The picture is of my basil seedlings and you might think that there are a lot (I actually have two boxes like these!) but I plant a lot of tomatoes in bucket and tubs and so I want to have a lot of basil growing near them as it enhances the taste and repels pests. It is also good as a garnish and for pesto. I wrote this article about companion planting last year for another site, and so I thought that I would share it with you, as the person that I wrote it for gave me permission last year to share with my own followers. I will add more pictures this summer as I plant more things out but I thought that it might be helpful to those who are sowing flower seeds now and starting to plant crops out.
You might think that planting a vegetable garden is just about planting anywhere with space, but some studies have shown that there is a science behind the practice that our ancestors had of planting particular crops next to each other to improve their vegetable harvest. Although there is not a lot of evidence to support this, gardeners have done this for centuries, and so it might be an idea to try it in your own garden, especially if you want your vegetable to be grown organically.
WHAT IS COMPANION PLANTING?
This is where two species of plants benefit each other by growing side by side, or where one plant benefits another but is neither harmed or helped. In rare cases a plant is sacrificed and harmed to benefit a more prized crop. It is also about learning which plants do not flourish if grown side by side.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF COMPANION PLANTING?
Companion planting can increase the quality and yield of your harvest. It works in many ways.
- The smell of some plants can keep harmful insects and pests away from another crop.
- Some plants can add nutrients to the soil that another plant may need to flourish.
- Some plants may support other vining plants.
- Some taller plants may protect smaller, more fragile plants from the weather, for instance, by providing shade or wind resistance.
- Some flowering plants will attract bees and other pollinating insects.
- Some plants are thought to improve the flavour of other crops.
- Some plants can attract beneficial predators.
- It can also be a way of getting the maximum use of space
6 EXAMPLES OF COMMON VEGETABLES AND THEIR HELPFUL COMPANIONS
There are many combinations of plants that can be grown together, but if you are new to gardening, these are some of the most common, and many of the seeds can be found in the Pure Seeds vegetable or herbs multipacks.
One of the most commonly known companion planting techniques was practiced by the Native Americans and was called ‘the three sisters’’. It is the practice of planting corn, beans and squash together to save space and improve yield. They all benefit each other in that the corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen for the corn, the large leaves of the squash provide shade to prevent weeds which would compete for nutrients, and also prevents evaporation of moisture. If you don’t have the room or inclination to try growing these, the herb basil is good to grow near beans as it prevents bean beetle. Marigolds and rosemary will help too. However, it is not advised to grow onions or other members of the Allium family near beans as they might stunt the growth.
These are a good companion for lots of vegetables. Basil is the most known companion as it is supposed to improve the taste of the tomato but it also repels flies and mosquitoes. Mint, lemon balm and chives are also used for improving the taste. People often grow lettuce in the shade of the tomatoes, and nasturtiums keep the aphids away by attracting them. It is not a good idea to plant corn and tomatoes together as the same pests are attracted to each of them, and if you grow potatoes nearby, they can contaminate each other with blight. All Brassicas are thought to impact on the growth of tomatoes. Fennel also impacts on tomato growth due to a secretion from the roots.
Cucumbers tend to spread and climb and so, to save space, it helps to grow corn and sunflowers next to them as they act as support and shade. These plants also don’t need a lot of water and so don’t compete with the cucumber which needs to be regularly hydrated to prevent the cucumber fruit from going bitter. Dill attracts insects that would be predators, and also improves the flavour of cucumbers, if planted nearby, whilst radishes, marigolds and nasturtiums are known to deter beetles and other insects that are harmful. Peas and beans are thought to make the cucumbers sweeter if grown next door due to the nitrogen they release into the soil. Root vegetables like parsnips, carrots, onion and radishes can also be planted safely next to cucumbers as they are not competing for space. Plants that it might be useful to avoid growing near cucumbers if possible are melons, squash, potatoes and sage. Sage is thought to stunt the growth of the cucumber plant, melons and squash attract the same pests, and potatoes are thought to encourage blight.
Tomatoes need similar care to peppers and come from the same Nightshade family. Although they can attract the same pests they are often grown together because the same companion plants that deter pests can be grown amongst them and the tomatoes can provide shade and shelter for the peppers. Corn is good to grow nearby as it can prevent wind damage and provide shade. Lettuce, squash and cucumbers can also provide shade around the roots. Herbs such as basil, dill, and chives (or other members of the Allium family) are great for confusing or deterring pests. Marjoram attracts bugs that are beneficial. Like lettuce, spinach and radishes are great crops to grow around the roots as they do not take as long to grow and so they save space, but will also shade the roots of the pepper. Crops to avoid growing near peppers include cauliflower and other brassicas, potatoes, and fennel for the same reasons as you should avoid them for tomatoes.
Most plants are not thought to impact on the growth of broccoli, though it might be a good idea not to grow other brassicas nearby as they will attract the same pests. The exceptions are plants that need a lot of calcium, and so if planted near, crops such as tomatoes, peppers, carrots, will be completing for that particular mineral. Brocolli plants are also not keen on nitrogen and so some gardeners avoid peas and beans. If you are trying to save space then lettuce, spinach and radish are great to grow underneath the leaves. Growing potatoes and onions, close by, is supposed to improve the flavour too, and basil, thyme, marigolds, garlic and dill should help deter pests.
Crops such as onions, leeks, chives, and strong-smelling herbs like rosemary and sage, planted nearby will reduce the chance of carrot fly which can devastate your crop. They are also thought to improve the taste. Tomatoes are also thought to improve the taste and provide a barrier and shade for the carrots, and so reduce pests, though some gardeners argue that the nitrogen they produce can stunt the growth of the carrot. Lettuce can be grown between the rows to save space, stop weeds and provides shade as they are harvested before the carrot grows. Nasturtiums if planted nearby are great for attracting pests away from your carrots. Plants to avoid planting near your carrots include dill, parsnips, potatoes. The parsnips attract the same pests, carrots are not beneficial for dill as it attracts lace wings, and potatoes will take too many nutrients from the soil.
Next time you are planning your vegetable garden, as well as taking into consideration crop rotation to keep the soil healthy, it might be an idea to take a leaf out of the book of those experienced old gardeners, and put a bit of companion planting in place as well.