The last freeze of the season has come and gone. The rains have subsided, and the soil temperatures have risen. All the excuses for putting off preparing a garden are gone. For those who didn’t get a chance to prepare a garden, there is still time before the blistering temperatures occur.

Evaluate early spring planting

For those of you who planted in March and are starting to harvest, it’s time to evaluate what you planted and how well it did. It’s time to remove diseased plants and debris, look at pest damage and plan for the second planting of the season

Companion planting/intercropping

What will you plant in the empty space that you cleared? Consider companion planting and intercropping. Different plants are grown together in a way that is beneficial to each other. By doing this, you can reduce pest infestation, attract pollinators, provide nutrients and reduce heat stress on plants.

  • Companion planting

The companion planting example often given is the “three sisters” method that Native Americans used. The “three sisters” plants were corn, beans and squash. The corn provided a stalk for the bean to climb. The bean fixed nitrogen for the plants and the squash leaves provide mulch, which deters weeds and helps retain soil moisture.

  • Intercropping

To grow more than one crop in the same field, especially in alternating rows or sections, is the technique known as intercropping. The purpose behind intercropping is to increase yields by doubling up on available growing space on a given piece of land by making use of resources that would otherwise not be utilized by a single crop.

Making a plan

  • Make a list of the plants you would like to grow.
  • Consider water and nutrient requirements, sunlight needs, pollination, height or depth (i.e. root crops), days to harvest and pests
  • Consult planting charts
  • Draw a plan, including what plants work well together – and which do not
  • Companion Planting Chart

From the planting chart below, we see it beneficial to plant cucumbers, radishes and tomatoes near beans. Carrots and radishes grow well together because they are harvested at different times and grow at different depths and will not compete for the same nutrients. Basil, coriander and spinach grow well near peppers. Consider the “friends and foes’” in planting vegetables for best results.

  • Attracting pollinators

Attracting pollinators is another reason for companion planting.

Melons and squash flowers need to be pollinated before they produce fruit. Flowering herbs like dill, fennel and parsley attract insects that will pollinate the flowers.

Flowering alyssum attracts hover flies which control aphids.

Incompatible planting

Like guests at your Thanksgiving dinner table, some plants should not be planted near each other. These should be planted a suggested four feet or more away from each other.

Potatoes should not be planted near tomatoes and cucumbers.

Beans should not be planted near garlic, onion and peppers. These are a few examples noted in the above chart.

Evaluation

When I was growing up, Martha Stewart was very popular (and intimidating). One of the things she did was keep a journal of what she grew in her garden and how well it did. Recording which plant combinations did well will give you an idea of what to plant next time.

After reading this article, you may be too intimidated to start gardening, and I know the feeling.

Remember gardening is all about enjoying the whole experience of planting, encouraging growth and being rewarded with a bountiful harvest.

Successful gardening begins with adequate planning. Enjoy the experience.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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