Companion planting tips for families

With spring just around the corner, these helpful tips will help youth and their families make the most of their garden space and maximize their fresh summer produce!

Recent scientific research has proven many of the “wives tales” and garden folklore we have been told over the years and past down from generation to generation has actual scientific merit. Some of the folklore has to do with what crop to plant with other crops and which combinations to avoid. Today we call this companion planting. Intercropping is also another word used for companion planting. 

There are many web sites and planting charts available with a quick internet search. Simple companion planting techniques such as these are easy for youth and their families to follow. All one needs to know is which vegetables are compatible and will benefit from their planting location, in relationship to other vegetables, flowers, and herbs. 

It is equally important to know what plants like to be grown together, hence the name companion plants, and what plants don’t like to be planted side by side. We have often heard not to plant our crops in the same spot every year and there is good science behind crop rotation, even in a small garden patch. This is among the many scientific research results that support the folklore and wives tales we have often heard from older gardeners.

Thinking about how fast crops grow can also be advantageous to get the most from your garden space.  Here are a few of the combinations that will help you to grow bigger tastier vegetables while increasing insect and disease resistant. Plant fast growing plants (such as lettuce, radishes and spinach) with slower growing plants (such as tomatoes and peppers) so when the first crop is harvested, the slower growing plants will have room to mature.

Another thing to take into consideration when choosing companion plants is the plants roots: think about where in the soil the plant’s roots are. Place deep rooting plants near more shallow rooting plants so that their roots will be in different soil statas, absorbing the moisture and nutrients they need from differing depths of the soil. Some examples of this are: carrots with peas, strawberries with bush beans, asparagus with tomatoes and parsley, beets with onions, and leeks with vine crops. Other common companions to keep in mind are beans with carrots, beets with onions or kohlrabi, and members of the cabbage family with aromatic herbs.

Also keep in mind plants that don’t like to be planted near each other. Common examples of this are: beans do not like onions or garlic, cabbage is not a companion of tomatoes, and potatoes do not do well with vine crops, tomatoes or sunflowers.

With this helpful information from Michigan State University Extension, youth and their families can make the most of their garden space. Whether it’s for a 4-H project or just some healthy summer food, implementing these tips will help you maximize your fresh summer produce!

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