Companion planting is the planting of different crops in proximity (in gardening and agriculture), on the theory that they assist each other in nutrient uptake, pest control, pollination, and other factors necessary to increasing crop productivity.
Companion planting is used by farmers and gardeners in both industrialized and developing countries for many reasons. Many of the modern principles of companion planting were present many centuries ago in cottage gardens in England and Home gardens in Asia.
For farmers using an integrated pest management system, increased yield and/or reduction of pesticides is the goal.
For gardeners, the combinations of plants also make for a more varied, attractive vegetable garden, as well as allowing more productive use of space.
Companion planting is considered to be a form of polyculture.
In China, the mosquito fern has been used for at least one thousand years, as a companion plant for rice crops. It hosts a special cyanobacteria that fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere, and also blocks out light from getting to any competing plants, aside from the rice, which is planted when tall enough to stick out of the water above the azolla layer.
Companion planting was practiced in various forms by Native Americans prior to the arrival of Europeans. One common system was the planting of corn (maize) and pole beans together. The cornstalk would serve as a trellis for the beans to climb while the beans would fix nitrogen for the corn. The inclusion of squash with these two plants completes the Three Sisters technique, pioneered by Native American peoples.
Companion planting was widely touted in the 1970s as part of the organic gardening movement. It was encouraged for pragmatic reasons, such as natural trellising, but mainly with the idea that different species of plant may thrive more when close together. It is also a technique frequently used in permaculture, together with mulching, polyculture, and changing of crops.
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