Are you ready? It's time for our 14th annual photo contest! Enter your best pictures of the year, for a chance to win a calendar and annual subscription here. Hurry! Deadline for entries is October 21.
Each fall I make out a chart of where I plan to plant my vegetable rows working off a five year rotation plan and my compatibility charts. After just reading an article on plant compatibility which suggests ideas like planting an alternating clove of garlic in your cabbage row got me to thinking about how this method might work with various compatible crops. I have always been obsessed with which row crops should be planted next to each other, but with more than thirty sixty foot rows it never occurred to me that you could mix other compatible plants into each row which would enhance the production of one or both of the plants as well as drive off pesky insects.
Duh! Have I had my head in a dark place or what! Toss in an occasional bean seed in your potato rows to drive off the Colorado Potato Beetle. Or place some onions, chives, garlic, leeks, or scallions randomly among your cabbage family plants to chase off those pesky white cabbage butterflies which leave behind their eggs hatching into hundreds of green larvae which drill thousands of holes into cabbages and their other family plants.
This concept seems so simple I just can’t imagine why I have been overlooking it for so long. Maybe it’s just me, but wake up morgan, it’s time to get your head out of that dark place. I presume most of you already know this and have lots of great ideas on the subject besides planting marigolds in the corners of your gardens.
I was given a book called "Carrots Love Tomatoes" about companion planting, but I never found its advice much help. For example, I have some chives two feet away from some Cabbage plants whose leaves were turned into lace. I'm going back to chemical insect deterrents.
I find companion planting to be greatly overrated if not totally ineffective. For starters, things like carrots and tomatoes or broccoli and cucumber or beans and celery aren't even in the same growing season here. I suspect the only true benefits to companion planting are the benefits you get by not monocropping, plant rotation, flower/herb borders to attract beneficial insects and pollinators, and interplanting items with different root/growth zones. YMMV. I've seen nothing that suggests there is any downside to it so it doesn't hurt to try.
For those that defend it, they often say things have to be *vigorously* mixed. For example, your marigolds have to pretty much solidly encircle whatever it is they are supposed to protect from root nematodes. So if you are going to try it, bear in mind true "companion planting" isn't just tossing in one or two plants in a row -- think of it more mixing half and half together in a bed.
I mainly use sixty foot soaker hoses and about half a dozen drip feed hoses. It's easy to plant one crop on one side of the hose and another on the opposite side of the hose. For example onions/beats, or onion/carrots, however I don't have any insect problems with either of these plants.
The worst infestation we have had was the Colorado Potato Beetle which totally destroyed a neighbors potato patch several years ago. So plant beans on either side of your potato plant rows and the CPB's will all go over to your neighbor's garden!??
We do have the cabbage moth which does some damage, but not enough to be overly concerned about.
I also read that egg plant can be planted with tomatoes. Same family again but my reason for planting egg plant in the sprawled tomatoes is to hide them from my wife who does not care for egg plants. I love egg plant Parmesan!
My main interest is in the comments expressed in some compatibility charts about the increased crop productions. We made the mistake of planting parsnips across the row from carrots last season, and none of the parsnips grew. Then I read that even though these two crops are members of the same family, they should not be planted together.
I'm uncertain how you could quantify a twenty percent increase in production using companion planting techniques, but it would be interesting to hear more about that subject. For instance I plant pole beans with corn, but I can't tell if corn production is any better with or without the beans which supposedly assist corn in it's high nitrogen uptake. Although that makes sense to me, I have no way to evaluate any increase, or improved production to either plant.
There are obviously several different reasons why people use companion planting in their gardens. I was somewhat disappointed that the idea of planting garlic amongst the potato plants did not seem to click with some of you. But as for the beans on either side of the potato rows that may be a winner. It seemed to have worked last season compared to the neighbor who ended up dusting. I only found one adult beetle at the first of the season, three at the end of the season, and no instars which are the real damagers. I didn't know about the compatibility thing between beans and potatoes until yesterday. It just worked out that way in my five year rotation plan.
