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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 July 8, 2020

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

    1. Understand Yourself Better

    Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

    Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

    2. Keep Track of Small Changes

    I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

    Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

    3. Become Aware of What Matters

    As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

    You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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    4. Boost Creativity

    The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

    When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

    You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

    5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

    A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

    Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

    6. Process Life Experiences

    When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

    Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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    7. Stress Relief

    In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

    Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

    8. Provide Direction

    Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

    One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

    9. Solve Problems

    Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

    Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

    When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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    10. Find Relief From Fighting

    Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

    Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

    11. Find Meaning in Life

    Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

    12. Allow Yourself to Focus

    Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

    13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

    When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

    14. Let the Past Go

    I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

    15. Allow Freedom

    Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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    16. Enhance Your Career

    Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

    Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

    17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

    All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

    18. Catalog Your Life for Others

    No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

    We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

    Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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