Companion planting is one way to ramp up environmentally friendly conditions in the garden, and requires associating plants that are mutually beneficial and compatible. Most often associated with the kitchen garden, the technique really lends itself to any kind of gardening because it is so genuinely ornamental, but it is particularly apt for cottage gardens. Roses love garlic, so plant a garlic crop beneath the rose bushes; carrots love tomatoes; and so forth. Pot marigolds, Calendula officinalis, and African marigolds, Tagetes spp., are a terrific companion to many vegetables and flowers and should be used throughout the garden, but then so should petunias and nasturtiums. The book Secrets of Companion Planting: Plants That Help, Plants That Hurt by Brenda Little (Silverleaf Press, 2007) is a good guide to get started with, while Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte (Storey Publishing, 1998) is my personal favorite.

Just making sure the plant is suited to the growing conditions where it is being placed will help to ensure a healthy garden. Jayne Bentzen has several micro-habitats in her cottage garden: the paving stone garden nearest the house is a bit of a heat trap, sheltered by the house walls, and the soil is free draining and gritty—perfect conditions for gray- and silver-leafed natives of the Mediterranean region, like lavender and santolina.

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A Garden to Grow In: Going Green at Red Mill

An historic mill is surrounded by a chemical-free garden

Written by Ethne Clarke
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