How does companion planting help in an organic farm setting?

Along with pest control, companion couples can help in other ways. They can provide protection and support to their main crops in the form of weed control, erosion control and water retention, creating shade, and structural support. How exactly does companion planting work and what are some of the benefits? Organic gardeners have been practicing companion planting (or intercropping) for most of recorded history; its benefits have not been scientifically documented until recently. This is an organic gardening technique in which two or more plants are grown close to each other so that they can provide benefits to each other in some way.

One plant can discourage a certain disease or pest, while another can improve the flavor or improve the growth of the neighbor. It could be the scent of flowers or the foliage of a companion plant and it could be the activity of the soil it produces. Legumes (for example) add nitrogen to the soil, which reduces the amount of actual “fertilization” that must be done. Many know that marigolds are great for growing around tomatoes, pumpkins, pumpkins and potatoes, but do you know why? Marigolds produce thiopene.

Thiopene repels nematodes, so wouldn't it make sense to plant marigolds around tubers that are prone to nematode attack? Science has a name for this, allelopathy. As we learn to sustain and maintain our soil with resource conservation techniques, we learn to sustain ourselves. When we design a garden with this in mind, we work with the land and not against nature. We know how to solve all the problems related to food, clean energy and sensible housing in all climates; we have already invented and tested all the necessary techniques and technical devices, and we have access to all the biological material we could use.

The overall goal is to increase net performance or quality, and different combinations achieve this in different ways. Some complementary plants (p. ex.,. Unless you highly value marigolds on their own, you should compare their repellent value to cabbage plants they may have displaced (by adjusting the spacing).

The benefit is more clear when the repellent plant is also a useful crop. For example, I plant nasturtiums between my cuckoos to drive away striped cucumber beetles, spacing my cucumber hills much more widely so that no crop outweighs the other. That might seem like a sacrifice if I didn't like pickled green nasturtium seeds so much. An ideal deterrent combination, such as beans and potatoes, works both ways.

Beans are supposed to repel Colorado potato beetles, and potatoes are supposed to repel Mexican bean beetles. In my experience, this works, but not as well as I would like. I've been told that it works 100 percent against potato beetles if you alternate rows of each crop AND you alternate the beans within the rows of potatoes, which doesn't come close to the proportion at which I eat those foods. If something just “helps deter” a pest, how good is that? I still have to deal with the problem, although it's minor.

Sometimes that makes little difference, sometimes it makes all the difference. Often, the combined effects of two “helpers” exceed the sum of their separate effects. For example, flax also repels potato beetles, most effectively when flax is planted between rows of potatoes AND between potato plants within rows of potatoes. So the potato plants are a little farther apart, maybe 18 inches apart, which isn't a big loss, since flax is an excellent oil crop, rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

But unless you plan to knit your own bedding, you won't need as much linen as potatoes. So sometimes I plant alternate rows of beans and potatoes, with a flax plant (or several) between the potato plants. However, if potato plants only “help deter Mexican bean beetles, how can we increase that defense? Well, the plants of the cosmos reportedly repel Mexican bean beetles, and I think that's true to a certain extent. The cosmos seems appealing to me, but perhaps most importantly, I don't make any spatial adjustments for them; I just place them every two feet inside rows of beans and they don't clutter anyone up.

I use cosmos transplants to give them a little advantage). My experience with each component of this strategy is encouraging, but I have too little experience with polyculture to say that it is a panacea; I suppose it isn't. However, there's nothing to lose unless you become complacent and assume that you can ignore the pests. Companion plants are your allies, not your substitutes.

One thing that will undoubtedly gain from this complexity is insurance. Regardless of how well the mutual repellent works or doesn't work, you've confused the pests and disrupted their eating patterns. Most parasitic insects locate host plants by subtleties of color (for them, green is not just green), chemical signals, or sometimes by random landing. A mixed dish confuses them and, since they waste time looking for their next meal, they don't eat.

For many pests, that can be a serious obstacle. Similarly, carrots extract minerals for their own use; they enrich the soil only after the carrots are dead, assuming that their waste is returned to the soil. However, these two species coexist, since their self-sufficiency means that they compete less with each other than peas with peas or carrots with carrots. There should be enough calcium for peas, but if there is, they don't have to share it with carrots; if there's enough nitrate for carrots, they might keep it for themselves.

Morphologies of sociable plants Sometimes, one companion only provides physical support to the other, such as sunflowers and pole beans. For years I grew sunflowers in blocks, in rows from east to west, 3 feet apart, with plants 12 inches apart within the rows. This maximized exposure to the prevailing winds from the north, which caused a significant “accumulation” or fall of the heavy stems. I realized that planting three plants each on 3-square-foot hills would leave “walkways” in both directions where the wind could travel with less damage.

