This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
Companion planting is the idea that when some crops are
planted together, they help each other grow. These compatible plants generally
have similar needs for nutrients, soil and moisture.
Advice for companion plantings is sometimes based more
on tradition than proof. But Fabian Fernandez at the University of Illinois
says there is evidence for some combinations. These can lead to better crops,
reduce disease and help with pest control by attracting helpful insects.
For example, some kinds of soil bacteria take nitrogen
from the air and make a form that plants can use. The plants keep the nitrogen
in their roots. Legumes are especially good at this. Any crops sharing the same
space can get the nitrogen as the roots decompose.
Crops like beans and potatoes can also share territory
well because their roots reach different levels in the soil. Deep-rooted vegetables
get nutrients and moisture from lower down, so they do not compete with
But some plants placed together may harm each other's
development. For example, tomatoes do not like wet soil but watercress does, as
the name suggests. So you would probably not want to put them together.
Even after harvest, some kinds of produce should be
kept apart. Apples, for example, release ethylene gas, a plant hormone. It can cause
other foods to ripen too quickly.
Fruits that release a lot of ethylene also include
apricots, melons and tomatoes. Vegetables easily affected by ethylene include
asparagus, broccoli, cabbage and cucumbers.
Markets often separate high ethylene-producing foods
from those that are sensitive to the gas.
But sometimes you might want them together. For
example, if you put an apple in a bag with an green banana, the banana will be
ready to eat sooner.
Now what about peaches, plums and nectarines that are
too firm to eat? Growers in California answer this question at eatcaliforniafruit.com.
They say an apple, banana or a riper piece of fruit is not needed. The peaches,
plums and nectarines themselves release enough of the gas to ripen successfully.
Their advice: Place the fruit in a fruit bowl or in a
paper bag with the top folded over. Keep the fruit at room temperature, out of
direct sunlight. When the fruit is soft enough to your liking, either use it or
place it in a refrigerator to stop further ripening.
And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report,
written by Jerilyn Watson. Transcripts, podcasts and archives are at
voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Mario Ritter.