Did you know there are several different uses for companion planting? Most of you have heard about the benefits, but in reality of the benefits there is a bottom line.
In order for the benefits to take place an attempt to duplicate nature in all its glory must happen.
Most of the time it is just a matter of observation. Learning the life cycles of insects and noticing how certain plants take on relationships with each other sometimes takes a little trial and error.
To make it simple for gardeners who are new at these concepts, I always recommend beginning with Companion Planting Beneficial Habitats. What this means is creating areas throughout the garden and the premises that will be an attractive environment for beneficial insects and arthropods. They will work as predators keeping the bad guys under control.
The attraction for some in a beneficial habitat may be the plants or certain types of flowers that draw the insect for food or perhaps a place in which to lay its eggs. It may be a matter of creating areas in which toads, frogs and lizards can live. It could also be the pollen and nectar of herbs and flowers that provide nourishment for pollinators or attract birds that might enjoy eating some pesky grasshoppers and caterpillars.
Study what grows best in your garden zone. Look for natives and heirlooms that provide more food than hybrids. Create water features and natural canopies with shrubs and trees. Above all protect your soil with natural matter that will protect all the beneficial life you can not see with your eyes that live under the earth. And as always we must strive towards diversity.
In the photo above we have experimented with companions by growing Cilantro that is interplanted with our Triticale crop. The Cilantro served a dual purpose by suppressing unwanted weeds as well as attracting hoards of Ladybug's with its delicate white flowers.
We found that the Triticale germinated close to 90 percent of what was sown in this area. As the the Cilantro finished its cycle we allowed it to seed out. The herb soon dies down creating a natural mulch for the wheat as it continues to mature. Of course since this is a small test area the wheat when ready was harvested easily by hand. As fall approached much of the seed from the Cilantro that fell to the ground sprouted back up and gave us another crop to enjoy during the cooler temperatures in a weed free zone.
A great link to help you get started with companion planting can be found at this page. The list is constantly complied and updated by Universities and Experts such as The Rodale Institute. Happy Gardening!