When it comes to planning your garden it is important to consider where you plant your vegetables and what you plant next to them because each vegetable is unique in structure and flavor. Competing for root space and above ground space or just keeping the bugs away are important to consider when planning your garden. With any garden experience, trial and error will give you an idea of what works and what does not.
Three key points to companion planning in your garden are:
- Pest control
- Soil space and nutrients
- The cardinal points: north, south, east and west.
Pest control is a big factor in any garden because most of your pests come from the plant itself or the soil you plant it in. Not all bugs are bad; however, some are extremely beneficial such as pollinators and predators. Walking out to your garden and seeing spider webs strung from plant to plant can be a welcoming sight; however, remain observant of these eight-legged guests as spiders do eat potentially bad bugs, but they can also eat their share of good bugs as well. Planting companion plants next to each other can help deter a lot of the bad bugs. An example of this is decoy planting. Marigolds and Nasturtiums, which are edible, are good to plant between vegetables because they mask the smell of the vegetable plant, which in turn confuses the garden pests. They also repel pests such as nematodes and beetles.
Root space and soil nutrients have a huge impact on what you plant and where you plant them. Heavy feeders such as cucumbers and cabbage should be planted next to light-feeding carrots so there is no competition for soil nutrients. Planting shallow-rooted vegetables next to deep-rooted ones will eliminate root competition, as well as planting taller plants near shorter plants will provide some protection for small plants that are heat sensitive. For example, pepper plants provide shade for spinach and by the time spinach is harvested the pepper plants will have more space to grow. The same idea occurs with radishes, which harvest early, and chard which matures later.
Cardinal directions play one of the most important factors because without sufficient light most of your vegetables will not grow. Placing your garden on the south side of your home is the most desirable. If that is not possible the second-best option is the east or west side, which can get at least 6 hours of sun. Morning sun is preferable when choosing a spot for your garden because afternoon sun can get hot, making heat sensitive vegetables like carrots and lettuces deteriorate. Planting taller plants on the north side of your garden can also prevent shading plants that require more than 6 hours of sun like cucumbers and bush beans.
Garden planning is essential when finding companions for your vegetables. Vegetable relationships are important! So go find your plants some friends!