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Companion Planting

Some types of plants grow better when planted near a plant of another species. This is called companion planting. It is an older system of planting vegetables, herbs, and other plants, that was used before herbicides and fertilizers were common, but still works.

In some cases, companion planting traps pests in a bait crop to save the food crop. For example, planting marigolds near tomatoes helps trap root rot nematodes in the marigolds, sparing the tomatoes. Marigolds also repel tomato hornworms from tomatoes.

Another use for companion planting is to encourage pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds to visit your garden. Planting flowers that bees and hummingbirds are attracted to will draw them in. They will stay and pollinate your squash and cucumbers and other plants that need their help to grow. Planting herbs and flowers among your vegetables is the easiest way to accomplish this particular type of companion planting.

Part of companion planting is understanding that some plants should not be planted near each other. Dill and fennel do not get along, and cucumbers and cantaloupe will cross pollinate and produce foul tasting fruit. These plants should be separated as much as possible in the garden.

One of the most famous cases of companion planting is the Three Sisters method of planting corn, beans, and squash used by Native Americans. The corn is planted first and allowed to germinate and come up. Then the beans are planted and they use the corn as poles to hold themselves up. In return, they fix nitrogen for the corn to use to grow. Finally, the squash is planted between the rows of beans and corn. The squash is shaded so it does not get too hot and sunburn the squash, while providing a ground cover that keeps down weeds near the beans and corn.

This is also an example of spatial intercropping, in that the shade tolerant squash are planted under the corn and beans. The spiny squash vines are also said to repel raccoons from looting the sweet corn in the field.

Companion plants can also be planted to provide nurseries and habitat for beneficial insects, which then hunt down pests on the nearby crops. Again, planting herbs and flowers around your vegetables is the easiest way to accomplish this goal.

While scientists are only now seriously beginning to explore companion planting, it has been practiced for thousands of years. It is mentioned by Theophrastus (300 B.C.E.), Pliny (50 C.E.), and John Gerard (1597 C.E.). In China the mosquito fern has been planted around rice to fix nitrogen and shade out weeds for thousands of years. Something does not usually endure that long unless it works to some degree.

Companion planting was widely promoted in the 1970s by organic producers as a way to protect plants while reducing the need for herbicides and fertilizer. There is a famous book on companion planting by Louise Riotte called Carrots Love Tomatoes that mentions many more ways to practice companion planting in your garden if you are interested in reading further on this topic.

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4 Edible Landscaping Ideas

Introduce edible plants into your landscape.

Michael Seliga, owner of Cascadian Edible Landscapes shares his tips for introducing edible plants into your landscape.

Sneaking a few perennial edibles into your vegetable garden, and even your ornamental borders, cuts down on work and increases the amount of food you can harvest.

Start with herbs. “Herbs are expensive to buy at the store,” Seliga says. “So adding them to your landscape makes good economic sense.” Reserve a small section of your vegetable garden for herbs or integrate them into your landscape. Rosemary, sages, thymes, winter savory, basils, and oregano all blend in well with flowering perennials.

Plant fruiting shrubs. Blueberries, currants, and elderberries are attractive shrubs in their own right, putting out pretty flowers in spring and, especially in the case of blueberries, a colorful fall show. Plus, they produce loads of delicious fruit.

Bring on the berries. Raspberries and blackberries reliably produce loads of fruit for years with minimal care. All they need is a sunny spot with well-drained soil, some basic pruning in winter, and a coat of compost over their beds in spring.

Go undercover. Low-growing, spreading strawberries, especially alpine varieties, make an attractive groundcover in sunny spots.

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Notes from the Garden: The Art of Garden Accessories

An exquisite garden is a planned one, in which each plant has been selected to compliment the others in size, shape and color. Accessories such as benches, sculptures, mirrors and lanterns can be included to enhance the magnetism of the environment where the garden is located.

Sculptures accent sweeping lawns when they are large in size. Large sculptures should be positioned on an angle with landscaping corners. Small sculptures can be placed inside borders with plants surrounding them. I suggest using any kind of sculpture, made by sandstone or marble, because when those materials are exposed to the weather, they age gracefully. Frogs, bunnies and turtles in neutral colors appear magical when placed in flowerbeds or close to pools and fountains. They also can be placed on top of birdbaths, so they are visible from a distance. By pools, certain statues can be connected to water and spill water into the pools.

Bird baths have an important use: centralizing views. They should be placed in the center of the beds, or borders on different garden structures. The height is very important. Usually, three to four feet is the correct height, although the ones low to the ground in the shape of shells and flowers, made in sandstone, are glorious along the edge of flowerbeds, shrubs or under trees.

Spheres in concrete or stainless steel give a clean look to the landscaped areas due to simplicity and shape. Spheres in stainless steel reflect sunlight and moonlight. Spheres made of French popular wood exhibit exquisite colors when weathered, matching the natural tones of the tree bark.

Outdoor mirrors are a British garden tradition, yet usually forgotten in our English country style gardens. When hung outside, they reflect the beauty of a garden. They can be found in iron, wood and acrylic, and they can be hung near porches, pool houses, or any outside wall located near a garden.

Oriental garden stools, made of ceramic in different colors and shapes, look very special when they are placed along borders, gardens or by swimming pools. These seats are a long-time oriental tradition in gardens. More traditional benches in concrete or wood bring romance to wooded areas under the canopy trees.

Lanterns and torches should be placed in permanent spots along areas where light is needed. The glow of a candle is the ideal tool to give your garden more intimacy. Standing torches in stainless steel have a sophisticated look and are durable. Citronella oil is used to light these torches and help keep the undesired night bugs away. Lanterns by the steps, patios, or hanging by trees or pergolas reflect the right amount of light to compliment the beauty of outdoor areas. Larger lanterns, made in stainless steel with unbreakable glass, improve all outdoor areas and may also be used on top of the table.

Pots and planters should be outside year-round. Concrete, fiberglass, metal pots, planters and urns can be used year-round in Hampton’s weather. They give majestic structure to driveways and entrances, especially when elevated by columns. I even love to see them when they are covered in snow.

All this detail compliments our gardens and makes them even more special. Personalizing them with the correct elements is important. Different accents bring movement, character and interest to the landscape. Every single well-placed detail will amplify the harmony of nature.

There are numerous ways to utilize garden accessories to achieve a better and more attractive landscape design.

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