It was the best of kales; it was the worst of kales. (Where the Dickens did I read that?)
I was watering yesterday and gave little attention to the stray kale (Lacinato) that had somehow gotten in with a patch of garlic . What I did notice, though, having just moved from watering the Brassica bed, was that there were no flea beetle holes in its leaves. NONE.
Yet the same variety, fifteen feet away (and surrounded by other Brassicas) was too pitiful for the table.
Its pretty well known that diverse plantings make crops plants harder for pests to find, and of course there is a wide belief in particular companion planting combinations. I haven’t found most of the cases for insect repellent effects convincing: radishes with squashes, marigolds with tomatoes, sage with cabbages, etc. What I have found useful is companion planting for space and nutrient utilization. THAT I can get my head around, and the results are obvious, and often beautiful.
But this was hard to ignore. The actual population of the little “bed-end” that had been ignored included one Lacinato kale, one Bright Lights chard, two cilantro plants and 8-10 garlic plants (Susanville soft neck). Maybe cilantro has repllent properties (it repels me) but out of this particular inventory of plants (unless one wants to say it is “the mix”) I would guess the garlic to be the flea beetle repellent.
Based on that I am doing a sort of “double experiment” this season, which is to companion plant onions with (trellised) cucumbers. I was wondering what to do with those Tropea onions I started in the cold frame back March anyway.
Normally on the side of a climbing crop bed (peas, beans, cukes, etc.) I would sow a row of greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula, mesclun, dwarf pac choi — NO, I do not believe that the peas or beans are contributing nutrients to the greens) just so I could get a harvest from the edges while the main crop in the center is growing. This general idea (my favorite kind) also works with other plants, say root crops like parsnips, leeks, and celeriac, which have a very long season but are not particularly demanding otherwise. [For more on this check out the various crop guide pages on the main Garden Smarts site, as well as posts specifically about this topic.]
There is acually a “twofer” here (a two for one proposition) in that it will be interesting to see if “surrounding” the cucumbers with onions might have some effect on the cucumber beetles and stink bugs that normally bring down a crop of cukes only a few weeks into bearing. It will also be interesting to see how the (long, tall, fibrous-rooted) onions do next to the cucumber trellis. (We will leave hanging the fact that onions are actually a leaf crop, not a root crop.)
Both of those points, however, are topics for another post (or two).