Companion Planting

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By carefully choosing which plants to put together, you can provide natural protection and boost the growth of your plants without recourse to chemicals,  this article gives an introduction to companion planting.

Companion planting is where you choose to plant two or plants together such that one will benefit the other in some way.  Usually this is for the protection of some kind of food crop, whereby either  the companion plant is a sacrificial plant, and will take the hit on behalf of the other,  or where something about the plant repels damaging pests, or even attracts natural predators. 

There are several authors that say there is no proven scientific research that companion planting is beneficial.  For example one study shows that by planting companion plants close to cabbage that it did indeed help reduce damage by cabbage root flies, but that the companion plants competed for nutrition with the cabbage, and stunted its growth !    As with most things the truth is mostprobably somewhere between the two extremes.

In history there are example of the ancient Chinese using ferns to protect rice crops. The American Indians grew a combination of corn, beans and squashes which were mutually beneficial to each other – in that the beans fixed nitrogen in the soil, the corns provided a structure for the beans to climb up, and the squashes provided ground cover.

Companion planting can also be used to enhance the flavours of crops. A well known example is growing basil with tomatoes.

A good example of a sacrificial plant is the nasturtium, these are attractive to caterpillars, so if you plant them near for example cabbage they should provide some protection. 

The marigold, or tagetes is a “super companion”  and attracts a range of predators and secretes chemicals into the ground,  there are various companion  planting tables on the internet  where it shows that  tagetes is a good companion for virtually all kinds of plants, and they really brighten up the vegetable plot as well !

Some other good combinations of plants are shown below :-

The Allium family ( onions leeks etc)  help to repel flies such as carrot flies, and are good planted with carrots, tomatoes, cabbage

Borage, which grows like a weed in the dry parts of our garden,  attracts predatory insects, and is beneficial to almost all plants. Lovage falls into this category of a “super companion” as well.

Sage deters cabbage flies.

Petunias and geraniums can be used to attract many pests away from vegetable and fruit plants.

By growing peppers and tomatoes together, the tomatoes can shade the peppers from direct sunlight, which they don’t like.

If this article has got your interest, then are lots of internet sites, and books which go into the lore of companion planting into much more detail, so go research, and brighten up your vegetable plot !