Skip to main content
All Posts By

Sean Cawley

Companion Planting in the Vegetable Garden

By Beet 2023 07 July

The Vegetable Garden at the Southern Oregon Research Extension Center is managed by Master Gardeners who are growing a variety of vegetables. They are using companion planting techniques as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) approach, and to add nutrients to the soil and improve plant productivity.


CHIVES (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chives are cultivated in the garden for their culinary value as well as their ability to repel a variety of insects such as aphids, carrot flies, potato beetles, cucumber beetles and to attract pollinators. They are also known to add flavor to tomatoes and deter blackspot when planted near roses.



YARROW (Achillea millefolium)

Shallots (Allium ascalonicum), garlic (Allium sativum) and yellow yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

 Plant rotation is used and this year shallots and garlic are planted in these rows. Notice the yellow yarrow at the end of the rows. Yarrow is another wonderful companion plant, as it attracts pollinators such as honey bees and other beneficial insects such as wasps, lady bugs, and hoverflies. This garden has over eight separate plants of yellow and white yarrow.


NASTURTIUMS (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) and California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)

Nasturtiums are not only a lovely flowering plant to have in your garden, but the flowers also make a wonderful addition to salads and the plant has medicinal properties as well. Nasturtiums also attract aphids and are useful as a trap crop to keep them away from other vegetables. Plant them near your apple trees to help repel codling moth.




Onions, tomatoes, lavender and basil

Onions (Allium cepa), tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and basil (Ocimum basilicum) make for great companions. Basil actually helps tomatoes grow more vigorously. Onions repel many types of insects as well as ground squirrels and other small four-legged critters. Lavender is a great companion for squash, yarrow, onions and tomatoes. In this photo you can spot lavender, onions, tomatoes and basil all interspersed together. The onions were planted very early in the late winter. They were planted as a perimeter surrounding the tomatoes, basil and peppers which were planted later. The lavender is a perennial and acts as a sentry for the garden.



 These onions were planted later in the season. The bed looks a bit sparse in comparison to the other beds with onions.








California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)


Flowers attract pollinators and insects of all sorts. This year the flower garden was planted with a variety of PNW wildflowers.





Yarrow, Onions, Tomatoes and Basil

 Here you can spot yarrow, onions, tomatoes, peppers and basil together.







Note that the information regarding specific companion plants may or may not be supported by extensive scientific studies, but there are centuries of anecdotal support for companion planting techniques.



“Take Two Aspirins and Call Me in the Morning” — Part of an IPM Program for your garden

By Beet 2022 11 November

Immunity Enhancement for Tomatoes and other Night Shade Plants


If your tomato plant gets sick just give it an aspirin. The common aspirin tablet (uncoated, non-buffered) has been shown to create a systemic reaction in tomato plants that builds up the resistance to microbial disease. It is called an activator for local disease resistance mechanisms including systemic acquired resistance (SAR).

Common (uncoated) aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. Dissolving one tablet (approx. 350 mg) in pure water and then applying it to the leaves of your tomato plants (as a foliar application) will trigger a systemic acquired resistance (SAR) which tells the tomato that something is attacking it and it needs to build its immune defenses. Since you are applying this to the plant before the microbes are attacking, the plants are ready to better defend themselves. Think of it as a vaccine for tomato plants.

This application seems to work best when applied approximately every two weeks.

This can also be applied to the roots of plants but double the quantity. “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”





Catching the Rain

By Beet 2022 10 October

This year we have had two very successful water projects. First, we had the Emergency Water tanks when the well pump was offline. More recently came the installation of the Rain Catchment System by Sage Hill Landscapes.


As you may or may not recall, last January our irrigation pump at SOREC was shut off due to the low water table. But we had a challenge. We needed to continue to water our newly propagated plants and seedlings. A few of us got together and located small 250-gallon (caged) tanks at a very reasonable price. We applied for a grant from the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District (  and received a reimbursement grant. It was valuated at $1/gallon. In this case, it meant a maximum of $2,500 in total reimbursement. We were reimbursed for the entire amount of the emergency water system we created to irrigate the propagation underway in Greenhouse #2.                                           



The other project was to install a permanent Rain Catchment System so we would not need to pay for emergency water if that was needed. The project also served to demonstrate how a rain catchment system works and how easy it is to implement on nearly any home, farm or ranch.

  Photo by Sean Cawley  Cage Tanks Emergency Water Project

In fact, the Rain Catchment Project was ongoing when we encountered the emergency water need. We received a very favorable bid from Sage Hill Landscapes. They even donated one of the holding tanks to help us out in our pricing.


We again applied for a grant from Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District and obtained approval for a reimbursement grant with a maximum payout equivalent to the amount of water we would collect. In the case of our system, it was 5,000 gallons and therefore a maximum grant of $5,000. However, there were some challenges and JSWCD’s request list was long. We only received $2,500 in reimbursable grant funds. Thanks to a GoFundMe project that Lynn Kunstman initiated, we received nearly $10,000 in contributions.

We still have to pay for signage for the Rain Catchment System. We have not yet received estimated costs for the signage. The estimate for our total costs for the Rain Catchment System will be in the neighborhood of $2,500. That’s not too bad for a system that costs more than $14,000 overall.

Photo by Sean Cawely   Rain Catchment Tanks


Thanks need to go to the Water Committee: Lynn Kunstman and Susan Koening without whose assistance these projects would not have happened.