I’m a big advocate of companion planting. A couple driving principles of Permaculture are “Integrate Rather than Segregate” and “Use and Value Diversity”. If we’re going to try and implement those anyway, it makes sense to put some thought into the different plants we put together in our systems. Some plants are friendly to each other. Others… not so much, and should be avoided.
Today we’re talking specifically about beneficial companion plants for your grapevines.
I recently shared the Shade Trellis I built for my Chicken Coop.
Well, a couple days after I took that picture, my bare root grapevines arrived and I was ready to plant the trellises’ raised beds.
There are other options, but I chose to go with these for reasons we’ll discuss.
This specific vine is Mars. The other bed has Reliance. Against one of my ten foot deer fence posts I planted Marquis. All three are seedless and hardy in my region. It’s probably pretty obvious why I chose to plant grapes in front of my grape trellis. So… Moving on…
Hyssop (Hyssopus Officinalis) is a perennial herb that is hardy, beautiful, and should already have a place in your garden anyway due to its many beneficial medicinal properties. Bees and other pollinators love it and will always be buzzing around its purrrty purple flowers, which bloom for quite awhile. Also, it is easily propagated from division, so starting with a small plant or two can yield you and your neighbors with enough Hyssop to last a lifetime.
In particular for a grape guild, Hyssop stimulates growth and deters certain pests, like flea beetles and aphids. Interestingly enough, hyssop also deters cabbage moth larvae.
To maximize the medicinal and companion planting benefits, make sure you get true Hyssopus Officinalis. There are other, more ornamental plants commonly called hyssop. You’ll find them all over your big box stores, so be sure to check the latin. I thought I struck out at our local nursery and would have to grow some from seed, but the wife found three of these hidden away amongst the more common ornamental “hyssop”.
Geraniums deter leafhoppers, which can be devastating to a grapevine. There are other plants that perform this function, however I chose to sprinkle 3-4 of these in my grape beds because something I’ve long struggled with in my systems’ design is making sure to properly account for a certain beneficial yield: Beauty. My engineering-tilted brain has been programmed for awhile now to value functionality and efficiency at all costs, sometimes to the detriment of other important things – like appearance. I’m working on that. Hence the geraniums.
Luckily my engineering-tilted brain doesn’t feel this way about some other (re)productive systems and I lucked out with a hot wife, who’s yielded me two great kids. But I digress…
Mulberry and Blackberry
Let’s look back to the Shade Trellis post again and check out this picture.
Not the best pic for the job, I know.
Along the fence line in the background is a huge stand of overgrown blackberries. Blackberries (especially crazy unmanaged ones like mine) are a great habitat for beneficial insects you want in your garden. In particular, some predatory wasps prefer blackberry and devour the leafhoppers I’ve already mentioned. See right there? I do have a good reason for being a lazy gardener in a lot of places.
In the lower right hand corner of that picture, you see just a bit of a three foot tall mulberry sapling I moved to this spot in the spring. My primary reasoning was because chickens will devour the fruit yield that drops each year, saving me a little in feed costs. Also, I wanted a mulberry right in my main garden area because it will hopefully attract birds to fill up on the mulberries, and not so much on my other, less plentiful berry bushes I planted. Supposedly grapevines do well planted under or near mulberry trees, although I’ve read various reasons why without seeing a clear consensus. So maybe it’s just bunk… or maybe you know for sure and you can help educate me in a comment below. One thing’s for sure, mulberries shouldn’t hurt the grapes in any way.
Some of these are pretty typical across most companion planting recommendations, but are things you might want to add to your grape guilds.
- Clover – excellent ground cover, green manure crop, and nitrogen fixer
- Legumes – ditto most of what’s above. Plus, once your grapevines are established and nice and thick, beans could trellis right up them and give you another vertical yield.
- Chives, Onions – the smell deters many pests, especially some diggers like moles. Chives are also known to repel aphids.
About the only thing you want to make sure not to plant near your grapes are radishes.
So there’s a quick look at one of our polycultured guilds. It’s like having a diverse porno orgy, right there in your kitchen garden.
Yep, exactly like that.
Question of the Day: Do you grow grapes? Have any companion plants you use I didn’t mention?