Ever heard the phrase, “diversity makes us stronger”?
Well as it turns out, that is true in your garden too! Permaculture is an agricultural philosophy that subscribes to the notion that diversity of plant-life = resilience in your garden/landscape. Or in other words the wider variety of plants you have growing close to eachother, the less likely it is that your “ecosystem” will succumb to disease & pests. Sounds good? We thought so too!
Ok… So What Does That Mean Exactly?
Here are some pro tips for increasing variety in your gardens this summer!
Much like humans, plants like certain other plants very much and dislike others. For example tomatoes and carrots are a match made in heaven! Tomatoes secrete a natural insecticide that protect carrots from carrot flies & provide shade to the heat-sensitive carrot stems & leaves. In return, carrots break up and aerate the soil so much needed water can flow to the roots of the tomato plants. Carrots also provide ground cover and help to keep the soil from drying out! Basil, garlic and onions should also be planted nearby to ward off molds and harmful fungi! Permaculture organizes plants that grow well together into “guilds”.
Here are a few of our favorite Permaculture Guilds:
How: Plant Corn with 2 bean plants on opposite sides and one squash around the base.
- Corn is a natural trellis for your beans. Corn tastes sweeter when grown with beans and squash!
- Beans secrete nitrogen in your soil. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for Corn and squashes.
- Squash provide ground cover (keeps the sun from baking the soils on hot, dry days) and it’s thorny stalk wards off would-be thieves such as squirrels, mice & rabbits. Squashes also mature sweeter tasting when grown with corn and beans.
How: Plant tomatoes with a large stake behind them. Carrots on the left, Basil in the center in front and garlic on the right, then move about 18″ to either side and repeat. Plant as many clusters like this as you like. The reason for the specific order like this is although carrots and garlic like being close by, if they are side-by-side they will compete for nutrients in the soil.
- Tomatoes provide natural shade for your carrots & garlic. Tomato leaves are also a natural insecticide! In fact you can make an all natural insecticide by chopping 1/2 a pound of fresh, young tomato leaves up and then pouring boiling water over them. Allow to steep for 15 mins, then strain and cool. Once cool, you can spray this all over your garden! Remember to reapply after heavy rains or prolonged watering.
- Carrots have a strong scent that beetles don’t like! They also help to keep basil from flowering too fast.
- Basil has a strong scent that protects tomatoes from aphids. It also tastes delicious with tomatoes!
- Garlic and this guild were simply meant to be. Garlic heightens and highlights the flavors of tomatoes, carrots and basil. Garlic also grows larger and healthier bulbs when grown close to carrots & tomatoes.
How: Plant 3-4 Sunflowers with a space at the center. Plant 3-4 Radishes in the middle. Plant 2-3 Cucumbers just outside the perimeter of Sunflowers Offset and opposite eachother.
- Radishes love partial shade and moist soil, their scent wards off cucumber beetles & attracts ladybugs to your garden
- Sunflowers provide structure for the cucumbers to grow up (cucumbers are climbers!) and shade for your radishes. Cucumbers taste SWEETER when grown near/up Sunflowers. They also attract bees, butterflies & ladybugs!
- Cucumbers, when climbing up and around the Sunflowers, create a thorny barrier protecting the sunflowers and radishes from mice, squirrels, etc
Companion planting tends to increase productivity and yield of your veggies as well. So not only is your garden more resilient and resistant to pests, diseases, molds, mildew and harmful fungi, but also you get tastier, larger fruits/veggies and more of them to boot!
Monocultures May Be More Productive On Large Scales, But Who Wants To Eat Pesticides?
Monocultures Are Like Giant Targets For Pests
All pests have preferences for their food source. Some like broccoli, others love corn husks, and others yet prefer munching on wheat berries. Over millions of years they have specialized in consuming certain types of crops. So, put yourself in their shoes for just a moment. Would you rather settle down and lay your eggs on a single plant and then have to travel far to get to the next plant you like to eat, or would you rather lay your eggs in the midst of a VAST field of your favorite food? The obvious answer is that as a pest you would go for the latter every time. The same can be said of molds and fungi as well. The best way to combat this (without resorting to nasty chemicals) of course is to embrace diversity as THE WAY! Plant different veggies side by side in your garden (refer to our companion planting table) and see what nature has in store for you!
Please feel free to ask questions and come by Giordano’s to pick up a wide variety of veggies for your garden this growing season!