Potager Article #7

A series of articles presented by Candy Horton, OSU Extension Clermont County Master Gardener Volunteer

In everything new that we start there are difficulties. The garden is fast changing in that some of the onions that I planted last fall are growing wonderfully and I have been harvesting the asparagus for several weeks now. I have the first batch of radishes, carrots, and two different lettuces growing great and will need to plant the next succession soon. I have cabbage, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, and lots of flower seeds under lights and ready to start hardening off to plant next week. The downside of the garden is that the cold frame has not been as successful as I had hoped it would be, so I need to go back to the starting point with that project, reread about them to make sure that I am doing things correctly and try again. I will keep working on it and I will not really need it until this fall, so I think, I have plenty of time to work on them and get them working the way that I want.

The weather this week looks to be fantastic, so I am working on the layout of my garden and getting the raised beds marked out and laid out to see if I need to move things around or change the size of some of the beds. I am also looking at where I am going to plant my plants and the combinations of plants. This idea has several names, companion planting or intercropping is just a couple of them. The idea behind companion planting is that by planting certain plants close together they will help each other out and you will have a larger yield, healthier plants, and renewed soil. For example, it is said that by planting basil or parsley in among your tomatoes and pepper plants your plants will be healthier, larger and have a better harvest. It is said that by planting marigolds in among your garden, you will repel harmful insects that would damage your crops.

The history of companion planting is one that can be traced back centuries but cannot be pinpointed to one specific place or time. One that I remember reading about as a child was “The Three Sisters” used by the American Indians. The Indians would plant corn, beans, and squash together in the same spot, providing support for the beans, and shade for the squash. The squash provided a type of mulch to hold in moisture, and weed control for all three plants, while the bean replenished nutrients in the soil that all of them needed. Some of the theories are that some plants will add nutrients back into the soil that helps the others grow. Some plants will have an odor about them that will repel insects, some plants release chemicals into the soil that is beneficial to other plants. Another way to use companion planting is by having sun-loving plants in the same bed as shade loving so that the one will provide shelter for the other. Another combination could be shallow rooted plants in with deep rooted plants where the deep-rooted plants will help reduce compaction, aerate the soil, and loosen it up a bit. However, for me, I will need to do a little bit of trial and error to see which combination of plants together will benefit my garden and which ones will not. I am going to be planning some pepper and tomato plants this week. I will be adding some basil in with them to see what happens. I’m planting carrots, potatoes and radishes in several beds to help break up some of the areas of my garden that have a lot more clay so that when I add the leaf mulch next year, the nutrients from the leaf mulch will move further down into the soil than if I hadn’t planted the root based crops.  I hope this gives you a different perspective on how what you plant, which plants you put together and where you plant your crop does truly affect your garden.

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