Friday, 27 April 2012

Good companions: plants that help each other

Our next Secret Garden Club workshop, on Sunday May 27th, will discuss the principles of companion planting, with lots of examples of good plants to grow next to each other for their mutual benefit. 
The sort of mutual benefits we're talking about here include the following:

  • Some plants will deter pests, perhaps because they are thorny or prickly, or they give off a repellent odour. Such plants can act as bodyguards for those that are vulnerable. If you plant carrots and onions together you will find that the oniony smell deters carrot fly, and the smell of the carrot plant can deter onion fly. 
  • Similarly, some plans can act as decoys: attracting pests away from the plants you want to protect.
  • Legumes - peas and beans - can fix nitrogen in the soil through their roots, and so are immensely useful as companion plants for those that use up a lot of nitrogen. 
  • Plants with broad leaves provide ground cover, suppressing weeds and keeping the soil moist and cooler for plants that don't like their roots to get warm - clematis, for example.
Broad-leaved pumpkins and squash provide good ground cover.

  • Plants which attract beneficial insects will bring bees and hoverflies to your ground to boost pollination. 
  • Plants which bear berries will attract birds, which in turn will eat insects (of the not-so-beneficial kind) and slugs and snails.

Many companion planting practices have been passed down the generations, and are being revived again now as people become more interested in growing organically, minimising the damage done by pests and diseases and increasing the nourishment of plants without resorting to manufactured or synthetic fertilisers or pesticides.
We'll look at all of these, with the discussion continuing through to MsMarmiteLover's afternoon tea, with a companion planting inspired menu. Guests will be able to do some companion planting themselves, with plants to take away and we hope, lots of good ideas to try at home. 
Book here for your place on the Companion Planting workshop, Sunday May 27th.

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