Companion Planting

Our younger Twenty Something daughter called this week to report that relationships are work, that she and her boyfriend will be separated this summer because of jobs, and that it feels complicated.  “Sometimes it’s easier to be single,” she said.  I look out at the gardens where the Bearded One and I have been working on separate projects.  Males and females can communicate, I tell her.  If enough different flowers are planted between them to facilitate pollination.

This week I planned the garden according to the principles of companion planting, at least as many of them as I could absorb.  One or two.  The idea is that some plants help each other grow and thrive, while others will hinder.  As with plants, so it is with humans.  Side-by-side, ’til death, or something, do us part.

Principle One:  Like the smell of your companion.  So I moved the chives out of the Circle Garden to the Rings Garden with the other onions and the onion-friendly potatoes, cabbage and broccoli.  Onions are pungent and affect the taste of their bedfellows, plus they stunt the growth of beans and peas.  Oh, and the sweet peas came up this week.  I see little hearts, while the Bearded One points out, seriously, how they look like a row of darts thrown straight down.

Sweet pea -- hearts and darts. Any moles here?

Principle Two:  Split up the work.  In the place where the chives were, on the south side of the new hoop house in the Circle Garden, I’ll plant the “Three Sisters” combination which is corn, beans and squash.  The corn stalks support the pole beans, which return nitrogen to the soil that the corn leeches out, and the squash covers the ground and keeps it moist.  American Indians planted this way for centuries.  An image of The Three Sisters planting technique is on the reverse side of the Sacajawea dollar. 

“I am my own person,” says my younger daughter, still talking about her relationship.  “I am myself, an independent individual.  We are two different people.”  Yes, I say, so true, and with very different perspectives.  While I continue my weeding and plant the snap peas and carrots (with the cabbage, broccoli, and onions), the Bearded One finishes everything about the hoop house that can be finished, but the plastic still cannot go on, he says.  I am impatient for the plastic, I admit.

Twin mole hills near the hoop house.

Principle Three:  Attract sweetness and repel harm.  We are watching Garfield exploring the hoop house.  We really can’t train him not to go on something that’s not there yet, and so we watch him with amusement and a bit of trepidation…I wish the plastic was on, and we could be legitimately keeping him off of it.

Why can’t we put the plastic on? I ask, patiently.  Not bossy.  The Bearded One is in charge of this part of the project, and I am exercising my right to know.

Sometimes I like to know a reason, I say.  Garfield swings from the arches.

And then the Bearded One becomes, before my very eyes, the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, complete with lisp — which he’s been seeing me do for days since I saw it again on YouTube.  Vewy well, he says from the deck, sweeping his hand out across the yard.  I welease the Weason!

The grass is too wet and the circus tent-sized plastic will stick to itself when we lay it out  Also, the wind keeps kicking up.  Oh.  Okay.  I can wait a day.  If I have to.  I guess.

Garfield is a great companion to the gardens on a molecular level.  Five or six a day is starting to be normal.

Mole mortuary with bird feathers

The mason bees aren’t active around the cookie can “hive,” but it’s still cold here.  Most days lately it never makes 50 degrees.  We’ll plant all kinds of flowers among the vegetables, maybe even start them in the hoop house.  Next week.  Once we get the plastic up.  When the timing works.  It’s a two-man job.

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10 responses to “Companion Planting

  1. Annie Killien

    I love sweet peas! Nice job this week Mom!

  2. kathie prater

    I found this issue particularly thought provoking. I never knew that certain plants helped or hindered others. It was very interesting and it made sense to me too! I guess that the old adage, “as above, so below” applies to growing everything, be it plants, or relationships. I have been in a relationship where it literally felt like a part of me had to die in order for the relationship to thrive, and I have been in ones where I felt I could be myself and at my best without any effort! I guess I am the corn, and I need someone to be either squash or pole beans! 🙂
    Maybe someday I will find the right one to complete my succotash!!! Every Thursday, I get on the computer so that I can read the latest “issue” of Farmlet, and every week I start with the newest one, and then go back and re-read the older ones. I just love it, Christi, and I love you too….keep up the good work. I will be here waiting for the next one! 😀

    • Oh, Kathie, what a beautiful comment. Thank you. The way you describe your relationships — “a part of me had to die” and “be myself and at my best without any effort” is perfect and I wish I had written it.:) Your bean will come. Love you, Christi

  3. Christine Widman

    Ahhh…molecular level. “lol”!!
    Garfield is a molecular leveler. We have no guard cat for our javelinas. We have to keep track of what desert flora they find delectable and never plant that particular kind of javelina morsel outside the courtyard.
    We let them munch contentedly on the masses of prickly pear on our property.
    This is our attract sweetness – repel harm kind of strategy as the javelinas are sweet in a very pungently smelling way.
    Our youngest and her beau are work separated – across the continent from each other now. At least this century has airplanes and cell phones…the young & in love don’t have to board a covered wagon or wait weeks for the Pony Express to deliver their letters.
    Still….the principle of split up the work seems to be much in force in the working world these days.
    Sigh.
    C.

    • Thanks for the comment, Christine. So interesting. Javelinas! The Bearded One has a question: “Have there been javelina attacks on humans since you’ve lived there? Are they frequent? How much does a big one weigh?”

  4. Love this! Companioning…..support, benefit, side by side. Garfield is a busy boy….I mourn the molehill. You and the Bearded One are such gentle garden nurturers and caretakers…..I learned a new word in Hawaiian….Malama…(pronounced Mah-Lama) to take care of, nurture, serve….it’s lovely to say. Malama Aina…..to care for the earth…..Love your writing…..Mahalo 🙂 (many thanks)

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  6. ey big sis!
    got back last week from the dominican republic and haiti. went with Plant With Purpose – a faith based ngo (non-government organization) that works with the rural poor. companion planting is big in their arsenal for helping the land to heal while helping the poor to survive and succeed. the crops do better without having to fertilize or leave fields fallow, and the varying harvesting times and diversity of product makes for more success when selling the extra (if it’s all one product, the farmer is vulnerable to the market saturation – and the venders in the city can take full advantage of their leverage…)

    glad you are able to keep the writing going!
    and it’s fun to read up (keep up) with you!

    • Thanks, David, and great points you make about how companion planting works on a bigger scale. I wondered what the name of the group you’ve worked with was…Plant With Purpose. Cool, and the pictures you take along the way are a boon to our lives as well. 🙂

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