Returning to Our Roots | Our Garden Plan 2017

Hello! I am really excited to share this post with you today. It's all about companion planting and our little garden beds. Though I think I will be growing everything perfectly this year and hope so as well, please note that this is my first garden and I will probably be making a lot of mistakes. I think most of you already know that, but if I am rambling on below about where I planted certain herbs and vegetables and you disagree with me, well, I'm not changing my garden layout. It's already planted, and this is just how I did it this year. I'm sure there will be some plants that fail, but I've done my research, and I think all will be well. Let's talk about companion planting!

I wrote about companion planting a few months ago when I first started talking about how to start planning for a garden. In a nutshell, companion planting is like giving your vegetables a good neighbor. Whether they help each other with shading, nutrients, or flavoring, it could be a good idea to plant certain vegetables next to each other. There are vegetables that should not be planted beside each other either, and I might bring a few of those up, but for the most part, I'll just be sharing what I planted, where, and why. This is not a comprehensive guide on which plants are companions if you are looking for that information. This is going to be very specific to my personal garden and what our family eats! 

Here is our layout! We have twelve beds total, two of them are raised. The raised beds, which are closest to the greenhouse, run over our power line and therefore could not be dug up. Thankfully, the line just runs horizontally through the garden and not diagonally through it, because that would have been awful! We eventually want to have all of the beds be raised, but because we are trying to be smart with our budget, we've decided that planting them in the ground is just as good. We have some pretty amazing soil, like the best we've ever had in a home! It's amazing, and you can tell that it's never been touched. The raised beds are filled with a mix of our own soil, peat moss, potting soil, and organic worm castings. I will say, if you are debating between having raised beds or in the ground, planting in raised beds was like a dream after digging up the entire garden - so soft and easy!

The beds are lain out in a rectangular fashion. We will be putting some light colored mulch in for pathways and probably placing said mulch around the bases of the plants that need it. Each of the paths runs about 2 feet wide so that we can bend over and weed out any beds later in the season (obviously my photo is not to scale!). We have a cedar picket fence going around the entire perimeter, lined with chicken wire, to keep out rabbits. There are just so many living in our yard! This is the third summer with a TON of rabbits. There have also been several moles making their appearances around the beds where I added earthworms to the soil. Yay. I've already had to kill one, and we just tried flooding out however many others there are. I don't like it, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

I decided to make "plant neighborhoods" this time around. since we have the option to have so many different beds, it made my organization of plants a little easier. While we could have just planted in really long rows, like the Amish do, or we could have planted single vegetables in each bed, I just didn't think that would fit my style. I like variety. I am growing quite a few types of edible plants this year, including vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. And they're all mixed up! I know it's driving my mom insane because she likes organization and has never planted like this before. Though it may look like chaos, I know where everything is, and it is very personal to me. I think that is becoming one of my favorite parts about gardening and knowing other gardeners: gardens are very unique to each person. Another thing to note, I planted each bed in sections. I was going to do some interplanting or try the "Three Sisters" planting, but I got nervous and just decided to divide up each bed into parts. Here are my plant families:

Strawberry Family

  • Strawberries (16 plants)
  • Sweet Alyssum, Carpet of Snow

This bed is really not too exciting, but we needed a place for the strawberries to space themselves out. We also knew that we wanted a lot of them. Jill loves to can, so we are hoping for an abundance of berries within the next couple of years, since it will take a while for our berry bushes (blueberries, red raspberries, and blackberries) and the strawberry plants to mature. While this bed is full, I stuck some Sweet Alyssum around the perimeter of the bed. Of course I cannot find the reason at this time for why these two work together, BUT you can also plant these other plants with strawberries: beans, lettuce, borage, onions, spinach, thyme.

Winter Squash Family

  • Winter Squash (Butternut)
  • Mini Pumpkins
  • Eggplants
  • Chives
  • Bee Balm
  • Sweet Basil

Truth be told, this was kind of my "catch all" bed. It held some of the vegetables that I wasn't sure where else to put. I also figured that planting my chives seeds in the raised bed might help in the process of keeping them from spreading too much. I've seen it happen to other people, the same with mint, and it's hard to control. My eggplants were supposed to go in with the peppers and tomatoes, but I ran out of room and bought the eggplant seedlings too late. Our neighbor is a horticulturalist and told me that whatever I planted by my winter squash, the rind of the nearer squash would turn hard. Because eggplant is squash-like, we may be getting some hardened eggplants, but I think they're far enough away that it won't be a problem. Bee Balm is great just about anywhere in the garden, especially for perennial beds. It attracts - duh - bees, and helps with vegetables that need pollinators, squash being one of them. I also added in my sweet basil because, well, there was no where else to put it.

Cabbage Family

  • Cabbage
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Chamomile

Cabbages lie within the brassica family, which tends to attract many wonderful companion plants. Most brassicas can be planted together, but I decided to divide them up amongst their own beds since I had so many of them. Actually, I did not realize that cabbages and cauliflower were combative to each other, which might explain why my seedlings did not do well. I planted cauliflower and cabbage in the same tray!
For the cabbages, I decided to pair them with sage, thyme, and chamomile. The chamomile was sown from seed, and that scares me, but I am hoping that at least some of my seeds pop up!! The chamomile will help to improve the growth of cabbages and their flavor. Sage helps to keep away cabbage moth. 

