Gardening 101: Companion Planting

Mother Nature is awfully ingenious; she has come up with quite a few methods to keep bugs away and plants healthy and thriving.  It turns out that plants, like people, prefer certain company.  You can help keep your vegetables happy and pest-free by planting them near their buddies!

This simple method maximizes certain plants’ natural strengths and minimizes their weaknesses, giving you a beautiful garden and abundant crops!  Some of the combinations make sense, like tomatoes and basil; others might surprise you…

Photo by Stock Exchange

Plant Buddies

These plants grow well together, supporting each other and resulting in greater yields for you.  Consider the following pairings (and a few that dislike each other) when making your garden plans.

  • Beans get along with most veggies, but not onions.
  • Cabbage and broccoli love celery, beets, spinach and chard.  This is a good place for your onions, too.
  • Carrots do well with peas, lettuce and tomatoes, but keep the dill at the other end of the garden.
  • Cucumbers like to be near beans, peas and radishes, but far from potatoes.
  • Tomatoes will thrive near carrots, cucumbers and onions.

Photo by Stock Exchange

Pest Control Plants

Some plants you may want in your garden, not to eat, but to keep away the bugs that would eat your produce before you get to it.  Many are flowering and add a decorative element to an otherwise utilitarian spot of yard.  Some beneficial plants even have edible flowers, such as nasturtiums and marigolds, that you can toss into your salads.

  • Anise will disguise the scent of brassica plants (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) and keep away the aphids.  It does well near coriander (cilantro), but not dill.
  • Basil improves the growth and flavor of tomatoes and repels flies and mosquitoes.  Lovely purple cones top the plants if you let them go to seed.
  • Catnip will deter flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants and weevils.  It makes a pretty, scented border.  However, if neighborhood cats fall among your list of pests, this may not be the thing!
  • Chamomile is a tonic for anything in the garden, adding calcium, potassium and sodium to the soil.  If you let it go to seed it will reseed and return the following spring.
  • Clover is good to plant around the base of grapevines and fruit trees as it attracts beneficial predatory bugs.
  • Dill improves the health and growth of cabbage and will go great in a slaw or saurkraut come harvest time.
  • Geranium protects corn, tomatoes, pepper and cabbage with its strong scent, by repelling bad bugs.
  • Lemon balm deters many bugs in the garden as well as on you if you crush the leaves and rub them on your skin.
  • We always plant plenty of marigolds (the scented kind) in the garden for color and to deter a variety of pests.  Be cautious if you have slug problems, though, as they are a favorite of the slimy, shelled critters.
  • Nasturtiums deter aphids, pumpkin beetles and squash bugs as well as improving the health of radishes and the cabbage family.  My favorite thing about nasturtiums, however, is the peppery, colorful blossoms that you can use to fancy up a regular green salad.  Nasturtiums will thrive in practically any soil and do well in orchards where they help deter pests.
  • Tuck a few sunflowers among your corn and you’ll be blessed with a great yield, plus some beautiful, bright blossoms towering over the crops.

Photo by Stock Exchange

How to Get Started

It may seem overwhelming at first; there are so many combinations and contraindications of what to plant where and with what.  But truthfully, it’s hard to mess up with companion planting.  Your beans will not shrivel up and die if they’re too close to the onions – they simply may do better near the corn.

The easiest place to start is with some beneficial herbs and flowers.  Group your veggies as closely to their likes and dislikes as you care to, then intersperse your plantings with strong smelling and flowering herbs.  These are where you get the most bang for your buck in terms of keeping pests out of the garden, as well as improving the overall look (and smell!) of your garden.  Culinary herbs and edible flowers will give you more benefits than just the pest control and make being in the garden an even more pleasant experience.

What are you planting this year? What is your pest control plan of attack?

About Amy

Amy writes daily about natural family living, attachment parenting, organic gardening, and cooking on her site, Progressive Pioneer. She and her family try to live simply and be as self-sufficient as possible while living smack dab in the middle of the city.

Comments

  1. This is the perfect next step in my knowledge ladder for organic gardening. Thanks.
    .-= Sandra Lee’s last blog: Organic gardening =-.

  2. Awesome post!
    I don’t have a garden of my own yet, but I’ll send this to my mom!
    .-= Joke’s last blog: Here I am! =-.

  3. Thank you so much for this! I have been planning out who should go near who in the raised beds I built this year, and this is a great intro to companion planting. I am planting lots and lots of marigolds this year — my five-year-old read about them in a fairy book and says they are essential to a happy garden! Glad to read some evidence to back that up. :)
    .-= Laura’s last blog: Cultivating Joy =-.

