keep bullies away from other plants. Following these tips while introducing companionship in your garden will surely yield a bountiful harvest you can be proud of!