The weather is alternating being miserable and tolerable these days, but that is typical of February and of March. The good news: it gives us time to plan our vegetable garden, including our preferences but more importantly plant preferences. When buying seeds and/or plants, keep in mind that not all plants are fond of each other. Others want to be alone while some seem to hate all other plants.

The harmful or alletopathic plants exude a chemical that impedes growth of nearby plants' systems. Corn, eggplant and tomato should never be planted near black walnut for this reason.

Members of the cruciferous plants should never be planted in the same location as last year as they are highly susceptible to the same diseases and pests. Cruciferous plants are cool weather plants whose flowers have four petals that resemble a cross. They include the cabbage family, horseradish, radish and mustard.

Very picky about its companions, broccoli does not like the pepper, squash, and tomato families nor strawberry (rose family). Tomato doesn't like broccoli either.

Bean family members don't like the onion family but mostly any plant that deters insects, including marigolds, nasturtiums and basil. Beans and potatoes especially dislike sunflowers, which produce strong anti-growth chemicals and tilled under in the fall both plant and seeds will taint the soil. Do plant sunflowers 1 foot away from other plants to attract pollinators, provide birds food and create a windbreak.

Herbs often stunt other herbs and vegetables. Do not plant fennel and wormwood, which most vegetables or other herbs hate, resulting in poor flavor. Fennel is a good pollinator, however. Anise and dill inhibit carrots and corn, and dill tomatoes. Rue not only is a skin irritant, it diminishes basil, cabbage, and sage growth. Aromatic herbs are not liked by cucumbers.

Tomato flavor is improved grown with basic, but not cilantro or dill.

Things to do

• 15 Minute gardening - As new plants and seed packets arrive, make plant markers. Place packets and markers in a self-sealing plastic bag. Insert the marker into each plant's soil. Insert markers in the ground as seeds and plants are added to the garden.

• Garden - Snowdrops, daffodils, and noxious weeds and grass are emerging. Clean up the winter debris from the first two and dig or treat the latter two. Vinegar (20 percent from farm stores) sprayed on new weeds now will kill them. Once mature it will require weekly re-spraying.

• Trees and shrubs - Check for stem and branch bark fracture and breakage from ice and snow from last week. Cut back the latter into unharmed wood. To remove the weight of snow, use a broom and gently bounce it from underneath to remove the load. Let temperature and sun melt ice on stems. Shaking them can do more damage.

• Vegetables - Seedlings need 10-12 hours south-facing light to grow. If less than eight is available add fluorescent lights. Lift seedlings by their leaves when transplanting, not by their stems. When soil is dry enough to work, re-till to prepare it for direct sowing. Rake it in differing directions until the soil is holly-berry size. If mice love your peas, cover plants with holly prunings. Mice don't like the prickly foliage. When adding manure to the garden, make sure it is well-aged and will not burn plants. Rabbit is the only fresh manure that can be added without harming plants.


• Feb. 28-March 3, 30th Annual Nashville Home and Garden Show "Changing Times, Changing Gardens", 500 Wedgewood Ave., Nashville, 615-772-6809.

• March 1-2, POSH magazine Home + Garden Show, Paducah Expo Center,

• March 2-10, Philadelphia Flower Show,, 215-988-8800.

Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun's gardening columnist, at

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