Selective Companion Planting for a Healthy Garden

Companion planting for the health of the garden

Although plants compete with each other they are not all after exactly the same niches. This theoretically allows us to squeeze more plants into a given area without them choking their neighbours. Low-growing, shallow-rooting ground-covering plants can exist in the light shade of deeper rooting trees while climbers can grow up the latter, creating three tiers.

selective planting for a healthy garden Shrubs can be added but will do poorly unless the trees are well spaced. Then four tiers of plants can be built up, providing a rich habitat for wildlife and using soil and light so efficiently that few weeds get a chance to appear. Building up such a wide range of plants also gives the stable habitat that resists pest and disease problems from the very diversity of plants and the life they support.

Unfortunately, such a garden produces very little that is tasty or nutritious, and it can even be unsuited to many ornamentals. In practice, some groups of plants just need to be isolated from the more vigorous woody and shade-forming ones. Most of our favourite herbaceous plants rarely do well in competition with other sorts of plant, so they are best grown on their own in a bed or border; likewise the silver-leafed and culinary herbs do best in a dry, sunny bed of their own.

Similarly, vegetables are most successfully grown on their own open, sunny, airy plot — they do so very poorly anywhere else, but even they benefit from having the right permanent neighbours planted around the edges of their areas and from being grown with their preferred companions inside. But the companion plants have to be of the same transient nature as the main crop or the vegetables will be squeezed out. The best vegetable companionships are shown in the following table:


GOOD AND BAD COMPANIONS FOR VEGETABLE CROPS

CROP

DOES WELL WITH

DOES BADLY WITH

Beans, broad and field brassicas, carrots, celery, cucurbits, potatoes, summer savory, most herbs onions and garlic

Beans, French

celery, cucurbits, potatoes, strawberries, sweetcorn

onions and garlic

Beans, runner

sweetcorn, summer savory

beetroot, chards and kohlrabi

Beetroot and chards

most beans, brassicas, onions and garlic, kohlrabi, parsnips, swedes

runner beans

Brassicas

French beans, beetroot and chards, celery, dill, nasturtiums, onions and garlic, peas, potatoes

runner beans, strawberries

Carrots

chives, leeks, lettuce, onions and garlic, peas and tomatoes

dill

Celery and Celeriac

brassicas, beans, leeks, tomaotes


Cucurbits

beans, nasturtiums, peas, sweet corn

potatoes

Leeks

carrots, celery, onions


Lettuce

carrots, cucurbits, radish, strawberries, chervil


Onions and Garlic

beetroot and chards, lettuce, strawberry, summer savory, tomatoes

beans and peas

Peas

beans, carrots, cucurbits, sweet corn, turnips, potatoes

onions and garlic

Potatoes

beans, brassicas, peas, sweet corn

tomatoes, cucurbits

Sweet corn

beans, cucurbits, peas, potatoes

sunflowers

Sweet and chilli peppers

basil

kohlrabi, potatoes

Sunflowers cucurbits, nasturtiums potatoes, runner beans, grass
Tomatoes asparagus, basil carrots, brassicas, onions and garlic, parsley kohlrabi, potatoes
Turnips and swedes peas


Even building up good teams of perennial plants can only be successful if the order of planting is patiently controlled to allow each form of plant time and room to establish. This applies to purely ornamental mixed beds and borders and to perennial productive combinations, but is definitely not recommended for most vegetables.

If you are starting a new bed from scratch, first prepare the area well, removing all weeds and rubbish and improving the soil. Once the site is marked out and ready, plant trees, preferably fruiting ones as well as purely ornamental ones, and ensure that each has ample room to develop. After these have established for a year plant shrubs and fruit bushes between, again leaving each plenty of room. After another year, plant low herbaceous plants, groundcover and bulbs in any open spaces left available. Two or three years later, when the trees and shrubs have attained sufficient size, climbers can be grown to ramble over them. Careful weeding will be needed until the plants cover the soil, but thick mulches will minimise this and aid growth.

The temptation to plant up the apparently enormous gaps in the first two years should be resisted to give each form of plant room to establish successfully. More colour and interest can be introduced in the first year or two by growing annual flowers in the gaps, but these must not be allowed to spread and choke the new plantings at all.

06. January 2011 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Organics, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: | 1 comment

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