Once upon a time, in middle school science class, I remember learning about mutualism, in which two different organisms work and benefit one another. While there are many examples of mutualism, a very good example would be the well known “Three Sisters” companion planting.

Companion planting is a system based around the idea that certain plants can benefit one another when planted together. The common “Three Sisters” is a system composed of bean plants, squash plants, and corn plants, and was used very heavily by the North American Natives. The corn provides a stock for the beans to climb, the squash covers the ground to prevent weeds from growing, and the beans puts nitrogen back into the soil for the corn to grow.

Companion planting is very common and, if you properly do your research, you can grow an incredibly healthy garden that protects itself rather than needing additional pesticides and herbicides.

There are many aspects to companion planting, including “spatial planting” which is putting a tall, sun loving plant with a ground and shade dwelling plant to create happy homes for both. Another type of companion planting is “Nurse Cropping”, where tall or dense-canopied plants may protect more vulnerable plants through shading or by providing a windbreak. An example of this would be oats and alfalfa.

There are many combinations for new and experienced  farmers alike to try out and see what works. Sometimes if the combination is really great, you might even get a higher crop yield or save pest and weed control money.

For more information on companion planting, check out http://www.companionplanting.net/ or check out Golden Harvest Organics or even just Wikipedia.

Erin

Katimavik Intern

 

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