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Companion Planting Primer for Vegetable Gardens

| 9/17/2019 6:12:00 AM

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Companion planting is the practice of grouping plants together that have beneficial relationships. The goal of companion planting is to increase the yield of plants by controlling for pests, increasing the nutrients within the soil, and increasing pollination. It should be noted that companion planting is not an exact science, and takes experimentation and observation.

A well-known example of this practice is the “Three Sisters” garden, consisting of maize, beans, and squash. Various Native American tribes discovered this practice thousands of years ago. Planting these three crops together increases the yields of all three plants. The beans are legumes, which increase the nitrogen content of the soil through the nitrogen-fixing bacteria contained within their roots. The squash’s large leaves shade the ground and retain moisture in the soil. The maize provides a tall stalk for the bean vines to climb up and reduces the competition on the ground for space to grow.

Companion planting mimics nature by incorporating a variety of plants into one location. Plants often develop symbiotic relationships after adapting and evolving together. By separating crops, we are limiting the natural benefits these plants have developed in nature. Monoculture, or the practice of planting a single crop, corrodes the soil and reduces the nutrients over time.

Companion Planting with Vegetable Crops

There are hundreds of beneficial combinations for vegetable crops. Here is a quick summary of the main groupings:

Legume family plants, such as peas and beans, should not be planted in proximity to plants in the allium family or garlic crops. Onions and garlic can stunt the growth of peas and beans. Legumes pair well with the Brassicas family, carrots, lettuces, spinach, strawberries, corn, and cucumbers.

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