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179-Plant Partners: The Science-based Benefits of Companion Planting, with Jessica Walliser

Duration: 57:06
Companion planting has been practiced for centuries, but it’s not always clear why some plants perform better when paired with others. To separate conjecture from facts, my guest this week, horticulturist and author Jessica Walliser, has penned a new book on companion planting strategies supported b
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Companion planting has been practiced for centuries, but it’s not always clear why some plants perform better when paired with others. To separate conjecture from facts, my guest this week, horticulturist and author Jessica Walliser, has penned a new book on companion planting strategies supported by science.
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One of the things that interest me is how we sort of vet out some of these things that we know now that we didn't know before some of these successful plant partnerships. Yeah, I mean a lot of the research that takes place in companion planting. You know, they're not actually calling companion planting right again, because it's just sort of has a bad connotation to it, right? So instead, they're they're really looking at poly culture, like the concept of a poly culture, which is basically an agricultural system where multiple plants are growing together in the same space. So they're trying to reflect the diversity of a natural ecosystem instead of having a monoculture right, we've got all one crop together and that it's really easy for pests and diseases, too. Read from one plant to the next. When you have a monoculture, right, so they're looking at it in terms again. We talked about the whole ecosystem of the garden, but it's a poly culture. It's mixed plants together. How does that benefit all of the plants living there? What are the pros and cons of grouping different plants together, right, So companion planting, like we think of it in a backyard garden is one way to create a poly culture. So the scientists are studying the benefits of poly culture. Okay, another thing that they're looking at and a lot of these university based studies are taking place on farms and research facilities with the other way they're looking at is is inter cropping, which is almost like what we're talking about in a backyard garden where we're partnering, you know, or deal with or tomatoes or whatever those two plants are or inter. Planting them together were inter cropping them together, right? So that's the process of growing to orm or crops in the same area to give us some kind of beneficial results. So at home, we might call it inter planting on a farm scale. They're going to call it inter cropping either way again, The mission of that is to create a poly culture, create a mixture of plants, a diversity of plants growing together, which leads to a more stable environment and leads Thio the seven main goals of plant partnerships, which is exactly how the book is organized. Okay, so this first chapter that you get into what is the title of the chapter again, the first chapter, the power of plant partnership. So it's really looking at the ways that the plants interact with each other and how we can then take that and turn it into sort of a modern take on companion planting. And it starts with all looking at the possible benefits of companion planting. You know, a lot of times people see companion planting, and they automatically think about pests reducing testify. Plant these two plants together. I'm not gonna have a pest problem. That's only one benefit that your garden can can get as a result of partnering plants together, so reduced pressure is definitely reduced. Pest pressure is definitely one of the biggest ones that comes to mind, but it's certainly not the only one that comes to mind. And then, of course, the whole discussion of poly culture and inter cropping And how these studies, Then that air done on, you know, in agricultural facilities, how do they translate to our backyard environment, you know, can we expect comparable results toe happen in our backyard garden, you know, and and the truth is, you know, there's not a lot of research that takes place in a backyard environment. They do take place on working farms, you know, and research facilities. And so it's up to us then to distill that information and experiment in our own backyards, where we can take those studies conducted on farms and then distill them down the home and try them and see if they work and it do some experimenting, you know, size. It's undoubtedly going to play a role in the outcome of how all of this translates from a farm to a garden, you know, so you got to be a little bit flexible. But the idea is to be a scientist in your own backyard and to and to take this data that we have and try toe make use of it in a home environment. This book, even in the first chapter, is just loaded with really cool information, such as how plants affect each other and you listed about five different things as examples of you know, how plants interplay with each other, such as just the use of shared resource is, yeah, it's pretty cool. A lot of times people think that plants are kind of passive, and they just sit there and they do their thing but actually interact with each other, you know, especially in the communities and a community, which is how plants are supposed to grow. They're not know plant is an island, right? That's supposed to grow out there by itself. They're always in these communities planted together. So with the use of shared resource, is comes resource competition. Right? So we might think of this in our backyard, where they're competing for water or they're completely eating for nutrients, Right? So we overrun our garden and and they're pulling nutrients out of the soil that are quote unquote good plants might want our desired plants might want. But you've got that resource competition. Then you've also got resource sharing. You know, in natural plant communities, there's an awful lot of resource sharing going along where ah, big tree might pull water or nutrients from way down deep in the soil profile. Pull it up closer to the surface where more shallow rooted plants might be able to access it. They can distribute nutrients within the soil through their route exodus, which are compounds that are exuded out of their roots and that causes resource sharing to take place. The way that they interact with each other can definitely involve resource sharing or resource robbing or stealing.
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