Companion planting is little more than a general notion that certain plants can benefit others when planted in near proximity.
It is literally defined as the establishment of two or more plant species in close proximity so that some cultural benefit (pest control, higher yield, etc.) is derived. Scientifically speaking, companion planting embraces a number of strategies that increase the biodiversity of agricultural ecosystems (or what I typically call a garden). In layman’s terms, though, it is just about two plants helping each other out somehow.
While companion planting has a long history, the mechanisms of beneficial plant interaction have not always been well understood. In most cases they are formed out of oral tradition, family secrets, and front porch recommendations. Despite historical observation and horticultural science, companion planting is practiced because they are functional methods of planting that allow veggies and herbs to grow at their maximum potential. They keep bugs away. They keep the soil healthy. And they make the food taste better.
To jump start your companion planting this year, try these ten popular companion planting suggestions.
– Beans work with everything. Plant them next to tomatoes or spinach. They are hardy veggies and can live individually or in community.
– Put a little horseradish near your potatoes to increase the disease resistance.
– Summer cornfields can quickly be converted to pumpkin fields.
– Pumpkins have traditionally been grown together with corn and pole beans by the Native Americans. This method is called the “three sisters” and is beneficial for all of them: the corn provides a good pole for the beans to grow up, the beans trap nitrogen in the soil which benefits the pumpkins, and the pumpkins provide a dense foliage and ground cover to suppress weeds and keep pests at bay.
– Pumpkins work well as a row crop planted in close proximity to sunflowers, also a row crop.
– Plant healthy nasturtium near your squash to help ward off squash vine borers.
– Use sweet marjoram in your beds and gardens to sweeten the taste of vegetables and herbs.
EXTRA CREDIT: Liberally place bay leaf in any container you keep seed in to ward off weevils and moths.
Share your experience of companion planting here.