Thursday, January 12, 2017

Symposium Sneak Peak: Companion Planting by Dustin Foster

An example of trap cropping, photo courtesy
Separating the facts from fiction when it comes to companion planting can be tricky.  There are many “old wives tales” and practices learned from grandparents and parents.  Some actually, if not accidentally, have some scientific truth to them and some, not so much.  Once such scientific concept is called trap cropping.  Although it may not have been known as that back in the day, it is a scientifically proven companion concept.

Gardening isn’t just about the plants and the fruit or flowers that come from them; it’s also about the pests.  As gardeners, we all eventually find some decisions must be made in regards to pest management.  One approach to managing pests is to include plants in the garden whose role it is to keep some of those pests in check.  Trap cropping is one tool a gardener can use to manage pests in this manner.
  • Conventional Trap Cropping – a low value plant is included to attract pests away from the more desirable crop.  The trap crop is often destroyed as a means of pest control.  
  • Sequential Trap Cropping – trap crops are planted earlier than the main crop in order to attract the pest soon after hatching and deter it from discovering other food sources.
  • Push-pull Trap Cropping – an attractant border crop (outside the main crop area) is planted along with a repellant intercrop (among the main crop area).
Effective trap cropping requires careful planning and analysis of the growing environment.  Some key factors to consider include:
  • Which damaging pests are present or likely to be attracted by crops?
  • What are the details of the pest’s life cycle?
  • Which plants have an attractant or repellant effect on the pest?
Thinking through these questions and consulting with your local Extension Horticulturist or Master Gardeners can save you a good deal of heartache when harmful insects come to call.  Answering these questions can prevent or deter the devastating effects of an insect invasion.  

For more information on the most successful companion planting techniques, please join us at the Colorado Master Gardeners of Jefferson County 2017 Spring Gardening Symposium: Beginning Vegetable Gardening:  Jump Start your Garden the RIGHT way!, on Saturday, January 28, 2017 from 8:45 AM to 4:00 PM at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. We have planned a full day of vegetable gardening excitement for beginning and intermediate gardeners in particular. Morning sessions focus on planning your garden, soil and amendments, and seeds vs. transplants. Afternoon sessions focus on the top 10 easiest vegetables to grow in Colorado, growing vegetables in containers, and a session specifically on tomatoes. A lunch and learn class will cover adding flowers and herbs to your vegetable garden. The cost is $75, plus $10 if you’d like to attend the lunch and learn session.

Click here to register. If you’d like additional information, please call the Jefferson County Extension Master Gardener Hotline at 303-271-6620.