Good Companions: The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting is not a good source for in-depth information on what companion planting is or why it helps. Josie Jeffery provides only a brief summary of what it is, why it works, and who has practiced it. Similarly, her information on composting and plant biology is sketchy, though accurate, with the same being true of the breakdown of soil types. Some of the planting information is based on astrology with an incredibly simplistic experiment shown to demonstrate its possible effectiveness.
On the other hand, none of these things are the primary reason for buying or borrowing the book, nor is any of the introductory material the focus of the book. The book’s focus, is, as the title states, helping the gardener pair plants to maximize their health, and Jeffery’s makes this simplicity itself: One turns the center flap to the crop one wishes to grow, and then flips the upper and lower tags to find the plants that best match its needs as represented by a series of coded dots. It makes finding good companion plants a snap.
Jeffery breaks the qualities a companion plant can provide a primary crop down to sixteen qualities, things such as attracting beneficial insects, deterring pests, improving the soil, or serving to suppress weeds and color codes them. She then divides the companion plants into above ground and below ground helpers. Each primary crop is marked with dots showing its greatest need, each companion plant is marked with dots showing what it provides. The pages of the book are split into three with the primary crop in the center, above ground providers up top, and below ground helpers on the bottom. All the reader needs to do is turn the pages to find out which crops best match up. Tomatoes, for example, will benefit from oregano (attracts beneficial bugs and pollinators while providing some ornament) for above-ground aid and Marigold (deters soil pests, suppresses weeds, a health-improver, and a soil improver) for below-ground help. A third plant might be added nearby for help with disease-prevention and as a shelter or trap crop, if the gardener wishes.
Each tag also has a short entry describing the plant’s uses for humans, its size, and possible hazards. There are also photographs, although given the sheer number of varieties these are more for appearance’s sake than to give the reader much guidance in selecting the plant based on visual appeal. The structure of the book means not everything is there–you’ll find the common plants, but not the more esoteric herbs, and some knowledge of gardening will help the reader know about planting distance, but this does not pretend to be anyone’s sole guide to gardening in general.
If you garden, you’ll enjoy this book.
Available: on Amazon
Full Title: The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting: An Easy, Organic Way to Deter Pests, Prevent Disease, Improve Flavor, and Increase Yields in Your Vegetable Garden
Hardcover: 104 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Publication Date: Spi edition (March 11, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1607746336 ISBN-13: 978-1607746331