Companion Planting. Plant or Foe?

As a home gardener, I am always researching and learning from my own successes and failures. I make mental notes and log what I’ve learned from current and past trials and errors, in preparation for my next seasonal garden plot! That prompted me to create my own comprehensive (or as much as I can) companion planting visual guide!

Back in the spring of 2014—after extensive research— I made a basic “companion planting” text chart of the main veggies often grown by home gardeners, such as myself. I found so much of the information intriguing that I decided to add the interesting tidbits under their respective produce. Midway, I thought “Hey, this would be so convenient if I made myself a visual chart for my fridge!” And that I did. 🙂

This pet project of mine has since grown! There are additional veggies, updated original illustrations, more companions planting tips, and even information on edible parts of everyday produce, that most people are not aware of!

Gardening Discoveries:

  1. Marigolds: Sweet, sweet, beautiful marigolds. These gals play nicely with many veggies! It’s best to plant some among the other produce, in addition to planting a border of marigolds around your garden plot to act as a “shield” against pests. The lovely scent and bright, captivating colors will distract pests. Unfortunately slugs and snails do love marigolds, so keep all your eggshells; let them dry in the hot sun for a few days. Crunch up the shells and sprinkle them along the base of all your marigolds. You could also lightly sprinkle table salt along the base.
  2. Florence fennel: This bad boy wears way too much of that delicious cologne and is a bit of a bully to MANY veggies. Keep him contained in his own pot, away from the garden plot, as he’s more  of a loner!
  3. Tarragon: What a thoughtful uncle he is, looking after all your vegetables—especially eggplant. Plant tarragon throughout your garden.
  4. Mint: This hardy social butterfly likes to spread its roots wherever possible. Unless you want mint to take over, it’s best to keep it under control. I’ve planted mint inside a large, shallow terra cotta pot that I then put down into the garden plot. This creates a barrier around the rhizome root system. Sadly, mint attracts aphids once the weather gets consistently above the 70s. If the tips of your mint sprigs start to curl and deform, you have an aphid problem. Plant chives and cilantro near your mint patches to deter aphids.
  5. Cilantro: This resilient little gal is a fighter and can withstand the coldest, bleakest nights during winter! She’s most vivacious during cool/cold weather and isn’t so fond of the heat. She’ll start to bolt (grow tall and flower) the second the weather gets warm. The upside is you can keep the seeds (known as coriander) and dry them for your cooking spice collection. The roots can be washed and added to soup stock. Her flowers also attract a myriad of sweet ladybugs. What do ladybugs LOVE to dine on? Aphids! Grow cilantro near your mint patches.

Baked Polenta Potato Latkes

You may have heard of these delicious savory cakes as “latkes” or potato pancakes. My recipe research resulted in quite a few educational reads, and I learned that many countries make these, with varying ingredients and have very fun names!

Austria: Kartoffelpuffer, Reibekuchen, Reiberdatschi, Erdäpfelpuffer and Erdäpfellaibchen
Bulgaria: patatnik
Czech: bramborákor cmunda
Lithuania: bulviniai blynai
Ukraine: Deruny

Germany: See Austrian
Poland: Placki ziemniaczane
Russia: Daniki
Switzerland: Rösti


  • Organic avocado oil ~ small dessert bowl size
  • 2 lbs potatoes of choice ~ I’m using Yukon gold
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 bunch organic scallions ~ washed, green part cut into small pieces
  • 5 cloves garlic ~ peeled, minced
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 1/2 cup organic yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup organic unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs Montreal steak seasoning
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • pinch of organic sugar

Making the Polenta POTATO Mix

  1. Scrub potatoes with brush. Arrange all potatoes (leave skin on) in a stainless steel pot, cover with water, add a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring water to rolling boil for about 2 minutes. Partially cover lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. The potatoes should easily pierce with a knife. Drain potatoes in colander. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Heat a skillet with cooking oil. Sauté onion and garlic until they are a medium brown. Add scallions. Turn off stove and continue to sauté until scallions are cooked. Set aside and allow to cool.
  3. In large mixing bowl, mash potatoes until desired texture. I prefer to leave small chunks in mine.
  4. With a spatula, push the mashed potatoes to the side, making a hole in the middle.
  5. Add eggs, cornmeal, flour, seasonings, and cooked mixture of onions, garlic, and scallions.
  6. Gently mix all the ingredients with a large spatula, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you mix. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Time to Bake!

