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Placing two or more companion plants in close proximity will help with pest control or even give a better yield. For the organic gardener, it’s one of the easiest ways to stay chemical-free. But there is no reason why functional cannot also be beautiful, right? Try these top five flowering plants as companions and provide a kaleidoscope of floral color to your garden this year. And here’s a bonus: they’re all edible!

BORAGE

The leaves of borage taste of cucumber and can be used as its substitute. The stunning blue flowers are honey-sweet and often used, candied, as edible decorations on cakes.

Borage is known as the ‘magic bullet’ of companion plants and here’s why: Lack of calcium causes blossom end rot in tomatoes and lack of potassium damages fruit set by inhibiting the cells’ intake of water. The leaves and stems of borage contain both calcium and potassium and, by sharing soil space, tomato plants can absorb these essential nutrients. When the plant is finished, borage can be mulched to enrich the soil.

Borage seeds need complete darkness to germinate and can be buried under a thick layer of soil in spring or autumn. It will survive in any soil but sharing the rich soil of the tomato will produce healthier plants. It grows 60-90 cm and self-seeds freely.

CHIVES

We can trace chives back to the Chinese cuisine of some 5,000 years ago.  Both flower and leaves are edible.

The pretty purple pom-pom flowers are adored by bees. Like borage, chives contain potassium, but it is their sulfur compounds that give chives a five-star rating. The sulfur aroma confuses the bad bugs by disguising the scent of nearby vegetables. Additionally, sulfur forms organic compounds that give flavor to vegetables. Growing companion chives enhances juiciness and flavor of adjacent vegetables whilst deterring whitefly and aphids.

Chives can be grown from seed, but germination is slow and it’s easier to buy plantlets and divide them every couple of years. Simply pull the clumps apart so each has three or four bulbs and pot up or plant out. In temperate climates chives should be overwintered indoors. They like average soil and minimal watering.

FRENCH MARIGOLDS

All marigolds are edible. The petals of French marigolds (which are actually Mexican in origin) have a delicate citrus-like taste and bring color to salads and fruit punch drinks. The green parts are not eaten.

French marigold’s distinctive scent helps disguise the presence of developing tomatoes, cucurbits and peppers. However, it is what goes on underground that makes the humble marigold so amazing.  Root-knot nematodes are among a gardener’s worst enemies. These microscopic, parasitic worms live within plants and feed off their roots, causing stunting, wilting and eventually the death of the host. Marigold roots produce alpha-terthienyl – a natural pesticide effective against these nematodes.  This substance is so strong that it stays in the ground long after the flower has gone, so the effects are long term.

Marigolds are annual plants in temperate regions and very easy to grow from seed. In the tropics the plant self-seeds freely and one sowing should produce flowers for a few years.

NASTURTIUMS

Nowadays we tend to grow nasturtiums for their floral beauty, but they were originally residents of the kitchen garden. Peppery leaves and colorful flowers are great in salads and the seeds can be pickled like capers

The bright and brazen nasturtium acts as a decoy plant, attracting bugs to itself and away from peppers and tomatoes. Whitefly much prefers the taste of nasturtiums and will leave your precious crops alone.

Nasturtium thrives in poor soil so shouldn’t be planted with rich-soil plants like tomatoes and peppers but in a pot nearby.

SUNFLOWERS

The sunflower is a versatile beauty. The edible seeds have long been enjoyed by man and birds. The oil is prized for its vitamin E content and low saturated fat, but the edible flower is less well known. Steamed sunflower buds taste like delicate artichokes and the taste intensifies as the flower develops. The nutty flavor of the braised heart is definitely worth exploring.

As a companion plant, the height of the sunflower shades vines and provides living supports for climbing plants such as cucumbers. Ants actually herd aphids onto the sunflower and away from your prized crop whilst hummingbirds flock to the blooms to consume whitefly. Perfect!

Sunflowers are easy to grow and any well-drained soil should yield good results.

Companion planting is not a time-consuming activity and following the methods given above will reward minimal effort with benefit and beauty.  Hopefully this will also spark your interest in learning more about the fascinating and far-reaching practice of companion planting.

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The Four Primary Benefits of Massage

by Carlton Ryan

Massage, a therapeutic practice in which deep pressure is applied to muscles, has been helping people for thousands of years. One of the oldest forms of therapeutic treatment in the world, massage’s value and worth has been confirmed by both modern scientific research and the personal experience of millions of individuals. Here are the four primary benefits of massage.

1. Relief From Muscle Tension

Even the basic movements required by ordinary daily life put muscles under considerable strain, resulting in the development of tension and tightness. Knots, or adhesions — areas in which the muscle is locked in place, unable to relax — often arise. Massage therapy is one of the best ways to loosen these tight, stiff, stressed muscles. When sustained, strong pressure is applied to muscle, the muscle eventually releases and tension dissipates. Blood flow to the targeted area also increases, helping the muscle to stay loose afterwards. Since tense, knotted muscles are so common, almost everyone can gain from this effect of massage.

2. Pain Relief

Tight muscles are a very common contributor to pain of many different sorts, meaning massage is often an excellent way to alleviate pain. For example, back pain can frequently be improved by a massage session. Tight, stiff muscles (wherever they are) are often a direct source of pain themselves, which means that a good massage can help address the minor aches and areas of discomfort that plague almost everyone. Muscle inflammation (which can cause pain) can also be reduced by massage. By helping muscles work properly, massage can help protect from future pain by reducing the chance for injuries, both minor and major.

3. Improved Mobility

When it comes to the benefits of massage, mobility improvement is often an overlooked one. When tense muscles are released, the muscle is able to move and operate as it naturally should. This relief from impingement results in improved muscular function. Now that the muscle can freely extend to its full length, mobility is improved. Range of motion can be restored or made better, and ordinary motions become freer and easier. For these reasons massage can improve athletic performance, which is why many serious athletes get massages regularly.

4. Stress Relief

Massage isn’t all about the physical. It can also benefit psychologically. Massage is a fantastic way to slow down, relax, and let cares and anxiety melt away. Lots of people get massages solely as a means of alleviating stress. To many, simply having another person show them care and attention is enjoyable. The physical effects of massage, such as pain relief, can also help enhance mental well-being. Someone who gets a massage is likely to walk out feeling rejuvenated, relaxed, and in a better mood.

Massage is just not about feeling good, as it sometimes supposed. A quality massage can clearly impart important therapeutic benefits. Nor are these benefits merely unproven theories. In fact, modern scientific research has affirmed the fact that massage has genuine, true health value. This means that the benefits of massage can be experienced by everyone at just about all ages and stages of health.


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