Companion Planting – try this page at Golden Harvest Organics for ideas!
Many of these tips below will work for you, some won’t. Your garden conditions may be different, weather varies, varieties have different capacities!
Beans: Excellent production, don’t take up too much space when on a trellis, restore N (nitrogen) to the soil! Plant them between cucumbers and trellis them all, cucs below, beans above. Two for one! NO onions or garlic, they stunt beans. Weave them across the trellis to keep them at picking height. They need to be kept wet, keep picking to keep them producing. If they dry, the ends of the pods may shrivel. Pick first, then water, to prevent mildew spread. Water in AM if possible, so they will dry, reducing mildew. Apply fish emulsion and kelp when the pods begin to form.
Beets: Like cooler weather, but…. Beets come up in clumps because the seeds are seed balls of three or more plants! So thin those tasty little greens so they will get large! Pop beets in when another plant comes out, ie corn, brocs. Harvest when small, not larger and pithy. The greens are tasty. Harvest a few as you harvest other greens for a mixed green dish or steamed then drizzled with Balsamic vinegar.
Broccoli: High in antioxidants, fertilize at least once before the heads form, cut the main head off, fertilize, eat the side shoots forever – that’s about 2 to 3 years, especially if you plant heat tolerant varieties Green Comet and Green Goliath. Keep harvesting because if it flowers, it stops producing. The flowers are edible, you can let a favored plant make its seed pods, you can let it establish a patch of brocs so as ones get old, let the babies grow in their place! All the Brassicas – brocs, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale – love aromatic herbs! Remove old fallen leaves because they release a poison that prevents the seeds of some plants from growing. Break off the low leaves and plant an understory – lettuce transplants, carrots, radishes – try beets! Since it does prefer cooler temps, plant again midsummer so it will mature in cooler weather. The leaves are edible too, just like collards!
Carrots: Enhance peas! Not a dieter’s special, but high in Vitamin A, and fun to grow in all their shapes and colors! Like beets, they need to grow fast, need plenty of water. Don’t let either dry out. Go light on fertilizer, no manures. Too rich a soil and they fork and get hairy! Plant, thin, a couple weeks later, plant again, keep it going. Cover the shoulders with soil or mulch to keep them from turning green. Keep the seeds wet for good germination. Harvest small, not large and woody. Planting too many is never a problem since tiny carrots are such treats!
Chard: A satisfying crop! It is beautiful, low in calories, high in Vitamin A, easy to grow, has a continued harvest, doesn’t take up much space. It needs a fair amount of water. Prefers cool, but won’t bolt like spinach. Cut the old tough leaves off so your plant will keep producing fresh leaves. Or if things have gotten funky, cut the whole plant off a couple inches above the crown, let it produce new leaves.
Corn: Simply glorious! Crossbreeds like crazy! So there are very 20’ tall and 5’ short, white, yellow, red, black, sweet, super sweet! It does take up a lot of space for 2 to 3 months for what it returns, so think if you really want it compared to other possibilities. It is a wind pollinator, so in our small plots, it needs to be planted in blocks not rows, so every silk gets pollinated. Each silk strand is one kernel!!! Plant all kinds of things under your corn. It acts like a living mulch and keeps the corn feet moist. Last year I planted arugula under it and they both loved it! Corn is its peak sweet self when you push your fingernail in a kernel and it squirts milky juice! It holds its sweetness only 2 to 5 days! Harvest early in the day, make time to your fridge or the barbie because the sugars turn to starch very quickly!
Cucumbers: And dill! Fat, smooth, warty, small, prickly, not, so many shapes and flavors! What a creature! The first 10 to 20 flowers are male. No cucs. After that, for every female flower there are 10 -20 males! Hmph. Ok, so it takes some time before things get going. Good to trellis cucs, and remember you can grow beans up through them! Going up keeps your cucs off the ground where they can get eaten or nibbled on, keeps them clean, and all parts of them get light. But they do like to hide under leaves, so be thorough in your quest, because picking them keeps them coming! Don’t store your cucs on the vine. Pick small and juicy! Keep your cucs watered. Cucs are big watery veggies, so if you don’t want bitter…. Try Marketmore. It is a good bitter-free cuc.