  1. Heat nonstick cookie sheet in over at 400ºF for 5 minutes. Remove tray with baking mitts.
  2. Using a silicone brush, brush a dollop of high-heat cooking oil in 8 equally-distanced spots, about 1″ size.
  3. Oil your palms and scoop heaping 1/4 cup of the latke mix. Roll into ball. Set on the cookie sheet. You should have about 16-20 latke balls. Bake for 12 minutes.
  4. Remove the cookie sheet. Gently press and flatten the latke balls into discs about 1/2″ thick. Round out the edges of the lakes with your latkes for pretty discs.
  5. Brush some oil on the surfaces of the lakes and bake another 12minutes on 400ºF.
  6. The baked latkes should be golden brown, slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.
  7. Allow to cool and serve with pesto or sour cream.

Kuretake Gansai Tambi Japanese Watercolors – Product Review

I have been painting for most of my life, using mostly watercolors and acrylics. I had not used watercolors regularly since my fine-arts days (ahem, way back in college) but rediscovered my love for the medium again, so I started to paint almost daily on some occasions. I bought my Lukas Aquarelle Studio 12-Color Set travel kit way back in mid-2015 and was packing them for local and international trips. The smaller case and pans (5/8″ wide x 3/4″ high) are a convenient size and will even fit inside my purse—fantastic for long layovers or even flights! I still use the set to this day and the pans are surprisingly still 90% full, aside from a few colors that I guess I used a lot of. My Lukas professional watercolor set did and still do a wonderful job…but I was ready for the next big step in investing in medium that I know I am quite enamored with.

What Are Kuretake Gansai Tambi

I did extensive research for the style of watercolors I wanted. The key-points I had in mind are quality, rich, vibrant, high-pigmentation, and large palette. I was thrilled when I found this. I will warn you there are quite a few companies (especially if you shop on Amazon) that will mislead you with their marketing schemes, making you believe what you’re about to purchase are true Japanese watercolors. Just be sure to read the reviews; never just “trust a label.” That said, the Kuretake Gansai Tambi are indeed true traditional Japanese watercolors. 

  • Kuretake – A Japanese company that was founded in 1902, and specialized in ink manufacturing at the time. They now offer a variety of quality arts and crafts products for both hobbyists and professionals.
  • Gansai – Japanese word meaning “vibrance”
  • Tambi – Japanese word meaning “aesthetic”


Why Japanese watercolors? Well, for starters, they have different characteristics and qualities than their “western counterparts.” The Kuretake description for their Gansai Tambi states “By using original colors instead of mixing with other colors, the colors obtain a higher brilliance.” It’s true. These highly pigmented colors are intended for solo-use, meaning you apply a clean brush to each pan and clean the brush again before selecting another color. Other artists have stated that mixing the colors tended to create muddy colors. We don’t want that! I chose to not test that because I don’t to “contaminate” my beautiful colors. Haha. The western watercolors seem lighter, more translucent. The idea with western colors is you buy a few essential colors and mix them to achieve a vast array of colors. That’s easier said than done for anyone you as attempted this. Mixing colors to achieve a purple or green that is just the right hue and depth is hard! And if you don’t mix enough, good luck reproducing the exact color the next time around!

Each set comes with a small printed pamphlet with the colors and corresponding numbers and Japanese, along with Chinese, names. 

  • colors are deceivingly different in hue, saturation, and opacity when dry and wet
  • creamy, smooth texture
  • highly-pigmented
  • vibrant, brilliant
  • a little goes a long way – some colors require very little water to achieve saturation – view the subtleties here
  • easy lift 


I bought my beautiful 36-colors, the largest set available, on February 01, 2021. The cost was $33.99, including local sales tax and free shipping, so that would total $36.79 for 36 high-quality colors, which is quite a good investment! I have seen the same sets go for $60 at some art supply shops…don’t worry, I did not unknowingly purchase a “knock off.”

The palette pans are the largest I’ve seen thus far when shopping for watercolors. The pans measure about 2″ wide and 1″ high. Each are replaceable and can be purchased separately.

Do’s and DoN’TS


  • paint on the inside of lid so that you know how each color appears on paper, compared to dry-in-pan
  • always use clean brush for reactivating each color
  • wait for the paints to dry completely before storing
  • always put the plastic cover back on the paints
  • always store the paints flat/horizontally; I like to secure mine with a thick rubber band or elastic hairband (this is better option)
  • use all the colors available in the palette
  • store in a cool, dry place
  • HAVE FUN! 🙂


  • mix the colors – they will likely become muddy
  • not use the same cup of water for numerous brush cleanings, as the muddy water will likely transfer to your painting
  • set in direct sunlight or extreme weather conditions