Today’s Solutions: December 11, 2023

As noted in our spring solutions View from last weekend, the new season is upon us and it’s time to get planting! Each spring is an opportunity to refresh and expand your home garden and this year, we’re encouraging you to improve your space with companion planting. This technique uses symbiotic plants to optimize your resources and improve your yield. Let’s learn how it’s done. 

Companion planting pairs plants of different sizes and nutritional needs together to create a more efficient ecosystem in your backyard. For example, planting shallow-rooted lettuces near deep-growing carrots is ideal because the two will not compete for soil space. In addition to space allowances, the right companion plants can also attract pollinators and ward off pests. For example, planting dill and parsley near lettuces works well because they attract praying mantises, ladybugs, and spiders which eat pests before they get to your precious lettuce leaves. 

The internet and gardening books are great resources for looking up companion plants for any crop, but here is a list of common garden plants and their ideal pairings to get you started. 

  1. The three sisters. This classic trio of corn, beans, and squash is an ancient Native American discovery and works well because corn serves as a stalk for the beans, while the large squash leaves provide shade in the hot summer months. 
  2. Tomatoes. Protect your delicate tomatoes with dill and basil plants which keep invasive hornworms away. When it comes to nutrient needs, asparagus, beans, carrots, celery, lettuce, melons, mint, onions, parsley, and peppers all live cohesively with tomatoes. 
  3. Cabbage. Sage is the perfect choice for deterring cabbage moths, while beans, celery, cucumbers, dill, kale, lettuce, mint, and onions grow harmoniously by its side. 
  4. Radishes. These underground dwellers do well with shallow-rooted plants like beans, cucumber, coriander, lettuce, melons, onions, peas, and spinach, but keep them away from kohlrabi and hyssop. 
  5. Peas. These little climbers thrive near beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, radishes, and turnips, but don’t plant them near onions and garlic. 
  6. Onions and garlic. Speaking of those pungent root veggies, onions and garlic make great pest deterrents, so they’ll do well near any of your particularly pest-prone crops. 
  7. Potatoes. This easy-going spud thrives near almost everything except sunflowers. They do especially well near beans, cabbage, corn, eggplant, and peas.

Companion planting can save you space and water as well as boost output in your garden. When planning out your spring planting, think about your crops and which ones will make good neighbors. The process can sound intimidating, but once you start experimenting, you’ll find perfect garden harmony in no time!

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