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It’s that time of year again! Time to sit down with pen, paper (or computer) along with seed packets to chart out this year’s garden. Taking the time to do a little planning and coordinating of plants will increase your yields and cut down on work! So, here’s how to plan your best garden using companion planting!
Understanding how companion planting works will help you to overcome many common garden problems.
Unwanted pests, disease and low yields can be virtually eliminated from your garden when you use crop rotation and companion planting.
Defined, “Companion Planting” is the placement of two or more plants next to each other, in order to enhance the growth, health or flavor of each plant.
There are many books written on the subject of companion planting, but I’m going to share one of my favorites. I really LOVE “Carrots Love Tomatoes” by Louise Riotte, because it’s so easy to use. But first, we need to get a basic garden plan outlined, then I’ll show you how to integrate companion plants.
I have two large garden plots, but this year I will only be planting in the one closest to the house. I’m scaling back just a bit on garden production for several reasons, you can read all about why I’m choosing to downsize here.
Before I plan my garden, I take inventory of what canned items I still have from last year, and decide what I need for this year. I am completely out of green beans, so that’s a priority in this years garden. The canned tomato inventory is holding up, but I will still plant tomatoes and focus more on marinara sauce, rather than canning just the tomatoes. Everyone in my family loves a good salad, so I’ll include a salad bed again this year.
One other note, my asparagus bed needs a new home. I’ve had 2 fails at an asparagus patch in the back plot, so I plan to bring it to the kitchen garden plot. I’m thinking the asparagus just stays too wet in the big plot out back, and will fair better in a different location.
Reviewing what I planted and where I planted it last year from my farm journal, I can begin to plot out this years garden. Crop rotation is critical to an organic garden! Having a record of last year’s garden can insure that you don’t plant in the same places you did last year.
Here’s my list of what I would like to get from the garden this year:
Sugar Snap peas
Lettuce and other salad veggies
Zucchini and eggplant would be a nice extra, but are not essential because I have a friend who always has extra!
To be honest, I’m a pencil and paper kind of girl, and prefer to write things of this nature in my farm journal. But for the sake of this post, I’m going to use Territorial Seed Company’s fabulous garden planner. They offer a free 7-day trial and I truly recommend it for anyone who prefers to do their garden planning on a computer.
My kitchen garden plot is about 50×40, give or take. Here’s the final plan that I came up with for this summer! Each row will be explained as to why and how the crops compliment each other to bring the healthiest garden and highest yield possible!
Beginning in Row 1, I plant marigolds or calendula around the perimeter (or at least 2 sides) of the garden. This step is critical and cannot be skipped! Calendula and marigold attract ladybugs and keep many of the bad bugs away. I also plant nasturtiums here and there around the garden, for the same reason. Read more about attracting good bugs to your garden here.
I need to deal with where to plant my new asparagus bed. Remember, asparagus is a perennial and so this bed will be somewhat permanent. A healthy asparagus bed can last for 30 years! Choosing the right spot is critical. I’ve tried twice now to get an asparagus bed started in the back garden lot, but I believe that it’s too wet back there. So, I’m bringing the asparagus to the kitchen garden, closer to the house.
But since the asparagus will spread somewhat, it’s going to need room on either side. I could have placed it right down the middle of the plot, but something about that idea didn’t sit right with me. So, I decided to plant the asparagus in the second and third and fourth row of the garden.
Row 2 and 5 will be tomatoes, along with complimentary crops. Here’s where I grab “Carrots Love Tomatoes” and look in the “Vegetable” chapter. Referring to page 25 in “Carrots love Tomatoes“, it tells me that tomatoes do not do well with cabbage, potatoes and fennel. However, on page 26, the book tells me that “tomatoes will protect asparagus against the asparagus beetle”…awesome! That’s why I decided to put tomatoes on both sides of the asparagus in Rows 2 and 5.
I also read that tomatoes do well with chives, onion, parsley, marigold, nasturtium, garlic and carrot…and this is exactly what I decided to do! Carrots were planted in and around the tomatoes in Row 2. However, the tomatoes in Row 5 were planted along with basil, because in the “Herbs” chapter (page 29) of “Carrots Love Tomatoes“, I read that basil helps tomatoes to overcome insects and disease.
See how amazing this book is? It’s a great way to plan your garden by just flipping around the chapters to see what works with what. Don’t make the garden planning process harder than it has to be, just allow the book to guide you as you refer to your garden needs list.
In Row 6, I planted a row of bush beans (which I’ll switch out with Sugar Snap Peas later in the season), but not until I refer to page 6 in my book. I read that green beans do well with corn, and so I planted three rows of corn in Rows 7, 8 and 9. Frankly, I haven’t planted corn in years because of the deer out back, who do so much damage, so we’ll see how this goes in the garden plot closer to the house.
Since I have three rows of corn in my garden, I flip to page 15 to “Corn” to see what crops might be beneficial here. Melons, squash, pumpkins and cucumbers not only enjoy the shade that the corn provides, it keeps raccoons away! It also mentions that marigolds keep the Japanese beetle away from the corn, so I’ll integrate a few of those in that row as well.
As you can see in Rows 7, 8 and 9, I inter-planted cantaloupe, watermelon and pumpkin.
Cucumber and onion finish off Row 10, remember how the corn likes cucumbers?
Now to Row 11, which is where I plan my “Salad Row”. I like to make the “Salad Row” near one end of the garden or the other, just for easier access. Here I plant romaine lettuce and radishes, but an added benefit is that on page 16 of “Carrots Love Tomatoes“, I read that radish does well with cucumber and even protects against cucumber beetles. I finish the row with a few eggplant.
Isn’t this book the coolest?? It’s one of my favorites for garden planning.
Finally, Row 12 will consist of more calendula (marigold) and we are finished! I was able to plan this garden in less than an hour, although planting will take longer!
This garden will take me close to a week to plant, considering all of my other chores around the farm. It’s going to be a great gardening season! Learn more about how to control weeds organically here!