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Companion Planting

Companion planting is a highly effective strategy of growing two or more plants near each other to improve outcomes generated by the interaction of those plants. Companion gardening has been a part of history since humans first embraced an agricultural lifestyle, as our earliest ancestors quickly realized the value of certain plant pairings and shared that information with others. One famous example is the use of the three sisters by some Native American groups, which combined different varieties of climbing beans, maize (corn), and squash. When done correctly, companion planting can reduce the need for herbicides, insecticides, and even fertilizer. It can let you make the most out of small plots and improve your garden’s yield. In some cases, it reduces soil erosion by improving ground cover and even improves soil quality.

Border plants

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In addition to being a beautiful way to frame your garden, some flowering plants do well grown on the borders of your garden or of individual plots. Most of these will help repel most insect pests, while many will also attract bees and other helpful pollinators. Plus, they add a bright splash of color to your vegetable garden.

Catnip, coreopsis, cosmos, henbit, and marigold all repel a variety of insects. Marigold does well next to asparagus, melons, beans, tomatoes, and eggplants, while catnip is especially helpful to collards. Marigold is often also credited with repelling deer and rabbits due to its bitter flavor and sharp fragrance, and while it isn’t their first choice for grazing, horticultural experts note that these flowers are not particularly effective in keeping away these pests as they will just step over or around them to get at the more succulent plants inside the area.

Dwarf zinnias, bachelor buttons, sweet alyssum, borage, golden marguerite, and members of the mint family, on the other hand, attract predator bugs like ladybugs and lacewings, which will gobble up many common garden pests. Dwarf zinnias pair especially well with cauliflower. Sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons both attract flower flies, which eat aphids. Mint pairs best with cabbage or tomatoes, since it also repels many pests specific to them.

Best Buds

When planning your main garden area, there are a wide variety of companion plants to consider. General principles of selecting companion plants include pairing tall plants and shade-loving herbs, flowers or crops, or mixing nitrogen fixers (like beans, peas, and clover) with heavy feeders, as well as any plant that repel pests from their companions, plants that act as insect traps by being more attractive than their companions, plants with shallow roots growing near plants with deep roots, et cetera.

Sweet corn, beans, and gourds: the beans fix nitrogen for the corn and gourds (often squash), while the beans and corn repel squash vine borers, and the squash suppresses weeds and discourages pests like raccoons, particularly if using a heritage prickly squash variety.

via Rodale’s Organic Life

Garlic and roses: garlic repels several common rose pests, especially aphids, ants, and snails. Garlic might also help with reducing fungal diseases such as blackspot. If you use insecticides on the roses, though, you cannot use the garlic for cooking.

via Rodale’s Organic Life

Peppers and pigweed or ragweed: pigweed and ragweed will both draw away leafminers from pepper plants. Remove the flowers from the pigweed or ragweed before they set seed.

via Rodale’s Organic Life

Cabbages and dill: plants in the cabbage family (including brussel sprouts and broccoli) work well together with dill. The cabbage provides support to the dill plants, while the dill attracts tiny wasps that control common pests specific to the cabbage family.

via Rodale’s Organic Life

Lettuces and tall flowers: tall plants like the cup plant or nicotiana provide leafy greens like lettuce and spinach the shade they need to thrive.

via Rodale’s Organic Life

Radishes and spinach: the radishes will draw leafminers away from the spinach leaves. Any damage the leafminers do to the radishes won’t damage the underground bulb.

via Rodale’s Organic Life

Beans and carrots, cabbages, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, or rosemary: beans fix nitrogen, providing vital nutrients to the plants they’re paired with. Avoid planting beans with leeks, garlic, shallots, or chives.

Pole beans and corn, summer savory, or radishes: Avoid planting pole beans with onions, beets, kohlrabi, or sunflowers. Pole beans will also create a lot of shade due to their broad leaves, so take care that nearby plants are shade-tolerant.

Bush beans and Irish potatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, celery, or summer savory: Avoid planting bush beans with onions or garlic.

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