Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Best Buddies: Notes on Companion Planting

Tomatoes and basil play well together in the garden as well as on bruschetta
Companion planting is the idea that certain crops can help each other by repelling pests or enriching the soil for each other. And some plants really don't play well with others. After a few years of playing around, I've noticed this concept isn't just a new-age, hippy-dippy fantasy. In fact, the practice of planting corn, beans, and squash together was developed centuries ago by Native Americans, who called them the Three Sisters… and it turns out that this particular threesome is validated by science as well as tradition.

And so I will share with you a list of companion planting ideas to try in your own garden. Not all of these are backed by research studies, though, and I can't personally vouch for every single pairing… but in my experience, mixing things up a little bit not only makes for a prettier garden, it really does help your plants grow stronger and better.

Basil gets along with everyone, but I like to mix it in with my tomato plants (as my husband said: "your one-stop bruschetta stop")

Beans like root veggies (carrots, potatoes, beets) and the brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower), but they don't like the alliums (garlic, onion, leeks).  Pole beans (a member of the aforementioned Three Sisters) like to clamber up cornstalks.

Beets like the brassicas and alliums, but not beans.

Borage is rumored to repel tomato worms.

The brassicas (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale) do not play well with strawberries. Certain flowers will help repel their pests, like calendula/marigolds (they have natural pyrethrums, which bugs hate) and nasturtiums. They like herbs too, such as chamomile, dill, mint, rosemary, sage, and thyme (which deters cabbage moths).

Carrots like onions, which repel carrot flies.

Corn likes beans and curcurbits (melons, cucumbers, and squashes).

Cucumbers like beans, corn, and sunflowers (a natural trellis!). Radishes can repel cucumber beetles. But cukes are not good around potatoes.

Eggplants, being a member of the nightshade family, like to hang out with other nightshades like peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Garlic can help keep aphids away from tomatoes.

Lettuce like to live with the root veggies like carrots and radishes, as well as strawberries… but it does not like the brassicas.

Oregano deters many garden pests.

Peppers like to be around basil, carrots, parsley, and tomatoes. But they are not friends with fennel.

Potatoes like basil (which deters potato beetles), beans, and brassicas, but does not grow so well with  melons, squash, tomatoes, or sunflowers. Marigolds might help deter nematodes.

Radishes are good with cucurbits like cucumbers and melons, as well as other root crops like carrots. If you like spicy radishes, plant some chervil with them.

Rosemary like to hang out with most things, and is a good pest repellant.

Sage is another good all-around pest deterrent, especially for the brassicas and nightshades (tomatoes, peppers), but does not do well with cucumbers.

Spinach is a good neighbor with most plants, especially brassicas, nightshades, and strawberries.

Strawberries are good with beans, lettuce, and spinach, but are not friends of the brassicas.

Sunflowers like the cucurbits (cucumbers, melons) but not nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers).

Tomatoes play nicely with basil (big surprise!), brassicas, carrots, alliums, rosemary and sage, but should not be planted near potatoes.

Did I leave something out? Add your experience in the comments!

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