A Review of Plant Partners by Jessica Walliser

For these looking for to domesticate a resilient, wholesome natural backyard, Jessica Walliser’s e-book “Plant Companions: Science-Based mostly Companion Planting Methods for the Vegetable Backyard” needs to be certainly one of your important reference books.

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Natural gardeners, polyculture lovers, pollinator protectors, and permaculturists alike will all be enlightened by this extremely informative and very sensible information to companion planting.

You could find “Plant Companions” now on Amazon.

For a deep dive into this e-book, preserve studying our evaluate – right here’s what we’ll cowl:

Plant Companions: A Look Inside

First Impressions

Everyone knows we shouldn’t choose a e-book by its cowl, proper?

Properly, you possibly can drop that adage for now – go forward and choose. The colourful entrance cowl of “Plant Companions” offers an ideal trace of what you’ll discover inside!

A close up vertical image of the cover of the book "Plant Partners" by Jessica Walliser.

Plant Companions, Obtainable by way of Amazon

A flip via the e-book reveals a considerate and colourful design brimming with as a lot colour as a polyculture backyard.

Not like some companion planting books, this quantity doesn’t simply inform you what pairings you possibly can strive – it reveals you, too. It’s jam-packed with beautiful pictures of profitable backyard partnerships.

A horizontal image of a garden growing a variety of different vegetables and ornamentals.
A colourful polyculture backyard. Picture credit score: Jon Wheatley, GAP Images, used with permission.

Colourful textual content packing containers scattered all through the e-book provide insights into completely different pairings and reply steadily requested questions akin to, “How shut do companion companions have to be?”

The e-book measures eight by slightly below 9 inches, making it simple to open vast and think about its 224 pages.

The pages of the e-book are matte, not shiny, making this quantity really feel prefer it’s prepared that can assist you get to work reasonably than simply sitting prettily in your shelf.

Past its colourful and putting design, one of many first issues I observed after turning the primary few pages was that “Plant Companions” is printed by Storey Publishing.

Identified for his or her books on the subject of artistic self-reliance, at any time when I come throughout a e-book launched by this writer, my mind perks up and I do know good issues await.

One other private level of pleasure I discovered within the first few pages was a foreword written by Jeff Gillman, presently the director of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Backyard program, the place I earned a certificates in Native Plant Research.

Gillman is the writer of a number of gardening books of curiosity, akin to “The Reality about Natural Gardening: Advantages, Drawbacks, and the Backside Line,” additionally accessible on Amazon.

The Reality about Natural Gardening

When you begin flipping via “Plant Companions,” you’ll probably be drawn in instantly, both by the fantastically designed chapter introductions, the eye-catching pictures of pleased companion groupings, or the attention-grabbing part titles.

Nevertheless, earlier than we dive in, let’s return as soon as extra to the duvet.

“Plant Companions” bears the symbol of an American Horticultural Society (AHS) E book Award. Quoting from the AHS web site, recipients of this award are judged on “qualities akin to writing fashion, authority, accuracy, and bodily high quality.”

Spoiler alert – by the point I reached the tip of this e-book, I wholeheartedly agreed that Walliser’s writing was worthy of this award.

Judging this e-book by its cowl and by a fast overview of its inside pages, I used to be eagerly trying ahead to immersing myself in “Plant Companions.”

Let’s dive in. However first, a fast take a look at the author behind this unbelievable publication.

Who Is Jessica Walliser?

Jessica Walliser, the writer of “Plant Companions,” is a horticulturist and backyard author who skilled at Penn State College.

Walliser’s writing has appeared in Nice Gardening, Passion Farms, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Overview. She cohosts “The Natural Gardeners,” a radio present broadcast in Pittsburgh.

A close up vertical image of Jessica Walliser, standing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.
Writer Jessica Walliser. Picture credit score: Angelo Merendino Pictures, used with permission.

Along with this spectacular resume, Walliser can also be one of many co-founders of the web site Savvy Gardening.

Those that are followers of her writing might be thrilled to be taught that “Plant Companions” just isn’t her solely e-book – she has authored 4 different titles as properly.

You’ll be able to learn our evaluate of her e-book, “Gardener’s Information to Compact Vegetation,” proper right here.

Part By Part

Together with a foreword, introduction, and epilogue, “Plant Companions” comprises eight chapters. It additionally features a web page of sources, a glossary, and a bibliography.

The analysis research listed within the bibliography inform the pairings proposed all through the e-book.

Let’s get began with an in depth take a look at this companion rising information, analyzing the contents of the e-book’s numerous sections and chapters.


