Sunday, January 29, 2012

Companion planting and cover crops

This book is one of my favorite gardening tools. Companion planting or biodynamic farming and gardening are methods of gardening that seek to
emulate the processes that occur in natural plant communities in order to maximize health and yield of our gardens while avoiding all unnatural chemical input and continually improving the quality of the soil.

The practices include planting herbs and flowers within and around vegetable gardens to attract beneficial insects that might prey on the destructive insects. Planting strong smelling herbs amid vegetable plants might serve to repel or confuse insects that rely on smell to find a plant. Knowing that nitrogen fixing plants like beans and peas help to improve the soil might inform a decision to plant heavy feeders next to or after these legumes.

In this Dutch House kitchen garden, I am experimenting with using fava beans and common buckwheat as winter cover crops. The seeds were planted January 10, 2012. I wanted to plant cover crops in the fall but did not because the gardens were so productive. I read that fava beans can germinate in soil temperatures as low as 35 degrees F but suspect that the buckwheat might wait until spring to germinate. Here is a page from Cornell University discussing the types and benefits of cover crops.

Lists of plants that benefit each other and plant combinations to avoid have been compiled based upon observations. They are worth exploring and experimenting with in our efforts to grow beautiful healthy food in alliance with the natural processes that sustain us and our planet.

I noticed in this garden this past autumn that the brussels sprouts plants that were growing amidst the borage suffered no damage from the cabbage moth worms. I will be sure to scatter more borage seeds this year among the plants susceptible to that garden pest.

Here is a fact sheet from Cornell University on the topic of companion planting.

There is a wealth of information available on this topic. Here is another site with a list of plant combinations to encourage and to avoid. And here is another list from North Dakota State University.

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