My husband and I are about to move our family to Ohio where we finally have a yard! Since the yard is small, we will be planting as much as possible, and to maximize the amount of food and plant medicine we can cultivate, all landscaping will be edible and/or medicinal. We will be getting a late start on the seed starting, but I wanted to share some ideas that we will be employing in our garden beds. Today I will focus on Companion Planting.
What is Companion Planting? All it is is planting species that attract beneficial insects and/or repel pesky ones. They visibly improve the health of your garden. You plant them amongst your vegetable garden or flower beds (for example, plant nasturtiums under roses to help keep aphids under control)
There are many plants that can do these things, but there are a few easy go-tos that grow well and don’t take up too much space, plus you can harvest from most of these plants as well…some for food, some for tea, some for medicine, some for all of these things…. There are some you can’t ingest at all so I’ll focus on the edibles……
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Attracts beneficials and has natural antimicrobial properties. The plant is tacky with a cucumber smelling latex and the beautiful, sunshiney flowers are the part harvested for medicine. Pick one flower back and it will grow two more. Pinch it back when it is younger so it grows bushier and sends more flower stalks up. The plentiful seeds look like freaky little alien worm things…..easily harvested for next year’s crop. The flowers are edible, so sprinkle some calendula flower petals in your salads and enjoy their bright beauty and healthy benefits!
Calendula flower infusion is still the greatest thing I know of to wash away a yeast infection (flowers strained out and cooled before use, of course) . Works like a charm. Incredibly gentle. Very effective. Commonly used in baby’s diaper rash creams, lotions for all kinds of skin. Soothing for burns. Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and good for wounds. I think this is a very important plant to grow at home.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum ssp.)
Nasturtiums attract aphid eaters, so they are valued for their ability to keep aphid populations under control. They are beautiful to look at with their geometric leaves, gorgeous flowers and curious green, shriveled looking, giant-pea sized seeds. The leaves, flowers and green seeds are all edible and have a mild wasabi kick to them. Well, the flowers and leaves are mild…but the green seeds are potent with the wasabi kick. I love it. Add any or all of these things to your salads. Talk about gourmet looking and tasting!
I have also personally noticed that a tomato plant with a nasturtium or two growing under it is visibly healthier and happier, with more fruit on it than those who lack a nasturtium companion.
Most nasturtium varieties grow to be small globe shaped plants getting about 8″-12″ high, but there are some amazing climbing/vining varieties out there that are gorgeous and invoke images of The Shire of Middle Earth….give them space to roam. There is even a variety with a nice, fleshy tubers and it is planted like a potato.
Roman (Chamaemelum nobile) and German (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile is known as “the plant doctor,” a name that comes from the age-old observation that if chamomile is planted next to an ailing plant, the ailing plant will revive and thrive. There apple-y scented, daisy like flowers can be picked and dried to use in yummy, soothing chamomile tea….perfect for crabby people, or babies. Anyone who is acting like a baby. A tincture of the dried chamomile flowers draws out more bitter components and serves as a gentle digestive aid.
There are two popular types of chamomile you can get at nurseries…Roman (Chamaemelum nobile) or German (Matricaria recutita).Â Roman creeps on the ground and stays low (often used as a ground cover for paths, etc.). German will grow tall. Chamomile produces so many yummy, pretty delightful little flowers that you will continuously get to harvest for tea and medicine, as well as bring in honey bees and all sorts of other pollinators to visit your plants.
I never cease to love and be appreciative of the many ways plants steward life on earth. They are the keepers of our health and they benefit each other’s health as they grow side by side in the good earth. I hope this has inspired you to do some companion planting of your own and have fun with the plants in the process!!
Green Blessings and Happy Cooking,