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Square-foot companion planting using the lasagna method ... What?




There are so many popular terms in use right now for gardening. The abundance of catch-phrases can easily persuade even the most experienced gardener that they don't know what they're doing. These tag lines and snappy titles are meant to capture the attention of those who are just dipping their gloved hands into the soil of the garden. "This way is so easy!" a headline beckons. "Over here! I have the fool-proof way to successful gardening," calls another. "Garden the way your grandmother did it, and save the planet in the meantime!"

When I met with a new client a couple of weeks ago, she mentioned how delighted she was to have found someone who understood Companion Planting. This information about myself (which I didn't even know), she had gleaned from looking at my business website. (Congratulations! You're here, too!) Well, I'm a little ashamed to tell you that I stayed quiet at that point and let the lady keep on talking. I wasn't sure I knew what Companion Planting even is, and I surely knew I hadn't mentioned the practice on my website! Had I heard the term? Yes, and I even had a rough idea of what it meant. But could I define it to someone with any degree of confidence? That's a resounding "no!"

I high-tailed it home and guiltily looked up Companion Planting and found that, yes, indeed, I do believe in it, and the photos on my website do depict the practice. Ahhh. Sweet relief! I hadn't lied by omission after all!

By the way, in case you're interested, Companion Planting is the practice of planting complementary plants in close proximity. Plants that have reciprocally beneficial relationships -- like those that add nitrogen to the soil and those that need nitrogen -- or plants that are taller and like sunlight, planted next to shorter plants that need shade -- benefit each other. Have you ever wondered why so many vegetable gardeners plant marigolds along the border of their veggies? Well, it's because those little orange/yellow/red flowers are complementary with vegetable plants due to their tendency to repel harmful insects. That's a prime example of Companion Planting. Locating pollinator-friendly flowers next to plants that need more help from the bees is also an example of Companion Planting. These are things I already knew, but I didn't have the popular phrasing as a label.

Over the winter months, I've been taking a course to become a certified garden coach. Learning to coach people in designing, installing and maintaining their gardens is just a more intentional way to offer services I've already been providing the past three years. It meshes my experience as a high school teacher with my passion for gardening in a way that has been exhilarating and inspiring. The course has also opened my eyes to the number of those catchy gardening phrases that are floating around out there:

Lasagna composting .... Intensive Planting .... Square-foot Gardening ... Permaculture ... and, oh, my goodness! Google can serve up list after list of garden terms people of all interest levels "should" know! I'm afraid it's enough to intimidate even the most interested person from trying this wonderful hobby! Psst ... I don't know half of the terms I saw, and yet, I garden fairly successfully, and have for decades.

One thing I've learned through my quest to educate myself more formally prior to this gardening season is that there definitely is an increased interested in gardening in developed countries worldwide. This increase, which I suspected due to the number of gardening-related ads and posts I ran across on social media (but feared was simply due to algorithms sending them my way), began during the spread of the Covid pandemic and has continued.

The woman with whom I've been studying this winter has a book called Kitchen Garden Revival and she focuses mostly on encouraging people to raise food in their gardens -- for outdoor and family experience, for healthy nutrient intake, and for exercise. She often references the Victory Gardens of the World Wars, which helped feed families when food was scarce.

I'm all for a revival of any type of gardening. Whatever people want for their yards -- however they want to be involved -- as long as we're working to create habitats for the birds, bees and other beneficial insects, I'm a fan! And I don't care if we go about it using some method referred to as "lasagna" or "bologna," as long as we just do it.

I'm excited about the 2024 gardening season. If you're reading this and you're anywhere in the Central Kentucky area, I'd love to speak Gardening with you! Go to the Contact page of this website and drop me a message!

I look forward to growing with you!

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