Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just getting started, you can benefit from the wisdom of companion planting. It is a common concept in organic gardening that involves planting certain herbs or vegetables with others, their “companions”, because they’ve been known to help each other out as they grow.
What makes plants good companions is based on a few different factors. In some cases, it might be based on differing needs for nutrients, meaning they’ll grow well together because they won’t be competing for the same nutrients. So, for example, you wouldn’t want to plant two heavy phosphorous feeders next to each other, while you would want to plant something that needs a lot of nitrogen next to something that is nitrogen-fixing.
Another reason might be for pest control. There are many herbs that are known to repel pests, so if you have vegetables that are highly attractive to pests, they can be planted intermingled with a pest-repellant herb.
Here are a few examples of great companion plants:
Basil is a wonderfully easy plant to grow, delicious when chopped fresh on salads, pasta dishes, pizza, or in Thai cooking. It also happens to be an excellent companion plant to any highly pest attractant veggies. Plant basil with tomatoes or sweet peppers, or simply intermingled all throughout the garden. It’s also a great medicinal herb, so perfect for survival gardens.
Borage naturally repels unpleasant garden pests such as hornworm and cabbage moths, so it’s a great companion for the common targets of these critters such as tomato, strawberries, and cabbage. Since it is so wonderfully pest-repellant, it’s a great herb to plant throughout the garden, and also medicinal as well!
Nasturtiums are a very popular companion plant and a common choice for border crops. They are particularly appealing due to their nitrogen-fixing properties but are also well-known for the benefits they provide to squash, melon, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, and more. They are also edible themselves, and make a great topping to salads!
Sunflowers are a great crop to grow in a first-time garden, because they’re easy to grow and produce lots of delicious and nutritious seeds in a short amount of time. They also happen to be a great companion plant. They are ideal companions for beans or other climbing vegetables because they can provide a natural trellis! Sunflowers also happen to serve as a “trap crop” for many pests, including aphids.
Onions are fantastic pest repellants and go with nearly any other vegetable (inside and outside of the garden, of course!) Their best companions are cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, and cucumbers. Since they are root crops, you can interplant them all throughout the garden to control pests, as long as you make sure they’re not competing for root space.
Like nasturtiums, marigolds are a wonderful option for a beautiful border crop or pest repellant planted through your whole garden. Their flowers are of course gorgeous and are also edible. Just make sure to regularly pull off dead flowers, and they will continue to blossom throughout the summer.
Radishes are another really fun and easy crop to grow for first-time gardeners. They don’t need super nutritious soil, they sprout quickly and can also be harvested quickly…and they’re a great companion plant! If you have vining, pest-attractant plants such as cucumbers, they can be planted underneath to ward off beetles.
If you grow catnip, your cats will certainly thank you! Surprisingly, so will your squash and cucumbers, as catnip is a wonderful repellant for squash bugs and aphids. This is another wonderful medicinal herb as well, and you can even use cooled-down catnip tea in a spray bottle as pest repellant.
If you are a fan of fermenting vegetables, you probably don’t need another reason to grow dill. But just in case you are not convinced by it’s delicious seasoning powers, consider this: while it is not a friend to tomatoes, it’s ideal for cabbage, cucumber, and lettuce. It not only repels pests, but it also improves the flavor!
Another wonderful medicinal herb to have, it’s also a great companion for brassicas, cucumbers, and onions. It has very lovely flowers and also actually attracts beneficial insects to the garden, like bees and butterflies!
You don’t have to resort to harsh, expensive chemicals to keep pests out of your garden, these wonderful herbs and vegetables and get the job done, and add color and flavor to your garden!
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