Hey, Valentine’s month is just about here! What a perfect time to do a little matchmaking in your veggie garden. If you pair the right plants together, magical things can happen! Why not become more efficient in your garden, and work on not working so hard? Who needs costly pesticides and fertilizers when you can companion plant! Yes, companion planting can do all of that and more.
Companion planting is when two plants are grown near each other to be beneficial to one or the other and sometimes to both. This way of growing will reduce pests, attract pollinators, and boost growth. This is not too good to be true. It really does work!
7 BENEFITS OF COMPANION PLANTING
1. Deterring pests: Plants can act as insect repellents or deter critters.
2. Attracting beneficials: Many herbs and flowers will attract pollinating bees and tiny pest-eating wasps.
3. Shade regulation: Large plants provide shade for smaller plants needing sun protection. Planting lettuce under corn large stalks will give the lettuce appropriate shade needed during the summer months.
4. Natural supports: Tall plants, like corn and sunflowers, can support lower-growing, sprawling crops such as cucumbers and peas.
5. Improving soil fertility: Some crops, like beans, peas, and other legumes, help to make nitrogen more available in the soil.
6. Weed suppression: Planting sprawling crops like potatoes with tall, upright plants minimizes open areas, where weeds typically take hold.
7. Keeps soil moist and helps prevent erosion: Vining plants like squash and cucumbers shade the soil, keeping it moist longer.
Insects That Pollinate
Bees are known to be the primary pollinators. However, many other insects can help pollinate crops including wasps, moths, butterflies and certain species of beetle.
Insects That Eat Pests
Hoverflies, lacewings, ladybugs are the insects that you want in your garden. They will protect your garden from invasive pests that feed on crops such as aphids, mites, thrips, mealybugs and scale insects.
THE BEST COMPANION PLANTS
Vegetables, flowers & herbs are actually a great threesome and do wonders when grown in the same beds.
While Garlic has been named both a herb and spice, it is actually a root vegetable. It can eliminate one of the pestiest pests, aphids. Aphids can’t stand garlic! Planting a pungent barrier of garlic around your garden and in between rows of potato plants, lettuces and all of the brassica crops, like kale cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower as a built-in bodyguard will keep them at bay. Garlic also repels onion flies, ermine moths, and Japanese beetles. Let some garlic & onions bolt and flower and attract hoverflies – which love aphids.
Beans & corn grow well together because beans will grow up the cornstalks, acting as a natural trellis. Beans fix nitrogen in the soil, which is beneficial for the corn. Members of the cabbage family along with cucumbers, peas, potatoes, and radishes also benefit from the nitrogen green beans provide.
Corn and squash make good companion plants since the cornstalks give squash vines a place to grow. Squash also does well planted alongside beans, peas, radishes.
Carrots are heat sensitive and tomato plants can provide them a bit of shade. Tomatoes also produce solanine, a natural insecticide that targets pests affecting carrot plants. Tomatoes benefit from carrots, too. Carrots aerate soil around the roots of the tomato plants, allowing more air and water to reach the roots. Leeks and carrots are also good companion plants since leeks repel carrot flies and carrots repel leek moths and onion flies.
Radishes can be planted among cucumbers to attract cucumber beetles away from the cukes. They also do well among carrots because they are harvested before the carrots, and they loosen the soil as the carrots start to take off. Onions, beets, cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach, and squash are also good friends for radishes.
Peas love to be planted by beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, radish, and turnip. If you plant mint near peas, they should be healthier and tastier. Chives planted near peas also help deter aphids.
Basil, Tomato and Peppersnot only taste good together, but they are also natural companions in the garden. Basil repels pests such as thrips and hawk moths, which lay tomato hornworms. Basil grown close to your tomatoes and peppers keep hornworms away. Basil also attracts bees, which improves pollination, tomato health, and flavor.
Borageis a similar companion herb plant that successfully works to reduce hornworms. Planting borage will attract plenty pollinators and beneficial insects to your garden. Borage pairs well with tomatoes and can enhance strawberries’ flavor and vigor.
Dill attracts ladybugs, which eat small garden pests such as aphids and spider mites.
Mint deters aphids, ants, and flea beetles. Just be careful to plant mint nearby in its own pot or bed, as it is a very aggressive grower!
Parsley attracts beneficial insects to protect and pollinate tomatoes. Plant these herbs between tomatoes. Flowering parsley attracts many beneficial insects such as hoverflies.
Sage is a useful herb that repels carrot fly. Plant it around a cabbage patch to reduce injury from cabbage moths.
Alyssum to attract aphid-eating hoverflies.
Nasturtium Flowers will lure hungry caterpillars away from your vulnerable crops. You can also add the flowers to your garden salad for a peppery touch. Nasturtium also lure black flies away from fava beans.
Sunflowers pair well with climbing plants like cucumbers and pole beans, providing support as well as shade for plants that are prone to sun-stress on hot days.
Tansy This flower attracts pest-eating bugs such as ladybugs or ladybirds, and predatory wasps. Tansy also repels cutworm which attacks asparagus, beans, cabbage, carrots, celery, corn, lettuce, peas, peppers, potato and tomato plants.
Calendula & Cosmos will attract tiny parasitizing wasps to aphid-hungry hoverflies. Calendula repels whitefly while at the same time attracting beneficial insects. Calendula is easy to grow and keeps flowering through the summer if you regularly pick off the seed heads. Cosmos also repels the corn earworm, lacewings, parasitic wasps and tachinid flies.
Marigolds The bright yellow blooms of all types of marigolds attract hoverflies, bees and butterflies. The strong scent of the French Marigold types is said to deter nematodes. They often confuse pests if planted with vegetables.
Poached Egg Plant is native to California and is excellent for growing along the edges of raised beds. Great attractant for hoverflies and bees. Planting between rows of vegetables can help to keep weeds to a minimum.
Daisies, especially chamomile, will attract a range of beneficial insects. Hoverflies and predatory wasps love them. An added benefit of growing chamomile is that you can make delicious fresh herbal tea from the flowers.
Valentine’s month is for lovers, and it is also for doing a little matchmaking in your garden. Your garden will love you for it and will reward you with a healthy, bountiful harvest. Having a vegetable garden is so much more rewarding when your plants work together. This is the perfect season to start companion planting in your garden!
What are you waiting for? Start matchmaking!
Kelly Emberg, the model gardener
For more gardening tips, follow me on
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube & Twitter.