31 January 2010

Companion Planting

I managed to spend an hour or so yesterday sowing some companion plant seeds.

Last year I almost missed out on planting any Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) - the garden centres only stocked them fleetingly, and as I don't tend to visit them on a weekly basis I wasn't able to buy any.  The seeds I'd sown earlier in the year didn't take at all - not even one.  There's a lesson for not checking the viability of seeds. So it wasn't until July when Jenny, my mother-in law came over for a holiday that I was finally able to get hold of some small plants.

I'm cheeky (so I've been told!) but Jenny definately has the edge.  We'd taken her for a walk around Duckett's Grove in Carlow. Two renovated walled gardens full of edible and ornamental plants - a joy of a walk on any kind of day.  The children love it too as there's a 'three billy goats gruff' bridge in the woody area and we always have to transform into big bad trolls (not difficult for me on occasions).

The gardeners were busy weeding the beds and Jenny asked them if they minded if we took a couple of 'snips' (I hid behind a bush.) Suprisingly consent was given so Jenny proceeded to dig up a few, small Nasturtium plants and stick them into an old plastic bag. (Thank You Ducketts Grove.) http://gardens.ireland-guide.com/ducketts_grove_walled_garden_and_pleasure_grounds.garden.8139.html

They did transport home okay but as it was so late in the year they didn't grow very large before the first frosts took them out.  They did provide a small splash of colour for a couple of months though.

Nasturtiums act as sacrifical plants.  They attract the black bean aphid, thereby leaving the beans alone. They're also attractive to cabbage white butterflies, flea beetles and slugs and if you're able to plant a mixture of colours, can make a vegetable plot come alive with colour when trained up a cane wigwam.

I also sowed some French Marigolds (Tagetes patula) who's strong smell discourages whitefly.  Recent evidence is also showing that substances from their roots can help to prevent microscopic eelsworms so may be good to grow around potato and tomato crops.

Last of my sowings were some Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus) .  Although not edible they're like a magnet for pollinating insects so can be a great help when planted near to french and runner beans.  The scent is lovely too and the girls love to pick bunches to decorate the kitchen table.

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