A Gardener’s Diary: Planting for companionship in the garden

Jocelyne Sewell offers some tips for what plants to put next to each other for optimal growth

Already May is halfway gone and what weather we’re having. Last year at the Lumby Market  I was wearing my winter boots and my tuque because it was so cold. This year I had to empty my little greenhouse because my plants were burning.

The opening of the market May 11 was a beautiful day. Except for Lumby Days on June 8, it runs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until October.

This is the first year that I have squash plants already transplanted and blooming in the garden at this early date. From the weather reports, it looks like we are safe from frost for the next couple of weeks and then we get after May 24 when it is safe for our zone. Maybe this is a preview of the climate change. All this sun may be nice but now we need some rain again. Some of my rain barrels are emptied.

The warm weather has forced my irises to bloom much earlier. Some of them are already past their prime. This week I plan on transplanting some of my tomato plants and hoping to get some of the early varieties ready to eat in early July unless we have very cold weather in June as some other years. Gardening is never boring.

As you are ready to plant your garden, I thought I would share with you some of the companion planting guide. For years I have been using the books Carrots Love Tomatoes and Roses Love Garlic by Louise Riotte. Plants are like people. Some of them get along very well but try to put other ones together and it just doesn’t work. The following plants grow well together, supporting each other and resulting in greater yields for you. Consider the following pairings (and a few that dislike each other) when making your garden plans.

n Beans get along with most veggies, but not onions.

n Cabbage and broccoli love celery, beets, spinach and chard. This is a good place for your onions, too.

n Carrots do well with peas, lettuce and tomatoes, but keep the dill at the other end of the garden.

n Cucumbers like to be near beans, peas and radishes, but far from potatoes.

n Tomatoes will thrive near carrots, cucumbers and onions.

n Radishes mature more quickly than slow-going carrots — planted together, your soil yields more vegetables

In any case, there are many plants that establish this kind of symbiotic relationship, and encouraging it in your own garden can yield spectacular results. Your veggies will be healthier and more flavourful, you’ll find fewer pests ravaging the garden, and it’s lovely to see all the different colours and textures of these plants juxtaposed against one another instead of just standing stodgily in long, straight lines.

Basil: An excellent herb to grow with tomatoes, it’ll fend off tomato worms, and will enhance growth. Don’t grow it anywhere near cabbage or snap beans, however — it’ll lower their yield and stunt growth. It doesn’t play nicely with sage either. Basil’s strong fragrance repels flies and mosquitoes so keep some in a glass of water on your table. It may also come in handy for last-minute seasoning.

Perennial herbal or floral borders attract beneficial insects and repel undesirable ones. Good border plants include marigold, nasturtium, garlic, chives, onion and others with spicy or stinky leaves.

Companion planting is also a good way to improve the rotation of your vegetable garden. Follow heavy feeders (corn and tomatoes) with heavy givers (legumes, clovers), then light feeders (root crops).

For information: 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan, a member of the Okanagan Gardes and Roses Club and gardening columnist for The Morning Star, appearing every other Wednesday.