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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 September 18, 2020

    7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

    7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

    Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

    Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

    1. Exercise Daily

    It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

    If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

    Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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    If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

    2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

    Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

    One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

    This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

    3. Acknowledge Your Limits

    Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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    Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

    Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

    4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

    Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

    The basic nutritional advice includes:

    • Eat unprocessed foods
    • Eat more veggies
    • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
    • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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    Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

      5. Watch Out for Travel

      Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

      This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

      If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

      6. Start Slow

      Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

      If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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      7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

      Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

      My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

      If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

      I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

      Final Thoughts

      Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

      Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

      More Tips on Getting in Shape

      Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

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