The solstice has come and gone and summer is now fully underway. We’ve spent years testing the best way to keep the Field & Gown gardens looking and feeling their best. One of the tried and true methods we’ve come to depend on is companion planting, or strategically placing plants together with other plants to enhance garden health and bounty and potentially reduce pesticide use.
Companion planting is similar to planning seating charts at a wedding or large occasion. You place people next to each other to generate good conversation and increase their enjoyment of the affair which in turn increases the likelihood of an overall, successful event.
The theory behind companion planting is that, when certain plants are grown together, they improve each other’s health and yield because some plants attract insects that are beneficial to the companion while other plants, like herbs, act as repellents. Companion planting, when done correctly, can also increase pollination and provide habitats for beneficial insects and creatures. It also maximizes space and increases plant productivity.
Benefits of Companion Planting
· Shade – Large plants provide shade for smaller plants that need protection from the hot summer sun and would otherwise be more likely to burn.
· Growth Support – Tall sturdy plants like sunflowers and corn can support lower growing, sprawling plants like cucumbers and peas.
· Healthy Soil – Some crops like beans and peas help add nitrogen to the soil. Plants with deep roots like carrots, parsnips, beets, and lemongrass bring up nutrients from deep in the soil, nourishing the topsoil.
· Weed Suppression – Planting sprawling plants like potatoes, melon, and cucumbers with more upright plants like tomatoes and peppers minimizes open areas where weeds can take hold.
· Natural Insect Repellents – Herbs can act as natural insect repellents because they confuse insects with strong odors that mask the scent of the intended host plant.
Meet Your New Neighbors!
1. Plant dill and basil among tomatoes to prevent hornworms.
2. Plant Marigolds among tomatoes and other veggies to repel insects that attack vegetable roots.
3. Nasturtiums (edible flowers) attract the aphids, preventing them from attacking and eating the leaves of other plants, like broccoli and/or brussel sprouts.
4. Carrots, dill, parsley, and parsnips attract beneficial insects like praying mantis, ladybugs, and spiders that eat lots of other “bad” bugs.
5. Plant lettuce, radish, and other quick growing plants between hills of melons or winter squash to avoid scorched leaves.
6. Zinnias attract ladybugs and control pest populations plus they are one of the best cutting flowers. They look great in vintage bottles or rusted buckets!
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This is the second post of our Summer Garden Series! Get ready for upcoming blogs on How to Compost, and Avoiding Pesticides. Check out our previous post It’s Planting Time!
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Judy Caplan is a nutritionist by day (founder of Go Be Full: Good Nutrition in a Nutshell) and co-founder of Field & Gown. With an excellent eye for style, her favorite hobbies include scouring antique stores and 'dumpster diving' for cast-away furniture and other odd-and-ends discarded to the side of the road. Field & Gown is a sustainable event decor and home goods company based in the Washington DC area.
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