When we think of food gardens, we often envision neat rows of tomato and cucumber plants waiting to be harvested. While those plants are definitely rightful citizens of kitchen gardens, growing food plants in isolation from other natural inhabitants is inefficient. When we plant a single kind of crop over large areas (called monoculture), we make the plants and soil vulnerable to pest invasions, drought and depletion. Instead, the goal is to create eco-systems in which each plant fulfils multiple functions and supports the other plants. These functions include attracting beneficial insects, deterring pests, enriching the soils and keeping moisture in.
Many of the plants below are found in the wild and are even considered to be “weeds”! Actually, weeds are really just plants that are “unwanted” in a particular area, rather than placed there by design. The key is to learn the different functions of plants and to create synergistic relationships between them. Whatever needs are fulfilled by the plants themselves, that’s the work that the gardener does not have to do.