Janet Reed wrote:Just wondering What criteria did you use to determine a “ relationship?”
S Bengi wrote:For me it is usually, similar to crop rotation in that I plant things from different plant families, or similar to a pasture mix (legume+grass+squash+herbs+leafy green)
Legume family + grass/corn family + squash/melon family + mint/thyme family + carrot/celery family + cabbage family + spinach family/lettuce family
S Bengi wrote:Your website looks really nice. I like it. Big data and AI to find the patterns between them is real. I wonder if there is a way for people to vote up or vote down these combinations. Then we could give them a rating in addition to popularity. Think ebay/amazon. I would esp like to to see those up vote or down vote paired to soil type/climate.
I know that lavender and peach/almond does well in Arizona/Nevada/Utah, but not so well on the East Coast.
Ben Knofe wrote:These are interesting thoughts! Currently there is no scientific research behind the database, beside the experience of users contributing to it or the external sources (websites/books/...) which are linked to a piece of information added.
I think in general it is a problem in permaculture that there is very little "science" behind most information you have on permaculture. My assumption is, that no one really brought all the info together in one place, so many people can cross-check and add their thoughts to it. I think while "real science" might not be possible so easily, a crowd-sourced version of a wikipedia style platform would work. If you have a lot of people saying "Yes I grew this companion plant combination and it worked better then have them single" this would be almost as good as real science, wouldn't it? :)
Janet Reed wrote:No....I don’t think it would be as good as real science.
And I think there is a lot of s incense behind permaculture and a lot of science mentioned here.
Janet Reed wrote:I think people will respond because they like to input their experiences.
Sadb O'Conner wrote:I think a more practical and scientific approach might be something like Jacke & Toensmeier's metrics for compatibility in their textbooks on forest gardening.
Here's my interpretation for how to pick companion plants for a closely planted garden (with less open space for weeds, and for healthier soil):
1. Start by considering the soil. Is your soil more carbon-heavy and/or fungal? Is there heavy clay that you need roots to penetrate and aggregate? Is it pretty dead/sterile and in need of healthy microbes? Do you need to inoculate legumes with bacteria and plan cover crops to sustain soil life in the off season? Is there a niche for a deep tap root among the shadow mat-forming roots of the veggie you want there? Do you need some brassica family plant to fumigate the soil after a former crop suffered disease there? How fertile is it?
2. Next consider the conditions of the plants you want to plant together. Are they all dry-loving, rock-dwelling Mediterranean plants? Are you trying to combine two plants that love moisture and rich organic matter with one plant that prefers sand and a chance to dry out? Do they all need full sun or cooler afternoon shelter? How do they tolerate crowding, humidity, wind, atmospheric pollution from a nearby road, or pests?
3. Next try listing your niches for each garden bed. Do you have one plant to cover the ground and provide weed suppression, one that occupies the middle height, and one that will climb a trellis and provide the other two a bit of summer shade? Will one feed heavily on nitrogen, one trade with bacteria for its own nitrogen, and one feed only lightly on soil nitrogen during the growing season when the others need it? Will one bloom earlier to attract pollinators and feed them until the critical period when another blooms? Will the scent of one drive away pests from another? Conversely, is one a known host species for a pest or disease that will critically impact another?
4. Finally consider labor and timing. Can you stagger your plantings to get the ground cover established first? Are there perennials you can incorporate to help support your more needy and fragile annuals? Are there crucial beneficial insects or microbes you want to provide habitat and food throughout the growing season to prevent problems during the brief window of your annual crop? Will one plant grow too tall during the wet season and cause mildew problems on another, or shade it out when it's little? Can you transplant older seedlings to make the timing work better? Will one plant have traits like thorns or irritating chemicals that make it harder for you to tend the others?
There's no perfect list for companion plants because the variety of conditions, soils, timing windows in your climate, pests and beneficials are too numerous and complicated. But you can list the niches that each plant can fill and thereby provide a guide for possible combinations.
For example, the famous 3 Sisters example includes one sprawling ground cover that suppresses weeds far away from its own root center, one tall plant that feeds heavily on nitrogen, and one climbing vine that helps anchor the tall plant against lodging in wind, and that has its own source of nitrogen thanks to bacterial alliances. All three enjoy rich organic matter in moist soil, but the squash and the beans can tolerate some summer shade (or even require it) while the corn welcomes full sun (and provides the others that shelter). All three can be planted roughly at the same time and harvested at the same time (depending on varieties), or all three can provide a mixed season harvest. So that's why they make good companions; they occupy compatible niches, minimize competition, and provide beneficial services to each other while requiring little intervention from the farmer.
In my garden, black alium aphids attacked my Egyptian walking onions in such swarms that the onions were dying, too early in the season for many aphid predators to be active. So I transplanted all of them into a bed of rosemary (with a ground cover of golden sedum). Rosemary is known as one of the resinous, aromatic plants that help get rid of onion aphids. It worked. So for me, those are now good companion crops.
Likewise, the caterpillars that have been attacking my madder plants stop their browse line just above the height of the French marigolds that I have growing in the same bed. So to me, those are good companions.
Likewise, my scarlet runner beans were stunted and dying this spring thanks to aphid-farming black ants. I interplanted luffa, and the luffa plants started recruiting 'bouncers' (protective ants) as soon as they had established a few true leaves. The red ants that were being 'hired' by the luffa (the luffa pays them with sugar at EFNs, 'extra-floral nectaries') included the poor stunted bean vines in their protection plan and drove away the black ants and the aphids. The beans and luffa are now sharing a trellis. Nasturtiums are covering the soil below them as an extra insurance, since aphids like nasturtiums more than bean leaves and should attack those first if they return.
Conversely, one year I interplanted trellised cucumbers and turnips and parsley. However, I didn't know that cucumber vines have tiny hairs that severely irritate my skin. With gloves, I was able to handle them to trellis them and harvest the cucumbers, but I couldn't reach between the vines to harvest any turnips or parsley once the cucumbers were growing well. The hairs got to me even through long-sleeved shirts. So that was not a good companion planting for me.
So, that's how I'd measure what defines a good companion plant. Maybe the database could include fields for such niches (root type, height, nutritional needs, conditions and timing) and beneficial alliances.
Josh Golden wrote:Can I share this to groups on facebook