We hear about companion planting often; combine plants together that are beneficial. Sometimes they flag down good bugs or bees for pollination, or sometimes they repel insects that enjoy eating their companion. They like each other. Basil and tomatoes. Potatoes and greens. Corn and squash. All good friends. I do companion plant but I do more than that. Even if I did have a zillion acres, I wouldn’t mono-crop. Meaning long rows of one plant. I know in commercial farming that it is considerably easier than digging out the cabbage from the lush onion tops, but I will probably never be that big! Furthermore, even though I don’t want to mono-crop, I do some companion planting, my real reason for growing plants all together in the same space is…well, space!
Now that we are trying to provide most of our own food and do some market growing, the corn can not leisurely take up all that space. It best share. There is a full foot between the stalks. Squash and melon plants can be meandering around down there keeping weeds down. There is also room for some beans to climb up the corn stalk. (Sounds like a nursery rhyme!) This, of course, creates what is known as the Three Sisters, the Native American form of gardening. Yes, they are beneficial plants for each other but they also save on space.
Any blank few inches of dirt gets spinach, kale, chard, or lettuce seeds added to it. Baby greens are delicious, good for us, and easy to grow. They get put everywhere.
Onions share space with neighbors above ground, namely cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels. Potatoes share with sunflowers. We have Irish blood in us, we need potatoes. When ours sprouted and ran for the hills in the root cellar, we were saddened. Thank goodness the ones at the store were available. This year we are planting them everywhere, in barrels, next to the extra row of beans, next to the carrots, and in another large raised bed.
The first set of lettuce and greens that I planted early were sparse and even though I can harvest them still, there is a lot more space in that bed. I could plant more greens or soybeans, or whatever I have left seed wise. Probably shouldn’t plant pumpkins, they would pummel the little lettuce guys once they started spreading! Common sense helps with gardening. (I could use a smidge more…)
One can also think this way; something growing underground (potatoes, carrots, turnips….), something growing short that is early (lettuce, kale, collards….), and something that takes awhile to get harvested (Brussels sprouts, cabbage, beans….), and make them share a bed. They all have enough room.
Now you can never have to say your garden is much too small. You can have pots, five gallon buckets, trash cans, upside down tomato plants, and all the vegetables in the garden playing nice and sharing the soil. Just envision that harvest!