Most seasoned veggie gardeners understand the benefits of companion planting, which is the act of planting different veggies together according to a wide range of plant needs. For example growing beans or peas with lettuce works well because the beans fix nitrogen to their roots which lettuce needs for leaf production. The beans can be encouraged to grow tall to help shade the lettuce which does not like hot sun; the result is lusher, greener lettuce and less work for the gardener. Another example is planting nasturtium with squash, both plants have a rambling tendency and seem to grow well together. Squash plants need insects for pollination, no insects – no fruit. Nasturtiums are bright red, yellow and orange flowers that attract insects such as bees which are happy to pollinate squash blossoms as they buzz from flower to flower. Now, let’s take this concept and apply it to our perennial gardens, berries and fruit trees.
A common problem for home fruit growers is rodents chewing on the base of fruit trees, this can cause some pretty serious damage to trees. The companion planting solution would be to plant a tight ring of chives or garlic around the base of the fruit tree, the rodents tend to pass on the strong smell of the chives in search of easier targets. Perennial chives flower early in the season and attract bees which many fruit trees need for pollination. This is just one option for coupling unexpected edibles together. In fact, there are so many options for companion planting perennials edibles that the practice has been coined Edible Forest Gardening or Food Forestry!
In September of 2012 Element Eco-Design had the opportunity to design and with the help of countless volunteers, install a .45acre Food Forest at the Okanagan College Vernon Campus! The system is coming along beautifully and although the plants are still quite young, we are just so excited to see it grow and develop.
So you don’t have a half acre to spare, no problem! Earlier this month we designed and installed an urban or micro sized version of a Food Forest at the Xeridipity Garden in Vernon. The space is approximately 4 feet wide by 50 feet long and contains tons of great examples of perennial plant companions. Including a number of edible and non-edible species such as Hardy Kiwi, Honey berry, Garlic, Parsley, Strawberries and Asparagus. The Xerindipity Garden is located next to the Okanagan Science Center and is now open daily for the summer, head on down and have a look. Maybe it will inspire you to compaion plant your perennials and create an Edible Landscape of your own 🙂