‘Three sisters’ companion planting
It’s part folklore, part science, but companion planting just may help your garden grow.
Through the many centuries that humans have cultivated gardens, people have noticed which vegetables grow well together, and which plants seem to stunt each other’s growth. Some vegetables, herbs and flowers benefit each other by improving soil, while others deter pests from one another. Companion planting provides a fascinating blueprint for a higher garden yield.
Companion planting is the art and science of laying out a garden bed so that complementary types of plants are planted in the same bed. Unlike crop rotation, which means successively planting vegetables from different plant families in the same garden area season after season or year after year to minimize insect and disease problems, companion planting aims to create a harmonious garden by allowing nature to share her strengths.
Avoid Planting Some Vegetables Near Each Other
Just like people have likes and dislikes, plants actually have likes and dislikes as well, particularly for their “next door neighbors” planted alongside them in the garden. For instance, some vegetables will stunt the growth and yield from other vegetables.
It’s helpful to think of building good plant communities when planning your garden. This is the most important concept behind companion planting. Time-tested garden wisdom holds that certain plants grown close together become helpmates.
Plants need good companions to thrive. Except for growth and fruiting, plants are relatively idle objects. They are rooted in one spot and don’t seem to have much control over their environment. In fact, however, relationships between plants are varied – similar to relationships between people. In plant communities, certain plants support each other while others, well, just don’t get along. Plants, like people, compete for resources, space & nutrients.
Some Plants Bully Others
Certain plants grow rapidly, crowd others and take more than their fair share of water, sun and nutrients. Some exude toxins that retard plant growth or kill plants. Other plants are upstanding citizens and do good by adding nutrients to the soil, drawing beneficial insects into the garden or by confusing insects in search of their host plants.
As a gardener, you’re both the mayor and the city planner for your garden city. By growing plants with good companions, you bring peace and prosperity to your town. Alternatively, the planting of disruptive plants can quickly bring your garden to ruins.
Proper Spacing with Companion Planting
As with city planning, the way your lay out your vegetable garden is crucial. Avoid planting vegetables in large patches or long rows and interplant with flowers and herbs. Large groupings of one type of vegetable serve as a beacon to problematic pests.
If you mix in flowers and herbs, it becomes more difficult for pests to find your veggies. The scent of flowers and herbs, as well as the change up in color, is thought to confuse pests. Certain flowers and herbs attract beneficial insects to your garden.
Three Sister Planting
Almost any article on companion planting references the Native American “Three Sister Planting”. This age old grouping involves growing corn, beans and squash – often pumpkin – in the same area. As the corn stalks grow, beans naturally find support by climbing up the stalk. Beans, as all legumes, fix nitrogen in the soil, which supports the large nutritional needs of corn. Squash grows rapidly and the large squash leaves shade out weeds and serve as natural weed block. Good plant companions work in support of each other.
Many long time gardeners swear that growing certain plants together improves flavor as well.
The concept of companion planting is to plant combinations of specific plants for their mutual benefit. “The theory behind companion planting is that certain plants may help each other take up nutrients, improve pest management or attract pollinators, Some research, such as how to attract beneficial insects like lacewings to the garden to fight pests, has been studied, so we know it’s effective. Science is still researching other aspects of companion planting
“For me, companion planting is about bringing pollinators and beneficial insects to your garden to improve biodiversity.
Reap the Benefits
Companion planting offers every gardener the chance to harness the power of nature for a higher yield as well as natural, organic insect control. By freely tucking in among the vegetables, herbs few carefully chosen herbs like mint, marigolds, basil, oregano, rosemary, chives, garlic, thyme among the vegetables, you increase the garden yield and enjoy a bountiful harvest.
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