Nature is a vast polyculture; a variety of things growing in an area, not just a single species as one finds with traditional agriculture. I've tried to mimic this principle with my backyard adventures, especially for things grown in a pot. Like apple trees.
Anna is a variety of apple that has low chill requirements and is more tolerant of the heat-- a huge bonus for this area which generally has a week or two of 110+ heat in the summer. By growing smaller plants such as mint and echinacea, one helps stave off evaporation of potted plants. It's sort of like the Three Sisters guild (corn, beans, squash planted together. The corn provides a pole for the beans to grow on, the beans add nitrogen to the soil which helps the corn and squash, and the squash helps shade the soil and create a microclimate that allows the bean and corn to thrive) but with less soil-building.
I also had a Fuji apple in a pot. This one was wild, though, because I grew a melon in the pot with it; the melon used the apple tree as a trellis until the melon it set was too heavy. Even with a tripod of sticks to cradle it, I had to come up with a better solution lest the tree get damaged.
Using an old pair of tights, I cut the foot off of it and used it to hold the melon.
The tree didn't seem to mind the melon much. It set baby apples.
And while the melon grew, the echinacea did too.
Apple a day and echinacea to keep a doctor away...
And they grew even more...
Now, it should be noted that not all plants play together well. Some plants put off hormones that stymie the growth of neighboring vegetation.
In The Vegetable Gardener's BIBLE by Edward Smith, he provides a page and a half long chart of what works well and what doesn't for companion planting. As a side note, I LOVE this book. Can't recommend it enough with all the info it houses.
If you're planting a garden this year, try companion planting. One can plant chilis next to tomatoes to deter certain critters, and marigolds play well with all sorts of growies-- marigolds also house repelling power when it comes to bugs. Things like radishes and turnips can be grown as trap crops; plants used to intentionally draw bugs away from the main crop. There are so many ways to incorporate the plant buddy system to work for your benefit. Give it a whirl this season!
Like gardening? Me too! Here's my backyard adventures:
- Adventures with Hugelkultur