Tomato Family

Bed #1

  • Tomatoes (Black Krim)
  • Bell Peppers
  • Basil (Lemondrop)
  • Parsley
  • Cosmos

Bed #2

  • Tomatoes (Brandywine)
  • Bell Peppers
  • Basil (Genovese)
  • Parsley
  • Cosmos

Should it be any coincidence that basil, parsley, and tomatoes can all be planted next to each other? I really don't think so! How else could you make pizza and pasta sauce?!! Many other herbs within the Italian flavor family can also be planted near tomatoes, like thyme and oregano. I think it will be so lovely smelling in these two beds when everything is sprouted and growing well. My tomato plants are already bigger after two days of being in the ground! The basil helps to repel flies and mosquitoes from attacking the tomatoes and also helps to improve the flavor. Bee balm, mint, and chives can also help with the plants health. If you want, you can plant carrots, celery, cucumbers, and onions near your tomatoes as well.

Cucumber Family

  • Cucumber
  • Kohlrabi
  • Marigolds
  • Oregano

Right beside my tomato beds is my cucumber bed. Both of these heads of family are companions, so it makes a wonderful relationship "across the path." Marigolds are great to plant anywhere in your garden to detract pests, but can work well with cucumbers as it helps to deter beetles from infesting. Members of the cabbage family are a great help to these plants as well as peas, radishes, and beans. 

Pumpkin Family

  • Pie Pumpkins
  • Sunflowers
  • Nasturtium
  • Dill

These were my original pumpkin seedlings that I grew myself. While on a nursery trip over the weekend, we saw that they were selling mini pumpkin seedlings, the striped kind, and we knew that we had to have them. The pie pumpkins have their own bed, which is filled with sunflowers, nasturtium, and dill. Nasturtium is good for any garden because they attract aphids, which takes that pest away from all of the other plants. They also deter beetles and other bugs. The pumpkins are in the corner right beside the oregano, so that will help with pest protection as well. Aromatic herbs can really help in the garden! The dill will be beneficial to get rid of the squash bug. Ew!

Zucchini Family

  • Green Zucchini
  • Gold Zucchini
  • Sunflowers
  • Nasturtium
  • Dill

Almost identical to its parallel pumpkin bed, the zucchinis benefit from all of the same companions as the pie pumpkins. If you're looking for something different to plant with zucchinis, try radishes, corn, beans, borage, and mint.

Kale Family

  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Leeks
  • Green Onions 

This is the bed that keeps getting attacked by moles, and I've already sacrificed a few Swiss Chard plants. Gah! The kale is another brassica that does well with chard. I planted my leeks near that bed, which is close in proximity to my carrots. These two can help to deter each other's pest with their aromas. The green onions are similar in growth as the leeks, and therefore, were planted beside each other.

Potato Family

  • Potatoes (Red Norland)
  • Rosemary
  • Marigolds
  • Cosmos

I had a lot of marigolds and cosmos on hand, and thankfully these fit right into my potato bed. These were probably the most fun to plant, slicing up the potato starts into pieces with eyes, and burying them under the ground. I hope they make it! I was not planning on planting potatoes or onions because I thought it might be too difficult, but I guess you can never say never. Rosemary and Dill are also great companions for potatoes! Rosemary potatoes just sound delicious right about now. Horseradish is a great pest repellent for potatoes as well.

Onion Family

  • Onions (Yellow and Vidalia)
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Summer Savory
  • Lemon Balm
  • Cilantro

I had two lemon balm plants and a cilantro plant that needed homes, and from what I saw, it was useful to plant them in with the onions. While I am not sure they should have planted next to each other, with about two feet of space in between them, I guess I will find out if that was a smart decision. Maybe I will have some lemon flavored cilantro to harvest, which could be good if you think about it. I decided to try the carrots and radishes trick that I've mentioned before. You plant your carrot seeds and then plant the radishes on top of them. The radishes will grow and be ready to harvest long before the carrots are ready, and they make room in the soil for the carrots to grow. This helps with the issue of having wonky shaped carrots! I am excited to see if it works!!! My rosemary plants are a bit of a ways away, but they help to deter carrot fly. 

Broccoli Family

  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Nevada Batavia Lettuce
  • Buttercrunch Lettuce
  • Green Deer Tongue Lettuce
  • Lavender

There are lots of sources for companion planting guides, and some will tell you that lettuce is not a good companion for broccoli. I am not sure why this is, as many types of lettuces and spinach benefit quite a bit from growing near broccoli as they do not need a lot of room to grow and enjoy some shade, which the broccoli provides. I planted my spinach next to my broccoli rows, and I know it will work out since we visited a friend's garden last year who had all of her lettuces and broccoli growing side by side. Lavender helps broccoli grow and attracts pollinators to the garden. It also helps to repel pests such as cabbageworms, deer, and rabbits. 

And there you have it! My entire garden in a nutshell. I am so very proud, and really hope that I can continue to be as the season progresses. I am already seeing some great results from the seedlings that I started myself. I was worried planting some of them in the ground, as they were still so tiny. The cabbage seedling were quite sad and making us angry as we planted them with hardly any soil clinging to their roots. They now look fine and are growing a little more each day. Along with my beds, I also lined the outside of the raised beds with dahlias and cockscomb. I just love cockscomb! It's so strange, almost alien looking, and makes for a gorgeous dried decoration. 

I just cannot wait until everything is lush and thriving. Right now, it just looks like little green weeds popping up from the soil. It may also be good to note that I did not use any type of pre soil treatment, liquid plant food, or fertilizer while planting. I decided to go with worm castings, which are considered a fertilizer, but not a commercial one that you purchase at the garden center with who-knows-what in it. This is just pure worm castings, or worm poo, organically harvested. I put a handful in each hole that I planted, placed the seedlings on top, and patted them in. I was unsure what the results would be, but y'all - remember how I was having trouble with my blueberry bushes? The leaves were turning red from lack of nutrients, which isn't good. I put some worm castings around the base, watered them, and the leaves are now back to a gorgeous and healthy green after one week. Only one application! And that's all they need. It was amazing. I highly recommend! Here are the worm castings that I bought.

Have you started planting? What are you looking forward to growing?

xoxo Kayla