Make a Happy, Productive Garden Space Using Companion Planting, Intercropping Techniques

Companion planting is a term that I first heard in high school, when friendships and companions were foremost in life. Needless to say, knowing that plants preferred companion plants was a concept that I adored. Companion plants share the traits of human companions; they support each other and deter problems. In the garden, compatible plants will support growth, encourage nutrient uptake and production while inhibiting pests.

Years later, I am still conscious of what plants are near each other. Companion planting puts two or more species of plants in close proximity to each other so a mutual benefit like the aforementioned pest control or increased production can be achieved. There are many charts and publications on companion planting. Often, it is personal observations that are shared. My own personal solution is to add marigolds to any garden; they help everywhere! I would also recommend consulting more methodical and controlled publications and charts. UT Extension does have publication W235-F: Trap Crops, Intercropping and Companion Planting. Just Google the name and you should be able to download and read the file.


Intercropping is a similar concept. Both have been in practice across generations and cultures. In North America, the most famous intercropping group is corn, squash and pole beans. The corn supports the beans and the squash does not allow for weeds to grow profusely. Their root systems do not interfere with each other and the growth patterns are a benefit for all three. Some will include sunflowers in the group as an addition or alternate to corn. The grouping is named the “Three Sisters” and does have many stories associated with it.

beansandcornA third planting technique that I want to bring up is square-foot gardening. This is a great technique if you have a small space in which to garden. Simply, your garden space is divided into square-foot sections. Either a single large plant or several smaller sized plants are put in each square-foot area. The concept is to grow, produce, replace. Timing and days to harvest are important to this concept. There are two videos on the RC Farmers Market YouTube channel that are worth viewing for those interested in intensive gardening. Both classes were presented by gardening expert Richard Lee; Square-Foot Gardening and Intensive Gardening are the titles of the videos.

The bottom line: no matter how small an area, you can grow fresh vegetables. Your space may not feed you for the whole season, but the excitement and curiosity of growing and producing is still there. Go for it! For those with windowsills or patios, do container gardening.

The RC Farmers Market Education series is the complete name of the YouTube channel. Videos from the classes offered during the Farmers Market at the Lane Agri-Park, videos from Master Gardener projects and videos from the Boro Garden Party presenters are uploaded and available for viewing and education.

Speaking of the Farmers Market, the opening day at the Lane Agri-Park complex at 315 John R. Rice Boulevard is Friday, May 12. The market opens at 7 a.m. and closes at noon. This market is a producer-only market. What that means is only local producers with product from this area can be sold. (So, no coconuts—ever!) The market is held inside and is open on Tuesdays and Fridays only. Classes are free and open to all. They start at 9 a.m. and last about 1 hour.

farmersmarketlogoUpcoming Farmers Market Classes
9 a.m., Community Center at the Lane Agri-Park, 315 John R. Rice Blvd., Murfreesboro

May 12 – Beekeeping 101, Susan Welchance, Rutherford County Beekeeper Association
Local beekeeper Susan Welchance will talk about honey bees, what they mean to our environment, beekeeping in Rutherford County and the many products from the hive.

May 16 – Adding Rabbits to Your Homestead, Kim Hall, Extension Agent
Learn how to start raising rabbits in your backyard.

May 19 A $10 Bush & A $30 Hole: Correctly Planting Trees & Shrubs, Mitchell Mote, Extension Agent
Make the most of your investments and learn how to properly install trees and shrubs to minimize future decline.

May 23 – Organic and Sustainable Gardening Techniques, Reggie Reeves, Certified Master Gardener
We’ll cover current information regarding safe and effective organic pest control options and how to fertilize your garden using organic methods and amendments.

May 26 – Tomato Time, Mark Murphy, Certified Master Gardener
Fun facts, interesting info and growing tips for the most popular garden fruit.

May 30 – More Matters, Kim Minter-Verge and Karla Erazo
Eating the rainbow, learn the color nutrients!

June 2 – Home Water Conservation: Making the Most of It! Katie Peay, Rutherford County Planning & Engineering
As a homeowner, making conscious decisions on lowering your carbon footprint and conserving water can be difficult. This class will touch on easy ways to make your home more green!


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