In theory, a great idea, but the three floors were moved away from each other to maximize exposure to the sun, and THAT caused them to stay, with or without wind. With many companions (but not all), we must reduce the planting density of each one to avoid overcrowding. If you plant each couple in the middle of their usual space, and if each couple gives their usual performance, you won't have gained or lost anything; you will come out anyway. But if the partners are compatible, you WILL GAIN something: pest protection, shared space, support, etc.

Anything that exceeds 50 percent adds up to more than 100 percent. In reality, what I am describing is the worst-case scenario. I plant the sunflowers at their usual density (100 percent), as if they were alone. Then I plant six pole beans per hill, 6 inches apart, which is 67 percent of their normal density.

Sunflowers don't seem to suffer one iota from this; in fact, the intertwined grains prevent them from staying, so you may be getting more than 100 percent of the expected harvest. And the beans? They must be somewhat suppressed by the shade of the plants they support, but it's hard to tell; they seem to produce at least half of what they would produce on bare poles (remember that they were planted with a density of 67 percent); I've never checked that very carefully. But if I consider sunflowers to be the main crop (they are an important staple in my diet) and pole beans as a supplement, then the bean yield is a sauce; the sum of the parts is about 160 percent or more. Many repellent plants are only useful as repellents or, realistically, the amount required to protect the crop cannot be used.

That's not a problem if repellent plants can be grown between crops without sacrificing any of the latter: the cosmos in bush beans, for example. Planting horseradish “in the corners of a potato patch” is said to deter Colorado potato beetles, but how small should that “patch” be? I tried it and saw little effect other than the persistence of horseradish in those areas for many years after rotating the potatoes elsewhere. In the same way, we plant mint on our cabbage as recommended to drive away white moths. It probably worked well; all I remember is spending the next two seasons removing the mint.

Failure is the mother of wisdom. Numerous books and websites list dozens of complementary possibilities. Most agree with my own experience, although the title of the best-known book, Carrots Love Tomatoes, is an egregious mistake; carrots seriously atrophy due to the proximity of tomatoes. However, many of these sources lack details; for example,.

I plant them together in wide beds, a row of peas in the middle with a double row of carrots on each side. My parents mixed theirs in individual rows. To accommodate the carrots, they sowed the peas excessively thinly (peas love to pile them up, by the way). They sacrificed too many peas without a proportional gain in carrots, and yet they wasted the same amount of space between rows.

Nor could they dilute or tear off the early carrots to enjoy them without damaging the peas. They concluded that this combination of nonsense was not for them. Similarly, everyone recommends onions to repel various pests, especially carrot rust flies. That's true, but BULB onions do poorly in tight spaces with most other crops.

They may grow well with a little shade, but they won't “form” as well. So I plant bulbous onions on their own, perhaps with something frilly, such as coriander or poppies, in the center of the bed, and use scallions, or bunched onions, as a close complement to other crops. Some complementary plants are valued because they ATTRACT pests, presumably keeping them away from the desired crop. For example, eggplant will drive Colorado potato beetles away from potato plants.

They are called “trap crops”, which is somewhat misleading, because the pest can and eventually will return freely to the main crop, especially after increasing its numbers in the trap. It's supposed that, as the pests concentrate in the trap, you'll catch them there and destroy them; but if you neglect it, you can exacerbate your problem. If you're diligent, it's a good tool. This combination is common among traditional farmers in India, who have been working out details of varieties and densities for centuries.

Peas: Peas have long roots that fix nitrogen in the soil and provide masses of organic matter for tilling. “Complementary” or partner plants, strategically placed together with the companion planting, will maximize the health of your garden by adding nutrients to the soil, deterring pests with the natural biology of the plants, and maximizing your garden space by using the characteristics of the plant to your advantage. To help you set your garden up for success this season, I've created a complementary planting guide for children from farm to table for you to consult, along with some key plant traits (%26 habits that seem beneficial to me with companion planting). Thyme: a beneficial plant for the garden, it is worth planting especially close to Brassicas (since it repels cabbage moths) and strawberries, as it enhances the flavor.

Phacelia: An essential item in any organic gardener's tool set, this multi-purpose annual flower matures quickly and is incredibly attractive to a host of pollinators and beneficial insects. Companion planting is a fundamental practice of organic agriculture, because it helps to position plants with partner plants that benefit from each other. Avoid planting potatoes near asparagus, brassicas, carrots, cucumbers, rutabaga, melons, parsnips, rutabaga, pumpkins, sunflowers and turnips. Oats: grows very fast for quick tillage to add organic matter to beds, and works well when planted with clover or peas.

Radish: Plant radishes near beans, beets, celery, chervil, cucumber, lettuce, mint, parsnip, peas, spinach, squash, and tomatoes. Borage deters caterpillars from tomato hornworms and cabbage moths, and is particularly good if planted near tomatoes and strawberries. Potato: Bush beans, celery, corn, garlic, marigolds, onions, and peas grow well if planted close to potatoes. .

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