Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Inter & Companion Planting the Edible Garden

Inter & Companion Planting the Edible Garden

Trending now is a new generation of back-to-the-land gardeners reviving and reinventing a very old concept in gardening: interplanting home-grown vegetables and herbs with flowers to make the most of urban spaces. Area gardeners are creating spaces where families can retreat, eat, educate, and entertain. Thunder Bay is becoming a city where back lanes are grazing grounds, where neighbours plant seeds, ideas grow, and biodiversity is the aesthetic consideration of our backyard gardens.
Filled with healthy plants that provide both beauty and abundance, there is an ever increasing interest in edible gardens, whether in a backyard, a community plot, or on a balcony. No matter the size – edibles are everywhere. People are growing tomatoes and peppers upside down from balconies, or on them: herbs and peas in pots combined with favourite annual petunias, calibrachoa, edible pansies and marigolds. This is inspiring; the possibilities are endless.

Companion planting in the eco-friendly garden understands the symbiotic relationships between the plant species, and with pollinators. The ways in which opposites attract in the garden can be used to establish beneficial habitats: sun lovers provide shade for those who require it, nitrogen fixing plants can be paired with heavy feeders to balance soil nutrient, and deep rooted plants together with those with shallow roots can work together in the same space.
Attracting pollinators and beneficial insects by planting their favourites, which in the Thunder Bay area include beautiful, hardy deciduous shrubs such as hydrangeas or weigela, perennial cornflowers (bachelor buttons) and coneflowers (echinacea ), monarda (bee balm), sedum, and veronica – these and other plants with high nectar concentrations will draw in helpful hummingbirds , bees, and bats. Herb plants, such as coriander, dill, and parsley not only complete a kitchen garden, but are all the preference of beneficial bugs.
 The same works for deterring unwanted visitors; if you want to keep aphids from your roses or lupins try interplanting garlic, which also helps to prevent fungal diseases. Hardy area roses such as those in the Explorer Series, Mordens, or Rugosas attract pollinating bees and butterflies to vegetable crops while their intoxicating scent fills a backyard with home grown aromatherapy.
Prevention as pest control can be easily achieved both in containers or garden beds. Interplanted sage, calendula (pot marigold), mint, and geraniums repel pests through summer, while migratory birds are lured by late fruit bearing shrubs and trees. Here, a pesky mosquito problem can be taken care of with the inclusion of a bat house in the garden. Bats are active members of the garden ecosystem and also work to pollinate fruits trees, tender annuals, and disperse seeds.

Understanding soil composition is a good preventative step, and helps to simplify the process of soil building. By topping up and amending we improve soil nutritional quality; plants grow strong, more resistant to harmful insects, and produce more flowers and fruit. Supplements such as bone and blood meal, NPK compounds (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), and by replenishing mulch will provide the balanced nutrients for plants to bloom profusely, and produce large yields. Choosing appropriate plant type fertilizers saves valuable energy and improves the efficiency of the garden.

Our Boreal climate, with its many shifts in temperature, allows us optimal chances to observe seasonal blooms: through our long (often confusing) spring time weather, tolerating the heat of July becoming lush in August lasting through October. By designing environments which are diverse, stable, and have the resilience of natural ecosystems, our garden spaces will thrive and require less intervention.

printed in:
May 2012 Home & Garden flyer
distributed by the Chronicle Journal
Sunday, 13 May 2012

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