katylaide
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Companion planting

Just wondering on people's experiences with this, in general and if you have opinions about my specific problem as well.

I'm planning a veggie bed for early autumn with both broccoli and alpine strawberries. Everything I've read about companion planting and these two plants says not to grow them together, well at least not with regular strawberries. Does anyone know why this is? Has anyone had experience growing them together with bad/indifferent results to growing them far apart? I've situated the broccoli and strawberries roughly on opposite ends of the 3 metre bed, although my plan is not to plant in strict rows, so some plants will be closer than others. I may decide to give the alpine strawberries a miss, or grow them somewhere else, but in the same bed would be simplest if the plants won't suffer.

Thanks for your help :)

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I don't know exactly why that is, and I'll take your word for it that they're supposed to be incompatible. What you can sometimes do is to plant something that is compatible to both in between to block the roots/and presumably chemicals exuded from interacting, if they are allelopathic. If it's a pest issue, then the barrier/buffer plant may provide confusion.

Off hand, I can't think of what appropriate plants might be -- I have a huge chart laid out upstairs, but I don't feel like going to look at it right now :wink: I'll post more later, but for now, what I remember is that onions and garlic, as well as lettuce are friendly to both and that broccoli does well with aromatic herbs like sage and dill, celery, rosemary, etc. so the question is are they OK with the strawberries.

There might be something else more suitable, will check back later. 8)

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I don't know and I don't know anything about alpine strawberries or how they are different from regular strawberries. I grow my strawberries in their own little bed, because they are perennial and permanent there.

But I think companion planting refers to mixing them all up together, and I would guess that opposite ends of a 3 meter bed would pretty well mitigate whatever negative effects. I also think this companion planting is generally pretty subtle effects. I plant broccoli right in front of my tomato plants, which is also supposed to be an incompatible combination. The broccoli goes in first, while it's still cold. Later the baby tomato plants are added. By the time the tomatoes are getting big, the broccoli is done and pulled out. It seems to work just fine, but since I have limited space and not a lot of beds to play around with, I have never done the controlled experiment. Would the tomato seedlings grow better without the broccoli plants in front of them? (or vice versa for the broccoli). I don't know. I just know that everything grows well and seems healthy, so any effect is probably subtle...

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Thanks for that guys, it's really helpful. I think I'll go ahead and plant them like I'd planned to. I plan to put some lettuce in too, which I think is said to be ok with both.

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You should be fine on opposites ends. Supposedly they when plants don't like each other is when they are pretty close to each other though Apple say's they do good for her and that is enough for me.

here is an excerpt of a companion guide i made:
Cabbage likes being with Beans, Beets, Celery, Mint, Thyme, Sage, Dill, Onions, Potatoes and Rosemary. Cabbage does no do well around Tomatoes or Strawberries, the berries will not do well either. Always move Cabbage year after year to avoid clubroot buildup. Rue is another plant to keep away from cabbage, due to its bitter leave exhalation and the excretion given off by the roots. The Cabbage White butterfly is a major problem but can be dissuaded by planting one or more of the following: Sage, Rosemary, Dill, Southernwood, Mint and Chamomile. Tansy will repel both the butterfly and cutworm, short sticks of Rhubarb buried here and there will help protect against clubroot.

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while the idea is sound, companion planting guides so far as I know have absolutely no basis in science whatsoever. It's completely arbitrary as far as i know. If anyone has any companion planting literature with any kind of science in them, please be forthcoming.

There is science showing that plants can help plants and hurt others. What I've read indicates it has to do with having genes in common.

The thread "them meaning of weeds" has some useful info, and includes references to a some literature and articles.
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Hmm. As I was reading the first chapter of the Teaming with Microbes, I was thinking that there might actually be something TO the Companion Planting theory and accumulated anecdotes -- i.e. root exudates of certain plants attracting certain kind of microbes, etc. We'll chat about that in the [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=43]Book Club thread[/url]. :wink:

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I was just re-reading something in conjuction with a link I supplied for another thread ([url=https://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010137veg.roots/010137ch26.html]Root Development of Vegetable Crops: Chapter XXVI - TOMATO[/url]) and came across this at the very end:
Vegetable growers report various instances of reduced yields of some crops following certain plants. It is the belief among muck soil truckers that carrots have a depressing effect on onions, celery, and lettuce. Cabbage is reported to depress the yield of corn, that is, the yield is lower following cabbage than when corn follows corn. (153)

It has been clearly demonstrated that the presence of sorghum roots and stubble has a distinctly depressing effect upon the yield of wheat. (136) Preliminary field and pot tests with tobacco indicate that the injurious effects of preceding crop plants come mostly from the roots rather than the tops of these plants. Roots of potatoes, hairy vetch, and corn retarded the growth of tobacco even when their aboveground parts were removed from the field in harvesting. (41)
Although they're talking about Succession Planting, it would stand to reason that similar effects would be present when Companion Planted close enough for the plant roots to share proximity.