  4. Wild onions deter a lot of bug pests; violets will attract slugs– plant violets around the periphery of your yard (away from the veggie plots) and the slugs will eat them and leave your goodies alone. I also put rings of drier lint around seedlings, because the slugs can’t travel across them (can’t make a slime trail on drier lint or something).
    .-= Xan’s last blog: Body Spirit Art Intellect =-.

  5. I am starting a small CSA this year and going to totally organic with my garden. I’ll be planting garden staples that I’ve been successful growing over the past several years such as corn, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, onions, etc. I’ve been reading up on companion planting and appreciate any advice I can find!

  6. Thanks for these great tips! My Mother used companion planting in our huge raised bed garden when I was little. I think it’s time to try some of these ideas out in my own garden this year.

  7. This is great information. Thank you so much for this. What a help it will be for us as we recently moved to where we have fruit trees and wnat to plant a small garden.

  8. Love this -My children’s book character -Chloe the Gardener is encouraging kids to get outdoors and start a garden. This post will be really helpful, I would like to add it to my next Gardening with Chloe post (probably end of next week). Latest post: http://www.marghanita.com/growing-plants-from-seeds-is-so-much-fun/

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. What an INCREDIBLE resource this is! The perfect cheat sheet. :) Thanks for writing this up for us, Amy!
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog: whereby nobodies change the world =-.

  10. Great post. I was just adding plants to my garden plan to include companion plants. Native Americans used to plant their corn, then when it came up would plant their beans next to the corn. The nitrogen from the beans helped the corn grow, have better yields and taste better! They also added in squash as well in their corn patch. We’re trying the corn and grean beans together this year, a neighbor did it last year and said it was the best crop of both she’s ever had!
    .-= Jackie Lee’s last blog: You Can Not Be Thin If You Feel Fat =-.

  11. Great post! Thanks for sharing. I had no idea certain plants thrive near each other.
    Blessings,
    Kate

  12. Amy, I am so happy to bookmark this post, and so sad that I might not get a garden this year b/c we\’re trying to sell our house. I can\’t decide if I should bother to start at all, and I\’m wondering if I should use my \”new\” garlic right now. Do you know if I can use that anytime if we sell the house? Great work, Amy! :) Katie

    • Thanks, Katie! Unfortunately I’m no garlic expert. If my hubby were here, I’d ask him, but I’m not really sure how long garlic is viable. I would assume that as long as you’d want to eat it, it would still work, but I can’t say for sure.
      Maybe you could start a container garden; lots of pots on the porch and in the yard that you could take with you if/when the house sells. Container gardening, while it doesn’t provide as prolific a harvest, is certainly pretty!

      • What do you think about fennal and Jerusalem artichoke,, I got given 2 seed atricokes but they where very tiny and mouldy as if they don’t get a dry in the sun. I planted them mid winter I geuss while the ground was chilling down the as spring came the ground got very dry and lived off rainfall, very dry at the moment. Only one steam has grown and that only seemed to come up as the fennel that I planted mid spring started to develop.

        I have another plant not sure where it came from but I could look through records to find out. They grow more stems and taller but then I saw a plot just a few weeks ago That where 6 feet tall. What do you think the best way to grow these 2 vegetables?

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  14. Thanks for this – I am in the process of planning my garden and have planted a few early spring plants. I will double check my plans to make sure some of the companion plants are as close to each other as possible. I love the idea of corn with sunflowers – I am so trying that this year.

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  16. I have been gardening since I was a little girl, my grandfather taught me.
    It is the most healthy hobby yu ever DO, is godly and healthy.
    You must give love to the plants that is mainly what they need, water of course and compose your own fertilizer is great!!!

  17. Excellent info. I took notes. Thanks.
    Laura Black´s latest post: Trendy Upcycling

  18. This post was certainly one in which nobody can honestly say that nothing was gained! I am most impressed not only with your deep level of understanding, but also with your uncanny ability to convey this understanding in a manner a simple person like me is easily able to grasp and benefit from!

  19. Claudia Mekun says:

    Thank you for your valuable info. I m living in the tropical country of Thailand. My garden dwells mainly orchids of different kinds.however, I would love to grow some herbs and vegetables. thanks for posting.

  20. Hi,
    just thinking about starting up a garden for the first time. Wondering if you have any tips on preparing soil and fertilizers? I am only thinking about having a few things such as tomatoes, zuchinni, beans, peppers, cucumber, dill, basil, and lettuce. Any recommendations?
    Jess

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  22. Patrick says:

    Could you provide some sources on this information, or information about the processes involved in these plants keeping insects away? Or how Chamomile adds calcium, potassium and sodium to the soil? Just curious…

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  26. My basil is being devoured by invisible pests! I planted rosemary & marygolds nearby and it is not helping at all. My large Basil plant (indoors) is being eaten faster than the smaller ones outside. I have checked for pests and don’t see anything! Help!

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