Lucky girl that I am, I recently got to go on a little press trip to check out the Growing the Future project at the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.
Essentially it is a food –planting project, which aims to teach local women agricultural and horticultural skills, with a bit of business and general life-skills thrown in to the mix too. It is wonderful work that they are doing, but what really captured my imagination is the horticultural concept of companion planting, visible in all of the Growing the Future veggie patches.
Inspired by what I learnt at the project, I did a little more ‘rooting’ around on the web and discovered all of this:
Companion planting is a technique used in the cultivation of vegetables (and other plants) which involves planting complimentary species close to each other, thus maximising the use of soil nutrients, space and avoiding the use of chemicals. If done correctly, companion planting can keep weed and insect infestations at bay, increase production, enhance the flavour of your veggies and contribute to the environment (even the mini eco-system in your garden is worth caring for). Pesticides, after all, kill bugs – pests and friends alike, as well as birds and your pet rabbit, Bugsy. They also destroy your soil over a long period and make further gardening endeavours fruitless.
- Companion gardening to keep pests at bay…
Word on the garden path is that flowers are the answer. They draw them insects away from the veggie patch, and can also be used to attract insect-gobbling bird species.
Apparently flowers like alyssum work a treat, as well as herbs like garlic, chives and oregano.
- Companion planting to cope with weeds…
Tall plants like onions, parsnips and tomatoes, planted strategically, can prevent weeds from thriving by blocking out the sun. Alternatively you could use the weeds to your advantage in much the same way as you’d use the flowers i.e. as a decoy to attract the ‘bad’ bugs.
- Companion planting to increase your yield…
This one is about being weary of which plants you place side-by-side. An example to avoid might be basil and tomato. This is for two reasons: Tomatoes grow relatively tall, thus blocking the light from the basil, preventing it from doing well. Tomatoes and basil also grow at similar speeds, thus the 2 plants are constantly in competition for soil nutrients. A better combination might be corn and potatoes. The shade from the corn plants keeps the soil moist, providing good conditions for the potatoes.
And that friends, is the end of this mini-tutorial on companion planting. If, however, you wish to explore further visit this link:
What do you think? Have you tried companion gardening? Do you have any recommendations?