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Companion Planting—what is it? And how does it work? | TLM Blog

Email sent: Jul 31, 2020 1:01pm

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Companion planting—what is it? And how does it work?


Year-Round Companion Planting for Organic, Pesticide-Free Gardening!

Just as we understand in the animal kingdom how different, unrelated species will mutually benefit one another, whether intentionally or not, so too does the plant kingdom experience the same caliber of harmony and symbiosis (mutual benefit). Herbs, fruits, grains, vegetables, and ornamental flowers offer a wide variety of benefits to surrounding plants both above soil (pest control, disease, pollination, and physical support) while amending soil nutrition and tilth to deter soil-borne diseases, insects, and weeds, while boosting flavor and yields.

Also known as intercropping among professional growers and greenhouses, companion planting is the purposeful cultivation of mutually beneficial (symbiotic) plants grown immediately next to one another. These companion plants may be similar in size, shape, and taxonomy, or they may be very contrasting and seem to have nothing in common. But it is these differences that make for a healthier, organic, and less labor-intensive gardening season.

History of Companion Planting

For well over a thousand years, various methods of intercropping have been documented throughout the world that are still honored today. Most notably, as Americans, we’re familiar with the Native American agricultural tradition known as the "Three Sisters" method, in which corn, beans, and squash are grown in tandem––corn providing the tall support trellis for beans, while beans replenish the soil with nitrogen, and the low-growing squash cools and protects the roots of both the corn and squash. Chinese rice farmers have intercropped their rice fields with Mosquito Fern (azollo fern) because it keeps other plants from competing with the rice, transfers nitrogen back into the soil, while preventing mosquitoes from laying eggs in the field. Japanese growers traditionally intercrop with clover as a proven weed-suppressant, while East African farmers plant both Silverleaf desmodium and Elephant Grass to deter their seasonal pests. Companion plants are not universal and will need to be adjusted dependent on region, climate, and crop. . .

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