My garden was overrun by Japenese Beetles and Potato beetles. I had tried chemicals and traps. Nothing really helped and my famly was consuming large quantities of pesticides. I wanted my garden to be just as healthy as my family. I needed to figure out how so I could stop the crazy cycle. I took a gardening class and discovered companion planting. Now I have a beautiful garden and hundreds of little helpers to keep away all the bad stuff!
Creating a healthier garden
I wanted to create a better garden, a garden that did not require me putting out fires every season. So, I signed up for Master Gardening at my UW extension. During my studies, I discovered that there was an easier way to help my garden without toxic chemicals or hurting the bee population. It was companion planting. It has been around quite a long time. The Native Americans called it “Three Sisters”. They planted squash, corn and beans together. This had to work if they were doing it, along with other countries.
When two plants are dating! lol. Actually it is when certain plants are planted along side each other, which helps improve their quality of growth. One of the helpful ways can be by repelling pests. By repelling pests organically, your garden can skip pesticides and increase a more healthy environment for you and your family. Also, some plants like basil, when planted with tomatoes, are thought to make them taste better. Oh, and did I mention saving you money?
Another cool thing it that you will learn to identify which bugs are great and which ones you don’t want. By planting borage, you can attract a cool bug like a praying mantis! My kids love these guys. Or, planting parsely or dill can attract butterflies. This might be an easy way to get kids in the garden with you.
Cosmos, tansy, nasturtium, queen-Anne’s-lace, petunia, and my favorite Borage, are some of the beautiful flowers that can be added to your garden. Not only will they attrack the right kind of bugs, they will brighten up your day whenever you go to your garden. Here is a quick list to get you started in planting a successful companion garden.
Companion Plant List:
- Zucchini/Summer squash with marigolds, calendula, radishes, thyme
- Tomatoes with Basil, Clover, borage, dill, fennel
- Winter squash with nasturtiums, sunflowers, tansy
- Broccoli and Zinnias
- Cauliflower/Cabbage with Chrysanthemums
- Swiss chard/kale/beets with chives,Tansy, fennel, daisies
- Potatoes and Beans and Cleome and/or Dill
- Peppers with beans, potatoes or sweet alyssum
- Carrots with Onions
- Pole beans with lettuce, spinach
- Asparagus with Hollyhock or parsley
** Remember to keep mint in a container, as this one will SPREAD fast. I am still fighting that guy.
Refreshing your garden
It is highly recommended that your garden soil be refreshed every year. What I mean by that is, add good quality compost every year. Try the receipe below as this has worked for me the last 6 years. I usually just throw this right onto the top of the beds.
- 1/3 blended manure (cow, chicken, mushroom)
- 1/3 Peat Moss
- 1/3 Course Vermiculite
I only used cow manure but since it has now become much easier to get a variety of manure, I am going to mix it up this year. I will be adding cow, chicken and mushroom along with the other two above. The soil should be able to be worked with your hands pretty easily but also stick together when wet. I just throw it on top and turn it over with a shovel or by rocking a pitch fork. Just try to get some of it down about 8 inches, as that area needs refreshment too. And, always throw your worms back into the soil. You need them.
Plan your garden
Put down on paper a diagram of your garden and fill it in with the companion plants. This should be done every year while rotating your crops. This is done in case there are any diseases in the soil or to make sure those bugs don’t have GPS on the bed with their dinner. I keep all my old diagrams in a garden binder to reference back every year. I also write down or keep the plant tags of the ones I really liked. The plant tags can be hole punched and put on a metal ring, like used in scrapbooking. I do this for all my beds and garden, individually.
One of the books that I use for reference every year for planning out my companion garden is Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden
It has lists of companions but you can also look up individual plants to see what they help. Awesome. I don’t have to remember that every year! Well, I hope this gets your garden going in the right direction. Happy gardening!