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The guide I put together does deal with exudates (garlic for example) and scents that mainly will repel certain insects. Then there is the physical relation which should be obvious such as tall plants towering over shade loving plants. As far as why they say certain plants go together and some don't other than one may be robbing nutrients from the other is hard to say. But this stuff has been handed down for generations by watching what does better than others. There are other reasons but you can view it [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=20541&highlight=companion]here[/url] and rip it apart all you want or use it if that is what you want.

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there is ALOT to this. There is a whole lot going on beneath the soil, and above. Plants can actually recognize light reflected off of other plants as a means of identification and take measures to suppress their roots. Further, some plants can appear to be incompatible, but when the soil improve cease to be in competition.

and it is all as of yet poorly understood.

"weeds, guardians of the soil" does mention sorghum, and seems to describe an allelopathic residue. But it also describes how certain weeds grown in conjunction with sorghum will eliminate this effect.

I used to plant by the chart, but I saw too many THRIVING examples of "plants to avoid" next to other "plants to avoid" to continue believing. To me the chart is like a fortune teller: they can be wrong 9 times out of 10, but people for some reason only focus on the time they are right.
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I feel ya Toil, there is a lot I'm skeptical about but some of the stuff in mine actually makes sense. Mostly the insect attracting/repelling properties of plants which could benefit from those in the vicinity. It could all be wrong but maybe not.

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Originally posted by katylaide

Just wondering on people's experiences with this, in general and if you have opinions about my specific problem as well.

:bouncey: Strawberries pH 5.8 - 6.2, sow -1/4", row 18", full sun
:mrgreen: Broccoli 50 - 70F°, pH 6 - 7, row 18", full - indirect sun

All you need to do is offset a slight pH variation in your growing space by approx. 1.O Can't be that hard to do even in a enclosed space. :roll:
Last edited by Sage Hermit on Sun Feb 28, 2010 12:59 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Companion plants. Hmmm...

I have read sooo many contradicting things on this subject.

If you are planting in furrows and/or rows, I don't see any problems. The problems might come into play in beds. I believe that it is more of a root problem. In beds plants are much closer to each other and when you start placing different plants next to each other, one can inhibit grow & nutrients. Personally I haven't witnessed any extreme cases. I have planted onions & chives next to tomatoes without any problems, among many others.

Now there are some companions that I feel are essential in the garden.

Onions, garlic & chives can deter ants, aphids, and flea beetles.

Marigolds help deter aphids, Colorado potato beetles, whiteflies, tomato hornworms, bean/cucumber/asparagus beetles & destroy nematodes.

Nasturtium is good for whiteflies & squash bugs.

Basil & borage against the tomato hornworm

Cabbage moth hates hyssop, sage, thyme, and wormwood.

Sage for carrot flies.

Mint & horseradish are great against cabbage moths, bean beetles & ants. I like to put these in planters dig them into the bed. Otherwise they will take over your garden.

Anyway, just my take on it.

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It may just be me but when I think of companion plants I think of fixers.
Are you talking about NITROGEN fixers -- i.e. legumes, clover, etc.?

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lol I was thinking of the guys who help reporters in dangerous places.
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I'm sure sage means nitrogen...

I'm quite sure there are some scientific truths and a few wives tales in there. Usually that is the case with such things. Trial and error is our best judge, but some leaps of faith can save us the discomfort of failure...

Sounds like the sorghum thing is a sure bet. I know too many smart people using marigolds for it not to be true on some level. Onions and garlic too.

AS, I agree about the root exudates, which as we are finding out, are how plants select soil biologies. It stands to reason that some coping mechanisms for competition were selected along with directly beneficial traits. Thousands, even millions of years of evolution can go into these selections, so why not? Strawberries don't want to compete with brassicas, so they select a pathogen for brassicas. Or vice versa. Sure.

