Urban edible gardening is not surprisingly on the rise, and for numerous good reasons. Gardening is a fun, healthy and intelligent alternative to locally sourced eating. From seed to supper, growing food is a truly rewarding endeavor that the entire family can enjoy. Knowing where our food comes from is valuable and empowering knowledge that can effectively put the mind and body at ease. Growing your own allows you to be in control over what you consume. While organic gardening helps to eliminate the need for synthetic fertilizing, herbicide and pesticides; companion planting provides an effective natural alternative.
By definition- Companion Planting in gardening and agriculture is the planting of different crops in proximity for pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial creatures, maximizing use of space, and to otherwise increase crop productivity.
An historic factual example is represented in China, with the use of mosquito ferns. They have been used for at least a thousand years as companion plants for rice crops. They host a cyanobacterium that fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere, and they block light from plants that would compete with the rice.
Another genius example of Companion planting is the Three Sisters agricultural technique. This was practiced in various forms by the indigenous peoples of the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans. These peoples domesticated squash 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, then maize, then common beans. The cornstalk served as a trellis for the beans to climb, and the beans fixed nitrogen, benefitting the maize. Hence, the three sisters.
Companion planting was widely promoted in the 1970s as part of the organic gardening movement. It was encouraged for pragmatic reasons, such as natural trellising, but mainly with the idea that different species of plants may thrive more when close together. It is also a technique frequently used in permaculture, together with mulching, polyculture, and crop rotation.
There are a number of systems and ideas using companion planting. For example, square foot gardening attempts to protect plants from many normal gardening problems, such as weed invasion, by packing them as closely together as possible. This process is further facilitated by using companion plants. The companion plants introduce beneficial insects and nitrogen needs into the soil which assists crop production.
Another system using companion planting is the forest garden, where companion plants are intermingled to create an actual ecosystem, emulating the interaction of up to seven levels of plants in a forest or woodland. This is the fundamental creation of a muli-layered ecological community, from microorganisms to forest fauna.
The use of companion planting can be of benefit to the grower in a number of different ways, including:
*Increased level interaction – when crops are grown on different levels in the same space, such as providing ground cover, or one crop working as a trellis for another, the overall yield of a plot may be increased.
*Protective shelter is when one type of plant may serve as a wind break or provide shade for another.
*Pest suppression – some companion plants may help prevent pest insects or pathogenic fungi from damaging the crop.
*Predator recruitment and positive hosting – The use of companion plants that produce copious nectar or pollen in a vegetable garden (insectary plants) may help encourage higher populations of beneficial insects that control pests, as some beneficial predatory insects only consume pests in their larval form and are nectar or pollen feeders in their adult form.
*Trap cropping – some companion plants are claimed to attract pests away from others.
*Pattern disruption – in a monoculture pests spread easily from one crop plant to the next, whereas such easy progress may be disrupted by surrounding companion plants of a different type.
by Jamie Sloan, Account Manager
(Ref. Wikipedia 2015)
There are countless grids available on the internet illustrating companion plants, and many are regional specific. But here is a fun one to help you with the basic idea. Enjoy and Happy Eating!