Companion Planting Techniques
Companion planting is the practice of using various plants to improve conditions in the garden. Some plants are excellent at deterring one or more pests, while others will improve soil conditions and improve nearby vegetables’ flavour. The goal is to have a diverse garden that mimics what we see in nature. Mono-crops have become the standard in farming in today’s world, which is very unhealthy for the soil, insects, and nearby wildlife.
Another important factor is to have a garden that is continuously in bloom throughout the season. This helps to attract a diverse amount of small pollinators to ensure your plants’ successful pollination.
Attract Pollinators and Predatory Insects
The nectar of flowers attracts various predator insects. They will ‘hang out’ around the flowers and feed on both the nectar and nearby insect pests. These insects act as the security guards of your garden and never harm your plants. Some of these predatory insects will lay eggs on your plants. The larvae that hatch from these eggs can be voracious predators of pests, such as aphids. The less diverse your garden is the bigger advantage for fruit and vegetable eating pests. You are essentially creating a haven for pests if you don’t consider ways to attract predator insects. Here is a short list of helpful insects that prey on many pests: Green lacewings, lady beetles, assassin bugs, praying mantis, ground beetles, hoverflies, and damsel bugs.
There are a large variety of herb seeds to choose from regarding companion plants.
- Basil: An annual herb that can be grown along with other larger plants such as tomatoes. Basil improves the flavour of tomatoes, and it will attract pollinating insects and predators. It has been used in companion planting with tomatoes for many centuries. Basil will also repel pests, such as whiteflies, mosquitoes, spider mites, aphids, and hornworms.
- Borage is an annual herb. It will repel the tomato hornworm and cabbage worm. It helps keep tomato plants healthy.
- Catnip: Although it may attract some cats to your garden, it is also a very effective pest repellent. It will repel mosquitoes, aphids, various beetles, cockroaches, and much more.
- French Marigold: is a must for companion planting; it will produce a strong chemical to deter pests, such as cucumber beetles and nematodes. Nematodes attack the root systems of plants. The chemical remains in the soil years after the plant is gone and can still effectively repel pests. They will repel whiteflies, some species of beetles, and nematodes.
- Mint: Mints are a perennial herb that repels mosquitoes, rodents, fleas, aphids, white cabbage moths, and ants.
- Oregano: Oregano is a wonderful herb to add to support and attract pollinators. This is the oregano used for “Oil of oregano” because its leaves are loaded with essential oil. Fresh leaves taste great in salads. In terms of companion planting, it will attract a large number of tiny pollinators and predator wasps. These pollinators don’t bother humans, and the tiny oregano flowers will attract literally hundreds of them.
- Thyme: Not only is thyme great as a culinary herb, but it is also excellent for companion planting and attracting pollinators.
- Wormwood: It is said to repel insect larvae, moths, fleas and ticks.
Some plants, such as clover, will help condition the soil enabling the surrounding plants to thrive. The most famous of these are legumes. Common legume varieties are alfalfa, beans, clover, peas, and soy. Legumes help affix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, and many vegetables need a good nitrogen source. Often people will grow beans with corn and squash. The beans provide the nitrogen for the corn, and the squash provides the shade for the soil.
Not all plants are beneficial to each other and will harm other plants. For example, corn can attract tomato fruit worms, and potatoes can make your tomato plants susceptible to blight fungus. Also, herbs such as coriander and dill release chemicals that are toxic to carrots.
Garden Pest Control
In conclusion, companion planting drastically improves the harvest and drastically reduces pest populations. One thing to note is that some herbs such as mint and oregano have a strong root system and will overcrowd and take over a garden very quickly. If planted with a buried 6” border around them, it will keep them in check and stop its spreading.
The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil.
All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space.