Gardening Articles for week ending 7th October
Written by Wally Richards.
A reader, in their email recently, asked if I could write
an article on Companion Planting.
As many of us are busy planting out seedlings into our gardens, it is
an opportune time to have a wee look at what can be planted next to each
other for some benefits and what should not. In fact this latter aspect
of what should not be grown near each other is in my mind more important.
Anything that reduces good growth or creates other problems is a negative
and as some gardeners do have problems anyway why add to them?
To start with let’s look at our gardening friends that live in the soil,
microbes (bacteria) and fungi.
There is a ratio that forms in soils where one of these will be more dominate
that the other while both will provide vast benefits to your plants. We
find in natural forests that the fungi are kings, where on natural grass
lands the microbes rule. Thus our trees and shrubs (small trees) prefer
lots of the many various fungi to do best. Our lawns, vegetables and flowers
want their mates the microbes.
There are exceptions to this rule as nature is not finite in its preferences
such as woodland plants like strawberries live and perform best in soils
with ample beneficial fungi and fewer microbes.
We notice that grass and a number of other plants do not do well near
trees and shrubs. Certainly it can be the aspect of shade and the trees
taking out moisture and nutrients from the soil. When we apply ample moisture
and nutrients, as well as removing the lower branches to afford reasonable
natural light to these plants and grasses they still do not do as well
as the same plants a bit further away. The added moisture and food certainly
makes the trees grow bigger and faster. It is to do with the balance of
the soil life. I love trees for the shelter and shade they provide but
have always found my vegetables growing near the trees are never as good
as the same ones a bit further away.
There is a certain amount of proved science about some companion planting
and the rest is unproven but have been noticed by gardeners over hundreds
of years which are termed traditional knowledge.
One of my favourites is the planting of corn seeds and once these plants
are up a foot or so then bean seeds (or peas) are planted next to each
corn plant. Later when the beans have started to climb up the corn squash
seeds are planted in amongst them. This is a traditional planting by the
North American Natives in some tribes. One can see the immediate benefit
of the beans or peas having the taller corn plants to climb up or support
and the larger leaves of the squash aiding in the retention of soil moisture.
But another aspect pertains, beans and peas are nitrogen fixers and corn
and squash need heaps of natural nitrogen to grow well. This same planting
can be applied to tall growing sunflowers too.
We have in these two cases very beneficial companion plantings. Clover
is also a great nitrogen fixer.
Here is an interesting case I was told about in regards to clover and
Roundup. The group of farmers who use the mineral rock dust they call
did a trial in two paddocks next to each other. One paddock was sprayed
to kill the grasses and weeds then ploughed. The other paddock was just
ploughed with no herbicide used. Probitas and lime were applied to both
paddocks and then tilled. Then clover seeds were drilled planted in both.
The clovers grew in both paddocks but the non Roundup treated paddock
had better looking plants. Later some clovers were lifted in both paddocks
to check the root nodules which fix the nitrogen. In the Roundup treated
paddock the nodules were small and sparse.
Where in the non Roundup treated paddock the root nodules were large and
like bunches of grapes.
A very interesting result which shows how much harm is done to the soil
with these types of herbicides.
Another reason for planting different plants
together is insect pest control.
The African marigold releases thiopene which is a nematode repellent,
making it a good companion for a number of garden crops. There are plants
that attract beneficial insects because they provide a nectar source for
them. Phacelia Lacy has proved popular with some for this purpose attracting
bees and predictor small wasps. (The wasps kill the aphids by laying their
eggs in the aphid’s body)
Another way is to plant a Shoo fly plant which attracts white fly and
helps keep the pest off your other plants. (I don't know how well this
works in reality but the Shoo fly plant certainly gets covered in whitefly)
Now lets look at a few examples of common vegetables and what can be planted
next to them and what should not.
Asparagus likes tomatoes, parley and basil: Climbing beans like corn,
summer savory and radish but not onion, beets kohlrabi and sunflowers.
Dwarf or bush beans don't like onions but like potatoes, cucumber, corn,
strawberry, celery and summer savory.
Brassicas (cabbages etc) like aromatic herbs, celery, beets, onion family,
chamomile and chard but not dill, strawberries, climbing beans and tomatoes.
Carrots like peas, lettuce, rosemary, onion family, sage and tomatoes
but not dill.
Celery is happy with onion & cabbage families, tomato, dwarf beans
Corn likes beans, pea, pumpkin, cucumber and squash but not tomatoes.
