Soil Mates: Companion Planting for Your Vegetable Garden by Sara Alway

Soil Mates: Companion Planting for Your Vegetable Garden by Sara Alway

Kimber Watson
Apr 28, 2011

TITLE: Soil Mates: Companion Planting for Your Vegetable Garden
AUTHOR: Sara Alway
PUBLISHER: Quirk Books

While I had a pretty successful season with my raised bed vegetable garden last year, a dedicated gardener knows there's always room for improvement. And though I had heard of companion planting before — and understood the basic concept — I knew it was something I was interested in putting to practice in my own garden. When I saw the book Soil Mates: Companion Planting for Your Vegetable Garden, with its cute and catchy cover, I thought it might be just what I was looking for.

Simply put, companion planting is a traditional organic gardening technique that boosts yields just by planting certain species of plants together. It's sort of like online dating for your vegetable garden; find your mate and you have the potential to live a happy and prosperous life together. Horticultural matchmaking is this book in a nutshell.

But this isn't your typical ho-hum gardening book. Soil Mates is full of sweet illustrations with festive pages that give off a picnic-like vibe. But what makes this book truly a pleasure to read is the witty writing. As the book walks you through the vegetables, it does so by listing its "Love Match" or the best companion plant to plant with it, and sheds light on why they're suited to be together. It addresses the plant's profile by breaking each plant down to explain its Turn-Ons, Turn-Offs, Needy Alerts, Stalker Alerts and Love Triangles. These topics delve into tips and tricks to keep your plants happy, situations to avoid, special needs, common pests or diseases, and additional soil mate companions, respectively. At the end of every plant description, you'll find a recipe that combines the flavors to bring out the best of your companion plants.

Beginning gardeners will appreciate the section in the back that is devoted to garden preparation, planning, and care. You'll find vegetable gardening advice ranging from how to plan and build a bed to the benefits of composting. There's also a handy planting chart in the back that is a great quick reference for the listed veggies. I particularly loved the section on natural pesticides (from tobacco sprays to a spearmint-hot pepper horseradish spray), complete with DIY recipes.

Bottom Line: Soil Mates is a quick, fun read with a layout that's easy to navigate if you're searching for a particular plant or helpful advice. If you're an organic gardener, or interested in trying your hand at it, this book will help you learn the basics of companion planting so your garden will thrive — without the use of nasty chemicals. And it's cute to boot, so it will look smart on a bookshelf or table, or even as a gift for the gardener in your life.

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