Nature in all her glory has a magnificent system of plants, animals, insects and other organisms that work together to create a healthy ecosystem with limited waste. Companion planting enables gardeners to enjoy similar benefits by giving nature the tools she needs to get the job done. Different plants have natural substances in their roots, flowers, etc. that attract beneficial insects or repel pests, enhance growth or improve flavor, and/or encourages healthy symbiotic relationships. This means that it is an integral part of polyculture that supports the use of integrated pest management.
There are many reasons why you may want to try companion planting out. There could be pests to deal with, a limited amount of space, a desire for a more balanced garden ecosystem or even to make your other plants a little more comfortable. Regardless of the reasoning, a little planning can go a long when designing a garden’s layout.
Herbs are a great way to start out with companion planting as they are easy to grow and beneficial not only to our nature friends, but taste buds, too.
Here is a basic guide for several popular herbs:
Borage: a good companion for most plants as it is said to improve disease resistance. It is particularly beneficial for tomatoes, squash and strawberries. Its attractive purple flowers attract pollinators and its foliage is rich in nutrients.
Dill: a best friend of cabbage and lettuce that also grows well with corn and cucumbers. Dill should not be planted near carrots, tomatoes or lavender. The flowering heads attract many beneficial insects.
Lemon balm: the leaves of lemon balm contain citronella properties which makes it ideal as a pest deterrent. Plant it throughout the garden to serve as a living pest repellent or sprinkle its leaves throughout the garden to enjoy its beneficial pest discouraging qualities.
* Lovage can get very large (mine is about 5.5 feet/160 cm tall), so be careful to plant it where it will not shade or over-crowd other plants.
* Please note, mint can be invasive. Try planting it in pots around the garden or using cuttings as mulch in order to gain its beneficial effects, rather than planting it directly in the ground.
Oregano: a good all-around herb that is particularly beneficial to cabbage and grapes. When planted near broccoli and cauliflower it repels the white cabbage moth. Planted near cucumber, it repels the cucumber beetle.
Parsley: beneficial to asparagus, tomatoes, chives, carrots and roses. When allowed to flower, parsley attracts hoverflies and parasitic wasps. Mint and parsley are enemies. Do not plant them together.
Sage: its strong aroma deters several pests including cabbage moths, beetles, black flea beetles and carrot flies. It is particularly beneficial for cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and rosemary. When allowed to flower, the attractive blossoms attract a wide variety of beneficial insects. Do not plant near cucumbers, onion or rue. (click here for growing instructions)
Thyme: very easy to grow and good throughout the garden. Deters cabbage worms and makes excellent ground cover.