companion planting

thedarkness(5)April 20, 2014

when attempting companion plantings, how close do the different crops have to be? does it work in a general vicinity like alternating rows, or do they have to be inter planted within that one row?

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It depends on what you're trying to do...what effect you're looking for out of what companion.

Many are useless or based on really thinly "proven" evidence. Myself, the only one I strongly believe in is planting bee-friendly flowers near plants that need good and constant bee pollination populations (especially squash/melons). This doesn't require any planting in your actual veggie garden (unless the plot is acres huge) and only requires an attractive patch of flowers they like to hang out in near your veggie garden.

A lot of pest/disease/nutrient claims for companion planting has effects blown way out of a reality-experienced proportion.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 5:56PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

You'll want to check out the Companion Planting forum here for relevant info. It is a school of thought many don't subscribe to given the lack of actual or practical evidence to support its many claims.


Here is a link that might be useful: Companion Planting

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 8:27PM
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Companion planting used to be quite common and was practiced by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and many others.
Some of the companions should not be planted any further apart then normal plant spacing while others may need more space.

Here is a link that might be useful: companion planting

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 6:34AM
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Does anyone here have any practical experience with companion planting organically to achieve a particular benefit? In my experience when you venture onto other forums you first have to suffer a barrage of posts trying to talk you out of growing organically.

Personally I just plant away. I have not seen any difference when something is planted next to or after some other plant.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:32AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Two different schools of thought - organic and companion planting. While they are not mutually exclusive neither requires the other either.

Anecdotal experience with combining the two - yes, I have read many posts on various forums about it and done some of it myself. The negativity is far more directed at the companion planting effects rather than the organic gardening.

As posted in big red letters on the site kimmsr linked:

not intended to solve garden problems as the suggestions may work differently in various situations or perhaps not at all. Don't let that discourage you from giving the ideas a try! What works for some may not work for others and vice versa.

Unfortunately most companion planting sites are not that forthcoming but rather make grandiose claims that simply don't stand up in real life.

In my gardens: Marigolds lead to vast aphid infestations on nearby plants, the 3 Sisters approach of corn, pole beans, and squash is a jungle mess with little production of any of the three crops since todays varieties are nothing like those used by the Amerindians, basil does not affect the flavor of the tomatoes grown next to it (even if it grows in the rich shaded soil), tomato plants stunt carrot growth, and rather than repel squash bugs from the squash plants they will come for the dill, etc.

The benefits of organic gardening are well- proven, well documented, well tested. Any benefits of companion planting are not and personal experience has proven to me that it provides little to no benefit in my climate, my garden. The exception is that nc-crn mentioned - planting pollinator attractants like bee balm and borage which I always do.

venture onto other forums you first have to suffer a barrage of posts trying to talk you out of growing organically

As an organic gardener I have found that other forums are much more tolerant of my comments when I don't preach organics at them like many of the organic purists do. Nor flame the non-organic growers when they elect to use chemicals. It is their choice just as it is my choice and that is something organic gardeners need to keep in mind too. There is no need to make a big deal that something MUST be organic just to ask a question. Ask it neutrally and you get neutral answers. Sure some will tout chems but many others will also offer organic advice and you can pick and choose from the answers.



    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 1:18PM
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what are the main reasons for not growing organically? one of the main reasons i grow organic is because i dont ave to buy a $20 bag of fertilizer

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 5:44PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

For NOT growing organically?

~Habit - the 'done it this way for 50 years with no problem' bit,

~convenience of the quick fix chemicals,

~manufacturer's marketing tactics - who wouldn't want the perfect garden MG shows in all its advertisements when all you have to do is spray the garden once a week?

~ease of access to supplies and costs - many don't have the access to compost and organic supplements like rural residents do. Buying compost and organic supplements costs more than any $20 bag of fertilizer.

~unrealistic expectations - I MUST have the perfect appearing garden with perfect fruits and vegetables with no flaws and I must have it NOW not 3 years from now.

~supplement phobias - why would I want bacteria in my garden? Wouldn't it contaminate my food? How could I eat corn grown with blood meal? eew! Is it true I can get cancer from using cottonseed meal? Won't alfalfa mulch cause weeds in my garden?

~bug phobia - the only good bug is a dead bug school of though and the quicker they are dead the better, Oh and wasps and snakes? Not in my garden!

~lack of valid and encouraging information about how to garden organically and how easy it is. Rather they get scare-mongering rants and claims that you "must have _______ or you must do ______ that. So making the whole process far more complex than it needs to be. You must buy 'organic' soil, you must use only 'organic seed'. You must not till the soil. You can never spray any weed killers. You can never use anything even remotely connected with Monsanto or Seminis, or Ortho, or etc. etc. You can't do it without a huge compost pile in you small suburban back yard. etc.

Sometimes organic gardeners are our own worst enemies.

~time and effort - OG requires more time and active participation than chemical gardening does. Too many think gardening is a once a week activity for only 3 months out of the year.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 6:51PM
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$20 bag of non-organic fertilizer? Are you growing a few acres or something?

Organic fertilizers tends to be rather pricey. I was -thrilled- when Miracle Grow started selling organic blood meal. All these companies pushing out blood meal at $5+ a lb and here comes Miracle Grow with a $2-$2.50 a lb product in 3lb bags. It's about time for those of us that don't need 50lb bags of the stuff (even if it's only $1-$1.50 a lb).

