Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Companion planting

Companion planting

Welcome to the companion planting blog.

What is companion planting?

You will be amazed at how wonderful nature is when you discover all there is to know about companion planting and how it can benefit everything in your garden. To start, let us define companion. One definition is: one of two things that go together.

In this context, companion plants go together. What does this mean for your garden in real terms? Companion planting will have many effects on your garden. When you are using this method of planting, you will be imitating nature to create balances in the soil, assisting plants to keep each other protected and improving the quality and flavour of the plants. We are earthbound creatures, and we need to be concious of the choice we make regarding what we eat, and how it is grown. One of the best ways to ensure pure foods is to grow as much as possible in a healthy way.

Using companion plants to improve the soil

Soil is the most vital component in growing any plant. When we grow a diversity of plants together, the effects on the soil will be amazing. Healthy soil will produce healthy plants. All plants give certain nutrients to the soil and use certain nutrients from the soil. This means there is an exchange of nutrients. If only one kind of plant is grown in a specific area for any length of time, deficiencies will occur. Rotating crops is a way to solve the problem. When a diversity of plants are rotated in an area, the benefits to the soil will be dramatic. Companion planting allows for this diversity, at the same time keeping the soil covered with a "green" mulch, preventing "weeds" and soil erosion. Nitrogen, for example, is vital to good plant growth at the fruiting stage. Beans, peas and lucerne (alfalfa) are all nitrogen producing plants, amongst others. Including them in your companion mixes will ensure good crop yields.

Companion planting provides shelter

Some plants grow tall and need a lot of sun. Some are small and need shade and protection. Some plants need to cling on with their tendrils. Providing a space for plants to assist each other in meeting their requirements is one of the things companion planting does. If you plant Sunflowers with Peas and Lettuce, you are bound to have a successful little trio. The Sunflowers grow tall and provide natural stakes for the Peas as well as providing shade for the Lettuce, which do enjoy a bit of respite from the midday sun. Plant the Sunflowers first, allowing them to get a head start for about a month, then follow with the Peas and Lettuce. A few Marigolds and aromatic herbs in the mix will ensure success.

Plant protection with companion planting

As any gardener knows, planting anything is not without its trials. There are a myriad of plant eaters, besides humans, which thrive on munching their way through your crops. This is where companion planting really comes forward. Using a combination of plants to either repel insects or distract them is an excellent way to ensure that your crops will be healthy. Aromatic plants like Rosemary, Basil, Lavender and Thyme will repel certain insects, protecting your plants from the ravages of insect attack. The other advantage of aromatic herbs is that they improve the flavour of plants. Marjoram for example, improves the flavour of everything. Another trick is to allow plants like Dandelion to grow near Cabbages (Brassica sp). The aphids, which generally attack Cabbages, will rather suck the life out of Dandelions, allowing your Cabbages to grow in peace. This is know as "trap cropping".

We are on a journey of discovery. The companion planting blog will uncover secrets which you will find valuable for whatever scale of production you are aiming for. Whether is it your own tiny patch on your balcony or hectars of land, you will be able to apply the natural principles of companion planting to benefit your soil, your plants and ultimately yourself... keep coming back to the companion planting blog to discover more.

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