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Do plants also fix other things besides Nitrogen into the soil?...
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applestar wrote:
Vegetable growers report various instances of reduced yields of some crops following certain plants. It is the belief among muck soil truckers that carrots have a depressing effect on onions, celery, and lettuce. Cabbage is reported to depress the yield of corn, that is, the yield is lower following cabbage than when corn follows corn. (153)
Now this is interesting because I have been doing a lot of research, plant by plant, on growing requirements and such. I have come across multiple accounts while looking at carrot growing, as well as in the Companion Guide I put together, that carrots and onions are the best of friends. Again I have seen this multiple times, strange how this would come up. Who is right who is wrong, there are some many mixed ideas out there it is hard to say which is which. :?

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Sage you should join in at the book club. Plants pretty much run how soil works, at least around the roots. The plants themselves don't generally fix other things, but they attrract biology that does... and some plants do; Thoreau called potatoes Nature's potash works...

Good point, gixx. Science has been busy with the failed experiment of better living with chemicals and has therefor been ignoring the better living with biology side of the equation for a long time. Where science turns a blind eye, rumor and fable takes root...

So lets start experimenting ourselves and reporting obvious successes and failures here. AS's tomato/apple guild, my weed experiments this year; citizen scientists helping each other to find better means... what a great use for the Internet... :D

HG
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well I'll start with a classic one I have seen do wondrous things:

corn, beans, and squash.

I've read before that the beans can't help until next season and I say that's bunk. Last season I accidentally "did the impossible", just putting cardboard down on grass, covering with compost (about 8 inches or so), and following a simple three sisters diagram.

Out of a tiny plot, I got many enjoyable corn dinners, and even had friends over for corn. Earworm seemed to have trouble getting in, but that is based on impressions. I may have had lucky timing.

It wasn't perfect. Stalks could have been stronger, and all that. But the production was spot on. Im crediting the beans and squash.
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Toil your glowing reports, and my reading on native horticultural techniques have convinced me to try the three sisters with the addition of some lambs quarters and purselane in just such a bed as you describe.

See, it's working already! :D

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And there you go, that is science you were looking for Toil. Just because it wasn't done with a microscope in an environment controlled lab doesn't mean it isn't science. :wink: :D

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Remember Gixx, it isn't science until you record your findings...

So keep checking in and writing...

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gixxerific wrote:And there you go, that is science you were looking for Toil. Just because it wasn't done with a microscope in an environment controlled lab doesn't mean it isn't science. :wink: :D
Heck, most science isn't even pure experiments. The very nature of designing the experiment will alter the purity which is why quite a lot of it is actually quasi-experimental design.

Edit: I was looking for good bean cultivars for three sisters and got a historical scientific book chapter on it. Wowsers.
https://www.nysm.nysed.gov/staffpubs/docs/16673.pdf
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:Remember Gixx, it isn't science until you record your findings...

So keep checking in and writing...

HG
And this has to be on paper? :P

What I meant by this was why does it always have to be on paper or the net why can't this information just be stored in you brain. There it is recorded too. I have brought this point up before, the word science is taken too seriously. It's all about evaluation of facts or observations and it doesn't have to be written up in a formal document to be science. But I'm with you let's be informal and do it to it.
:wink:

:EDIT: Opp I just screwed up this post. now that's science or is it? :roll: :oops:
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Just recorded...

Here will work... why not?

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But yes, science is about DATA. Otherwise it's just rumor and opinion.

So it needs to be measured. It isn't really very scientific to say when I planted corn with beans and squash I think the corn yield was improved. That's nice, but it is anecdotal.

It is scientific when you say, I planted 400 square feet of corn with beans and squash and it produced x number of filled out ears of corn and produced y amount of beans and squash. When I used to plant the same 400 sq ft of just corn it produced z number of ears of corn and no beans and squash.

Why it isn't enough to be recorded only in the brain is 1) I don't know about your brain, but my brain isn't likely to remember all that 5 years from now when various other gardening experiments have intervened and 2) part of what science is about is SHARING KNOWLEDGE and having replicable data. So if you get 50% more corn by doing 3 sisters in your garden and I try it and get less corn than I used to (but of course still more beans and squash), then we know that either it wasn't the 3 sisters method that led to the increased corn production or it only works under the conditions of toil's garden but not in the conditions of my garden.

Science is about replicable data. If it is only in your brain, then I can't learn from it and try to replicate it.

Science doesn't have to involve scanning electron microscopes, computers, multivariate analysis of variance, etc (though all of those are wonderful tools). It does involve careful observation, recording, and sharing of data.

