Fill In the Gaps
Commercial farm operations might benefit from having nice straight rows with plenty of space in between (for driving harvesters and mechanized equipment), but our square foot gardens don’t have similar requirements. Choose from the list below of easy-to-grow pollinators, dynamic accumulators and medicinal/culinary herbs and plant them anywhere where you see gaps or holes in your garden beds. These plants have useful support functions but will also increase the diversity of your garden automatically.
|Plant||Category||Echinacea||Insect Attractor/Medicinal herb|
|Dill||Culinary Herb/Pest Confuser|
|Anise Hyssop||Insect Attractor|
|Comfrey||Insect Attractor/Dynamic Accumulator|
|Mint family (Bee Balm, Mint, Lemon Balm)||Beneficial Insect Attractor|
|Sage||Culinary Herb/Insect Attractor|
What is a weed? A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.Ralph Waldo Emerson
Watch the Weeds
Observing what kinds of weeds grow in your garden beds can give you some important tips about the type of soil you have and what kind of minerals are in the soil. Also, some weeds are extremely efficient at dredging up these nutrients. The table below will help to guide which “companion” plants might grow extremely well next to them. Remember, if managed properly, most weeds can provide us with free mulch, fertilizer and soil aeration.
|Nettles||K, Ca, S, Cu, Fe, Na|
|Dandelions||Na, Mg, Ca, K, Fe, Cu|
|Comfrey||K, P, Ca, Cu, Fe|
Balance your Harvest
This is a trick I’ve started using to simplify my 7-layer food forest planning to include 3 different layers; fruiting crops, ground-cover/leafy greens, and root crops. Try to balance out the number of plants you grow in each category. It’s a simple way to take advantage of the different levels at which crops grow and increase the diversity of your crops at the same time.
|Root Crops||Leafy Greens||Fruiting Crops|
It's a Perennial World After All
The annual vegetables we love to eat are basically “tamed” versions of wild plants that were either perennials or much better at self-seeding than most of our modern crops. It’s important to have a multi-year plan to try to incorporate at least a half-dozen new perennial herbs, berries, or trees into your garden each year so that after 4-5 years you’ll have abundant diversity in your garden.
Not like the Others
An easy way to experiment is with different varieties of the same plant (for example there are over 7500 different kinds of tomatoes). Each variety has different needs so might do better or worse in your garden. Also it gives you a chance to see what variety of that plant you like to eat the best!