Garden vegetables thrive among a selection of good neighbors

Did you know that your garden vegetables can be fussy about their neighbors? If you always plant peas and carrots, corn and beans, lettuce and radishes together, you are already into companion planting.

Companion planting, as defined by Organic Gardening and Farming, is "planting two or more vegetables together because of beneficial effects they may have on one another." This applies to herbs, fruit, and flowers as well. The point is that your plants flourish with certain companions.

Companion planting is a new name for an old horticultural practice. In the Middle Ages gardeners grew everything together. So did the early Americans. Only in modern times was monoculture -- planting crops alone in the field or row -- introduced. However, as we learn about the dangers of modern chemicals, people are rediscovering what medieval farmers and monks knew: We can rely on nature to help plants grow without artificial means.

Much is still to be learned in this new-old study. Gardeners today are collecting information about which plants act as insect repellents, shade, growing support, nitrogen fixer-supplier, and soil conditioner for one another. University studies add scientific explanations, though for many it may be enough to only know that "it works."

There are few hard and fast rules in companion planting. The following conclusions have proved true for many gardeners most of the time. Perhaps you would like to experiment, adding your own gardening results to the body of research regarding effective companions. The following may serve as a starter in this fascinating study.

Bush beans like potatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, and celery. The herbs summer savory and rosemary deter bean beetles. Beans dislike gladioluses, onions, garlic, and shallots.

Pole beans like corn and summer savory but dislike onions.

Beans also thrive with carrots and cauliflower as well as beets. Corn and pole beans grow well together because the beans can climb the cornstalks. The beans add nitrogen, which is used by the corn, to the soil. Planting beans in alternating rows with potatoes is a good idea since potatoes repel Mexican bean beetles.

Keep beans and fennel apart because their dislike is mutual. In fact, fennel has an adverse effect on several plants. Petunias and sage, however, are good bean companions.

Beats like onions, kohlrabi, and dwarf beans, but they dislike pole beans.

Carrots like peas, leaf lettuce, chives, onions, leeks, and tomatoes. Strong-smelling herbs such as rosemary and sage are effective against carrot fly , as is planting two parts leek seed to three parts carrot seed. Dill is said to dislike carrots.

Corn likes early potatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash. Corn is aided in its growth by beans and peas because they put back the nitrogen which is used by the corn. Beans benefit from the slight shade provided by cornstalks; thus, they are mutually beneficial. Melons, squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers also appreciate this sheltering shade. A border of cucumbers is, in turn, beneficial to corn.

The early settlers found the American Indians growing corn and pumpkins together. Research so far suggests that leaf lettuce likes carrots and radishes. In fact, lettuce, carrots, and radishes always make a strong team when grown together. The lettuce makes radishes tender in summer. Lettuce also likes strawberries and cucumbers. Onions protect lettuce against slugs. Garlic also makes a good companion.

Peas are a good neighbor to most vegetables and herbs, especially to carrots, turnips, radishes, cucumbers, sweet corn, and sage. Peas dislike onions, garlic , shallots, gladioluses, and potatoes.

Radishes like peas, nasturtiums, lettuce, and cucumbers. Peas and radishes are mutually helpful. Radishes growing near nasturtiums are aided in both growth and flavor. The herb chervil, planted in alternating rows with radishes, proves mutually beneficial. Chervil makes radishes taste hot.A few radish seeds sown beside cucumbers or other vine crops help keep away striped cucumber beetles.

Radish and hyssop do not make good companions.

Squash likes nasturtiums and corn. Squash bugs are repelled by the nasturtiums. The herb tansy also repels squash bugs. Borage is another good companion. So are peas.

Tomatoes like chives, onions, parsley, asparagus, celery, marigolds, nasturtiums, carrots, garlic, and dill. They dislike kohlrabi, potatoes, and fennel. Growth and flavor are improved by association with sweet basil, beebalm , borage, mint, and marigolds. Marigolds provide protection against the tomato worm.

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