Within the introduction to this e-book, Jessica Walliser will get us ready for the place we’ll be touring together with her – on a path that veers away from conventional companion planting lore.

Why this break? Conventional pairings are sometimes repeated however not at all times verified. As an alternative, Walliser might be introducing us to partnerships that stand as much as scientific scrutiny.

A close up vertical image of broccoli growing in the garden with flowers and lettuce as companions.
Broccoli and cosmos flowers. Picture credit score: Derek Trimble, used with permission.

This scientific method has a number of advantages – it permits us to make use of confirmed combos in our personal gardening endeavors, but in addition to know the why and the way of profitable combos, enabling us to make our personal companion groupings.

Along with setting us up for a scientific method to the topic, Walliser’s introduction encourages us to see our personal yard landscapes as ecosystems, the place crops have completely different relationships to one another.

The Energy of Plant Partnerships

The primary chapter expands on the introduction, heralding a contemporary method to companion planting in addition to a motion away from monoculture gardening – the kind of agriculture the place one may discover a complete discipline of soybeans, or a strong row of watermelons.

The writer describes the forms of analysis which have been performed on this space – and why this analysis is related to these rising their very own meals at house.

Encouraging us to see our gardens in a unique mild, the writer mentions that mycorrhizae are at work not simply in forests however in our edible landscaping too, and explains that allelopathy, usually cited as a gardener’s downside, can be utilized to our profit.

A vertical image of a diverse polyculture garden with a variety of different flowers and vegetables.
A various polyculture backyard. Picture credit score: Pernilla Bergdahl, used with permission.

Walliser reminds us that range needs to be a purpose in our gardens, stating that these created landscapes play necessary roles for offering small creatures with habitat as their pure habitat is misplaced to improvement.

She additionally encourages us to see that crops usually are not passive inhabitants of our edible landscapes, however are as a substitute actively affecting one another via numerous means: chemical messaging, fungal associations, and allelopathy, in addition to sharing sources, attracting pest predators, and enhancing nutrient availability and absorption.

Walliser lets us know that it’s these completely different results we’ll be exploring in the remainder of the e-book, with every remaining chapter showcasing a unique good thing about companion planting.

Soil Preparation and Conditioning

Chapter two takes a take a look at how companion partnerships can enhance soil by way of cowl cropping, nitrogen switch, and the breaking apart of heavy soils.

Coming again to the fascinating topic of mycorrhizae, the writer discusses the position of fungal networks in backyard soil and the way these networks perform for annuals.

On a really sensible stage, we discover ways to greatest use oats, cowpeas, buckwheat, crimson clover, winter wheat, and winter rye to our benefit in a house backyard. We additionally be taught the professionals and cons of turning these crops beneath versus leaving them for mulch.

A close up horizontal image of rows of beans growing in the garden surrounded by hay mulch.
Beans, a nitrogen fixer, with potatoes. Picture credit score: Derek Trimble, used with permission.

It’s possible you’ll be properly conscious of the nitrogen-fixing talents of legumes, however have you learnt which legume crops are the most effective at doing this job? I didn’t – till I learn this chapter!

Walliser offers 5 examples of profitable legume and vegetable crop combos. One in every of my favorites I discovered right here was cowpeas and peppers, which I’ll be attempting out in my very own summer time backyard.

And for growers involved with heavy or compacted soils, we additionally be taught which crops have roots which are good at drilling into the sort of earth.

One in every of these was a shock to me – buckwheat. This annual is often used as a canopy crop or inexperienced manure, however I wasn’t conscious that additionally it is capable of enhance soil construction via its root exudates.

Weed Administration

Chapter three focuses on managing weeds via using dwelling mulches and allelopathic companions.

Not like cowl crops that are typically grown earlier than the principle crop, dwelling mulches are grown with crops on the identical time to cowl and shield the soil.

Walliser explains the best way to efficiently use dwelling mulches with out letting them get in the best way of your essential crop.

Among the many examples supplied for dwelling mulches are a number of several types of clover, every used with a unique harvestable crop.

A close up horizontal image of crimson clover growing in the garden with cabbage and other crops.
Crimson clover, a dwelling mulch, with cabbage. Picture credit score: Derek Trimble, used with permission.

And this chapter additionally provides us a take a look at utilizing allelopathic species to regulate weeds – maybe one of many least-known makes use of of companion partnerships in fashionable gardening lore.

I’ve to say, this part cleared up a giant, darkish cloud of confusion that has been hanging over my head as to why some species are allelopathic in some instances however not in others.

