Farm and Garden Report: Companion Planting


My container gardens- half wine barrels, what else!- were empty and bare. I figured they needed some soil rebuilding. On a whim I had tried sprouting many years-old methi and mustard seed from a long ago trip to the Indian grocery. Guess what?

I am trying to hit that magic point between minimum smart effort in, and results out. 

I got interested in companion planting a while back. I don’t have the buy in from spouse to do a full out hugelkultur guild on our tiny, useless front lawn, from which all the neighbors can harvest as they please, but I hope to get there. Meanwhile, I do what I can.

When I pull borage or other desirable but overabundant plant out of the vegetable garden, I toss it under the dogwood tree or another historically bare and ugly area. When I was tidying up my woodpile and found earthworms living in the logs on the bottom, I threw those logs under the citrus tree to let the worms create new life for themselves and my soil.

Meanwhile, whenever the Farmer’s Almanac recommendation and my time and cognitive abilities all coincide, I drop something in the ground. If I am busy busy, I just drop whatever I have that is extra- herbs, or some mustard or methi seeds from my masala box, to rebuild the soil. Methi, or fenugreek, is a legume and a nitrogen fixer, who knew? Also it is very quick and easy to grow. Creamy methi chicken gravy… methi microgreens on salads…

Because our space is limited and I am too stubborn to pay money for much in the way of soil testing and amendments, I am working on how to keep the soil healthy naturally, via permaculture methods. It can be quite time consuming, learning and implementing. I just do it as I go.

My rules are simple. Cost benefit / diminishing returns are everything. If it does well, great. If it is ugly, throw it in the garbage. If it does not produce, throw it in the garbage.

I have been joined in my joy by the home / unschooled teen. She is not as nutso about it, but she is doing it because she wants to. She started small – regrowing green onions. Her crops are plentiful, and she chops them and puts them on everything she eats.

She and I garden wherever we can drop a plant. I am trying so hard to grow things that we tend to spend a lot of money on, at the grocery. I take it out of the grocery budget. I try to plant seeds instead of plants- much cheaper, and if it doesn’t make, we haven’t lost much.

But often trees are the way to go, despite the expense. I compromise by buying smaller trees – slips- when I can.  A spring or two ago it was a dwarf Southern Flame Peach and a cherry that has multiple grafts.

This year for me we are trying three blueberries in the azaleas, a dwarf lemon I dropped right into the wine barrel with the methi and mustard, and a mulberry as a nod to my permaculture hopes. I am unsure where Miss Mulberry will go so I popped her in a bigger pot for now.

We also added a pomegranate and a satsuma orange for my little one. Dare I shift my dream that she will go to UC Davis Veterinary School to dream that she will go to UC Davis to learn organic sustainable ag and food science??? But I get ahead of myself, as parents will. For now… we are learning as we go, rolling gently with the seasons and our available resources – time, space, money, knowledge.


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