Like all good symbiotic partnerships, companion planting works on the notion of one plant bringing out the best in the other.
This can mean many things, including carefully combined plantings to support diversity, advantageous planting in relation to space available, pest control and enhanced plant growth.
So let’s look a little closer into what are the benefits of gardening this way.
- Pest deterrence – attract wildlife to your garden with certain plantings to create a more harmonious ecosystem.
- Improve yield & growth
- Enhance flavour in your plants, be it fruit/veg/herbs
- Beneficial insects love purposefully placed plants for their fodder & foraging
- Fix nitrogen to the soil
- Can act as a trap crop ie a crop to drive the pests to one crop rather than attack all the crops (also called Sacrificial Cropping)
- Once crops perish, can be used as mulch or nitrogen fixers (especially beans, sweet peas, lupins, peas) to next door neighbour plants
- Create diversion for pests by not planting in straight lines, confusion causes pests to go elsewhere
When we mention companion planting, it also addresses benefits such as tall plants being planted with small plants to create shade, protection from wind plus self-made microclimates for in your garden. But do have a think about combining plants with the same water needs too, it’s the best way to be water conservative.
Some argue that companion planting does not work in the Southern Hemisphere, as it is a European concept. Whatever you choose, (and remember gardening is all about options), there’s a fair stack of compelling evidence to show some principles of companion planting work.
There are many instances of best combinations of companion planting, way too many to mention here, but here are some that really resonated for me. Be sure to do an internet search on avalanche of info out there on companion planting.
Alyssum under fruit trees brings the pollinators.
Borage next to your strawberries will bring on more fruit.
Chives under roses keep the aphids and black spot at bay.
Dill attracts a wasp to deter a White Cabbage Butterfly army of destruction.
Elderberry is a great general insecticide and also thrives in full sun or shade, making them great trees to plant under tall trees. They are fabulous planted next to compost systems also, as they aerate the soil, as well as encourage compost activation.
French Marigolds are said to be great at killing any nematodes in plant roots; enhance the growth of many plants including potatoes, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, eggplant, and act as a general all purpose insecticide for garden pests.
Garlic is one of the big hitters in companion planting. The fact that you can make your own insecticide from oil and garlic to spray on all plants says it all about the power of garlic. The pungent flavour and smell makes pests such as fungus gnats, coddling moth, spider mites, ants just to name a few, pack their bags.
Do you grow cherries? Team them up with Horseradish at their feet and watch a marriage made in heaven unfold.
As Jerusalem Artichokes grow very tall and come on just about the time cucumbers need to be planted, they make a good team for support. Rather than investing in trellis for Cucumber tendrils to attach themselves to, let nature do the work in your Jerusalem Artichoke crop, and they can climb up the sturdy stalks.
Kale and tomatoes are said not to be buddies. But plant kale near radish, catnip, mustard, nasturtiums, and you’ll see the benefits in pest control, whilst beets, celery, onions, peas, spinach and many more do well in each other’s soil.
Lettuce are such a well loved crop, and grow all year round. They really do love sharing the earth with most plants, but don’t place near Parsley or they will have a sook.
Mint is an excellent helper to many plants including peas, cabbage and tomatoes to add flavour and health.
Many insects are attracted to the mustard oil which Nasturtium secrete whilst the flower repel bugs such as aphids. The fact it sprawls far and wide makes it fabulous mulch, so for that reason alone we love it to companion plant in the veggie patch to suppress weeds.
Onions being fabulously stinky are great as a general pest control, so planting many will really assist. They don’t go well with beans, peas asparagus or Gladoli though.
Potatoes love growing next to chamomile, basil, yarrow, parsley and thyme, which also welcome beneficial insects.
Queen Anne’s Lace is a veritable native pollinators and bee magnet. It grows so well you’ll often see it out in the wild.
Rosemary are said to repel carrot fly so plant with carrots. It also grows well with beans, broccoli, cabbage, and chili.
The sweet-fruited Strawberry grows very well with basil borage and rue, as it attracts pollinators whilst giving the heave ho to pests.
A pot of Tansy at your backdoor step will hopefully reduce the number of flies in your home.
Violas are fabulous companions to roses, and other plants and also great in a salad or decorative for cakes, slices etc. not to mention how pretty they are in the garden.
Keep Wormwood away from all other plants except for carrots, but do grow around your chicken coop as the girls will go nuts for it – pecking at it will help their gut rid any parasites such as worms, and cut up into their nesting boxes help reduce insects like mites taking up residence in their coop.
Predatory wasps, ladybugs, hoverflies, damselbugs and other insects love Yarrow.
Spinach benefits very well growing underneath the shade of Zucchini leaves come mid Summer, with the Zucchini loving the nutrients the Spinach leave behind.
Gardens, like life, are an experiment – so get out there today and have a go at companion planting. Some will work, some won’t but you’ll have fun either way.
Words by Hey Hoe Let’s Grow