Research into what the plants break down into- such as daikon radishes breakdown into a sulphur based, etc- helps you figure out why comp plantg can be beneficial. Just be aware every plant has it's own special dreaded bug! Some plants being close to each other pass their viruses around, It can give ya headache trying to keep it straight. Garlic works so-so, but plant heavily. Sunflowers, draw leaf footed bugs- plant AWAY from the maters! Lantana draws whiteflies- I don't fish with whiteflies, let the neighbor plant lantana! Marigolds draw spiders- which eat aphids, too many ants farming those aphids, spiders dont stand a chance, sigh. Start simple.
kittriana, not simple for me. I used to redo my row planting chart 15 to 20 times each year, and now I can't seem to get my head around anything. I have redone the 2013 row planning chart twice already and I'm not even close. I keep finding some compatibility problem which doesn't work on my five year rotational plan when I start adding different plants in the same row. It seems like an infinite number of possibilities and then I read something new and start all over again. I had not thought of researching what plants actually break down into, but that adds a new wrinkle to the puzzle. I clear the garden of all plant materials at the end of the season, burning off this material to avoid insects over wintering, so that thought never occurred to me.
I'm expecting up to a foot of snow in the next couple of days and this is another reason why we don't have nearly the bug infestations that occur in the south. Once the ground freezes it can stay frozen down to more than a foot for months at a time.
I haven't done it in some time, but I plan on going to a certified ag lab in Kansas which for around $30 they will run a garden soils analysis. I take ten samples from 0-6 inches throughout the garden, combine them, and they will even make recommendations for crops you plan on planting. Well worth the investment in my opinion.
Yup- why I said Keep it simple. There was a planting chart and soil temp advises somewhere in DG - some of it doesn't have to be perfect, Mom Nature has her own charts. Look for nurse or cover crops- ag websites can tell you tons, those boys had to get their papers done to pass, chuckle, sulphur dust repelsbugs in a pinch, some. my problem is deciding to only plant what I am going to eat, yeah right, then working those plants into my suddenly expanding garden of any seed I can find. Hang in there.
kitt, I still have a copy of the chart. I found it helpful the first time I used it. The five year program of rotation seems to be my biggest obstacle at this point. Now it’s like voting. I have to make some decisions based on the lesser bad, or which crops will be least affected by my choices.
However, the insertion of some crops here and there I do find helpful. Only want a couple of egg plants…slide them in a row of sprawled tomatoes. Same for garlic…stick them here and there in a row of potatoes. And, instead of a double row of onions on a single soaker hose, place a row of onions and carrots on one side of the potato rows, and a row of onions and parsnips on the opposite side. Like keeping two family members from feuding, the carrots and parsnips now have their own space, and let’s see if the neighbors CPB’s can get past the smelly wall of onions and garlic.
Or, how about this one…plant pole beans with the corn, and pumpkins at the end of the corn rows forcing the vines back up between the corn rows.
Maybe I’m having too much fun with this, but yes, I think I can see a brief bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
There you go- but I have fits with my eggplants in the maters- tho many don't! And be reeaallly generous with the onions and garlics(that are hvy feeders) cuz the stuff in garlic that repels the bugs- is only released when the clove is smashed. That's why some folx get discouraged by the companion planting, chuckl. Mine is more like- ok this stuff wants nitrogen, this stuff want iron, these want spaces, etc
kitt, the night owl...good points. I just piggy backed you on another posting about corn and here you are again.
Nitrogen...iron...space...Now you've got my head spinning again kitt. I guess your right on the garlic inserted in the potato rows. Possible leaks would put off more of a discouraging scent to the CPB's.
No mole crickets or millipedes here that I have seen, however I have seen centipedes in my compost pile near the back of the house and occasionally in the garden. The more that I think about it we are pretty fortunate here when it comes to pesky garden insects. We do have a very small kamikaze mosquito which defies wind and would drive us off our deck at dusk. I still have the basil plant which I started this spring and kept next to my captain's deck chair throughout the season. I would pinch off a couple of leaves and rub them on my exposed skin of an evening, and darned if it didn't work. The aroma permeated the air when crushed and the mosquitoes didn't come close. Great idea from the DG clan.
My biggest bug problem is the moth worms which infest our apples. By the time we cut out all the wormed portions of the apples theirs less than a quarter of the usable apple left for processing. I saw something in a seed catalog which I should have saved which used pheromones to trap the mouths before they could deposit their eggs. Don't supposing hanging bunching onions from the branches would help ~~~~~
Apple maggot and coddling moth are both tough pests to beat. Unless you have very small levels of pests, the traps mostly work for identification and to get a sense of the size of the infestation, or to help time insecticidal spraying.
The only way, sadly, to get really good fruit is with an insecticidal spray program. Your local extension office can guide you toward setting up a schedule and spray program. If you don't get the critters before they lay eggs, the sprays won't do you any good.
