Plants are like people. They get on well with some of their neighbours and have problems relating to others. So it’s a good idea to check out the love-hate relationships of your garden plants.
This is especially important at this time of year when so many people are starting spring vegetable gardens. If you plant your vegies with congenial companions they’ll do much better. The classic example is the happy friendship that’s a tradition between tomato and basil. Not only do they grow well with each other, they also taste sensational when they’re served together in the kitchen. Both can be planted now.
Beans, too, can be sown in spring as soon as the soil’s warm enough. Beans grow easily from seed as long as they aren’t given too much water before they germinate (this can cause the seeds to rot away in the ground). Two of the most popular bean varieties are Yates Top Crop and Tendergreen. Both have tender sweet pods that taste sensational when they’re young and freshly harvested. Try eating them raw – they’re truly yummy!
Beans grow well with carrots, cucumbers and lettuce but hate onions, garlic and sunflowers.
Celery grows happily alongside beans and also enjoys being in close proximity to tomatoes, but make sure you keep it well away from parsnips! As well as the company of its good friends, celery needs plenty of water and fertiliser. Grow the Yates variety called Green Crunch and feed every couple of weeks with Thrive Soluble Plant Food – it will really keep the celery plants moving along at a good pace. As they grow, you might like to try popping an empty milk carton over the stalks. This will blanch, or whiten, the stems, which many people think gives them a sweeter flavour.
Cucumbers and their relatives grow peacefully alongside beans, celery, lettuce, sweet corn and sunflowers. Don’t, however, plant cucumbers with potatoes. The cucumbers might become so depressed they’ll turn up their toes and the potatoes won’t be too happy, either!
Lettuce is a must for salads, and non-hearting varieties like Buttercrunch cope well as the weather gets warmer. But if you really want to grow a traditional, cabbage-like lettuce, then choose Yates Great Lakes for sowing at this time of year. Great Lakes has been bred to stand up to hot conditions. Here’s a tip: lettuce seed won’t germinate if the soil’s too warm, so keep your seedling pot in a cool, sheltered spot.
Lettuce plants love to grow with beetroot, carrots, spring onions and radishes. Their best friends, though, are marigolds (pictured). The rich sunshine colours of marigolds contrast wonderfully well with the greens of lettuce leaves, and marigolds are said to deter many insect pests. Marigold’s available in Yates Garden Doctor seed range, where it’s described as the ‘workhorse of pest deterrents’.
The love affair between beetroot and lettuce has been long recognised. Other ‘best friend’ couplings are garlic and roses, climbing beans and sweet corn, rosemary and sage and the already-mentioned affinity between beetroot and leafy greens like lettuce.