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Companion Planting Is Easy
by John Harmon
May 4, 2006

Spring came early to Whitehorse this year but it's a false spring. Don't get excited, it's still going to be a month before you will be able to safely plant anything outdoors. Don't let this record breaking spring weather lull you into thinking we won't get any frost for the next month!

While you're waiting you can start planning which plants you will plant and in what groupings. There is considerable evidence to suggest that companion planting will help you to grow bigger and better plants anywhere in your yard or garden and it's easy to do.

Companion planting is an age-old practice carried out in all parts of the world where there is agriculture. Companion planting was thought to be mostly folklore and "modern" farmers tended to dismiss it. In the last few decades research has confirmed that in many cases there is a scientific basis for plants helping to repel insects or supplying chemicals to the soil for the benefit of other plants.

You can make your own judgment as to the validity of the claims but try a few and see how it works for you. Here's a list of some of the plants used in groupings and what they are reported to do.

The foliage of marigolds is said to repel bean beetles, tomato fruit worms, flea beetles and whitefly. The roots will kill nematodes (tiny soil-borne worms) if planted in the same place for a few years. Many folks plant these flowers all around their gardens.

Nasturtiums are reported to repel squash bugs and the like from cucumbers, melons and squash. You can plant them next to radishes to give them a better flavor. Many of the nasturtium varieties are also edible and the flowers can go into the summer salad.

One of the oldest plants grown around the world is garlic. It is used in so many foods that almost everyone uses it in one form or another. Garlic is renowned for repelling people when eaten fresh in quantity and is also said to repel Japanese beetles, aphids, caterpillars and sucking bugs when grown in the garden. It's also believed to be an effective protection from vampires.

Chives is a plant that seems to enhance the growth of carrots and tomatoes and are said to repel many insects. Don't plant garlic or chives near beans, as it is believed to inhibit their growth. I like to grow these plants in clumps and harvest them a handful at a time.

Sweet Marjoram is another herb that is useful in the garden most anywhere. I can't find anything that it's not supposed to be planted near so it's a good choice for beginners.

One of my favorite dishes is new potatoes fried up with some fresh dill. Dill is said to help members of the cabbage family but will stunt the growth of carrots so make sure they keep their distance.

Basil is one of those herbs that is also used around the world and in many dishes. This herb is reported to go good with tomatoes and some gardener's claim it will repel mosquitoes. I hope it works on the mosquitoes because they are already out in force! Keep potatoes, dill and cabbage away from tomato plants.

Some plants go together so well that they have been planted together for many hundreds of years. A good example is beans, corn and squash. The practice of planting them together goes back to before the Europeans came to North America.

Corn uses nitrogen while beans are a legume and put nitrogen back into the soil while climbing the corn stalks for support. Squash vines cover the ground and help to retain moisture while being stimulated by the corn. It's a veritable vegetable `menage a trois'. The seeds of all three were planted together at the same time. You don't see commercial fields done this way because it would be a nightmare to harvest with modern farming equipment.

There are many more combinations of flowers and herbs to go together or with your vegetables and whole books are available on the subject if you decide to try more. The Yukon Agriculture Branch has some books in their library and many of the organic gardening books give comprehensive lists.

For everything you ever wanted to know about companion planting and a list of more books check out http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/complant.html.

 

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