Part II: Shopping for Companion Plants

These groups of herbs are the bare essentials for our wild tangles of vegetables. They enhance production and repel insect culprits while attracting bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and beneficial insects. Later on I will devote segments to each of these magnificent creatures. But for now the list provided here will get you started and narrowly focuses on those luscious vegetables we are determined to grow.

While all the annuals can simply be tucked into pots of tomatoes, beans, peas, the works, let’s take a look at the three listed as tender perennials. Basil and marjoram are always grown as annuals because they are too sensitive to the cold. They can be planted directly into your container gardens or potted up separately to winter over inside. Rosemary is a shrub and simply must go into its own container. It too is cold sensitive and in most areas must be sheltered inside. Rosemary is also problematic to grow from seed so in its case I recommend just buying plants.

Anise Hyssop or Agastache blooms so prolifically from seed the first year it too can be treated as an annual. It doesn’t mind the cold but will not survive waterlogged containers over winter so it needs some protection as well.

Annuals should just be planted in your vegetable collections. You will see as time progresses that they are beneficial to not only specific vegetables but to most vegetables overall. And they are beautiful too. The only marigold recommended (an annual) is Tagetes erecta often called African Marigold. Seeds of Change (www.seedsofchange.com) has organic mixed colors and Park Seed (www.parkseed.com) has managed to separate the colors. The question of hybridizing persists. I believe that Park’s are hybrids but Seeds of Change doesn’t specify. Other annuals include nasturtium and morning glory. The recommended nasturtium is Empress of India and for morning glory (companion to melons), an heirloom called Grandpa Ott’s. Both can be found at Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org).

We have two things to consider with biennials. They need to be tucked in with your vegetables but please consider raising more in separate containers. These containers should be held over to the following year and allowed to flower and go to seed for the beneficial insects and seed saving. They are beautiful too and once they have completed their lives new starts can be planted in the same containers to keep the cycle going.

I recommend that all of the perennials, other than marjoram, rosemary, and basil that we discussed earlier, be grown in separate containers and placed amidst the vegetable collections. Your vegetables are either going to be entirely harvested or will succumb to the cold. The soil will have to be restored for the following year. You don’t want to deal with securing perennials with all this activity and they will take over the entire container anyway. Separate pots of perennial herbs make it easy to slide out the root ball in the spring, prune the roots, and add some fresh soil.

Horesradish is the oddball in the group and beneficially tied only to potatoes. it’s a rather huge and lovely creature, and would need its own container. The Cook’s Garden (www.cooksgarden.com) and Edible Landscaping (www.ediblelandscaping.com) both carry horseradish. Note that Edible Landscaping also carries the hard to find beauties Chocolate Mint and Violet (Viola odorata) as well as a great selection of berry plants.

This is as good a place as any to mention some plants that we often find ourselves obsessed with collecting. On the herbal companion list we find rosemary, basil and thyme. Others such as mint and lavender will show up later in this blog. Simply put, there are many, often dozens of unique and scrumptious varieties of each lending themselves to collecting. The absolute best source that I have found for both herb seed and plants is Nichols Garden Nursery (www.nicholsgardennursery.com) They also carry what was hard to find elsewhere; seed for both caraway and winter savory.

Perhaps you can visualize just how gorgeous this container collection will be. And if you are fortunate enough to have a yard that will accommodate a garden the same herbal companion group remains necessary and appropriate.

ESSENTIAL HERBAL COMPANIONS

PERENNIALS

Chive > Allium schoenoprasum (Eurasia)

Winter Savory > Satureja montana (Europe)

Oregano > Origanum vulgare (Eurasia)

Hyssop > Hyssopus officinalis (Eurasia)

Anise Hyssop > Agastache species (North & South America, East Asia)

Thyme > Thymus vulgaris (Eurasia)

Horseradish > Armoracia rusticana (Eurasia) *for potatoes

TENDER PERENNIALS

Rosemary > Rosmarinus officinalis (Europe)

Marjoram > Origanum majorana (Africa, SW Asia)

Basil > Ocimum basilicum (Africa)

BIENNIALS

Parsley > Petroselinum crispum (Eurasia)

Caraway > Carum carvi (Europe)

Carrot > Daucus carota var. sativus (Eurasia) *See note below

ANNUALS

Chervil > Anthriscus cerefolium (Eurasia)

Summer Savory > Satureja hortensis (Europe)

Chamomile > Matricaria recutita (Eurasia)

Marigold > Tagetes erecta (Mexico to Central America)

Nasturium > Tropaeolum majus (Mexico to Argentina)

Morning Glory > Ipomoea purpurea (Tropical America) *for melons

Dill > Anethum graveolens (SW Asia)

NOTES:

Note that Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), the kissing cousin of carrot, should be called the Queen of the Garden because it is a fabulous host for beneficial insects. Goldenrod (Solidago), like Queen Anne’s Lace is another essential to consider. It hosts more than 70 species of beneficial insects. Both will be discussed later but are serious candidates for consideration right now.

 

 

 




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