Companion planting question

aznativenewbie11(Tempe 9/sunset 13)January 14, 2010

This is my first year in beginning my organic garden. I drawing out my plans for where I want to plant everything. I've purchased a book "Extreme Gardening" that focuses on gardening in the desert and has cross references the plants I should and shouldn't plant together. For the plants that shouldn't be planted together, what is a safe distance to plant them apart? For instance, it says not to plant Peas with members of the onion family, but a lot of the other plants and veggies recommend it. So, I am very confused on how to plan my garden. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

What's most important is that you grow a variety of plants in your garden, rather than large masses of one crop. applicable. Intercropping, a much better term than companion planting, is based on science and fact. Intercropping success relies on knowledge of how quickly the plants are likely to mature, their size, root behavior, nutritional and water needs, and more.

Much of what is written about companion planting comes from old gardening folklore, tradition, and mythology.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 11:13AM
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borderbarb

I wouldn't put 'folklore or tradition' into the same catagory as 'mythology'. I don't know a lot about bad-companion planting, but do know that radishes will retard the growth of tomatoes. Been there done that. I planted two tomatoes in different parts of the garden. One - alone in a large pot. Another in bed next to a small planting of radishes. The 'lone' tomato flourished, the other did not. I read somewhere [can't find the reference, sorry] about the effect of radishes and pulled them all out. That tomato started to gain, but never reached the size & production of the 'lone' plant.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 12:21PM
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lazy_gardens

Take all of the "extreme" gardening guy's advice with a very large cup of salt. He's paid to promote products on his show, and much of what he does is not necessary. He writes the same way.

Start with dirt, mulch and consistent water and see what happens. We were eating all the veggies we could stand and taking piles of them to work all summer on nothing more than that and a bit of ammonium sulfate and soil sulfur.

Mary Irish's book is better, because she goes month by month with tasks. Check it out of a library.

Here is a link that might be useful: My garden: dirt, water and mulch

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 2:12PM
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borderbarb

I wonder if placing a compatible[to both] plant between the 'bad' compaion and the plant it will retard, will be adequate spacing?

For example ... nasturtium is said to be beneficial to both radish and tomato ... so plant a 'nasty' between the two.

This still doesn't answer your question of how close is 'too close', but .......?

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 2:16PM
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borderbarb

Lazygardens - great link. 'Dirt, WATER, mulch'. Here in CA the WATER is getting scarcer and scarcer. But mulch is pretty much my magic elixer.

OP - Have you looked in the other parts of the garden web?

Southwestern - http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/swest/
AZ - http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/azgard/
Vegetable - http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/cornucop/

Another idea comes to mind about separating the good/bad companions. Would it be possible to make a carboard 'barrier' between the two antagonistic plants to prevent roots intermingling? Cardboard would probably last the season of one or both plants and then compost its way into the soil.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 2:50PM
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Dan Staley

My non-compatables are at least a foot away from each other.

Dan

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 5:17PM
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borderbarb

One of my favorite sites shows the root development of various plants. ROOT DEVELOPMENT OF VEGETABLE CROPS
http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010137veg.roots/010137toc.html

For example Tomato
http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010137veg.roots/010137ch26.html
...snip... The tomato was characterized by a taproot which tapered gradually from a width of 10 to 13 millimeters near the soil surface to only 2 millimeters at a depth of 6 inches. As a result of transplanting the taproots, if unbroken at this depth, were usually curved sidewise or even upward. On plants where the taproot was sharply curved often several large laterals arose either from the point where the curving occurred or directly above it. In fact this phenomenon of root branching has been repeatedly observed on numerous species of plants both cultivated and native. Usually one of the main roots penetrated quite vertically downward and a maximum depth of 2 feet was reached. Although profuse branching occurred in the surface soil at depths greater than 2 inches, below 8 to 10 inches the thread-like main root was poorly branched (Fig. 72). Usually 4 to 6 short branches (none over 1.5 inches long) per inch of root arose. The last 4 to 7 inches of the glistening white, fairly tough, main, vertical roots were unbranched.

If I read Fig. 72 right, it looks like the tomato roots in the 1st foot extend for 2ft. at each side. A month later [fig.73] the roots extend vertically 3ft on each side.
.... scroll way down to "Effects of roots on soil" interesting stuff about growth retarding effect on certain plants by the roots of others -- even as a follow-up crop.

hope this helps

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 8:06PM
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aznativenewbie11(Tempe 9/sunset 13)

Dan,
Thank you for that answer.

Thank you for all the other responses and information. I promise to never use the term "companion planting" again, and I apparently have a lot to learn. :)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 6:48AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Companion planting has a long history, much of it was anecdotal, but in recent years the USDA's sustainable agriculture people have done research on this and found it does have basis in fact. Some plant combinations help others grow, some plant combinations help by confusing the insect pests so they cannot find the plants the insect pests prefer, some plants are antagonistic to others such as most legumes and most alliums.
There are a large number of resources on Companion planting on the internet, some good, some not so good, but this concept is not mythology.

