Companion Planting: Growing veggies at the Cottage
For those of you who don’t know Gary & I, we love to garden at the cottage. And, we especially love our raised vegetable garden boxes. As we began spending more and more time at our Georgian Bay cottage, we began dabbling in box gardening. It’s been five years since we built our first garden box, and the journey has been a blast! We’ve had good years and bad, however one thing that’s certain – year after year we have learned from our garden. Last year we had a fantastic garden which was terrific given that the previous two years had presented its challenges, complete with poor weather, tomato hornworms and cucumber beetles. Needless to say, these little invaders caused us to learn more about companion planting and the learning continues.
Becoming a competent gardener takes time, and the learning process, however you approach it, is fascinating and challenging. Given our commitment to organic gardening, our exploration of companion planting has evolved over the past few years. Initially, we approached the idea of planting perennials, herbs and shrubs in and around our garden as a way to protect our crop. As we know, the wildlife in cottage country is abundant and there are always critters, large and small, waiting in the wings to snack on a buffet of veggies. We’ve since learned that this type of companion planting not only helped to protect our garden, but also enhanced the quality and growth of our garden – it helped it to thrive!
What is Companion Planting:
Companion planting is the practice of planting two or more plants together for the purpose of mutual benefit. There are a number of different companion planting charts available for reference, and we have learned that they are all different. At first we found this quite confusing, but through a process of trial and error, we learned that multiple resources simply means different options in the world of vegetable gardening. It also speaks to the limited understanding that we have about the complexities of true organic gardening. We suggest that you use the companion planting charts as a guideline, trying different combinations and recording what works best for you and your own garden.
Benefits of Companion Planting:
- Beneficial insects: attracting beneficial insects such as bees to pollinate your garden.
- Shelter: larger plants protect other plants from too much sun or wind.
- Support: some larger plants can provide physical support to other plants.
- Decoy plants: some plants emit odours that mask the odours of vegetable plants & repel insects from the plants.
- Soil improvement: some vegetable plants improve the soil condition of other plants.
Some of our favourite companion planting combinations for our Georgian Bay garden are:
- Beans planted with cabbage & cucumber; beans provide nitrogen to the soil.
- Lettuce planted with peas, radish & marigold; parsley & marigold repel slugs.
- Tomatoes planted with basil & broccoli; basil increases the yield of tomato plants.
Along with companion planting we also engage in other organic gardening strategies to enhance our garden. Here are some of our tips:
- Do not plant your garden around large trees and shrubs that will compete for soil nutrients and sunlight.
- Add epsom salts to the soil to increase magnesium and sulphur and to decrease chlorosis (condition in which leaves produce insufficient chlorophyll).
- Stir ashes into the soil before planting root vegetables to increase potassium in the soil.
- Plant marigolds in your garden – they are toxic to root nemotodes.
- Put crushed egg shells around your lettuce and broccoli to deter slugs.
These are a few of our insights into companion and organic garden techniques. Much information is available online, at your local nursery, and from your neighbours who love to garden. Happy gardening!
Organic Weed Killer: Mix1 litre white vinegar, 2 cups epson salt, 1/4 cup Blue Dawn dish soap. Spray on weeds and within hours they will be dead.