Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Companion planting in a backyard garden

April 17, 2012 028

In our backyard we have twelve raised beds that give us a total of 256 square feet of planting space.  Even though I would love to have a large garden so that we could store more food for the winter, it’s just not a possibility.  I could give up more yard space for a larger garden but I also believe that my children need the other parts of our yard to play in. 

So how do you make a smallish plot of land feed a larger-than-normal family?

One way we stretch our growing space is by using raised beds instead of a traditional row garden.  Because we garden this way, we actually have less wasted space.  We also have to think outside of the box when planting.  Instead of planting the seeds/plants in rows, we line the plants up using the methods (or a somewhat modified version of the author’s methods) found in Square Foot Gardening.  But a third way that we stretch our gardening space and thus our yield is by companion planting. 

labeled garden 2 The okra/bell pepper/eggplant box planted per the directions given by the author of Tomatoes Love Carrots.

I have been companion planting for years.  Actually, I don’t go out to the garden without my printout from My Square Foot Garden that tells what can and can not be planted near each other.  Before I plant anything near anything else, I check this printout to make sure that the plants are compatible with each other. 

This year, I have also started referring to the book Tomatoes Love Carrots.  This book does not have the exhaustive list of plants like you will find at the My Square Foot Garden site.  However, the author tells you how some plants are actually beneficial to other plants.  It goes beyond just “yes, you can plant it next to this plant” to “this plant is good for this plant because…”. 

I am trying out some of the author’s suggestions in the garden this year.  For instance, in the two 4X4 boxes shown, we have:

labeled garden 1 

For my visual friends, these two boxes were planted in this manner:

image

In the tendercrisp beans/strawberry/spinach box, I used the outside 1X1 boxes to plant strawberries in the middle with spinach planted in the four corners.  Most of my strawberries in this box did not do well but they were in before the beans so it was not a direct result of being planted with the beans.  I think I got a bad batch of strawberry roots.image

So far all of the plants planted following the suggestions in Tomatoes Love Carrots are doing really well.  They seem to be thriving and I love that I am able to use every little bit of space to grow food in our city garden!

April 17, 2012 048

Companion planting makes it so easy to stretch space and harvest more.  One of my 4X8 boxes is planted with 5 different types of plants (and a few flowers that I tucked in here and there).

On the right, there is a row of snow peas with swiss chard at the base. 

labeled garden 3

On the other side, a few cucumber plants with two young tomatoes and lettuce that will be finished before the tomatoes get too much larger.

labeled garden 4

When the snow peas are finished, they will simply be replace with another vegetable that is compatible with the cucumbers and tomatoes and that doesn’t mind the shade cast on them by the larger plants. 

Companion planting is a great way to get more food in a small space.  I strongly recommend the book Tomatoes Love Carrots.  It is a great resource.  I would also recommend printing out the companion planting chart at the site My Square Foot Garden (link is a few paragraphs above).  It truly is my go-to for companion planting knowledge.

Happy planting!

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