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Manage Plant Pests And Weeds By Using 'Companion Planting' Methods

Small carrot seedlings in a line grow in soil.
These carrot seedlings can be planted close to your tomato plants to save space, help with weeds and even control pests. Learn more about plant parnters in this episode.

You may have heard the mantra that, "carrots love tomatoes," when it comes to garden placement. In this episode, we'll learn about plant partners and the scientific data that backs up how the placement of certain plants can keep pests and weeds at bay. You can experiment in your own garden this summer! 

A method of planning out your garden, known as companion planting, is covered in a new book, Plant Partners, by Jessica Walliser.

The book answers questions about which companion plants work well together for pest, disease and weed control. Charlie Nardozzi is also giving a webinar on this plant pairing topic on Feb. 23rd. Learn more here about Charlie's Ecological Gardening & Companion Planting Webinar.

Q: Can I layer hot manure into the bed if there are sufficient composting layers on top or will this burn plants? Will hay in the layers lead to terrible weeds, or will they break down under the other layers? How long should manure sit before incorporating into my garden? — Rebecca, in Montpelier

It's best to let hot manure sit for three or four months so it can break down in your garden. Planting anything into that layer too soon would burn any new roots that have just gotten started. As far as using hay, if you bury it three to four inches into the soil with compost on top, you should not get weed seeds and that will work just fine.

Q: I heard about a plant in a rain garden notable for the leaves being so big that they hold rainwater and birds could bath in them. It has the name 'lord' or 'lord leaf' in it. Can you identify this plant for me? — Patty, in Derby

There are a bunch of varieties of large-leaf plants like elephant leaf and gunnera, but that one doesn't grow well in Vermont's climate. The butterbur grows quite large but it is an invasive plant, so you wouldn’t want to add that one to your rain garden! Hostas, of course, grow well here and can grow quickly and certain hosta varieties have quite large leaves.

In searching for a plant that's hearty enough for Vermont weather, could grow large enough leaves to collect rain water, there is an arum, called, “Lords and Ladies.” This one might check all the boxes and work in a rain garden!

Next week, we’ll tackle your seed-starting queries, so please send questions about starting seeds indoors and Charlie can help answer them.

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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