This post was edited by nc-crn on Mon, Apr 21, 14 at 18:59

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 6:52PM
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Having plants that can support predator insects is a good idea. Many predatory insects like pollen and nectar as adults. Give them something to eat and the bug-eating babies will be more numerous.

But the evidence for benefits of companion planting is weak, at best.

Here is a link that might be useful: pest control

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 7:05PM
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>> what are the main reasons for not growing organically?

I have a deep and close-to-clinical paranoia when thinking on how much those dear sweet chemical manufacturers care for me and mine. DDT was wonderful stuff all around. Lysol was pushed as a douche. Heroin was marketed to mothers to get their kids to behave. 2-4D, Malathion, Dioxin, Paraquat, stuff like that is everywhere. We're still not free of tetra-ethyl lead in the soil and air. Now that Round-Up resistant weeds are coming on strong, they're going to use harsher poisons. Kinda really not stuff that fosters trust.

I used to flood my animals with Sevin to kill their bugs. Mixed it up in a cooking pot (not making this up) with my bare hands. I'm not blameless in the spreading of poisons to my family.

But one really has to draw their own personal line somewhere and not pick one's ethics situation-by-situation. Organic food growing is only that: drawing a line and trying to stick to it. Planting garlic (fifty cents per ounce with free shipping at Amazon) all around the cukes is just trying to not go over the line. If it doesn't work, something else might.

Getting close to off-topic there...

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 7:27PM
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A basic tenet of organic growing is that the soil is the most important part of the equation, a good healthy soil will allow plant to grow strong and healthy and be better able to ward off insect pests and plant diseases without using poisons. While working toward the good healthy soil a gardener can use various tactics, without poisons, to help protect the plants and that includes companion planting which requires doing more learning then simply buying a bottle of Carbaryl.
We have done more damage to our environment, by spraying many of those long lasting poisons, since the 1940's then in the previous 100,000 years and we continue to do that. The insects that people try to control with those various poisons are developing immunities to them requiring stronger poisons to control them which will do more damage to the environment we live in. Some people are concerned that we can blow up this planet with the atomic bombs we have but we are doing a good job of destroying this planet with those poisons.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 6:45AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

We need to market organic gardening as what it is - it's direct benefits. It is easy, fun, relaxing, healthy, tasty and nutritional, a great learning experience, good exercise, decreased exposure to toxins, etc. rather than as a way to save the world or recoup the environmental damage done to the planet by decades of history.

Most people can't relate to those concepts, especially since the evidence is controversial at best, and they resent having it preached to them as it puts them on the defensive. They quite naturally resent the implication that by doing otherwise they are directly responsible for the destruction of the planet - talk about hyperbole!

But they can directly relate to the garden in their own backyard and what they eat. So talk to them about the personal and direct benefits of organic gardening without putting them on the defensive and those indirect benefits of contributing to the health and recovery of the planet will automatically follow.

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. :)


    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 9:19PM
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I use fewer pesticides than most "organic" gardeners and probably less fertilizer. I know I'm not buying and spreading animal feed like alfalfa pellets and corn gluten ... I leave that for the cows.

My main reasons for minimal use of pesticides and fertilizer are:

1 - I'm lazy
2 - I'm a cheapskate

If I can prevent weeds without buying and applying herbicides, grow vegetables without buying and spreading fertilizer, and keep the bugs and other pests under control by letting them kill each other, I'm happy. My budget is happy too.

I don't use something until I'm certain I need it, not just to prevent a few holes in my beet leaves. That said: If I need to use a commercial product, I read the directions and follow them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lazy cheapskate gardening.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 11:53AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Can't we just have one subject per thread?

Companion planting- I have done lots of this and now have a skeptical attitude about most of it. Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham explains it better than anyone.
Good to do: using various herbs and flowers in the garden to attract beneficials
Not worth it: putting in an herb or some other plant and thinking that will confuse bad bugs. The book I mentioned explains that you have to at least do 50/50 if not surround a tempting vegetable with other herb/plant to keep the bad bugs from it.
Also growing things together that make it too difficult to harvest or have no benefit at all. Example would be 3 Sisters but using sweet corn, green beans and squash instead of field corn, drying beans and squash. Furthermore growing legumes next to something that likes nitrogen doesn't do any good. You have to work in the legume after growing to release any nitrogen.
Using tall plants for shade generally doesn't work either. It just isn't shady enough.

I do a lot of interplanting and have tons of flowers and herbs with the veggies but I have gotten realistic about the companion planting claims. If you mix everything up too much you can't really rotate well.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 12:42PM
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I have a lot of allysum and oregano that flowers most of the summer, in case a bee or bug wants a snack of nectar. That and my Antigonon leptus (Queen's Wreath) is the extent of my companion planting.

We've been growing veggies for about 7 years, and because we aren't using broad-spectrum insecticides - "organic" or "inorganic" - the predatory bug populations have no problem keeping the pests under control. I occasionally have to use fire ant control granules because our native fire ants are nasty little things.

There's no magic bullet - you have to be willing to tolerate some insect damage on your vegetables. You have to have some messy areas for the birds. And your garden will never look like Martha Stewart's!

If you panic at the first sign of bugs and break out the neem oil, "Safer soap" and the Bt spray ... you'll never get the predator population you need no matter how purely organic you think you are and how many companions you have for your veggies.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:13PM
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