Book Review: Companion Planting for the Kitchen Gardener
COMPANION PLANTING FOR THE KITCHEN GARDENER
BY Allison Greer
Book Review by SCMG Maureen Karbousky
Companion Planting for the Kitchen Gardener: Tips, Advice and Garden Plans for a Healthy Organic Garden is an excellent book for anyone involved in food gardening. It is an easy read and is filled with wonderful color photos to complement the text.
The author, Allison Greer, presents five key principles:
1. Interplant: This does not mean planting marigolds at one end of a straight line of vegetables. A traditional geometric garden is often a small monoculture. Nature, by contrast, mixes together flowers, herbs and vegetables creating a polyculture in which each plant is beneficial to the other. Greer advocates planting five to seven different crops per bed. Interplant deep-rooted and shallow-rooted crops so that there is less competition for soil nutrients at a given depth. Tall plants, such as corn or staked indeterminate tomatoes, can shade crops like spinach and cucumbers that prefer partial shade.
2. Plant Intensively: The bare soil “ground floor” of your garden should not be visible once your plants are mature. Reducing the bare space creates a warm, humid environment beneath the plant leaves. This, in turn, minimizes evaporation—certainly an asset in drought conditions.
3. Rotate Crops: Alternate heavy feeders (corn, broccoli, squash, eggplant) with light feeders (beets, carrots, turnips). Plant soil builders (legumes) and cover crops (crimson clover, winter vetch). Only repeat the same plant family in the same bed every four years.
4. Plant Flowers in an Edible Garden: Flowers may seem superfluous in a vegetable garden. However, they attract beneficial pollinators. Often pests are drawn to flowers and edibles are ignored. For example, borage attracts hornworms away from tomato plants.
5. Look beyond the Border: A companion-planted garden extends beyond the vegetable garden border. Adjacent trees, shrubs and perennial flowers should be considered part of your vegetable garden’s ecosystem. These non-edibles create an inviting habitat for birds, butterflies, bees and toads.
In addition to these key principles, Greer provides a plant-by-plant guide to companion planting. She has experimented with growing various combinations of vegetables, flowers and herbs and explains why certain groupings work best together.
I was attracted to this book because of the numerous helpful diagrams showing raised beds containing five to seven varieties of plants in each. These diagrams provide the reader with a visual reference of how to successfully plan a very diverse edible garden. Companion Planting for the Kitchen Gardener, a very user-friendly book, would make an excellent holiday gift for both the experienced and less experienced food gardener. It is available in paperbook or may be downloaded to an e-book reader.