If you want to stay organic, sanitation of fallen fruit is a must. I'd also do the traps and spray with Surround (kaolin spray). Surround works quite well, but takes a lot of maintenance and upkeep. Alternately, you can bag the fruit (literally). It seems like most hobby level orchardists just go ahead and bag. It's work up front, but then you're done until harvest season.
Nicole, I think your right about the coddling moth being the culprit. Unfortunately our guy at the local extension office is a ghost. Tried a couple of times to get help and it takes weeks to get information back and the answers were either ludicrous or I had already gone way beyond what little help was offered. My investment in DG is far superior to the services provided by our 'leo'!
Realizing we are getting a bit side tracked from companion planting I would definitely like to know more about the bagging suggestion. I Ramboed aver 100,000 Colorado Potato Beetles two years ago and won the battle. If I spent half the time invested in that war on the coddling moth worms I think I could win that battle as well with your idea here. I will start researching tonight on the coddling moth ant see what I come up with.
I indoor vermicompost any fallen or rotten fruit as well as the discarded pieces when we process the good stuff into apple sauce and apple crunch (personal favorite), which is why I will spend hours disecting out the damaged parts of the apples. The bagging would be a fair trade off considering the time spent salvaging the eddible portions of the apples.. Nicole, I think you’re right about the coddling moth being the culprit. Unfortunately our guy at the local extension office is a ghost. Tried a couple of times to get help and it takes weeks to get information back and the answers were either ludicrous or I had already gone way beyond what little help was offered. My investment in DG is far superior to the services provided by our 'leo'!
Realizing we are getting a bit side tracked from companion planting I would definitely like to know more about the bagging suggestion. I Ramboed aver 100,000 Colorado Potato Beetles two years ago and won the battle. If I spent half the time invested in that war on the coddling moth worms, I think I could win that battle as well with your idea here. I will start researching tonight on the coddling moth ant see what I come up with.
I indoor vermicompost any fallen or rotten fruit as well as the discarded pieces when we process the good stuff into apple sauce and apple crunch (personal favorite), which is why I will spend hours dissecting out the damaged parts of the apples. The bagging would be a fair trade off considering the time spent salvaging the edible portions of the apples...
To bag fruit you literally use bags -- ziplock will do, or plastic fold-lock top sandwich bags. When you thin the fruit at pea-size or marble-sized, select individual fruit on each spur or cluster. Put the fruit in the bag and staple it shut. Cut a slit on the downward side to let water drain out.
Well it looks like we have strayed from the original intent of the posting on inter planting/companion planting but I have come up with some ideas to try next spring.
I have completed my review or our digression on the coddling moth and preventative methods. My conclusion is to go with the quart freezer zip lock bags to cover the young apples after thinning. Although the freezer bags are more expensive than the standard bags or the sandwich bags, the benefit of standing up to our intensive winds and pesky birds is worth the added cost. Ten cents a bag doesn't seem so bad when our health food store is charging two dollars an apple these days. The thing I don't get about using the zip lock bag are the comments about trimming the material above the zipper. I had planned on using several staples to ensure the zipper seal and it seemed to make more sense to me to staple over the zip seal rather than below it.
hmmph- i would put them in one side, zip, fold over and staple. will they get room to breathe and not mildew in zips? maybe its talkin abt trimmin leaves above the zipper, and they slit the bottom of these bags, so there is air... chuckle-wish you luck...
kitt, I don't think they were referring to trimming of the leaves. It was my understanding in several of the articles that the bags were being trimmed off above the zipper and not the branches, but I could be wrong. I will recheck my sources.
As far as breathing goes, the slits in the corners of the bottoms of the bags would serve a twofold purpose: (1) Drainage of condensation; and (2) release of hot air which in some southern states could be a problem. The heavier freezer zip lock bags would act as a deterrent for female moths looking for a place to lay their eggs and birds as well. Moths will not try to enter the bags at either of the drainage openings, and as the apple grows it will spread the bag, allowing more space for air to enter. At least that's my impression or how this works.
There is the possibility of the previous year's worm hatches which has over wintered in their cocoons finding their way past the zipper where it comes in contact with branch. A little extra precaution here might be warranted. Fortunately I guess for me, a late spring freeze destroyed all the buds on the fruit trees this spring, thus eliminating this possibility for next season. To my knowledge there are no other fruit trees in our area making control a bit easier using the bagging method along with early removal of any infected fruits.