Seating plans for plants

When G and I got married, we wanted our reception to be a big party with everyone standing (or sitting, there were a few tables), chatting and mingling. We got to circulate and chat to everyone as well and – as a bonus – I didn’t have to work on a seating plan. 

Ironically, several years later, I’ve now spent quite a few free hours in the evenings working on what feels like a seating plan for plants. There’s plenty of space in our garden for a vegetable garden and despite my plans to keep growing veggies and herbs in containers for a bit longer while I tidy everything up, there’s no harm in planning ahead.

In fact, I think the more time I take to plan and figure this out in advance, the better, because these plants are much, much pickier than our wedding guests could ever have been.

Marigolds, the helpful friend, planted with basil and tomatoes

I drew up a list of the guests – the vegetables and herbs we want to grow – and then started figuring out all of their plus ones (the companion plants that will benefit them). There will be four tables – the garden beds – and I’m planning on rotating the crops throughout the seasons. This will hopefully prevent a build-up of diseases in the soil, and alternating the heavy feeders, light feeders and legumes will help the nutrient levels in the soils.

But who should be planted with who? According to some of my books and the websites I read through*, some plants bring out the best in each other – tomatoes and basil are a great pairing, for example, or carrots with onions – while some plants seem to be able to get along with everything (marigolds and nasturtiums, for example, seem to be the plant equivalent of the people that everyone loved at school, and never said anything bad about anyone else).

Nasturtiums are another helpful, friendly plant

However, there are some plants that don’t get on very well. Tomatoes apparently don’t like corn, peas can’t get along with any members of the allium family, and brassicas and strawberries can’t be planted near each other.

In fact, strawberries are one of the plants that are really giving me problems – they can be grown in the same bed for around three years or so (several books suggest replacing strawberry plants every few years, to keep them productive), but they’re not too fond of tomatoes (or brassicas, as previously mentioned), which isn’t really assisting with my plans for including them within the crop rotation beds.

Strawberries, one of our pickier guests

Maybe I’ll put them out in the orchard, as they seem to be fine with fruit trees. Except… I had been thinking of planting chives and garlic under the fruit trees, as they help with diseases like leaf curl. Strawberries like chives and onions (both alliums), but a couple of sources suggest that they don’t like garlic (which is also an allium).

(Sigh) I think I’ll just end up creating a crop rotation plan for the orchard as well.


*Further reading

Peter Cundall. The Practical Australian Gardener. Penguin Books, 1989.

Indira Naidoo. The Edible Balcony. The Penguin Group, 2011.

John Mason. Organic Gardening. ACS Distance Education (Ebook).

Sustainable Gardening Australia. Companion Planting.

Deep Green Permaculture. Companion Planting table.


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