If you’re like me and have read numerous gardening books – I’m talking, books that teach you how to grow vegetables – you most certainly have run into the concept of companion planting. This method theorizes that certain plants are good to plant among other plants, because one either benefits the other, or they both provide mutual benefits to each other.
A popular pair, made famous by the book with these crops’ names in the title, is carrots and tomatoes. Some compound in the roots of carrots facilitates the growth and production of tomatoes..although the reverse is not true.
Planting aromatic herbs – oregano, thyme, and rosemary, for example – among your crops repels certain pests. So does planting pungent flowers such as nasturtiums and marigolds. I used to spend a good deal of money every year buying flowers and herbs for companion planting (and have probably a dozen seed packets of herbs I purchased for this reason), but after living here for a couple of years, I realized there was an easier and cheaper way. The following video (and the text below it) explains how.
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The cheap, easy way to do companion gardening? Let nature take its course. The first year, of course, there won’t be much growing in the way of wild plants because you have just spent a lot of time clearing the space for your garden.
But seeds spread easily. The second year of your garden, you will have had a few wildflower and non-noxious weed seeds land in the soil. Let them grow where it’s not inconvenient to your crops; for example, along the edges or in between plants where there is space enough for both. Keep in mind that deeply-rooted weeds, like dock and dandelion, are actually helpful because they bring up the water and nutrients they need from much deeper in the soil than the cultivars will. In other words, they are not stealing from your crops. Moreover, they both have medicinal properties, and both young dock leaves and dandelion leaves (well, all parts of the dandelion, actually) are edible.
Flowers bring in the pollinators, and can end up costing a pretty penny if you buy them from a nursery. So just let the local wildflowers plant themselves around. Her in southeast Oklahoma, we have two or three kinds of low-growing flowers (including the mint-related herb, henbit) that start feeding the honeybees as early as mid-February if the past few weeks has brought fairly mild weather.
The only downside to this cheap way of companion planting is that until you become familiar with all the local weeds, you don’t know which ones are going to produce burrs and stickers when they go to seed. Those you either don’t want to allow to grow in your garden, or you want to pull them out before they go to seed, or just let one plant from each variety in a low-trafficked area of your garden go to seed.
There you go: how to do companion planting the lazy way!