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Companion Planting 101

Companion Planting 101

Though it’s only the beginning of March, many people are starting to sense the first kiss of spring in the air. Snow is melting, birds are returning from their warmer winter abodes, and avid gardeners will soon begin to start seeds for this year’s garden.

One of the best ways to ensure the health and vitality of your vegetables and herbs is to surround them with plants that are complementary to them; a technique known as companion planting. The idea behind this is that every plant out there needs vital nutrients, and also expels nutrients that are beneficial to other organisms. When you plant herbs and veggies in nice, neat little rows, they have much less chance of thriving than if you pack them in with friends who can boost their health and provide help in the growing process.

The Three Sisters

A perfect example of companion planting is the “three sisters” combination of corn, pole beans, and squash:

  • Corn grows quite tall, which provides the pole beans with a climbing trellis
  • The beans help secure the corn, since corn’s roots are quite shallow
  • Squash’s leaves provide a living mulch to the beans and corn, ensuring that they retain moisture
  • Beans deposit nitrogen into the soil, which corn and squash both require
  • Squash’s prickly leaves deter animals from stealing the beans and corn

Sounds rather cool, doesn’t it? If only human siblings got along that well…

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In any case, there are many plants that establish this kind of symbiotic relationship, and encouraging it in your own garden can yield spectacular results. Your veggies will be healthier and more flavourful, you’ll find fewer pests ravaging the garden, and it’s lovely to see all the different colours and textures of these plants juxtaposed against one another instead of just standing stodgily in long, straight lines.

The Basics

Once you have a basic idea of what you’d like to sow in your garden, it’s important to do your research regarding which plants are beneficial for the ones you’ve chosen. While some veggies and herbs grow really well together, others can be downright nasty to one another. Keep a solid companion planting chart nearby as you plan so you can map out where to plant what, ensuring that every seedling plays well with its neighbours.

Here is a short list of some of the most commonly-planted items, and what their beneficial and detrimental companions are:

Basil: An excellent herb to grow with tomatoes, it’ll fend off tomato worms, and will enhance growth. Don’t grow it anywhere near cabbage or snap beans, however—it’ll lower their yield and stunt growth. It doesn’t play nicely with sage either.

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Dill: Great with cauliflower, broccoli, and other brassicas (like Brussels sprouts), but keep it away from fennel (it’ll cross-pollinate with it), and carrots.

Chives: Beneficial for tomatoes, carrots, and even roses.

Bush beans: These get along with most plants, but they don’t get on well with anything in the onion family (onions, chives, garlic), or beets.

Celery: Grows well with tomatoes, beans, and cabbage, but you can’t grow it near any melons, cucumbers, or gourds.

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Rosemary: Excellent for cabbage, beans, and carrots, but don’t plant it anywhere near basil—the rosemary will die.

Zucchini: Plays nicely with tomatoes, squash, beets, lettuces, and anything in the mint family, but keep it away from potatoes—they’ll rot one another.

Sage: Good for any brassicas, as well as cucumbers and beans, but can’t be placed near onions.

This is obviously just a very small list of plants: I have over 80 vegetable varieties in my garden, interspersed with 30-odd types of herbs, so you can imagine how many options there are for potential gardeners. Decide which veggies and herbs you like best, determine whether they’ll grow in your zone, and then consult those charts to sort out which to plant where.

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Keep a Record

It’s important to keep notes so you can track the success of your various plants. These notes are also vital when it comes to planning out the following year’s garden: crops should always be rotated in order to maximize their nutrient absorption (and thus, their health), and just as some plants can’t be placed near their “foes”, they can’t be placed in the same soil where those particular plants grew the preceding year. Unless you have an infallible photographic memory and will remember where you planted everything, take notes and pictures.

Reference Books

If you’re interested in learning more about companion planting, home-scale food production, or about permaculture gardening, consider checking out some of the books listed below. Many of them should be available at your local library, or you can buy them online as permanent reference materials.

Reference Infographic

companion planting infographic

    Infographic Source: afristarfoundation

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    Catherine Winter

    Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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