Composting, Flowers, Garden Design, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Liam, Pest Advice, Planting, Wildlife

For hundreds of years farmers have used companion planting as a method to help improve their yields and get the most out of their fruit trees. This organic solution does far more than simply prevent pests from eating your fruit. Certain plant combinations serve a whole host of benefits including increased pollination, weed prevention and improved soil nutrition. Additionally it is a great way to cover the space under a fruit tree offering more colour and variety to your garden!

The Basics

As fellow gardeners I’m sure you recognise it is important to try and keep a natural balance, even in your garden. A key premise to companion planting is trying to avoid monocultures by planting a variety of different plants together. Among other things, you make it difficult for pests to find their desired food and spread amongst your crop.

For the Love of Fruit

Many people believe that it is difficult to grow anything under a tree. However, there are a great variety of plants which naturally thrive in this space. With that being said it is important to remember that if your fruit tree is trying to establish itself it is important to water it regularly, especially if you plan on planting more plants around it.

Fruit trees constantly come under attack from various pests because of their delicious fruit. They also require extra levels of potassium to help stimulate bud and fruit growth. If you want to avoid using chemical fertilisers or pesticides here is an essential list of companion plants for your fruit tree:

  • Chives – The scent of chives provides a strong deterrent to pests including deer and rabbits as well as insects and yet is attractive to the more beneficial pollinators. Additionally chives have been known to prevent apple scrab which is a notorious scrounge of apple fruit. A cautionary note is that chives are aggressive growers and so they will require maintenance to stop them invading the entire bed.
  • Nasturtium – A real favourite in the world of companion planting. This is a great plant to lure away aphids and particular caterpillars from your trees. It is a sacrificial crop. Nasturtium requires minimal nutrients, sun or water and so is brilliant for diverting pests while keeping your fruit tree strong. It has also been known to repel codling moth, a particular scrounge of apples.
Companion Planting - Nasturtium
Nasturtium in bloom
  • Fennel – This plant is fantastic for attracting pollinating and predatory insects. Hoverflies, ladybirds and parasitic wasps all love fennel and they love aphids and caterpillars even more. Plant this in your garden to help wage a natural war against these pests. Fennel can of course also be used for cooking and has been known to carry medicinal properties.
  • Dill – Very similar advantages as fennel; it attracts a host of predatory and pollinating insects… and it can also be used in cooking. Win win!
Companion Planting - Dill
A Hoverfly resting on a Dill plant.
  • Comfrey – Not only has this plant been used medicinally by people for nearly 2,500 years it is an amazing miner of soil providing nutrients for your tree! Being a deep-rooted plant it draws nutrients from the soil and then can be cut back and the clippings used as an organic mulch. Comfrey is drought, frost and pest resistant and grows well in partial shade so is perfect for the space under your tree. I would recommend trying to plant the ‘Bocking 14’ variety developed by organic pioneer Lawrence Hills. ‘Bocking 14’ being sterile won’t self-pollinate and spread all over your garden.
  • Chamomile – This beautiful flower deters pests with its strong scent while drawing in pollinators. Being drought and frost resistant and also not afraid of a little shade makes it perfect to plant around a tree. If suffering from a pest infestation a triple strength chamomile tea can be brewed and used as a spray for the affected area.

    Companion Planting - Chamomile
    Chamomile
  • Daffodils – Flowering early in the season daffodils are perfect for bringing in and supporting those pollinating insects. For a splash of spring colour plant in a circle around your tree at around 1ft from the base.
  • Lavender – Truly a favourite amongst all pollinating insects, including and especially bees; it’s strong scent also confuses pests. Lavender not only looks great in your garden but can be used for various DIY product such as soaps or teas. Or you can simply pick it and put it into a bowl for around the home to create a calming aroma.
Companion Planting - Lavender Flowers
Some bees thoroughly enjoying the pollen rich Lavender flowers

Understandably when it comes to food, especially food you’ve devoted labour and love to, you are cautious about spraying it with potentially harmful pesticides or even using fertilisers. Companion planting therefore offers an age-old organic method to ensuring healthy fruit trees while adding a touch of vibrancy and colour to your garden. You may also end up with some extra herbs to liven up your dishes!

Jorge at PrimroseLiam works in the buying team at Primrose. He is passionate about studying other cultures, especially their history. A lover of sports his favourite pass-time is football, either playing or watching it! In the garden Liam is particularly interested in growing your own food.

See all of Liam’s posts.

Composting, Gardening, Shary Saunders

Gardening is a therapeutic hobby that yields incredible rewards in the form of fresh vegetables right in your backyard without having to buy from the store. The demand for organic foods has risen sharply as more people become health conscious for reasons such as weight loss and prolonged life.