Here is a link that might be useful: Companion Planting

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 6:57AM
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Dan Staley

I think companion planting is a completely acceptable term, we learned it in undergrad hort classes, and as kimmsr implied, OK. Good conversation starter, too.

Dan

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 10:15AM
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organicdan(z5b Nova Scotia)

Companion planting does work. Most important is knowing which plants do conflict.

Every plant exudes something for a purpose. Most exudes are to enhance biological activity so able to obtain essential nutrients. Some exudes are defensive against disease, pest or infringement by other plants.

If a plant is listed or demonstrated to be antagonistic to another, avoid close proximity planting. With rooting habits so varied it is best to separate by at least 10 feet. The Root Development link in an above post is a great one to understand how roots can develop in the best of soil conditions.

A good companion often has benefits whether nutrient sharing, pest related repulsing or attracting beneficial insects.

A mixed planting is more natural that mono cropping and does provide benefits when carefully matched.

There is very little research published but there are many who have experienced good results. It can apply equally to crop rotations; some plants do better when following another; i.e. - heavy feeders after a legume is a prime example.

Try it and make your own judgement. Use one of the many charts as a guide for planning. Allow each plant its own space for growth and be confident that they do get along great as neighbours.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 10:37AM
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gardengal48

There are valid underlying scientific principles supporting some practices of companion planting/intercropping but not necessarily all. Unfortunately, many of the popular companion planting charts have not been developed based on these principles but gathered from traditional and folk practices over the years and offer anecdotal partnering at best. If you look at several different charts, you will get conflicting information (like the tomato-radish no-no, which I could find NO documentation for). The trick is to sort through folk practices and uncover the science - the ATTRA site is not a bad place to start.

The following link sheds a bit more light on the subject but I'd not be inclined to let "traditional" companion planting do's and dont's rule my world without understanding the 'why', if any.

Here is a link that might be useful: the 'myth's of companion planting

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 10:59AM
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Dan Staley

Most exud[at]es are to enhance biological activity so able to obtain essential nutrients. Some exud[at]es are defensive against disease, pest or infringement by other plants.

I'd switch the 'most' and 'some', which would accurately contextualize the issue in the OP.

And GG's link is most helpful for the first para on the second page, which the OP can use to do additional searches to help their quest.

Dan

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 12:50PM
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borderbarb

A thought comes to mind from this discussion.-.
A good reason to keep a garden journal is to help us learn more about plant life, and about the soil life within our gardens.
Successes and failures, good season, poor season, experimental and standard practices, pushing the envelope of what can be planted,& where.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 1:31PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Is planting corn, beans, and squash or pumpkins in the same bed "intercropping" or "companion planting" or is it both. Pretty much those terms are interchangeable, except for those few that need very precise definitions.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 7:24AM
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organicdan(z5b Nova Scotia)

"Intercropping" is a mixed planting. They use resources better than a single planting. Intercropping usually reduces weeds since fewer resources are left for weeds.

Incropping is best when complimentary such as with legumes or differing rooting habits.

Interseeding or underseeding are also similar. Your goal is your guide. Often a green manure is seeded into a cash crop, or a catch crop to gather excess nutrients, or simply to better use ground without monocropping.

The use of a term is much dependant on the context. Companion planting usually makes reference to how well plants interact, whether intentional or not. Few gardeners look at mixed plantings when one plant shows negative responses; usually thinking first of a pest or disease.

None of my vegetable beds have a single species. There is usually some benefit for use of growing habit, pest impact, nutrient contribution or varied rooting. Some plants are poor neighbours.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 10:12AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

When you companion plant, ie. planting tomatoes with your asparagus, mint, rosemary, sage with the cabbage family, peas with carrots, beans and corn and squash family you are also mixing one plant with another, or intercropping.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 6:41AM
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organicdan(z5b Nova Scotia)

In my plot I use wide beds with three plantings in staggered rows for the most part. With lettuce and carrots I inter-seed radishes.

The center rows tend to be taller plants. The east side favours a plant tolerating shade and the west side getting a longer sun exposure.

Selected plantings are permitted to go to seed. The blossoms support beneficials while I get the seed. Biennials replanted for seed are usually the first to bolt.

All is on a five year rotation and entire bed layouts get shifted. Growing heirlooms may see a new variety trialed and a new bed created to meet isolation space. Plots are separated by miles to accomodate my seed saving activity.

Companion matching works for me. The emphasis is avoidance of antagonistic plantings. Most are separated from antagonists by 3-4 beds which translates to 10-12+ feet.

The same principles apply to my cover cropping.

Personal research is looking into rhizosphere biology and the interaction of exudations. There is much to learn. The current reading is linked below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Root Exudation and Rhizosphere Biology

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 10:38AM
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