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April 16, 2015

Companion Planting

In my never ending quest to grow more greens and to extend greens growing season I am experimenting with companion planting, and especially with growing dense and mulching heavily.

What tipped me off in this direction was the experience of harvesting sweet potatoes during some dry times of November. As I pulled the vines that covered the ground densely, I noticed that the ground under the vines was wet and cool while the rest of the garden was suffering from thirst. As I harvested all the potatoes and discarded the vines to the compost pile, the soil where the sweet potatoes were dried out within a day.

Usually regular greens like kale and collards are pretty much done by June. They simply stop growing and wilt away. I accepted that fact as part of Florida growing seasons. But this year I am trying to extend my greens well into the Summer.

The idea is to cover the soil with plants having no empty areas so that the leaves would shade the soil and keep the moisture in while lowering the soil temperature. I am diligently mulching the beds with grass clippings and so far the method works.

The bed above has collards, Buttercrunch lettuce, buckwheat, and bush beans growing together densely, and mulched with a layer of grass clippings about two to three inches deep between the plants. Granted it is not July yet, but we had some over ninety days, and the plants did not wilt. It also helps that this bed gets shade in the afternoon.

The curly leaves in the picture above is Russian Kale. I stumbled upon the seeds at Tractor Supply and just had to try them. It is amazingly juicy and tender kale, and now is my favorite. This kale is interplanted with beans, buckwheat, and broadleaf mustard greens. I am very curious as to what will happen to these beds in the mid-Summer. I am seriously hoping to have enough greens for my salads from these beds; it is definitely a worthy experiment.


  1. I am working toward having more to harvest in summer as well. I've planted my kale (Dino) under shade and so far, so good. Last year, we experimented with a variety of lettuce called New Red Fire and it did quite well in the summer heat. I hope you'll give it a go. It's nice to be able to grow your own salad greens in summer like the rest of the country does!

  2. Don't toss those sweet 'tater greens, they are awesome, totally edible...the older leaves cooked, and the tip growth can be used in salads! I had greens all summer, I was thrilled! I would bring a big bowl with me out to the garden and strip off the leaves then stick a few of the stems right back into the midst of the bed and beyond to grow even more! We all think they are even better than spinach! I just visited ECHO in Ft Myers and learned about some perennial greens that are bushes and trees...of course Moringa, Chaya, cranberry hibiscus, katuk, the list goes on and on! I can't believe all the options we have and all the new flavors to experience! When I first got here I thought gardening was so difficult because I learned up north. Different, but definitely awesome!

  3. Are you still gardening/still posting to this blog? I see no new posts, but I think yours is one of the best blogs I have seen on Florida gardening. I just want to encourage you to continue, because I really feel that many people will want to convert their back yards to raised beds for vegetables if our economy takes a turn for the worse. I hope you will continue to post your experience/knowledge about Florida gardening. It is most appreciated.

  4. Sorry, I have not for a while. Now I feel bad. :)
    I've been extremely busy, and actually in the process of converting my garden into permaculture, so I don't have to do "work". Thank you for encouragement.

  5. Don't feel bad; your posts are wonderful and informative, and my experience, though much more limited than yours, matches what you are posting. Permaculture. Wow. That's a big shift. I understand the attraction, since there have been a few years in my six or so years of FL vege gardening when I said, "*@#$% it. I'm DONE with vegetables!" The bugs, the heat, the diseases. Productive periods are down to a week or two, some years. But then some years you have a productive crop that lasts several weeks, and you celebrate and can/freeze that crop and share it with neighbors. It's such a gamble. I appreciate your taking the time to post your experience and knowledge.



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