How to take advantage of the combination of plants in the garden

By Germinar NGO (@germinarong)*

For centuries, market gardeners passed down from generation to generation the knowledge of which plants thrived alongside each other to obtain abundant and healthy harvests.

The plants modify their environment because of the secretions of the roots, and for this reason they influence the growth of neighboring plants. The associations are based on the observations and experiences of organic horticulturists for decades, and scientific research provides more information on the processes that stimulate or inhibit the growth of neighboring plants.

Associate: combine two plants with a particular purpose

The needs of each of the crops are different and complement each other, thus minimizing the competition between plants that grow together and the spread of pests and diseases.

The association of crops is a fundamental practice of any agroecological garden that helps us to:

– Optimize the available space: the key is to combine horizontally growing plants (lettuce, radish, arugula, etc.) with vertically growing ones (leek, carrot, tomato, etc.) or fast-growing species with some slow-growing ones.

– Optimize the use of the substrate or soil: the combination of some species allows the plants not to compete for the same nutrients in the soil. Leafy vegetables have shallow roots and consume nitrogen from the soil. On the contrary, plants with deeper roots extract, above all, potassium.

– Prevent weed growth: By using the soil intensively, the surface is covered with vegetation and the weeds have less space and light to grow.

– They favor the ecological control of insects: Horticultural species can be grouped together, with flowering plants or with aromatic and medicinal species.

Some species attract beneficial insects to the garden and others, especially aromatic plants, serve as a repellent for harmful insects.

Garlic release odors that protect beans and potatoes and onions protect strawberries. Basil repels tomato stink bugs, and the solanine-containing odor of tomato foliage protects cabbage and broccoli from insect attack.

Calendula, for example, attracts natural enemies of aphids and others such as sage, rosemary or thyme keep carrot and cabbage flies, ants and aphids away.

Take advantage of these combinations in the garden!