Everyone loves to have a companion, even plants, which in reality are living, breathing organisms, aren’t they?
Companion Planting has been around since the ancient Romans, so it’s not something new, but a gardening theory which has been tested and works for thousands of us home gardeners.
For plants and the gardener, companion planting means starting with a sketch plan of the garden and considering which plants should reside in which garden bed. A good plan will reduce adverse reactions to plants ending up in neighbourhoods that they cannot relate to, preventing the neighbourly relationship turning antagonistic and rather than having successful returns from your garden; it will turn into a battlefield of failures. It is very similar to humans when we are finding accommodation, we will pick the suburb, where we believe that we will be happy residing. In the plant world, we humans have to give some assistance in this area by proper planning.
Plants want to be in a neighbourhood where they get the positive vibes so that they – the plant – grow to fulfil their true potential. Companion planting in the plant neighbourhood is about helping each other out and keeping the undesirables out by deterring insect pests ruining your carefully tended plants before you get the chance to enjoy them.
Some of the beneficial reasons to consider companion planting when planning the garden:
Not all is love and happiness in the garden. A friend of mine is always complaining about aphids, well a way of reducing aphids is to plant marigolds, aphids hate marigolds, and basil is said to repel flies and mosquitoes. Both marigolds and basil are good companions of the tomato.
Consider the garden pollinators when planting in your garden. Consider plants that attract bees and butterflies, which in return will bring in more pollinators, the benefit to you the gardener will be a better return on your harvest. Where there are more food sources and the right type of plants, the more beneficial insects will spend in your garden, just like humans spending time at the local shopping mall.
Annual flowers that attract bees to the garden are calendula, marigold and nasturtiums. Vegetable plants that attract bees are Cucumbers, Pumpkin, Courgette, as well as herbs like Coriander, Rosemary and Thyme. While Marigolds also attract butterflies as do Dianthus – Sweet William, Lilac, Verbena, and White Alyssum.
Planting some types of companion plants next to each other also helps with flavour improvements. Examples are Dill and Tarragon help to improve the flavour of cabbages, and Parsley is said to enhance the flavour of Asparagus and Tomato.
Filling the garden
Fill your garden with plants. Plant the lower growing plants under the taller growing plants. Consider how to mix vining plants with taller and smaller plants. With companion plants, consider your slow and quick-growing plants, plant them between each other. Radishes are good companions between slower growing plants.
But also consider the bad neighbours too.
Bad neighbours that reduce growth are Carrots who don’t get on well with Dill or Celery. Celery also doesn’t get on well with Parsnip or Potatoes. Beetroot and Tomatoes don’t like being in the same neighbourhood and Tomatoes are unhappy being around Fennel and Rosemary.
If companion gardening is not working for you, experiment and test different plants out and see what happens, you will have both successes and failures, but most of all you will have learning.
For more on companion garden and good and bad neighbours try to read the article on Sustainable Gardening Australia.