Starting your own organic garden

The media constantly bombards consumers with information on healthy alternatives to food that promise to ward off lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, gout, and even cancer. If you are looking to embark on a healthy lifestyle for you and your family, consider starting an organic garden filled with your favorite vegetables and fruits.

Where do I find the time? You may wonder how you can squeeze in gardening after a long day at work capped with a long commute back home. The minute you get home, you find other pressing duties such as cooking dinner, supervising your kids’ homework and baking cookies for a show-and-tell the next day. How about making gardening a family activity? You can use this time to catch up with the highlights of the day from everyone.

What is Organic Farming?

Organic farming goes beyond avoiding the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms. If you are new to organic farming or crop husbandry in general, you need to stock up your tool shed with farming equipment such as a hoe, spade, pole saw, hand-weeding tool and a fork. You can fetch these tools from the gardening section of your local supermarket. In this article, we have outlined seven steps to starting your own organic garden. Let’s get started!

1. Identify the Patch

Identify the patch

While selecting the perfect location for a garden, be mindful not to thwart activities that happen in your backyard such as barbecues, swimming, kids playing, and hanging lines for laundry. If you have ample space in your yard, try one of the corners so you can use the wall as a wind breaker. If you are concerned about interference, erect a fence around the plot to keep off kids and family pets.

2. Tilling the Land

Tilling the land

Once you have selected the perfect location, you need to condition the soil by tilling and applying organic nutrients. Remember to use organic fertilizers as they are safer than chemical fertilizers. Good agricultural practice requires the ground to be left to air for a couple of days before planting seeds. You can go a step further and take a sample of soil to a lab for testing so you can know the level of nutrients present then decide what other treatments can be done to prep the ground.

3. Composting

Organic composting

Organic farming relies heavily on compost as it provides nutrients, shade and keeps off weeds. If you live on a farm, you can easily get compost from the cowshed or remains of other crops after harvesting. There are more sophisticated methods of making compost that takes several weeks to prepare, but if meticulous composting is not your cup of tea, you can buy pre-made compost from the agricultural store. Apply organic fertilizer to boost the nutrient content.

4. Source for Seedlings

Source for seedlings

Many people will opt to purchase seedlings from a nursery then transplant them onto their land. This method is faster than growing the seeds from scratch. The latter can be frustrating when seedlings refuse to rise due to poor handling or lack of enough nutrients. Most nurseries will have seedlings arranged according to their type of crop with botanical and regular names indicated at each plot. Select healthy plants with strong roots find out the best transplanting practice for each type of plant. Remember to ask for organic seedlings planted without interventions of chemical fertilizers that may poison your patch.

5. Planting Seeds

Planting seeds

This stage is probably the most exciting stage for gardening enthusiasts. It is time to get your hands dirty! Well, if you are new to farming you may want to preserve your well-manicured hands and choose to wear gloves instead. Consider spacing between crops; you can opt to plant your vegetable seedlings together a process called grouping. Less space between plants helps to conserve the moisture of the soil and ensure proper utilization of nutrients. However, be careful to leave room to allow proper air circulation. Find out about the blooming habits of the seedlings you plant. Some vegetables bloom into big leaves that require space otherwise the leaves droop and start rotting.

6. Watering

Watering the organic garden

Crops need water to grow. As obvious as this statement may sound, you need to establish a steady watering routine especially for the first several weeks as the plants begin to grow. Water the patch in the morning before heading to work when the sun is not up, and therefore, water can sip through the soil without evaporation. Neglecting to water the plants can be detrimental in the summer when scathing temperatures can kill crops. Involving the kids to help with the watering during school breaks can be a good learning experience or just fun childhood memories. Teach the kids to focus on the base of the plants as opposed to the leaves as this may cause damage and rotting.

7. Weeding

Organic weeding

This part of organic gardening is inevitable as most weeds thrive in the same conditions as plants. Good weed thrives alongside the plant without depriving it of nutrients, these little helpers even go as far as providing shade! Bad weeds, on the other hand, are parasitic in nature. They suck up all nutrients and water from the soil leaving the plant weak. Bad weeds also harbor pests that attack the plant, and this may lead to stunted growth or even death of the plant. Weeding can be done on a regular basis by simply yanking the weeds out (another family affair!). For tall plants, you need to use a pole saw to help you prune the extra leaves or branches. Apply mulch on a regular basis to discourage the growth of weeds. Your crop will be ready for harvesting in a few weeks.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a great pastime, organic gardening is worth a try. You get to preserve your land by applying organic waste and biological materials and reap fresh vegetables as rewards. Investing in the right equipment will enhance your gardening experience and save you time. We will keep you posted with more organic gardening ideas that have been tried and tested by gardening experts.

Hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any other suggestions you think I should have mentioned? Please let me know in the comments.

SharyShary Saunders is a blogger at sharycherry.com. Gardening and landscaping have been her passion for years. You can find Shary on Twitter at @SharySaunders.

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