Companion Planting is when you grow certain plants next to each other because they grow better when together, whether it is because one naturally wards off pests common to the other or that they serve as a function to the other plant like fixing nitrogen in the soil. It is surprising how some plants just thrive when placed near their best friends in the garden. Companion planting basics are as simple as seeing how one plant can benefit another. For instance, sun-sensitive plants grow better when they have tall plants next to them to give them much needed shade from the harsh afternoon sun. Companion planting prevents pest problems like when you plant marigolds, onions, garlic or chives throughout your garden, insects tend to stay away as they don’t particularly enjoy the fragrance.
Knowing companion planting basics can help your garden and landscape grow bigger and stronger plants which will then produce beautiful flowers and healthier vegetables all season long. One of my favorite examples of a symbiotic companion planting combination is planting flowers that attract butterflies and bees to the garden so they then will pollinate the tomatoes and cucumbers. That is a win-win in my book!
Companion Planting Basic Combinations
Cucumbers and Nasturtiums: Both plants love to vine out and attract many pests. Nasturtiums are great in salads and their flowers and leaves have a peppery taste – they also are one of the biggest pest attractors in a garden. They are great to grow with cucumbers and other squash and gourd relatives so the insects will eat the nasturtiums and leave the cucumbers alone. Nasturtiums are huge bee attractors with beautiful yellow and orange flowers and a wonderful addition throughout the landscape to bring much needed bees to your yard.
Delphiniums or Foxglove (foxglove is toxic so show caution around children and pets) with Tomatoes and Squash Plants: By planting these tubular flowers around your vegetable garden or in your flower beds, especially near the tomatoes and squash plants, they will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees which will then pollinate the vegetables that need a little bit of help.
Potatoes and Sweet Alyssum: For a very fragrant flower and ground cover, plant sweet alyssum in every open space. These small white or purple flowers attract many beneficial insects and especially help out potatoes as they allow the tubers to grow pest-free underneath. At the end of the growing season, you get to harvest a ton of potatoes and capture the seeds to the sweet alyssum for next year.
Corn, Squash and Beans: Native Americans have bene planting corn, squash, and beans together as far back as they have looked in the archaeological record. This combination is called the “three sisters” as they have a wonderful symboitoc relationship. Beans need to be staked or trellised as their vines grow out. When we plant them at the base of corn stocks they can climb up the corn. The beans attract beneficial insects that prey on those insects that will eat the corn. The squash will grow into a thick ground cover that keeps grass and other invasive plants away from the delicate corn and bean roots. They also help retain water in the soil on hot summer days.
Roses and Chives or Garlic: Gardeners have planted garlic bulbs or chives with rose bushes for centuries. Garlic naturally repels pests that eat the beautiful rose petals and are essential to have throughout the garden.
Tomatoes, Cabbage, Dill and Basil: Diamondback moth larvae are large caterpillars that chew really big holes in cabbage leaves and coincidentally tomatoes are natural repellents to these moths. Grow tomatoes around the cabbage patch and keep the caterpillars away. Dill attracts tiny beneficial wasps that also keep cabbage worms at bay and they like to use the sturdy stalks found on plants in the cabbage family to help them grow upright. Basil is said to enhance the flavor of tomatoes and also repels worms that love eating tomatoes.
Radishes and Spinach: Plant radishes among spinach plants to lure leafminers away from the spinach leaves. Leafminers don’t do damage to the radish root itself, just its leaves, this is a great compromise in the garden. plant radishes nearby any plant that has leafminer damage to attract them away. Once you have harvested the radishes, burn the leaves to eradicate the leaf miners from the garden.
What are some of your favorite companion planting arrangements?
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