Even owners of large lots sometimes don’t have enough room for all their “wish lists”. How can I put it, the average cottage owner, their lot rarely exceeds the classic six acres!
But often we lose precious places for ourselves where we could grow lots of plants. Why leave strips of bare land if you can find suitable neighbors for the bed’s main inhabitants?
The latter (Companion planting) will also bring in a harvest without any additional space. How to make the most of the space in the vegetable garden, I will tell you in this article.
ADVANTAGES OF COMBINATION BEDS
The main purpose of combining vegetable crops in a bed is to make each square meter of the vegetable garden as productive as possible. But in addition, combination planting involves growing plants that “create a mutually beneficial partnership”.
Back then, gardeners noticed that certain crops helped other crops grow when planted together. For example, they could improve soil fertility, discourage pests, attract beneficial insect pollinators, or provide better shade for plants that suffered from direct sunlight.
This concept can be useful not only from the point of view of saving space in the vegetable garden but also for those who adhere to the principles of organic farming. After all, a qualified combination will help reduce the use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides.
As an example, let’s look at one of the famous companion planting methods that came to us from the North American Indians. These tribes traditionally planted corn, beans, and pumpkins together.
The long, sturdy corn stalks provide support for the climbing beans, which can climb on them as they grow. The beans are rich in nitrogen, which is good for both corn and pumpkins.
The long pumpkin vines with their huge leaves cover the ground, thus preventing the growth of weeds and shading the soil from the evaporation of water. Because of this perfect match in the bed, these crops are known as the “three sisters”.
There is a “modified” version of this type of cultivation in our region: cucumbers on corn stalks. This is also a quite viable option. However, some gardeners are disappointed with such a combination because they miss some details.
Therefore, when planting other vegetables next to corn, it is important to let the seedlings grow first, and then you can already add neighbors to it (after about a month).
Otherwise, the companions will simply clog its sprouts. In the case of cucumbers, you can replant the seedlings as soon as the corn is growing better. Fast-growing beans can also be sown a little later.
Don’t forget that co-growing is not only beneficial and useful but also very aesthetically pleasing. Rows of vegetable planting beds are not too pleasing to the eye, but combining different looking plants in one bed – it’s a work of art and a decoration for the neighborhood.
Ornamental vegetable gardens are not only nourishing but also pleasing to the eye. Today, lettuce, cabbage, and other crops come in a wide variety of bright and exotic leaves that can be successfully combined with traditional-looking vegetables.
SUN + SHADE TOLERANT
One of the most important ways to create a combination bed is to arrange plants by size, taking into account individual light requirements. Planting plants that require shade, in the company of taller plants, cast shade for neighbors.
In this case, it is best to place shade-loving plants on the north and east sides of the bed as opposed to their taller companions. They will then be in the shade for most of the day.
For example, kale, lettuce, and spinach can all be grown successfully in this manner and will receive positive shade from taller plants, such as tomatoes, peas, or beans during the trellis.
A SPICY MIX OF VEGETABLES
By studying the characteristics of a particular plant, it is possible to choose its neighbors that can bring maximum benefit to the favorite plant. For example, form such a pairing: lettuce or cabbage plus a plant of the sponge family (mint, sage, squash, monarch, hyssop, or rosemary).
These aromatic, pungent crops have proven to help ward off slugs, which are very fond of delicate cabbage and salad leaves.
To prevent the rhizomes from spreading throughout the bed (something that tends to happen with mint and some other crops), plant the plants in containers so they don’t take over the vegetable garden.
And the famous chervil plant is good for the entire garden and vegetable garden because it releases important nutrients into the soil.
It has also been noted that asparagus is a good neighbor for almost all plants, including tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, and squash. Nasturtiums also benefit all of the above crops, as well as beans and apple trees.
And let’s not forget that nasturtiums and velvet aren’t just flowers. Velvet is used as a condiment in Caucasian cuisine and as an additive in tea, and nasturtium leaves and flowers are added to salads or made into peppers from the immature seeds.
Pepper is known to prefer moist soil and is poorly tolerant of drought, and neighbors will give it a great deal of help in the form of dense vegetation, either as marjoram, oregano, or dwarf basil.
Basil not only helps retain moisture but also repels aphids and mites, so basil is best grown in combination with garden strawberries and other crops.
Note: Fennel is an ectomycorrhizal plant that has a strong negative effect on neighbors and is especially bad for tomatoes, so it is best to keep it in its own borders.
GROWTH TYPE AND DEGREE OF ROOT PENETRATION OF NEIGHBORING PLANTS
Combination plantings can utilize the entire available space in the garden – both above and below ground. Choosing plants based on their growth type is not a difficult task.
After all, growing lettuce next to carrots is obviously not a problem. But putting lettuce next to sprawling cucumbers is not easy. But even in these cases, using climbing plant supports can solve the problem.
When choosing vegetables for joint planting, consider not only the final height of the stems but also the type of root system. Deep-rooted plants next to cultivars with shallow roots are ideal. These neighboring plants will not compete for habitat and nutrients.
For example, planting legumes next to corn fits this principle. The roots of peas and beans are much deeper than those of corn, so the plants do not compete in the same soil layer. Root crops, such as beets, carrots, or rutabagas, can be planted with legumes according to the same principle.
EACH VEGETABLE HAS ITS OWN TERMINOLOGY
A common principle for combination beds is to plant early maturing crops side by side with late-maturing vegetables. One example is combining asparagus and tomatoes in the same bed. Asparagus has high light requirements, requiring eight hours of sunlight per day. However, it is an early maturing crop and the asparagus crop can be harvested in the spring.
Therefore, tomatoes can be planted on either side of the asparagus row after the shoots are harvested. The tomatoes ripen much later and will not shade the growing asparagus. These two plants also make good partners, as tomatoes help repel asparagus beetle attacks, while asparagus help deters tomato root nematodes.
This duo in the bed can also be thickened with cilantro and basil. For so many late-maturing crops, the ideal partners would be radishes, which produce very early, and peas, which do not take over the bed.
THE BEST COMPANION FOR MAJOR CROPS
Based on the above, it is possible to identify the best neighbors for the main vegetable crops with which to share a bed for mutual benefit.
Corn: beans, pumpkin, cucumber, squash.
Green peppers: carrots, cucumbers, basil, dill, cilantro, onions.
Cucumber: corn, beans, lettuce, radish, cabbage, sunflower.
Broccoli: beet, beans, celery, onion, lettuce.
Tomatoes: cucumber, carrot, garlic, onion, parsley.
Eggplant: peppers, catnip, beans.
Onions: carrots, lettuce, strawberries, cabbage.
Potatoes: watermelon, cabbage, beans, beets, lettuce, radish.
Cabbage: celery, beefsteak, beans, thyme.
A DELICIOUS TRIO
Here are a few examples of successful combinations consisting of three different crops that have been used successfully by experienced gardeners for several seasons.
Peas + radishes + cucumbers.
Garlic + lettuce + beet.
Cucumber + lettuce + cabbage.
Tomatoes + beans + kohlrabi.
Broccoli + celery + hairy beans.
Tomatoes + strawberries + beets.
Tomatoes + lettuce + dill.
Carrots + garlic + peas.
Potatoes + dill + late cabbage.
Cucumber + carrot + onion.
Tomatoes + hairy beans + radishes.
The truth is that we have more opportunities to create strings, trios, or even entire mixed borders with different vegetables, herbs, and berries. Experiment a bit and remember that bare soil under vegetables is not only uneconomical but also useless for plants.