Linked below is one of the few great companion planting tables I’ve come across. This new AND old style of planting has gained traction from hobbyist basil-and-tomato in a bucket growers to large scale agro-biz producers, so….
What is companion planting? Basically, it’s a method of growing plants together, with the thought that they will interact in some way, such as deterring pests, boosting growth, enhancing taste, attracting beneficial insects, fixing nitrogen, disrupting certain “patterns” and trap cropping. But, just as we have good neighbors, there are bad neighbors, too. Some plants really dislike each other, and shouldn’t be planted in close quarters, unless you’re looking for trouble!
Old Wives’ Tales Or Science?
Ok, does it work? There is a fairly limited amount of actual scientific information on companion planting, but it is safe to say that some pairings do seem to work, while others can be a bit hit and miss.
One partnership, or “Guild”, as many permaculturists know them, is derived from the Native American trinity of corn, beans, and squash, a combination called the Three Sisters. The trio qualifies as a guild because each of these plants supports and benefits the others. The cornstalks form a trellis for the bean vines to climb. The beans, in turn, draw nitrogen from the air, and via symbiotic bacteria convert the nitrogen to plant-available form. These nitrogen-fixing bacteria, scientists have recently learned, are fed by special sugars that ooze from the corn roots. The rambling squash, with its broad leaves, forms a living parasol that densely covers the ground, inhibiting weeds and keeping the soil cool and moist. Together the Three Sisters produce more food, with less water and fertilizer, than a similar area planted to any one of these three crops in isolation. Jane Mt. Pleasant, an agronomist at Cornell University who has blended her Iroquois heritage with her research, has shown that yields of this guild, measured in calories, are about 20 percent higher than corn grown alone in an equal-sized plot.
Look at how many interconnections this guild bears. Beans furnish nitrogenous fertility for themselves, corn, and squash; squash shades soil for the benefit of all three; corn feeds the bean-hugging bacterial nodules and creates a trellis for the beans. Three plants, weaving at least eight connections. The Three Sisters guild is a perfect place to begin creating a richly connected garden.
Not every pairing is as supported by true science as the 3 Sisters Guild, but try some of these out and see which work for you!
Here is deepgreenpermaculture.com’s amazingly thorough planting guide, with thanks to the original source, Brenda Little. It’s compiled by Australian gardeners, but it applies globally.
It’s among the most informative, detailed All-in One vegetable companion tables I’ve found and good jumping off point for those new to the idea…