Planting Buddies for Your Crops
Companion planting is a time-honored, if not always scientifically proven, technique for combining certain plants with others to protect them from pests or to otherwise enhance their growth. Garden lore includes an almost endless supply of “recipes” for supposedly beneficial plant combinations, and research by scientists and gardeners indicates that many companion planting arrangements really work. Here are some of the ways that companion plants help your garden.
Caught in a trap:
Trap crops draw pests away from their target. Nasturtiums planted near apple trees will lure woolly aphids away from the fruit trees. (Trap crops are typically destroyed once they’ve attracted pests.)
Repelled by smell:
Fragrant herbs repel pests or confuse them by masking the scent of their preferred foods. Mint, for
example, helps to deter cabbage pests.
Beaten by beneficials:
Companion plants provide food, breeding sites, and/or shelter for beneficial insects. Broad, flat flower heads made up of many small blossoms (like those of dill or yarrow) attract tiny parasitic wasps; these wasps’ larvae parasitize many species of pest caterpillars.
Some combinations work simply because the plants seem to “cooperate” as they grow, as in the traditional “Three Sisters” arrangement used by Native Americans. In this combination, corn provides a stalk for the beans to vine upward, the beans help fix nitrogen in the soil for the corn, and squash vines growing below the corn help to block out
weeds and keep the soil moist.
10 Companion Planting Combos
Here’s a list of traditional companion planting recommendations to experiment with in your own garden. Keep notes from year to year to record which ones work for you.
1. Pop in some onions among your cucumber vines to repel pests.
2. Plant leeks close to carrots to repel the carrot (rust) fly.
3. Pair basil with tomatoes to control tomato hornworms. (The basil seems to prosper in this arrangement, as well.)
4. Use a border of onions, chives, or garlic around your garden to protect more-palatable plants from hungry rabbits.
5. Sow radishes around cucumbers to repel cucumber beetles.
6. Plant tansy among raspberries and blackberries to enhance their growth. Tansy is also reported to repel Japanese beetles—an added benefit for the berries.
7. Grow thyme with eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes.
8. Try including sage with cabbages, carrots, strawberries, and tomatoes—sage is said to enhance the growth of these crops.