Companion Planting Guide by World Permaculture Association
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Theory of the Easy Target

Posts: 111
Location: South Central Indiana
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I wanted to get some feedback from anyone who has used decoy plants or cover plants to basically "hide" or disguise preferred growies from pests.  
I've noticed that almost without exception, that a new planted tree, or sprouted plant seems to attract more attention from the things that would like to eat it, when it's standing there by itself, without other plants of the same size directly beside it.  
For instance, I put out a five new cherry trees this year.  Each one planted in cover crop of white clover and rape, with daffodils and comfrey around the base, but the tree itself, being 4 feet tall, stands there essentially naked at the 4 foot level.  I use chicken wire to enclose the foliage or deer will bit off all the tips of the branches.  I know this from the past 10 years of experience.  Once the trees get 6 feet plus, the deer don't seem to come after them as aggressively, but they do seem to munch on trees that have no other plants growing at the same vertical level.  Same thing with blackberries.  Freshly sprouted flouracanes from bushes planted in the open are attacked incessantly.  Wild, and domesticated varieties that I've planted just inside the forest edge seem to get a pass.  
Japanese beetles seem to follow a similar pattern.  They seem to target the foliage of the trees and bushes that are kind of on their own.  This is my Easy Target theory.  
As I've moved over the years to a less "maintained" or structured approach to forest/savanna gardens, I'm starting to see the value of putting like sized companion plants very close to the food plants I really want to excel.  I think very often our first instinct is to reduce competition for space and resources for the plant, and give them space, and most permaculture gardening that I've seen uses smaller companion plants that fill lower niches than the preferred plant, although I've seen some that look very crowded.  There was a picture in Restoration Agriculture that caught my attention on this subject, it was a field that looked like it was about 5 years removed from being clear cut, most of the plants were overlapping and you certainly couldn't tell that there was a producing apple tree in the picture, and as he author pointed out, neither could the pests.
So I guess I'm asking for real world situations where your fruiting plants have comparable sized companion plants that might be considered a little crowded and how they perform. And yes, I'm familiar with the "Permaculture Orchard", although I'm thinking even a little more crowded than what's seen in that movie.
Thanks in advance for your replies.
I'm thinking about a new battle cry. Maybe "Not in the face! Not in the face!" Any thoughts tiny ad?
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