Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dear Iris - Published February 23, 2012

  DEAR IRIS   -  Companion planting helps growth, taste

Vegetables, fruits, herbs and even flowers that enhance the growth, taste and productivity of each other is an enticing concept, isn’t it? Root secretions and odors share the honors in the attraction and companionship game between plants.

Luckily, we don’t need to dig and sniff roots in order to determine if a carrot is best planted next to a cucumber. Gardeners for ages have been documenting which plants seem to grow well together and which plants seem to dislike each other as evidenced by their stunted growth, meager productiveness, unusual taste and/or by being overrun with insects or disease.

Determining which plant is beneficial or which plants are mutually beneficial is an ongoing process and sometimes perfecting the ratio of one plant to another plant is key. Below is a beginner’s list of favorites that are mutually beneficial and others they especially dislike:

Radishes like kohlrabi, bush and pole beans, nasturtiums and mustards ... dislike hyssop.

Peas like aromatic herbs, corn, cucumbers, beans, carrots, radishes, turnips and parsnips ... dislike gladiolus, garlic and onions.

Sweet corn likes potatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash and odorless Mexican marigold ... dislikes tomatoes.

Bush beans like cucumbers, strawberries, parsnips, summer savory, celery, Mexican marigolds and corn ... dislike fennel and onions.

Pole beans like corn, summer savory and radishes ... dislike onions, beets, sunflowers and kohlrabi.

Potatoes like nasturtiums, Mexican marigolds, flax, beans, cabbage, corn, horseradish and eggplant ... dislike tomatoes, apples, pumpkin, raspberry, squash, cucumber and sunflower.

Cabbage (brassica family: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga and turnip) likes onion family, beets, spinach, potatoes, celery, thyme, dill, rosemary, sage, peppermint and chamomile ... dislikes pole beans, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Tomatoes like asparagus, gooseberries, onion family, parsley, Mexican marigold, nasturtium, carrots, borage and garlic ... dislike brassica family, potatoes and fennel.

Onions (allium family: shallot, chives, leek and garlic) like carrots, apples, celery, brassica family, beets, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, summer savory and chamomile ... dislike peas and beans.

Lettuce likes strawberries, cucumbers, carrots, onions and radishes.

Sweet and hot peppers like basil and okra.

Cucumbers (cucurbit family: squash, melons, pumpkin) like corn, beans, peas, nasturtiums, borage, sunflowers, onion family and icicle radishes (let go to seed) ... dislike potatoes and aromatic herbs.

Swiss Chard likes beans, brassicas, onions, tomatoes and roses.

Carrots like onions, rosemary, sage, peas, leaf lettuce and tomatoes ... dislike dill.

Spinach likes strawberries.

Eggplant likes green beans.

Strawberries like borage.

Roses like parsley, onion family, Mexican marigolds and a tomato leaf spray.

Why don’t you give companion planting a try? It is far from an exact science, but it just might boost faith in your green — or greening — thumb.

Aideen Vega-Van Auken is a Master Gardener intern.

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