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Bulawayo urban agriculturalists urged to turn to Companion Gardening
Written by Ntando Sibanda - ZDDT Reporter Monday, 09 January 2012 13:18ZDDT has encouraged urban farmers to practice companion gardening in their nutritional gardens.
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Farmers practicing urban agriculture have been urged to revert to Companion Gardening in order to reduce the prevalence of weeds, insects and pests without applying chemical deterrents to their crops.
Companion Gardening is basically premised on the idea that many plants grow better near some companions than they do near others or when alone. This idea is meant for the betterment of plant health and resultantly, the realisation of better yields by the farmers and is part of Organic Farming.
Companion farming entails planting something such as vegetables and then flanking them with other plants that deter pests and insects from attacking and damaging the core crop.
One of the major advantages of this form of agriculture is that it “... can drastically improve the use of space, reduce the number of weeds and garden pests and provide protection from heat, wind, and even the crushing weight of snow. In the vegetable garden, all this adds up to the best thing of all: increased yield,” says Kate Gardner of Planet Natural.
Companion Farming is also credited for providing erosion control, and supplying both nitrogen and organic material to the soil when it is ploughed under in spring. Most plants that are used in companion farming have certain attributes that deter weeds, insects and pests from interfering with the growth of the crop. These characteristics can include certain odours and chemical compositions, which are detrimental to the growth of the undesired intruders in the farmer’s field.
Since most companions must be planted very near each other in order to have any effect on each other, companion planting is especially well-adapted to small gardens where plants are grown in close proximity and space is at a premium. Gardens that use raised beds, wide rows, or intensive square foot gardening methods make natural candidates for companion planting. It is also a natural ally for organic gardeners, since much companion planting is designed to control pests.
It is in this light that ZDDT has encouraged urban farmers to practice companion gardening in their nutritional gardens. As part of the Trust’s community restoration exercise, it is working in tandem with Bulawayo City Council in establishing and monitoring nutrition gardens in particular wards within the city.
Addressing members of Ward 25 (Nketa 9), Glenkara Nutrition Gardens recently, ZDDT National Development Officer, Mr Simon Spooner, encouraged them to revert to this practice as it protects the environment in reducing land degradation and chemical residues that are experienced in other forms of farming that utilise chemicals as deterrents.
Most of the gardeners were crying foul for lack of pesticides for deterring unwelcome insects. These were beginning to derail the results of their frantic efforts to improve their livelihoods by self-empowerment through the creation of nutritional gardens.
“We are very happy and enthusiastic about what ZDDT has done for us. Right now we no longer buy vegetables and that saves us a lot. However, the major problem that we are facing is that of pests as you saw that our tomatoes have been severely affected by the red spider. Our plea to the Trust is that if they can assist us in acquiring pesticides in order for us to take good care of our crops by protecting them from these pests,” said Ward 25 Nutrition Gardens Chairperson, Mrs Esnath Nyoni.
Mr Spooner encouraged the farmers to adopt this practice. He went on to say that it is cheaper, easier and, most of all, a natural method that brings value to the land and the
It is very important that farmers note that not all plants grow well beside one another hence there being numerous plant combinations in Companion Farming. There is the common combination known as the Three Sisters. This is when farmers plant corn, beans and squash, in the same field. These support one another in several ways. For instance; “the beans provide nitrogen for the nutrient-hungry corn, the corn provides a support for the vining bean, and the squash, a living mulch, suppresses weeds between rows,” says Kate Gardner of Planet Natural.
It is therefore pertinent that farmers have an idea of what they seek to achieve when conducting Companion Gardening as there are numerous goals that can be achieved in this farming practice.
For instance; if a farmer wants to control insects, he/she can plant onions, garlic, and marigolds throughout the garden as these plants produce odours that confuse many flying insects and therefore deter them from attacking the garden.
Farmers can also plant crops that attract certain pest eating insects like ladybugs. These plants that include the black flower and asters among others can be planted in and around the gardens so that the attracted insects can move freely and feed on the other pests that bother the farmers’ core crops.
If weed control is the main objective of the farmer, dense planting and mulching can help as it suppresses weeds simply by covering every inch of available space and shading out competitors. To achieve this, a farmer can practice intercropping where they plant two crops on the same ground at the same time.
According to research that was carried out by the writer, there are a number of crops that can be used in companion farming in the local environment and these include:
The source of following information is http://www.seedsofchange.com/enewsletter/issue_55/companion_planting.aspx
These reseeding, annual flowers have a distinctive smell that is even apparent to our noses. This stench can deter pests because they typically find it unappealing. Plant them very thickly throughout vegetable plots. The French Brocade Marigold has the added benefit of nematode suppression because its roots emit a substance that repels harmful worms
within the vicinity.
The odoriferous members of this family, especially catnip, help to repel aphids and cabbage pests. Be advised that certain mints can grow out of control and take over a garden space. To make sure you do not start a new problem by fixing an old one, you can grow mints in containers and place around your garden. Another trick is to remove both ends of a coffee can and plant the mint into the can to restrain the roots and force them to grow down rather than out.
This plant deters Japanese beetles. Grow as a garden border or scatter rue leaf clippings in an infested area. Be careful: Rue causes a poison ivy-like rash for some people; hence it is pertinent for people to wear gloves when handling it.
This herb is a must for any garden. Grow among vegetables to repel aphids, mites, and mosquitoes. Basil acts as a fungicide and can slow the growth of milkweed bugs.
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