Gardeners have know for hundreds of years that certain plants grow better when planted along side other specific plants. Back then there wasn’t a name for this practice; they just knew it worked. Today, we call putting plants together that help each other out companion planting.
Companion planting is a rather simple gardening philosophy: put plants together that are mutually beneficial to each other, the garden as a whole, and the environment. Companion planting is becoming increasingly popular as people look for ways to use less chemicals in their gardens and be environmentally friendly. Companion planting is a large part of organic gardening. Organic gardens are generally free of commercial pesticides, chemicals and fertilizers.
Companion planting can promote the health and productivity of your garden in many ways. You can use companion plants as:
Companion Plants are Natural Pesticides
Many people have concerns about using pesticides to ward off unwanted pests in their garden; especially if they have pets or young children. In addition to the health concerns, using chemicals to rid your garden of “pests” will also rid your garden of helpful insects such as bees that are needed for pollination.
There are lots of plants that you can use as natural pest repellants. Plant some African Marigolds that release a natural chemical from their roots that deters pests. Want some more suggestions? Look at this site for a comprehensive list of plants that are known as insect repellants repellents: http://www.rexresearch.com/agro/comp1.htm.
Companion Plants as Natural Fertilizers
Companion planting can be beneficial to your garden’s soil. Certain plants feed nitrogen into the soil, a basic component that all plants need to be healthy. Legumes are a plant that produces high levels of nitrogen. Try planting a row of this bean for a healthy high-producing crop.
A Trap Crop
Companion planting can also be used in another way: as sacrificial plants to keep the desired garden healthy. Using companion plants to create a “trap crop” draws insects, slugs and other pests away from the more sought-after garden.
Nasturtiums, for instance, are very popular with moths and slugs, so gardeners use these plants to draw pests away from other more desirable plants.
Companion Plant Placement
Plant placement also plays a large role in companion gardening. Try using taller, sturdier plants to help protect smaller more vulnerable ones from the wind and affects of too much sun. Certain prickly vines (pumpkins/squash) can be inter-planted to deter animals that are attracted to your crop, such as raccoons and deer.
Use plants that grow well in your area for the best results.
Enjoying Your Companion Plants
Once you understand the principles behind companion planting, your choices are nearly limitless. Enjoy the process. You can combine plants that are not only good for your garden, help solve insect and soil problems, but also look beautiful together. Get creative and most of all: have fun!
Want to learn more about Organic gardening and companion planting? Check out these sites:
Organic Gardening magazine’s website has a detailed list of companion plants for organic gardening.
Learn how to use herbs as companion plants in your garden.