Not stopping on the merely theoretical, Walliser explains when an allelopathic associate might be protecting, and by which instances it may be counterproductive – and offers examples that may simply be tried out within the house panorama.

Assist and Construction

Chapter 4 proposes artistic choices for crops that can be utilized as dwelling trellises for different crops.

You’ve heard, little question, of the standard three sisters crop grouping – corn, pole beans, and squash?

Utilizing corn as a assist for pole beans is among the mostly cited companion partnerships and is a main instance of a dwelling trellis.

A vertical image of corn growing in the garden providing a support for pole beans.
Corn creates a assist for pole beans. Picture credit score: Derek Trimble, used with permission.

Walliser offers sensible recommendation for making such combos work in our gardens, with 11 extra dwelling trellis combos to strive.

One in every of these I’m excited to strive in my very own edible panorama is utilizing my Jerusalem artichoke patch as a trellis for tiny cucamelons, or mouse melons as they’re generally known as.

Pest Administration

In chapter 5, we find out about 4 completely different ways in which companion groupings might help with pest administration: luring, trapping, tricking, and deterring.

Earlier than we get into specifics, Walliser provides us a reminder of how pests discover their goal species within the first place, and clears up the distinction between repelling versus masking.

A horizontal image of a raised garden bed planted with tomatoes and marigolds around the outside.
A tomato crop surrounded by marigolds. Picture credit score: Derek Trimble, used with permission.

First, we discover lure cropping, a method the place a veggie crop is spared pest infestation by luring pests to an much more fascinating one.

One instance she cites is utilizing the ‘Blue Hubbard’ winter squash to draw pests away from different types of squash.

Together with offering helpful recommendations on the best way to distance a lure crop from a harvestable crop and what to do with an infested lure crop after getting one, the writer offers steerage for several types of pests – ones which are “extremely cellular,” akin to squash bugs, and ones that aren’t, akin to flea beetles.

Additionally mentioned on this chapter are masking methods – methods to “disguise” crops from pests.

One of many combos the writer suggests is the basic companion combo (and Italian meals pairing par excellence) of tomatoes and basil, by which the herb protects the nightshade veggie from thrips.

Interfering with egg laying is the following subject we encounter on this chapter, the place we be taught that companion planting might help to throw a wrench into the reproductive plans of pests. Walliser offers us with six confirmed combos for this technique.

Lastly, this chapter affords options for impeding pest actions. One in every of these is actually an ode to the hedgerow, which I discover in and of itself to be worthy of the value of the e-book.

Illness Administration

Chapter six examines the prospect of managing soilborne illnesses utilizing cowl crops and dwelling mulches.

One won’t think about illness administration to be an apparent good thing about companion partnerships. You might have heard, as an illustration, that furry vetch makes a superb cowl crop. However do you know it’d shield your tomatoes from sure illnesses?

A close up vertical image of squash growing in a blue ceramic container growing with white clover, pictured on a soft focus background.
Squash and white clover, a dwelling mulch. Picture credit score: Derek Trimble, used with permission.

In “Plant Companions,” Walliser affords proof of this idea via six completely different combos which have been demonstrated to achieve success in analysis circumstances, and might be recreated within the house backyard.

Organic Management

Chapter seven focuses on organic management – that’s to say, protecting pest populations in verify by attracting pest-eating, useful bugs.

My first thought when digging into this chapter was, how is that this completely different from pest administration?

The reply is – it’s not. It’s half of pest administration.

Nevertheless, chapter 5 (the one titled “Pest Administration”) focuses on how crops themselves can be utilized to redirect pests, whereas this chapter appears at controlling pests with the assistance of useful bugs and spiders.

A close up horizontal image of lettuce growing in the vegetable garden surrounded with with sweet alyssum flowers.
Lettuce and candy alyssum, a flower that draws useful wasps in addition to ladybugs. Picture credit score: Angelo Merendino, used with permission.

On this chapter, we discover ways to entice these backyard helpers in addition to the best way to create habitat for them.

That is clearly a topic pricey to the writer’s coronary heart, as demonstrated in certainly one of her different books, “Attracting Useful Bugs to Your Backyard: A Pure Method to Pest Management,” which can also be accessible on Amazon.

Attracting Useful Bugs to Your Backyard: A Pure Method to Pest Management

On the subject of attracting useful bugs, we find out about a number of particular combos that can assist management aphid populations, in addition to pairing suggestions for controlling different pests.

This chapter additionally affords strategies for creating habitat for useful bugs, since habitat and forage aren’t at all times discovered concurrently among the many identical species.

Walliser affords options for numerous forms of insect habitat, from low-growing floor covers to extra considerably landscaped hedgerows.

