In the Garden:
Middle South
January, 2004
Regional Report

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Sown together while the soil is still cold, larkspur and shirley poppies bloom together in late spring.

The Guilded Garden

Plants that partner up perfectly -- for reasons ranging from simple beauty to enhancing the welfare of the group -- are called plant guilds. There are endless possibilities for guilding your garden, which is both fun and rewarding. From sowing poppies and larkspur together in cold, late-winter soil, knowing that they will bloom together in late spring, to studding the squash patch with pest-repellent radishes, this is a good time to make plans for a well-guilded garden.

Easy Partners
Need some ideas? You could start small with a container of herbs comprised of basil, chives, and thyme that you can keep on your deck or patio, only a few steps from your kitchen door. In mixed flowerbeds, I find that the strappy texture of iris leaves goes with everything, so I use them to divide drifts of annuals and perennials. And chard is such a painterly vegetable that I often rob veggie rows and slip plants into the front section of otherwise ornamental plant communities.

Putting up with the floppy foliage of bloomed out daffodils used to bother me, but not after I discovered that daylilies do such a great job of hiding it from view. Later in the summer, I let lush mounds of chrysanthemums (grown from stem cuttings I root in spring) draw attention away from tattered spring-blooming perennials.

Practical Veggie Companions
Most of the guilding I do in my vegetable garden has a practical side, such as planting lettuce beneath caged tomatoes, so the lettuce will be shaded from strong sun in late spring. And whenever I plan ahead to use floating row covers to exclude pests, I stud the row with corn. Try it! Widely spaced corn plants do a great job of holding row covers over potatoes, cucumbers, or eggplant.

Finally, there is no better living mulch than sweet potatoes, which are ideal for planting along the edge of a sun-drenched garden or alongside okra, which seems to enjoy their company.


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