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Companion Planting Increases Success with Vegetables

Grandsons Mike and David Covine and son-in-law Tony Covine were proud of a good harvest of these cucuzzis last year and have already planted seeds for this summer's crop.

Many people are digging in to get through these hard times the best way they can. This includes several of my grown children. Most of them have always had gardens of flowers and vegetables, but edibles are now taking top priority. The results are good eating, good health and a pleasant, sensible way to save money.

Son Mike and daughter Gretchen and her family, whom many of you know from visiting my garden, are way ahead of me on this. Mike was bringing us green beans right up until the Jan. 21 freeze and already has some up again and another planting sprouting. But it is his huge pots of tomatoes surrounded by carrots that he carried in and out at least four time during the frosts that reminded me about companion planting.

This is a concept I applied as much as possible when I had big vegetable gardens while they were growing up. We grew 90% of the food for our family, which included 10 for dinner every night at peak times. (Teresa wasn't born until three of the older ones had moved out on their own.) What we couldn't grow on our 2.3 and then 4.5 acres we mostly replaced with what we could. Even after we moved to a small lot in town, we ate largely from the garden.

Here is how companion planting can result in easier tending, greater production and fewer troubles. One plant will help ward off enemies from another, or take the damage upon itself, or maybe they share nutrients like Jack Sprat and his wife. Some plants go well together because they provide mutual support or a compatible arrangement of sun-shade sharing.

Some just seem to like one neighbor better than another. Science doesn't have all the answer, but garden experience dating back to time when none of the answers science does have were widely known, has come up with many well-honored combinations.

  • Beans prefer beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower and cucumbers nearby. There is a fascinating book titled: Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte.
  • Cabbage likes potatoes, which few of us raise here, but Mike had some come through the frost. Cabbage also likes dill, sage, mints, and camomile to ward off those voracious insects. But the whole cabbage family hates strawberries and doesn't care much for tomatoes or beans.
  • Carrots like lettuce and chives and dislike dill.
  • Chives don't take to peas, but there are very good around rosebushes. Their onion scent helps keep the bugs away.
  • Corn supports beans and peas and makes good use of space with melons, squash, cukes or pumpkins spreading between the rows. We had some beautiful cucumbers hanging beside ears of corn up north. I now longer grow either, but my children do here in Florida.
  • Eggplant likes green beans.
  • Radishes like peas, lettuce, and chervil.
  • Spinach likes strawberries.
  • Tomatoes thrive with parsley, cabbage, and carrots.
  • Marigolds seem to help everything. It is good to plant a short row and then transplant the extras to any open spot in the garden. They even help the soil.

You don't have to erect barriers. It is more like keeping everyone congenially mixing at a party. It works. Try it. And when you have a bumper crop, make note of what is growing around it and repeat the combination.

Some of the strawberry farmers plant onions at the end of every row. When I asked one why, he said, "To make money." But there well could be other reasons as well.

Mike Brandies feed his carrots and tomatoes

His potatoes are thriving
in spite of the frosts.

The soil looks terrible but this corn tasted delicious on the Covine table last year.
Corn seeds have also been replanted but March is not too late.