I live in a tiny two-bedroom unit near Adelaide, South Australia. It’s single story. It has a backyard featuring a paved outdoor living area, lawn, large shrubs along the perimeter, and a token pear and mandarin tree. (The former of which got absolutely molested by parrots before we could cover it in netting.) The shrubs are placed as such to provide shade to the western aspect of the house from the hot afternoon sun. This has proven ineffectual and the house heats up breathtakingly during the height of summer. The front is adorned with a large, shade-affirming hibiscus, which attracts a plethora of bees and insects with its beautiful, pink satellite-like flowers. The ground is covered in pine chips and is dotted with a mix of shade-tolerant shrubs, mostly native understory plants. The only bit of the front yard that gets good sun is the north-eastern corner, an area of about three-square-metres which comprises blank, pine chip-covered soil and a brick planter. This is where we established our small vegetable patch. Stacking and companion planting has ensured good yields and that the ‘pests’ don’t take over. When I designed our little patch–there wasn’t so much a process, but trial and error–I had to work within certain conditions. Namely, the garden had to be raised or in pots, and had to be easily removable for when we moved house, to leave as little impact on the property as possible–the joys of renting.
According to Mollison  “We can construct our own variation of the forest by establishing an intercrop of taller and shorter species, climbing plants, and herbs, placed according to their heights, spade tolerance, and water requirements”. Forests, of course, are self-regulating and therefore don’t need inputs like fertiliser and pesticides to encourage growth and deter pests respectively. Mollison suggests using biological resources instead: “Umbelliferous [plants of the parsley family] and composite plants such as dill, fennel, daisies, and marigolds placed around garden beds… attract predator insects”. Angelo Eliades from Deep Green Permaculture  describes companion planting:
“Many pests identify their food sources through scent or the physical outline (shape) of the plant. Pests can be confused by planting companion plants which release scents which masks that of their neighbouring plants. Companion plants can also be interplanted amongst the crop plant to mask their shape, making them harder to locate, so that pests miss them altogether.”
We stacked and companioned our plants very tightly into the north-east corner of the front yard by necessity, and this had the added benefits as described by Mollison and Eliades above. Foremost, the necessity was to optimise the use of space–we wanted to get as big a yield and capture as much of the sparse sun as possible. We used a little of the ground–into which we planted a couple of species of tomato–as it could easily be made good by covering over with pine chips when we moved. Tightly surrounding the tomato plants, and to provide shelter from the wind and additional support, is a hodgepodge of brightly coloured pots containing all manners of shallow-rooted species–radish, spring onion, several varieties of lettuce, dill, and basil. Due to the height of these potted plants and the stunted growth of our tomatoes–it was a tricky season in Australia, with summer arriving late–everything is at a similar level, so in the eyes of an insect, one might expect that they are very confused indeed. Short and tall plants are all on the same level. We have created some height by planting leggy varieties of cherry tomatoes in the brick planter box. These provide shade for the delicate leaf plants on hot summer days. These plants got off to a better start in spring, due to the heat radiated by the bricks. On top of this bed is some old coconut husk hanging baskets we have planted strawberries. The strawberries are left to shoot off as they please, and when watered, the excess water drains straight onto the tomatoes. What we have created here is a veritable mishmash of complementary plants. We ensured, when we chose the species, that they indeed would compliment each other.
The stacking and companionship has paid off and seems to support Mollison’s and Eliades’s theory–we haven’t had any issues whatsoever with pests this season and not even one of the worst heat waves in the history of South Australia has killed everything off, or seriously spoilt the plants. Everyday when I got out to pick a few leaves for a side salad, I’m surprised to see them all completely intact, with not a sign of pesky intervention or wilted leaves. Further, due to the shade and support provided by each plant, moisture retention in the soil has been tremendous. The great thing about this experiment, is that it is applicable for people with the smallest of spaces. The number one reason I hear for people not planting vegetables is a lack of space.
 Mollison, B. (2011). “Introduction to Permaculture”. Tagari Publishing, Sisters Creek, Tasmania.
 Eliades, A. (unknown). “Companion Planting: Camouflage”. See: http://www.deepgreenpermaculture.com/companion-planting