Life is better in good company. The plant world in no different. Companion planting pairs two or more plants together to promote their growth and survival. Plants simply help each other by providing one another with various benefits. Some plants repel pests, attract beneficial pollinating insects, or provide shade for shade loving plants.
Strong Scents Repel Garden Pests
Humans aren’t the only ones bothered by odors. Insects will also avoid eating in an area where an unpleasant smell is present. A lot of very popular anti inflammatory herbs are very aromatic to people but have the opposite effect on pests. For instance, basil and marigolds can be planted around tomato plants to deter the tomato hornworm, which dislikes the scent of both plants. A strong smelling plant can also be used to mask the scent of another plant. Planting onions and leeks around carrots will mask their scent and prevent carrot root flies from finding them. Herbs in the mint family are also a great choice for companion planting.
Sacrificial Garden Distractions
Insects can be tricked from eating your prized vegetables by providing them with other plants to eat. For instance, while cucumber beetles will feast upon cucumbers and squashes, they would much rather eat radishes. Planting radishes throughout your cucumber and squash beds can prevent your cucumbers and squash from becoming a prime target for these beetles. Similarly, planting collards around cabbage will help lure the diamond back moth.
Beneficial Bugs Can Help
While many gardeners associate insects with damage to their plants, there are many insects which are beneficial to have around. Planters full of brightly colored flowers will help to attract bees and ladybugs to your container garden. Cosmos, lavender and echinacea are all excellent companion planting choices. Companion planting dill around cabbage will help attract a parasitic wasp to your garden and help you get rid of cabbage-worms and caterpillars.
Plant Variety Helps Too
Planting a large quantity of a single plant in one location increases the chance that garden pests will find your plants. Companion planting a variety of plants in your container garden will make your plants harder for insects to identify and attack. In addition, a container garden full of different plants also provides a rainbow of color, texture, and aromas to your patio or balcony garden hideaway.
Companion Planting Symbiosis
Properly paired plants can create a more welcoming habitat. Parasitic nematodes can be a problem for gardeners as they attack plants and spread disease. French and African marigolds can be companion planted in garden beds with past nematode problems because they emit a substance from their roots that causes nematodes to leave the area. Tall sun loving plants can also provide habitat for low growing, shade loving plants, such as planting peas and beans alongside spinach.
Not all companion planting pairs are created equal. Some plants, such as pole beans and beets, can inhibit the growth of other plants when planted near one another. Dill attracts tomato hornworm and should be planted far from tomatoes.
There are lots of proven companion planting options. Research a few new companion plants for your next container garden and see the difference for yourself! Your urban garden oasis is sure to benefit from a little planning.