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Google "Carrots Love tomatoes" tater

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rainbowgardener wrote:
Science is about replicable data. If it is only in your brain, then I can't learn from it and try to replicate it.
My anecdote regarding the three sisters is not science. But as a gardener, I don't tend to use science as a point of departure. Sometimes, and quite often, established science lets me see through the garbage, but then I do always have to remember that the value of a technique is not derived from the quality of someone else's description.

Anecdotes are a great jumping off point for scientific investigation, but further, they are crucial to establishing a network of shared experiences. Those experiences are the foundation of our regional gardening traditions, and those traditions are important to gardening as an art.

The point, for me at least, is to practice this art, as a subset of the art of living well. I make try to make use of all the arts and sciences and people I can find, paying closest attention to anecdotes, but always thinking in terms of broader theory. This organizes things in my head, and allows me to distill anecdotes into lessons, which are easy to store and recall, and can often be combined to make new personal discoveries or inspirations.

to be clear though, your definition of science is incomplete. I know I am a bit obsessive about words, but please put up with me. Semantics and etymology, and the hidden meanings and subtleties of words are a passion of mine. My work often involves the interpretation of texts from past eras, and it often makes me sad, because our language has lost its way. I believe the chief culprit is English hegemony. Speakers of related languages forced to learn English have an easier time connecting with the past, because so many words gain new dimensions, becoming living, breathing organisms possessing many dimensions and living not just in the moment.

I'll quote from wiki:

Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is, in its broadest sense, any systematic knowledge-base or prescriptive practice that is capable of resulting in a correct prediction, or reliably-predictable type of outcome. In this sense, science may refer to a highly skilled technique, technology, or practice, from which a good deal of randomness in outcome has been removed.[1]
(to put this in perspective, in modern usage, western boxing is called "the sweet science". It's not just a cute name, it's an appropriate description)
In its more restricted contemporary sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on scientific method, and to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research.[2][3]
The scientific method:
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[1] A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.[2]
and an interesting sidebar:
Karl Popper denied the existence of evidence[68] and of scientific method.[69] Popper holds that there is only one universal method, the negative method of trial and error. It covers not only all products of the human mind, including science, mathematics, philosophy, art and so on, but also the evolution of life. Beginning in the 1930s and with increased vigor after World War II, he argued that a hypothesis must be falsifiable and, following Peirce and others, that science would best progress using deductive reasoning as its primary emphasis, known as critical rationalism.[70] His formulations of logical procedure helped to rein in excessive use of inductive speculation upon inductive speculation, and also strengthened the conceptual foundation for today's peer review procedures.

As for the three sisters approach, let's start with observation. What do we know about it? Who used it, for how long, and how successfully? What does that imply?
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Nice post toil.

RBG your points are taken as well, but I lean somewhere between your method and Fukuoka-san's abandonement of science. I think toil's post shows an acceptance of intermingled ideas, a group meme towards growing, as a "data set" we can expand and gain more value from as the data set grows.

Non-correlative data will eventually sift out; bad science never stands for long. Regional differences will become clearer, and will eventually be worked in to the equation. As we expand the data set, certain strategies and tactics will become clearly suited for some, or unsound for others. The more we all share and compare, the more we all know. And in the end, science is knowledge.

So perhaps my semantics need tweaking, perhaps not, but the idea remains sound to my mind. There has been little science in this area due to lack of scientific interest, and there, we are far ahead of the scientific community. So shall we forge ahead of the testubes and microscopes, armed only with our interest and the interest of others?

I say we are the better armed for the task...
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So what I'm trying to say "science what"?

How about instead of calling it science we call it "data accumulation for the fun of it and we'll try again next year and if it works than that is good no need to write it down or tell anyone or test it against other factors because I know it works and it doesn't matter if you believe it or not because I do and that's all that matters so I will try that again and hope for the best and probably throw a twist in anyways so we shall see where that goes and all will be good until next year when things get changed up yet again but all for the better maybe the worse but that is how things go". :P :lol:

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Your version seems a little long, Gixx, but you forgot "and I'll compare my findings with other people doing the same thing..."

My shorthand may be controversial, but it IS easier... :lol:

I'm thinking of how permaculture sprang up. It began with Fukuoka-sensei, but the rice and barley model makes no sense for Mollison and Holmgren in Australia, so they come up with new methodologies for Oz. Then as permaculture spreads to other places, with new people certifying all over the planet, they begin to develop tactics fromtheir local environs, with all that still being disseminated to the permaculture community at large...

