So… it’s 2013.
You’re not still using chemicals in your garden are you?
Mais bien sur, I am giving you a hard time but with all the information at our fingertips these days about organic gardening if you are still using chemicals – why not step the gardening challenge up a notch this year and go au natural?
After all – if you wanted chemical laced food you could shop at the supermarket couldn’t you?
One strategy I have dabbled with (in the old Potager) but will be incorporating hard core this year here at La Ferme a-mi Chemin (Half-Way Farm) is “Companion Planting.”  The entire concept fascinates me.
Plant this, not that.  
Next to this, not that.
Why wipe out ALL the bugs when you could use some of them for your benefit?
Why pour chemical fertilizer over your whole garden when you can use the needs of some vegetables to benefit the needs of others?
Today was glorious here in Illinois. 
And I played in the dirt all day.
Joel and I planted about 220 onions together this morning (talk about glorious – gardening side by side with your best friend) and after he left for work I planted nine or so rows of carrots and snap and shelling peas down the center aisle (arbors to be installed – creating a pea/bean tunnel!).  
 With little helpers now and again.
This year as I mentioned on Facebook, I got really serious about graphing out the Potager.  Though the charm of my old Potager was it’s slight disarray (due to it’s round and crazy shaping) this year for me is all about anal retentive “Mr. McGregor” style, perfectly straight rows.  (Though, I will jazz it up a bit with some slanted rows too).    
In using graph paper I was able to see just how much I could cram into our Potager but not overcrowd it (which I notoriously have done in the past – then lamenting my small harvests).  Using the graph paper also allowed me to see where I could cram in companion plants and where I could strategically plant certain things next to each other — I could never just “wing it” and go out there and start sowing seeds.  Even with the biggest garden we have ever had – it’s still going to be about using every sqaure foot to the max.  I want NO wasted space – for example — did you know that planting beets and/or nasturtiums, les capucines, under/inbetween your broccoli will free up the calcium in the soil that the broccoli needs???





This website that I love referring to for their in-depth list of companion planting ideas asks that you not reproduce their information so I am going to give you a little taste of how much info they offer and then give you the link.
Here are some of the ways I am “Companion Planting” this year…
BASIL: Plant with tomatoes to improve growth and flavor. Basil also does well with peppers, oregano, asparagus and petunias. Basil can be helpful in repelling thrips. It is said to repel flies and mosquitoes. Do not plant near rue or sage.
BEANS: All bean enrich the soil with nitrogen fixed form the air, improving the conditions for whatever crop you plant after the beans are finished. In general they are good company for carrots, celery, chards, corn, eggplant, peas, potatoes, brassicas, beets, radish, strawberry and cucumbers. Beans are great for heavy nitrogen users like corn and grain plants because the nitrogren used up by the corn and grains are replaced at the end of the season when the bean plants die back. French Haricot beans, sweet corn and melons are a good combo. Summer savory deters bean beetles and improves growth and flavor. Keep beans away from the alliums. Growing tip: Do not allow beans to mature on the plant, or it will stop producing, and do not pick beans or cultivate when they are wet, or it will spread viral diseases
BEET: Good for adding minerals to the soil. The leaves are composed of 25% magnesium making them a valuable addition to the compost pile if you don’t care to eat them. Beets are also beneficial to beans with the exception of runner beans. Runner or pole beans and beets stunt each other’s growth. Companions for beets are lettuce, onions and brassicas. Beets and kohlrabi grow perfectly together. Beets are helped by garlic and mints. Garlic improves growth and flavor. Rather than planting invasive mints around beets use your mint clippings as a mulch.   
BORAGE: Companion plant for tomatoes, squash, strawberries and most plants. Deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms. One of the best bee and wasp attracting plants. Adds trace minerals to the soil and a good addition the compost pile. The leaves contain vitamin C and are rich in calcium, potassium and mineral salts. Borage may benefit any plant it is growing next to via increasing resistance to pests and disease. It also makes a nice mulch for most plants. Borage and strawberries help each other and strawberry farmers always set a few plants in their beds to enhance the fruits flavor and yield. Plant near tomatoes to improve growth and disease resistance. After you have planned this annual once it will self seed. Borage flowers are edible.
BROCCOLI: Companions for broccoli are: Basil, Bush Beans, Cucumber, Dill, Garlic, Hyssop, Lettuce, Marigold, Mint, Nasturtium, Onion, Potato, Radish, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Tomato. Celery, onions and potatoes improve broccolis’ flavor when planted near it. Broccoli loves plenty of calcium. Pairing it with plants that need little calcium is a good combination such as nasturtiums and beets as this frees up the calcium in the soil for the broccoli. Put the nasturtiums right under the broccoli plants. Herbs such as rosemary, dill and sage help repel pests with their distinct aromas. Foes: Grapes, strawberries, mustards and rue.
CABBAGE: Celery, dill, onions and potatoes are good companion plants. Celery improves growth and health. Clover interplanted with cabbage has been shown to reduce the native cabbage aphid and cabbageworm populations by interfering with the colonization of the pests and increasing the number of predatory ground beetles. Plant Chamomile with cabbage as it Improves growth and flavor. Cabbage does not get along with strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, rue, grapes, lettuce and pole beans.
CARROTS: Their pals are leaf lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Plant dill and parsnips away from carrots. Flax produces an oil that may protect root vegetables like carrots from some pests. One drawback with tomatoes and carrots: tomato plants can stunt the growth of your carrots but the carrots will still be of good flavor.  
I do hope, if you have not experienced the joy of your own Potager, that you will check out my Potager 101 series from a couple years ago and design our own (found at the top of the page) and if you are already a gardener, that you will try some new companion planting techniques this year!
Oh, and, since there are new readers every day – if you haven’t watched “Back to Eden” yet – DO IT!  Thanks for ALL the feedback on how the movie touched and inspired youYou never know if other people will be touched by a movie the way you were.
Here’s to more warm days… and hundreds of pounds of beautiful produce.
Much Affection,
Parisienne Farmgirl