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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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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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