Successive, Companion Plantings in Square Foot Gardens

I am unofficially declaring the first day of May Square Foot Gardening Day.

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

My urban landscape is small, the size of a postage stamp. 

So this year, I am unofficially declaring the first day of May Square Foot Gardening Day.

This growing season I am suggesting that every square inch of growing space in every yard (well, at least mine) be utilized to cultivate edibles, native plants, trees and lots of pretty pollinator-attracting plants.

Most people know I do not like growing turf, so this is a no-brainer for me.

And now, from mid-Spring to Fall, less will be more, more or less, in my backyard, thanks to the science and practice of successive, companion planting, square foot style.

That is a mantra for more than me, thanks, in part, to the go-to "bible" of square foot gardening, by Mel Bartholomew, who wrote All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!

In April, after all that measuring, and stapling of string, my growing experiment began by sowing spring kale and radishes, which will be followed by a successive crop of celery and tomatoes, I think.  

Again...growing square foot is a great way to grow big in a small space.  But, to do it does take some planning, as all good gardening does.

Consider trying this: Plant Spring spinach, followed by lima beans and tomatoes. 

Do double rows of corn alternated with single rows of peppers.

Or, plant a double row of garlic with spinach down the center, or companion plant strawberries with watermelon, they are among the plants experts say tend to grow well together.

I have also discovered that companion planting can be used to manage pests -- like aphids and other sucking insects -- without the use of pesticides. 

Regarding the trial and error experimentation aspect of doing this garden, experts say that several scientific studies have shown that some flowering plants help reduce pest problems.  This is especially true if you have a garden such as mine that is often besieged by early-season aphids or other small sucking insects, which are attracted to new growth, like my young tomatoes.

The good news is that these pests are the primary food source for hoverfly larvae, and they absolutely love the easy-to-grow annual, sweet alyssum.

"Hoverflies are active, early-season aphid predators (before aphid-eating ladybeetles take over later in the season).  Scientists have found that hovering in midair requires so much energy that hoverflies tend to stick close to nectar sources, so if you lure them in with the right plants, they're likely to stay all summer.  Cilantro (coriander) and fennel, are strong hoverfly attractants, as are Greek oregano, sweet alyssum, and many other herbs and flowers," award winning garden writer, Barbara Pleasant, wrote in Mother Earth News in 2011.

By the way, lavender is another one which is pretty and popular, and among the plants that act as a natural insect repellent, so I also am growing that to transplant out into my edible garden in June.  

So… sow those seeds smartly this weekend, square foot, or in traditional rows -- finally some warm temps are on the horizon, and Summer is on its way.


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