So as the movement grew, so did the shared data. Certain ideas like keypoint water retention stay the same no matter where you are, but plant guilds are as specific as the ecosystem you are living in. The baseline info becomes the central teaching and regional differences inform all the rest with new specifics.

In this manner, in about three decades, Fukuoka's legacy has spread across the planet and continues to do so. Mainstream science has largely ignored this strategy as this strategy largely ignores mainstream science. But it is not hubris on either part; it is simply that lab science is about specifics, and permaculture is about holistic views where overall effect is more important than any particular part. No suprise one has little use for the other...

The good news is science is getting a little more holistic and permies are starting to gauge some of the specifics, so there may someday come a meeting of minds there. I hope so; each has important things to share with the other.

So that's the thought I'm having here talking about "science" in our backyards and fields. The sharing of information is the seperating issue for humans from the rest of the species (although I do see some interesting new stuff about animal learning), and it remains our best evolutionary "trick" we've learned to date. Every great human advance has been preceeded by a sharing of a meme, so why not us too?

HG
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I trust experience more than science. I believe, that science finds what it is paid for. That's why it still "can't" find a cure for cancer. Cancer is a huge bussiness.
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Cancer is big business, but so is anti-cancer. Who ever comes up with a real cure, especially one less debilitating than current treatments, stands to make millions of dollars and a nobel prize! It's very difficult, because cancer isn't one disease it is many different diseases, each one with likely multiple causes (genetic vulnerability, plus environmental insult, plus likely some viral intervention). The causes and mechanisms involved may even vary from individual to individual as well as over time...

But I probably shouldn't even have commented, because all of us are way off topic here on a companion planting thread!

So to get back to companion planting: I've never grown borage before, but started some from seed this year (VERY easy! stuff grows like mad!) because bees are supposed to love the flowers. After I already had it growing I read that it is a good companion plant for tomatoes. So I stuck some in the bed where the tomatoes will grow. Put it in the ground yesterday, because the stuff is supposed to be frost tolerant. It's out there now under plastic. I'll go check pretty soon be sure it made it through the night. Anyway it's kind of like one of those jokes about having a tiger barrier around your house -- see it's working, no tigers! :) The borage is supposed to repel tomato hornworms. But I personally have never seen a tomato hornworm anyway, so how will I know if it works! But I figure attracting pollinators is always a good thing...

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How true RBG. If well dispel all the possible myth of this plant helping this plant and this plant hurting that plant. We still have the beneficial insect attractors in our gardens and that counts for something right. Plus a lot of companions will pretty up our garden.

I have a bunch of different seeds of helpful flowers. I have been thinking about mixing them together and than direct seeding that way possibly around the edges of the garden. If nothing else it will look more attractive than just a Veggie garden. Plus attract many good bugs and hopefully repel the bad bugs. We shall see. :D

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Borage grows pretty big, so don't put too many in there. Also, they self-seed. Last early spring, I had what I thought looked like pumpkin volunteers in my garden, and they turned out to be borage. So be vigilant about picking the flowers (they're good AND PRETTY in salad), then let a few to go to seed. Leaves are edible cooked (though some people say young leaves are supposed to be good in salad, I think they're too fuzzy to eat raw).

Bees do love the flowers. I do too. I was constantly picking them to eat for snack last summer :cool:

I have a bunch of borage recipes if you like. I'll have to check them for forum-worthiness. :wink:

Well, this one's from a CSA website:
https://www.mariquita.com/recipes/borageleaves.html

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rainbowgardener
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I like the elixir for melancholy! :) I agree, I had read that you could put the leaves in salad, but now that I have seen them, they are very prickly! It is not inspiring me to put one in my mouth! But I love putting flowers in my salads.

Borage is another one of those great discoveries. Every year I try to grow something I've never done. Some times the are a bust (I was not impressed with heliotrope or flax the years I grew those) and sometimes I find something that I love and grow every year after that. Nicotiana was one of those a number of years ago. Now I don't even really have to plant any, it self seeds (but I do have some under the lights just in case). Borage may turn out to be another- it is so easy to grow and cold hardy. It's planted in the ground already (under poly tunnel).

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applestar
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:wink:

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gixxerific
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I picked up some barge and chamomile seeds the other day. Good to know they are easy to grow. I like easy. :D

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rainbowgardener
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I'm finding the borage super easy. The one time I did chamomile I direct seeded in the ground in an area with not great soil and a lot less than full sun. Not surprisingly it didn't do real well. Have to try it again some time and give it a better chance!

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