In case you’ve heard it’s a good suggestion to depart the lifeless progress of your backyard annuals over winter as insect habitat, you may surprise when it’s protected – in your bug buddies – to take away this lifeless materials. Walliser has a solution to this query.

This chapter additionally consists of a superb dialogue of the deserves of buying useful bugs for launch versus specializing in attracting native populations of the identical bugs.

And if you happen to haven’t but gotten the message that the guideline of companion planting is about creating a various panorama, you’ll get it on this chapter.


The eighth and last chapter of Walliser’s e-book is about pollination.

In case you didn’t consider pollination as being one of many targets of companion partnerships, think about this: A lot of our crops rely upon the efforts of pollinators with a purpose to produce harvests, in any case – and companion companions can herald droves of pollinators.

A close up horizontal image of a bee feeding on a black-eyed Susan flower pictured on a soft focus background.
A black-eyed Susan feeds a leafcutter bee. Picture credit score: Jessica Walliser, used with permission.

Whereas the honeybee will be the poster baby for the “save the pollinator” motion, Walliser shines a light-weight on the various native pollinators which are at work in our gardens, and factors out they don’t are inclined to get the credit score they deserve.

The primary a part of the chapter affords 5 companion pairings to draw pollinators, whereas the second half offers recommendation on creating nesting habitat for pollinators.

One of many highlights of this chapter for me was the writer’s description of squash bees, which each forage from and curl as much as sleep in squash blossoms.

I’ll be heading out to my squash patch at evening this summer time to peek into the blossoms and verify for these reposing native bees!

Last Ideas

Digging deeply into this e-book as I’ve performed, I’ve come away a particular fan.

The content material introduced right here is properly researched and properly introduced, and Walliser’s language is each informative and fascinating.

I saved my typo radar on whereas studying and solely got here throughout a handful of minor errors – the e-book is each extraordinarily well-written and well-edited.

Nevertheless, that’s to not say I don’t have any criticisms to supply.

One in every of my quibbles is with the index. I searched the index for a few particular topics – marigolds and eggplant – and located that it got here up brief.

Eggplant is listed within the index as showing on pages 57, 152, and 153, however whereas additionally it is featured on pages 170 and 171 beneath the subject of rising giant or hooded flowers to draw bumblebees for improved pollination, these references have been omitted from the index.

As for marigolds, they’re showcased within the “Pest Administration” chapter as a superb companion to make use of with onion and cole crops. But poor little marigold was ignored of the index altogether.

However maybe I’m a little bit of a stickler on this level – I recognize a well-packed index.

My solely different grievance with this e-book lies within the printing medium, particularly the paper selection.

With Walliser’s encouragement to create habitat for small creatures as a substitute for dwindling pure habitat, the writer – and the writer, for that matter – appear to have a powerful dedication to environmental safety.

I’d have hoped that their dedication would prolong to picking recycled paper to print the e-book on, however alas, that seems to not be the case.

Once more, that is one other level the place I’m a stickler. I can solely hope when the second version of the e-book is launched (as I heartily count on it sooner or later might be!) that recycled paper might be thought of as an choice that’s extra in step with the underlying ideas championed within the publication.

It’s, in fact, accessible in digital format as properly, and the Kindle version could also be bought on Amazon.

Placing these two points apart, maybe you’re questioning who may profit probably the most from studying this e-book?

“Plant Companions” is beneficial for newbies to companion planting in addition to well-seasoned polyculturists. These of us who’ve been utilizing conventional companion pairings for many years could have many alternatives to broaden our data with Walliser’s e-book.

This publication might be learn from cowl to cowl as an enchanting e-book in regards to the concepts behind companion partnerships. And it will also be used as a extremely sensible reference e-book, illustrating dozens of particular partnerships that may remedy particular backyard issues.

A close up vertical image of the cover of the book "Plant Partners" by Jessica Walliser.

Plant Companions: Science-Based mostly Companion Planting Methods for the Vegetable Backyard

Very similar to gardening itself, this e-book affords fascinating glimpses into the pure world. “Plant Companions” isn’t just about rising meals, it offers an impetus to “develop nature” and to permit our gardens to “develop into a protected harbor” for the various creatures that stay and act in our personal outside landscapes.

As for myself, this publication has earned a spot on my shelf with my different important gardening references – and I eagerly await future works from the identical writer.

Have you ever learn this e-book? Inform us what you thought within the feedback part beneath!

And if you happen to’re nonetheless constructing your private gardening reference library, you possibly can try a few of our different e-book critiques proper right here:

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