Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The allotment and companion planting

This year I have spent some time planting companion plants alongside my vegetables.
I know there is some scientific research for plants like marigold, mustard and maybe chamomile but there seems to be very little research on any of the other recommended plants. I must admit that the poached egg plants that I planted under the sweet peas may have helped them. I would much rather think that it was the inoculated charcoal that was more effective though. I am the belt and braces kind of gardener that uses every technique he can to produce the best results.

The companion planting lists seem to be repeated from web site to web site and book to book with very little passing through people’s brains.

The lists of pests they are reported to be effective against read like the old quack remedies such as snake oil.

Is there anyone that can suggest some good research that has been done on companion planting?

I am always amazed at what academics research, because they seem to go for stuff that is not very good for everyday life. In horticulture research, I think that the funding comes from industry so research will be focused on what they think are important.
My main worry is the thoughtless copying of long lists of companion planting that I have seen in many books and websites.

I find it very difficult to rely on old wives tales about gardening techniques because I have found that many of them do not work. The “plant onions or garlic with carrots to keep away carrot root fly” does not work for me and I have tried it for years. However, each time I hear about a method I have not tried I will give it a go even though my scientific training makes me very skeptical.

Now I have read on that planting potatoes next to raspberries encourages blight. What is that all about? I have been reading gardening books and research for years and have not heard about that one. Rubus idaeus the raspberry and Solanum tuberosum potato both totally different species from different parts of the world. Not only that, I am growing potatoes right up to my raspberries this year. I can’t put them anywhere else because it would mess up my rotation.

What fascinates me is that there are very few non cultivated plants within the lists. If there is something in companion planting, and I think there maybe, then surely the fact that a plant is cultivated cannot be the important factor.

Native uncultivated plants, weeds for short, probably have a greater affinity for native mychorrhizal fungi may give a greater help to crop plants than the list plants. Mychorrhiza will be able to transfer any beneficial chemicals to partner plants much quicker, easier and more effectively than diffusion through the soil.
It may be true what people say,
But I keep wondering anyway…

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