Companion planting is not a new concept. I first encountered the idea when I read a book on the subject many years ago. Trying to recall the original title, I googled “companion planting” and was overwhelmed by how many books there were on the subject now.
Essentially, for those who’ve not encountered the notion, companion planting means planting species adjacent to each other for the benefit of one or both plants. Planting marigolds with tomatoes for example, was said to attract more bees for pollination, repel nematodes on tomato roots, although some experts would dispute this particular companionship.
Beloved Australian writer and gardener extraordinaire, Jackie French, writes hilariously:
It was love at first sight – just like the books explained – the ones that tell you how parsnips hate celery, and celery like cabbages. He was tall, green and handsome, the perfect basil plant, and she was a blushing tomato, a country girl at heart.
He swept her off her feet (well, shook her to the roots anyway) and they produced prolifically all season, and were buried in the same compost heap that winter. (Yes, I know that’s not romantic but we do need a bit of realism here).
Her dose of realism is: what works in other regions may not be the case in Australia which has different species of pests and diseases. In fact, she claims thriving plants may have more to do with conscientious gardeners than companion planting ground rules.
I find some truth in this. Despite my careful coupling of plants according to the companion planting guidelines, some have failed. But equally, others have done well.
Just like human relationships really.
I’ve found it’s not necessarily the species/personality types involved, nor what I might gain from them, or they from me, but the effort put into making it work for the good of both that matters.
My dose of realism is there is always some personal gain from working on relationships, although we may not like to admit anything quite so base. Even in the most altruistic relationships the giver also receives, be it validation, gratitude, satisfaction, love; these are not small rewards.
On a larger scale, as a social species, the gains from such relationships can be thought of as diasporic, fanning out like ripples on a pond across disparate societies to the benefit of all.
So easy to conceive, so difficult to achieve.