The Donheads Gardening Club - Page reproduced from the Donhead Digest.

February/March 2018

As we contemplate the passing of winter and look forward to spring. Our thoughts turn to what we would like to grow in our garden in the coming months, whether it is vegetables or flowers. With this in mind, we have the opportunity to include both with companion planting.

Companion planting is essentially a method of growing two or more different plants together for the reputed beneficial effect they have on the crop you wish to nurture. This is mainly carried out in the vegetable garden to control pests, to attract pollination insects and to improve the growth of plants. Pungent herbs or flowers are excellent for growing alongside vegetables to disguise its smell from pests or to drive them away completely.

Carrots can be decimated by the dreaded carrot root fly, so stump the pest by sowing rows of seeds among onions, the scent of the bulb will confuse the tiny fly and you will make better use of limited space by giving you the opportunity to squeeze in more crops.

Elsewhere, dot strongly scented French marigolds around tomatoes, beans and sweetcorn. Not only will they add a splash of colour to the garden but they will help to repel whitefly and aphids. Thyme, marjoram, sage, coriander and parsley are other strong scented herbs that can be used to fill gaps around other plants.

A novel way of keeping crops pest free is to plant others nearby that you know will attract pets like a magnet. Nasturtiums are a great sacrificial lamb to lure pests away from those plants you want to nurture. Plant them around edibles and they will be attacked by blackfly, while the precious crops remain free from this pesky aphid. These trailing plants also attract the dreaded cabbage white butterfly, so plant them around cabbages, cauliflowers or broccoli to keep them free from caterpillars.

In the greenhouse, find room for a pot or two of basil, not only will it give your tomatoes a beautiful flavour, it will attract whitefly preventing the tomatoes and even cucumbers from suffering from attack.

We can not only think of warding off the pests. The yield of some crops can be poor if there is a lack of pollinating creatures, so to increase the chances of a better harvest, grow some nectar heavy flowering plants around the edibles.

A good plant partnership is sweet peas with climbing beans. Grow them together on a wigwam of canes or ornamental obelisk and the sweet peas will provide colour and interest to the structure, along with beneficial insects.

Sow seeds of poached egg flowers (Limnanthes douglasii) under soft fruits such as raspberries to attract bees, hoverflies and other creatures. Apart from improving the pollination of flowers, many of the creatures that are lured in by the pretty yellow and white flowers will vacuum up pests.

Plants that belong to the pea family, which includes lupins, peas, beans and sweet peas, benefit the soil by taking nitrogen from the air and storing it in their roots. Any excess is then made available to the plants growing alongside. To make the most of them try planting around fruit trees and in a fruit cage (if you have the space to erect one).

These and many other subjects are covered by talks given each month at the garden club meetings. If you wish to learn more or just interested in one aspect of gardening, do have a look at our website to find out what garden subjects we have coming up in 2018 and if there is something there that is of interest please come along and enjoy the talks on offer.

Fran Robson

The Donheads Gardening Club is affiliated to:

The RHS, The Gardens Group Sherborne and the Wiltshire Gardens Trust.

We always welcome new members, please see our membership page for details.

Useful Links

Country Gardener Magazine

Open Gardens - National Directory

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