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Companion Planting – Is It Practical Or Nonsense?
Companion planting has been a topic of intrigue for centuries. Ever since Pliny the Elder opined that rue was ‘very friendly’ to figs, gardeners have searched for perfect plant pairings. There are a myriad of planting charts and articles available online but many of these are based only on anecdotes. These charts are entertaining and they give us plenty of ideas to experiment with. But is there any science to back up claims such as ‘my carrots love my tomatoes?’
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is the concept of planting two or more species of plants together to take advantage of beneficial physical or biochemical relationships.
What the layperson refers to as companion planting is often used in pseudo-scientific terms, based only on assumptions. Because of this, the scientific community is a bit critical of the term ‘companion planting.’ Instead, they perform controlled experiments to test potential benefits of plant combinations, which they refer as ‘intercropping,’ ‘polyculture,’ or ‘plant associations’.
Is There Scientific Evidence To Support Companion Planting?
A great deal of research does, in fact, support the potential for both positive and negative plant combinations. More research is needed but some interesting information gleaned from studies supports what many gardeners already suspected or observed in their gardens.
We know that plants are rooted in place and they must either adapt to their soil and surroundings or alter them through chemical or physical means in order to survive.
Some plants are capable of creating compounds called allelochemicals that negatively affect plants around them. Walnuts create juglone, a compound that suppresses the growth of many plants. Don’t plant your garden close to walnut trees(1).
Research has also found that some basic plant combinations produce benefits for commercial and home agriculture. An age-old plant companion grouping such as the Three Sisters…
Read the full article on The New Homesteader’s Almanac