Companion Planting

Just like Andy Williams sang, "It's the most...wonderful time....of the year!" But unlike Andy, I'm not talking about the holiday season (although I like that too). I'm talking about SEED CATALOG SEASON! Yes, this is that time of year when those thick colorful books of promise arrive in my mailbox, one after the other. Their pretty photos and positive analysis of each and every option for this year's garden makes me giddy with excitement (and overly-optimistic). Time to get planning!  

2017 seed catalogs

2017 seed catalogs

This year, one of my gardening goals is to try more companion planting. "Companion Planting" involves planting a combination of plants that benefit each other when planted in close proximity and avoiding incompatible combinations. In some cases, companions are beneficial because they deter pests or provide support and in other cases, they offer nutritional benefits. A classic example of companion planting is the "Three Sisters" planting of Native Americans, which includes: Corn for support, Beans for fixing nitrogen in the soil, and squash, which lays low on the soil and helps control weeds. This is a classic demonstration of the symbiotic nature of plants.

To plan my companion plantings, I start first by planning my main "crops." This year, in addition to the wine boxes, I'm going to add a few more 4' x 4' raised beds. I will have 7 beds in total. but one is entirely taken by garlic now through mid summer and one is 1' x 2' bed. 

My 2017 Summer Main Plantings:

  • Beans (Pole)
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • + various herbs and flowers

There are lots of companion planting charts out there, and here's the frustrating thing - they're all different. Some include some companions that others don't, leaving you to wonder whether they are truly companions or not. The good news is that although they are different, none I've found have really conflicted with one another too significantly, and honestly, your garden isn't ruined if you're not following these to a "T." There are also some things I'll be planting by themselves in smaller containers, such as lettuce, simply because that's where I'll have the space.

Something like this from IDEP Foundation is a good chart to start with (click to view full PDF):

Start with one of these charts as a reference, but then break it down to what YOU plan to grow. Once you've identified your main plantings, you may want to spec out what you can/can't grow with each. With my 2017 plans in mind, I added my main plantings to a table and added friends and foes along with a few notes to help me plan. You can use this as a template for your own garden if you're looking to get started (click the document image below to view the full document). Of course, you'll want to customize this for what you are planting. Click the image below to download. (I highlighted items I am going to plant in either yellow highlight - for good to plant with, or red - for enemies).

My 2017 Companion Plantings

My 2017 Companion Plantings

2017 garden beds

While this is subject to change, here's my plan so far for planting in raised beds in 2017:

Bed 1: Broccoli, Dill, Thyme
Bed 2: Eggplant, Marigold
Bed 3: Tomatoes, Basil, Parsley
Bed 4: Zucchini, Nasturtium
Bed 5: Pole Beans, Peas
Bed 6: Cucumbers, Basil
Bed 7: Garlic

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'll probably change my mind about 101 times before actually starting my plants next month (indoors using grow lights), but this is how I get a head start on my garden. Let me know what you're planting this year in the comments below!

I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).

I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)

This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.

In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself. 

With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix  DMC-ZS15 compact camera.) 

I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.    

Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!

- Catherine