A New Look At Companion Planting
Tomatoes love carrots. Sounds like a grade-school romance. Tomatoes and carrots, Marigolds and salad greens. Plant pairing has been around for a long time. Its history is filled with folklore passed from one generation to the next. Only recently has it been backed with scientific research. So keep reading for companion planting that really works and how!
Why practice companion planting?
As we become more aware of the importance of attracting pollinators to our yards, it makes sense to take the next step of creating a yard full of biodiversity - including in the vegetable garden. More diversity of plant species leads to a greater diversity of insects. Those insects feed on other insects that are wreaking havoc in our gardens. When this ecosystem is in balance, we gardeners can step back and let nature do its thing. We’ll have healthier plants, and use fewer pesticides.
Debunking a myth
Let’s begin with the marigold myth. A common practice is to plant marigolds around the vegetable garden to repel pests and rabbits. Research has shown that marigold’s strong odor does mask the smell of certain host plants and does keep insects at bay, but to a very specific pest. Planting marigolds with members of the onion family will deter onion root maggot flies. Marigolds are also effective when planted with broccoli and other brassicas to deter cabbage root maggot flies. And, by the way, marigolds do not repel rabbits. I’ve seen rabbits munching away on them.
Tomatoes actually love radishes. Young tomato seedlings can be susceptible to flea beetles, but the beetles prefer radish leaves, so interplanting radishes with tomatoes is an effective trap-crop technique. Tomatoes also love basil. When tall varieties of basil are planted around tomatoes, research has shown that it reduces the number of eggs laid by the five-spotted hawk moth that mature into tomato hornworms. Here are more examples:
Create a haven for beneficial insects
Most good bugs need more than protein sourced from their prey to survive. They also need pollen and sugary nectar to reproduce. Let’s go back to the tomato hornworm. It has a natural predator - the larvae form of a parasitic wasp. The adult parasitic wasp lays its eggs under the skin of the hornworm. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the hornworm, eating their way out. The adult form - the parasitic wasp - requires sugars found in flower nectar. This is also true of ladybugs and lacewings and many more beneficial insects. We can create an environment for these beneficials in two ways: by planting specific nectar plants for specific beneficials, and by including a large diversity of flowers to attract and sustain a broad spectrum of beneficials.
As you plant your vegetable garden this spring, consider using a few of these simple techniques to grow healthier plants in a natural way. Get yourself a good book to learn more about it. I recommend Plant Partners by Jessica Walliser. You can also explore this topic further by joining me for a free monthly virtual gardening discussion on Wednesday, May 11 at 6:30 pm. Register here.
It's the month of April, and the 'Sweet Lillian' Amaryllis that I planted back in December finally is blooming. The bulb, buried up to her shoulders in potting mix, sat for what seemed forever. Daily I watched and waited, wondering if she was going to bloom this year or not.
Nature has its own timing. Flowers bloom and the seasons change on their own schedule, not ours, and yet each season comes when the time is right. Nature doesn't hurry. There's comfort in knowing this as I grow impatient at times during this season of waiting and overwhelm that I find myself in.
Maybe it's in this feeling of overwhelm that solace is found in the simple; that time spent watching the sky slowly change is calming and peaceful. Lately I've been fascinated with it. Every morning a new painting as the sun rises, every evening shades of pinks, blues, and oranges as the sun sets, and in between, the painting on the celestial canvas is ever changing - never the same. Yet the sky isn't always a blue ocean of cotton candy clouds. It can be filled with darkness heavy with storms that are not calming or peaceful.
These stormy skies of life have been dominating as of late, and the culminating overwhelm finally needs a release. So I succumb to tears that have been just below the surface the last few days. Like rain, they come in heavy. Then slow deep breaths as the storm within subsides, and it's then that I hear it . . . 'Be still. Be still and know. . . that I am God'. Suddenly peace pours in, filling me up with each breath. He knows. God knows. He sees, and he is in control. And he is working. Right now, as I sit in this pot, buried up to my shoulders, he is working - and I am slowly growing.
As author Kaitlyn Bouchillon wrote in a recent Instagram post:
"If you’re feeling buried right now . . . Can I just quietly whisper that perhaps you’ve actually been planted? There’s more to come. This is not even close to the end."
Yes! Planted is so much better than being buried, right? And when we are planted, the best thing to do is soak in the light of the sun (Son), and grow. Maybe this is the purpose of waiting - to grow slowly. I think of the Amaryllis bulb. It looked like nothing was happening, but underneath, in the darkness of the soil, roots were forming, growing slow. As we wait on God and trust his timing, we are growing, too. And when the time is right . . . blooms!
There's something else that I'm reminded of as I watch the sky: God is an amazing artist, creating these living paintings for us every single day. What a beautiful reminder that He is present! Every moment of every day, He is here with us, calming our storms, working while we wait, and nurturing us as we grow. The blessings are there, we only need to open our eyes to see. Hope, peace, contentment, and joy can exist in the waiting. So let the calm fill us, continue to look up, and let those roots slowly grow.
Hi, I'm Tracy - horticulturist, beauty-seeker, Word-lover, and blessed to be the owner of Bella Botanica. I also love to write about plants, gardening, and about my faith journey. Thanks for reading!