Cucumbers like beans, corn, peas, sunflowers and radish but not potatoes
or aromatic herbs.
Eggplant likes beans and marigolds. Lettuce prefers carrot, radish, strawberries
Onions do well with beets, carrots, lettuce, cabbage and summer savory
but not beans or peas.
Parsley prefers tomatoes and asparagus. Peas like carrots, radish, turnip,
cucumber, corn and beans but not onion family, gladiolus or potatoes.
Grow your spuds along side of beans, corn, cabbage family, marigolds and
horseradish avoiding pumpkin, squash, tomato, cucumber and sunflowers.
Pumpkins get on well with corn and marigolds but not potatoes. Radish
like peas, nasturtium, lettuce and cucumbers but avoid hyssop. Tomatoes
prefer onions, nasturtium, marigolds, asparagus, carrot, parsley and cucumber
but not potatoes, fennel and cabbage family. Turnip like peas but not
Likely there are many others but this is a good starting point for those
that wish to use the system of companion planting.
I remember once that I converted some waste land for a crop of potatoes
and found that mint was growing in the area. I left the mint to grow hoping
that I would not need to mint the potatoes when boiling. It didn't work
the potatoes never gathered the mint flavour.
Another interesting aspect is gardening by the moon phases. For instance
it is said that you should plant seeds when the moon is ascending and
harvest when descending. I understand that when the moon is up and especially
around full moon time on a clear night that the sun light reflected off
the moon gives plants some light which allows them to grow when compared
to a no moon time.
When I was a nurseryman I was planting seeds virtually everyday and never
noted a better response to ascending or descending moon. I also asked
other nurserymen the same and they also said it appeared to make no significant
difference. (Moon light or artificial light at night will make sprouted
seeds grow bigger quicker) So is there any truth in gardening by the moon
to obtain better results?
I believe so because of our own conscious thoughts. If we believe something
is going to grow better because of an X factor and hold that thought in
mind while in the presents of plants they will respond.
It is like growing two identical plants in pots near each other. One you
tell how much you love it and the other you say how bad it is. Do this
daily and the bad one will fair poorly and likely die where the good one
will grow lush and happy. Now if I could only apply this to my weeds I
would solve a problem.
BOOK: WALLY’S Down to Earth GARDENING
It is now 23 years since I wrote my first weekly
gardening article back in 1983. Back then it was pen to paper, long hand
with numerous re-writes before the editor received the copy. Once computers
started to become available, I spent $15,000 on a Armstrad IBM compatible
computer and a HP scanner/printer. This made life easier in some ways
but a learning curve to ensure that the PC worked correctly.
Later on when the very popular garden writer,
Nick Scott retired, I took over his syndicated column of newspapers which
meant weekly publication in several papers, nation wide.
During the following years more papers were added to the list and in some
areas of the country I was replaced with local writers. Now days I am
published in up to 30 odd papers either regularly or occasionally each
week. Regular publications have brought a following of gardeners who prefer
my more natural methods of gardening. Many gardeners over the last few
years have asked if I had written a book.
The answer had always been no.
So this last winter having reached 60 years of age, I decided it was time,
and that there would be a book by spring 2006. Once committed it was many
winter days and nights with the heater and the computer, typing out information
from years of experience.
I could have just taken the past article files off
the computer and put them together in a reasonable order and published.
Instead I felt that many would have these articles in scrap books already
so much of the book was written fresh, devoting much more material to
main areas of gardening such as Roses, Lawns, Tomatoes, Weeds, Vegetables
etc. than could be placed in a 1000 word article.
The book has resulted in 340 pages of information, A5 size with soft cover.
There are very few diagrams or pictures, just information.
The book is divided into 5 sections which include some past articles brought
up to date plus information on natural products, soil health, plant health
and our own health.
Not finding a publishing house that was interested in a first book from
myself, it was decided to print and distribute the book as well as write
Thus Wally’s Down To Earth Gardening Guide is now available from some
garden centres or by mail order from 0800 466464 or on the web at www.gardenews.co.nz
Some book shops may stock the book later on as well, but in the meantime
if you are interested ask at your garden centre and if not available,
use the above contact details.
A book review is likely soon from the Gardening Editor or Editor of a
number of the papers that publish my articles each week. The book’s recommended
retail is $27.95.
I have endeavored to make the book a good read as well as supplying lots
of helpful advice.
Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages at www.sharpei.co.nz