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Thread: really need help with companion planting

  1. #1

    Default really need help with companion planting

    Basically I have a limited amount of space and a really short growing season. Gardening season here starts in April (for cool weather stuff, weather cooperating) and the main season is in end of May; it ends in September-November (depending on weather).

    I'd like to maximize my space and extend growing season by doing companion planting.

    I have some ideas, but I honestly have no clue what I'm doing; they're guesses at best.

    beans/okra with 'short crops' (leafy green stuff and root veggies)

    corn with melon/squash (this IS NOT three sisters)

    root veggies with fruiting crops (by fruiting crops I mean eggplant, tomato, peppers).

    I figured this would be a natural since they both need potassium and phosphorus as their main nutrients; however would planting them together cause them to compete for food?

    I could also use advice on what to plant with brassicas since they're a difficult crop group to pair with other veggies. Somebody suggested members of the onion family goes well with them but I don't know. By brassicas I mean 'cole crops' (turnips, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, green cabbage, red cabbage, chinese cabbage, etc.)

  2. #2
    Registered Users
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Midwest, Zone 4b


    I looked into companion planting before the 2011 season. At first it looked really promising as I had the same restrictions as you (average last frost May 15, average first hard frost Oct 15 usually a non-killing frost in mid-Sept.). The further I dug the less solid information I could find. Finally I found out that companion planting was originally developed by a German pseudo-scientist by pureeing plants together and looking at the shape of the crystalline formation after the mix dried out. A bunch of people grabbed onto it and never questioned the results aside from 'this works for me'. This companion planting is to grow carrots under the tomatoes and basil will make tomatoes taste better.

    What you're talking about sounds more like typical crop rotation and succession planting.

    The three you list sound good for the most part.

    Beans and okra (though I've never grown or even eaten okra) are warm weather plants and the greens, especially thinner leafed types, are cool weather. So you plant the greens early and about the time you start to harvest them it's time for the beans. Then once the beans are done you can often sneak in another crop of fall greens though it may be a micro salad.

    Corn has never worked for me and I quit trying. It is such a common crop that it seems everything eats and attacks it.

    I don't like to put root crops too close to the large fruiting things as I don't like to disturb the roots of a tomato while harvesting something else.

    Do you eat basil or use it for things like pesto? I like to have basil next to peppers and tomatoes but for different reasons. The peppers like it humid and growing another plant close to them helps keep humidity high but the pepper plant is large enough that the basil, usually, won't over grow the pepper. With tomatoes I trim off the lower leafs to control diseases and the basil just fits under them well.

    Avoid putting too many tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants close together as they are all attacked by the same pests and fungi. You know the Irish potato famine? Over here we call it late blight and it can wipe out your tomatoes within a week without harsh chemicals.

    Many cole crops tend to be large and hog space like broccoli, cabbage, brussles sprouts, and cauliflowers. Being space hogs they tend not to play well with others.

    You mentioned onion and garlic. I quit with onion as they cost more to grow from sets than to buy and the flavor is so dependent on soil chemistry. Garlic on the other hand was about the biggest bang for the buck in my garden last year. I bought hard neck garlic. Plant it in mid October, mulch it with leafs after soil surface is frozen, pull the mulch back in spring, and harvest in July. You then have time for a crop of fall broccoli too. Once you buy the initial garlic heads you can save a few each year and grow them next year. There are pests but next to nothing bothers them.

    To some extent you will just find what works best in your yard and your methods. While you can read a lot there is stuff that just requires you progress up the learning curve. One book I reference a lot, even after I moved out of the mitten, is The Midwest Fruit and Vegetable Book - Michigan Edition by James A. Fizzell. First printing was 2001 and I have no clue if you can still find it.

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