Gardening 101: Companion Planting
Mother Nature is awfully ingenious; she has come up with quite a few methods to keep bugs away and plants healthy and thriving. It turns out that plants, like people, prefer certain company. You can help keep your vegetables happy and pest-free by planting them near their buddies!
This simple method maximizes certain plants’ natural strengths and minimizes their weaknesses, giving you a beautiful garden and abundant crops! Some of the combinations make sense, like tomatoes and basil; others might surprise you…
Photo by Stock Exchange
These plants grow well together, supporting each other and resulting in greater yields for you. Consider the following pairings (and a few that dislike each other) when making your garden plans.
- Beans get along with most veggies, but not onions.
- Cabbage and broccoli love celery, beets, spinach and chard. This is a good place for your onions, too.
- Carrots do well with peas, lettuce and tomatoes, but keep the dill at the other end of the garden.
- Cucumbers like to be near beans, peas and radishes, but far from potatoes.
- Tomatoes will thrive near carrots, cucumbers and onions.
Photo by Stock Exchange
Pest Control Plants
Some plants you may want in your garden, not to eat, but to keep away the bugs that would eat your produce before you get to it. Many are flowering and add a decorative element to an otherwise utilitarian spot of yard. Some beneficial plants even have edible flowers, such as nasturtiums and marigolds, that you can toss into your salads.
- Anise will disguise the scent of brassica plants (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) and keep away the aphids. It does well near coriander (cilantro), but not dill.
- Basil improves the growth and flavor of tomatoes and repels flies and mosquitoes. Lovely purple cones top the plants if you let them go to seed.
- Catnip will deter flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants and weevils. It makes a pretty, scented border. However, if neighborhood cats fall among your list of pests, this may not be the thing!
- Chamomile is a tonic for anything in the garden, adding calcium, potassium and sodium to the soil. If you let it go to seed it will reseed and return the following spring.
- Clover is good to plant around the base of grapevines and fruit trees as it attracts beneficial predatory bugs.
- Dill improves the health and growth of cabbage and will go great in a slaw or saurkraut come harvest time.
- Geranium protects corn, tomatoes, pepper and cabbage with its strong scent, by repelling bad bugs.
- Lemon balm deters many bugs in the garden as well as on you if you crush the leaves and rub them on your skin.
- We always plant plenty of marigolds (the scented kind) in the garden for color and to deter a variety of pests. Be cautious if you have slug problems, though, as they are a favorite of the slimy, shelled critters.
- Nasturtiums deter aphids, pumpkin beetles and squash bugs as well as improving the health of radishes and the cabbage family. My favorite thing about nasturtiums, however, is the peppery, colorful blossoms that you can use to fancy up a regular green salad. Nasturtiums will thrive in practically any soil and do well in orchards where they help deter pests.
- Tuck a few sunflowers among your corn and you’ll be blessed with a great yield, plus some beautiful, bright blossoms towering over the crops.
Photo by Stock Exchange
How to Get Started
It may seem overwhelming at first; there are so many combinations and contraindications of what to plant where and with what. But truthfully, it’s hard to mess up with companion planting. Your beans will not shrivel up and die if they’re too close to the onions – they simply may do better near the corn.
The easiest place to start is with some beneficial herbs and flowers. Group your veggies as closely to their likes and dislikes as you care to, then intersperse your plantings with strong smelling and flowering herbs. These are where you get the most bang for your buck in terms of keeping pests out of the garden, as well as improving the overall look (and smell!) of your garden. Culinary herbs and edible flowers will give you more benefits than just the pest control and make being in the garden an even more pleasant experience.
What are you planting this year? What is your pest control plan of attack?
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