We Grow Together

It has begun! We have had a few days in Central Massachusetts that smelled like puddles instead of snow. The huge snow banks are compressing and shrinking little by little and every news cast is predicting less snow than the previous. Spring will arrive in its own time and I have begun to plan the 2015 Food It Yourself garden. This year’s crops will include:

From Baker Creek Seeds

  • Purple teepee beans
  • Dar cucumbers
  • Cocozella di Napoli zucchini
  • Alaska red shades nasturtium
  • Garden cress
  • Obus or Kroumir cantaloupe

From Seed Saver’s Exchange

  • Seashells cosmos
  • German chamomile

 

We are also hoping for another generation of tomato volunteers. It looks like our cherry trees have survived, but I won’t know for sure until another few feet of snow has melted. Now that the what has been decided, I need to plan the where for each crop.

Sunlight is an important factor, as parts of our garden are shaded at least part of the day during the summer. Tomatoes do not do well unless they are in full sun- at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. Other veggies can thrive with less. Based on the advice of the Old Farmer’s Almanac and Mother Earth News the cress and beans will get the shady edges of the garden.

There is one other factor I like to consider when planning my garden. Some crops grow better when they are companion planted next to others. One great historical example of this type of planting is the Three Sisters, an agricultural technique of North America’s Iroquois people. Other companion plantings include planting nasturtiums to repel cucumber beetles from cucumbers, melons and squashes. I know where I’ll plant those Alaska reds! There are some combinations that should be avoided, like tomatoes and corn. Here are some references to help you plan exactly where you will plant each of your crops this year.

Organic Gardening has a wonderful beginners guide to the practice of companion growing.

Golden Harvest Organics has an easy-to-use reference for companion planting.

Here is a great resource from The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA). It even includes a gloss on the scientific underpinnings of this practice.

You may notice that these are sites which promote organic gardening, but don’t read too much into that. Companion planting can be a way to minimize the need for any pest control products, even “safer” and organic ones. If you are going to plant both tomatoes and cabbages, why not save yourself some money and trouble by planting them together? Give it a try! Companion planting has been around for eons because it works. Why not situate your seeds where they will thrive best?