Eggplant, Aubergine: Exotic, from the Mediterranean and India! Again, lots of shapes and colors. Being a heat lover, remember, the bigger the eggplant the longer it takes to grow. If we have a foggy summer, it is a disappointing crop. So plant right at the beginning of its season to give it its best chance. Per production, it is not an efficient plant, but I sure do love them! They like lots of compost and manure, hot and protected from wind. So snuggle them close to each other or another friendly plant with full sun yet wind sheltered. You know those little holes the leaves get? Flea beetles. Since flea beetles are highly mobile, foliar insecticides will only decrease flea beetle numbers, not completely control them. Just pray your plant can out grow them! Plant two patches if possible. Maybe one patch won’t be found! Pick ‘em while they are glossy.
Lettuces: Dieter’s Friend! Lots of flavor and Vitamin A! Cool season varieties and heat tolerant slow bolting varieties, so plant to your heart’s content! Loves compost and manures, keep ‘em well watered, pick, pick, pick those outer leaves. Put it in open spaces waiting for a succession planting, plant among it and let taller crops shade it in summer. Carrots help lettuce, so sprinkle a few seeds about. Thin head lettuce enough so it can head and won’t be bitter. Brown tips? It’s tip burn due to hot weather. Choose tip burn resistant varieties and plant them earlier.
Peppers: Heat lovers that can be mighty hot themselves! Regular sweet peppers are very quick to germinate, usually 6-8 days. A lot of hot peppers take almost a month to germinate – Don’t give up! They set their pretty fruit between 60 and 90 degrees. Otherwise, they snit. They like lots of water, to make that watery fruit; feed them some fish-kelp solution when they first start blooming. They do great if you foliar sprinkle them with a gallon of water mixed with Epsom Salts every couple of weeks! Keep your peppers picked so they will continue to produce. Let hot peppers ripen completely on the vine.
Squash: Summer or Winter?! Or both! Soft baby zucchini you can eat right at the garden! Winter squash is hard and stores really well, for months, right on your counter if you wish! Remember, zucchini plants can get huge, and, be warned, they ARE prolific! The bush type is more compact and you still get a lot and you can start them in a cage and train them upright, judiciously removing the large lower leaves as they get ugly. Then you can plant other small tasty things under them! Harvest small to keep them coming, and keep watch! Those little ones can get huge in 2 or 3 days! It’s a garden miracle! And they hide. If your thumbnail doesn’t go through the skin easily, you let ‘em go too long. But many people then make them into zucchini bread, or stuff and bake them. The first few may rot until there are enough male and female flowers to get things going. Let winter squash mature fully on the vine and the vine dies.
Tomatoes: Glorious! Amazing colors, shapes, sizes! But, be wise, select disease-resistant varieties, ones with VFN on the tag. That’s Verticillium, Fusarium, Nematode resistant. Varieties that set fruit early, at lower temps, are Early Girl Improved, Fourth of July, Enchantment. Excellent resistant varieties are Champion, Husky Red, Better Boy, Ace Hybrid, Celebrity. In a small garden space, buy singles of several kinds for your variety happiness quotient. Getting starts gives you a 6 weeks advantage, more production time! When you plant, throw in a fistful of bone meal, and don’t forget your mycorrhiza fungi! Too much manure, N (Nitrogen), water or shade can cause a lot of leaf with little or no fruit. Since toms have up to 6’ roots, they can get along with very little water, in fact, many locally are dry farmed – no water! Circular remesh cages work the easiest and the best. The conical cages are usually not big enough or stable. Trellis if you like, but it takes time to do all that tying. Blossoms drop off when night temps are below 58 degrees and above 70 degrees. I love to eat toms just like apples right at the garden. Some never make it to my kitchen!
Enjoy every tasty bite!