Garden Harmony: Companion Planting!
Whew! The fall season is finally upon us here in Austin, Texas (so long, 100 degree days!). We have been busy putting fall gardens in for folks all over Central Texas, and they are looking great.
This time of year reminds us that sometimes the hardest part of gardening is the initial planning. Many YardFarmers have asked us for hints and tips to create a beautiful, bountiful garden for the fall and winter season. Here are the methods behind our planting madness –or genius.
To have a garden is to actually build a mini ecosystem in your back –or front- yard. A gardener is always working to balance the soil to ensure proper plant growth, while providing vegetation that will attract beneficial insects- which can fight off the troublesome bugs and disease. This “intentional” planting goes by a more common title: companion planting.
Each plant holds natural chemicals in their flowers, roots, leaves, and stems that affect the space and soil around them. Think about the smells of aromatic herbs like cilantro or lemon balm- those scents are naturally occurring chemicals inside the herbs that affect even humans in different ways. Some plants add nutrients into the soil that can actually change the flavors of surrounding plants, while others can attract and repel certain types of critters. The goal behind companion planting is to create a symbiotic relationship throughout your garden so that nature can do its very best work!
While it may sound complicated, companion planting can be as easy as placing basil next to tomatoes (which enhances the flavor of both plants and repel bugs). As organic gardeners, this method of planting can support the kind of holistic environment within our gardens that can reduce the need for pesticides, fertilizers, and physical labor. The best way to learn the in’s-and-out’s of companion planting is to experiment with different combinations and planting techniques (some work better than others in various environments). There are plenty of guides and literature on this subject to guide you along; but, since we in Central Texas are in a new growing season, we want to highlight some herbs and veggies that may take your fall and winter crops to the next level!
Lettuces: They grow even bigger and brighter when planted next to beets, broccoli, carrots, onions, strawberries, and radishes. To keep the harsh sun rays from their tender leaves, plant lettuces under new sunflowers for shade. Plant herbs like dill around to keep bugs at bay. Be sure to keep these leafy greens away from cabbage, as it can hinder the growth and flavor of the lettuce.
Marigolds/Calendula: This fall flower repels gnarly nematodes that can harm your fall crop. Plant the bright orange blossoms throughout your garden to deter pests- like bunnies- and smother weed roots. The most effective variety is the Mexican Marigold.
Broccoli: Plant these next to lettuces, potatoes, onions, beans, dill, garlic, marigolds, rosemary, sage, and thyme. While onions and potatoes can improve the taste of broccoli, the veggie itself adds calcium into the soil that benefit can beets. Rosemary, sage, and dill will keep the broccoli-loving bugs away.
Catnip: This herb is somewhat of a miracle worker. Planting this throughout your garden can ward off aphids, ants, weevils, flea beetles, and squash bugs. Make a tea from the leaves and spray over your plants to keep beetles away. Oh, but watch out for cats!
Lemon Balm: With its citronella scent, this herb is great to repel mosquitoes! Plant it throughout the garden to ward off a plethora of other harmful insects (like squash bugs).
These are just a few ideas to put your best fall and winter garden forward this year. For more information on companion planting guides, check out this plant-by-plant chart that we have found to be very useful –and accurate! Don’t forget that YardFarm Austin have a great fall garden deal going this season. Get a 4×4-raised garden, chock full of leafy greens put in for only $199. We can even help you take care of it! Just email us for more information.