We all have relatives, friends, or people we turn to in times of need.
We’re also there for them when they experience hard times. Plants are not too different from us in that regard. They also have friends, and relatives. Plants get along with some plants better than others, and we can observe a general preference or perturbance between certain plant species.
When we say friends, we mean in the sense that one plant species may offer certain benefits, which are necessary for another plant with particular shortcomings. That’s basically what companion planting is a nutshell.
Companion planting is defined as the cultivation of various plant species, close together, for mutual benefit.
Companion agriculture has a plethora of advantages. These advantages stem far beyond better yields, and greater profitability.
Of course, selling one plant will result in less profit than selling two different plants, if they both grow in abundance without major issues.
However, companion planting offers benefits you may have never considered, these benefits include:
Companion planting can shelter crops with delicate foliage against weather extremes. These extremes can include too much rain or intense sunlight. Generally, companion planting won’t limit your risk if a tornado destroys all your crops, but the plants will protect each other in average circumstances.
Intertwining robust plant species which can take the brunt of wind and other unforgiving elements is a good idea if you live in an unpredictable environment, such as Missouri.
These sturdy varieties afford much-needed reinforcement for otherwise delicate plants nearby.
If certain insects have a sweet tooth for a particular plant in your garden, you can ward them off by growing companion plants alongside them.
Make sure the insects or pests don’t like the companion plants, and the smell alone can scare them away. This sort of companion planting proves an effective alternative to pesticides which pollute the soil and the general environment.
On the flip side, if there are insects you’d like to reel into your garden, companion farming can help you achieve that.
Insects such as bees and ladybugs can help pollinate plants. Many farmers and gardeners will appreciate a few spiders as well.
By growing flowers or crops that appeal to your target group, you can bring in those beneficial critters. Companion planting can be useful in attracting the insects you want around your plants to help with pollination, as well as deterring those you don’t want (pest control).
Instead of using wood and metal pillars to provide the base for climbing plants, you can opt to incorporate companion plants. Tall and strong varieties of plants can serve as the foundation for crops that grow upward. For example, on some Missouri farms, the corn plants provide scaffolding for the beans. They offer a sturdy vine to lean on as their companion grows.
For example, in Missouri beans are planted in mid – to late -April in the southern part of the state, and mid – to late -May in the northern part of the state. In central Missouri, we plant beans in early May. Corn is also planted between April 5th and June 10th, so these two make for perfect companions.
Nitrogen-fixing plants can make the soil a lot more fertile for their non-nitrogen-fixing counterparts.
This makes for greater yields, weather resistance, and additional nutritional benefits.
Companions of the sort ensure the healthy growth and development of delicate foliage.
Companion planting can also prevent weeds from taking over your garden. Weeds are dangerous because if you aren’t careful, they can suffocate your primary crops. Wide ground-covering species of plants get rid of those spaces which opportunistic plants like to exploit. This ensures your garden has very few unwelcome guests during your crop season.
Peas tend to invite aphids, but chives can send them in the opposite direction.
Tall plants such as sunflowers can also provide climbing support for the peas, enabling them to work their path to unobstructed sunlight. These also look very beautiful when planted together, so there is an additional aesthetic benefit to this pairing.
Basil, in particular, can serve as the bodyguard of your garden. The strong smell is perturbing to many pests, halting the advances of mosquitoes and flies. Basil can help you achieve higher yields as a result. And when the two are perfectly ripe, they make for excellent pizza toppings.
Other great tomato pairings are spinach, onions, celery, carrots, and asparagus. Almost all of these can be used in recipes together as well.
Much like sunflower and peas, a blend of green beans and corn ensures the former has the structural support it needs to rise into the sunshine. On the flip side, beans aerate and add nitrogen to the soil for the benefit of both plants. As mentioned above, these two also have very similar planting seasons, so it works well to plant them at the same time. The corn also provides the perfect scaffolding for the beans, a much cheaper alternative to wood and metal pillars.
The carrot fly, rightly named, is an obvious nuisance when growing carrots. However, these flies can be discouraged by the sharp smell of onions. The latter can also keep at arm’s length, aphids. From an onion’s point of view, other excellent neighbors include rosemary, parsnips, and beets. All of these can be combined into a delicious soup or stew, so it pays when they can ripen together as well.
Flowers also make for good companions.
They can inject vivid color and aesthetic appeal into any garden. They break the dominance of a single shade, and the boring natural shades of vegetables while adding their fragrance to the mix.
What’s more, they can channel destructive insects away from your plants. They’re essentially the scapegoat of the garden, with the ability to “take one for the team” allowing your fruits and vegetables to grow untouched.
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