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About Companion Gardening

Updated on March 9, 2010

What is Companion Gardening?

Companion gardening is the practice of planting two different types of plants together in the same garden space, allowing it to be utilized more productively. Plants that are attractive to garden pests draw them away from the main crop, or plants that repel garden pests may be used to protect it. They also can be used to create a beneficial habitat for garden predators that prey on garden pests, thus protecting all of the plants in the general vacinity. Although large scale crops can benefit from companion gardening concepts, they are more often used in smaller, home gardens.

  • Attractant plants offer an alternative food source for beneficial insects, as well as providing shelter and shade for them. Members of the carrot and daisy families are good attractants because they have many small flowers that provide nectar and pollen. Flowering plants can be intermixed among vegetables; encouraging beneficial insects which help protect food crops. Attractant plants include zinnias, dill, fennel, Queen Anne’s lace, yarrow, sunflowers, anise, coneflower and angelica.
  • Repellant plants put off odors or chemicals that kill or drive pests away, or they may that disguise the attractive scents and colors of vegetables that pests seek out. Many herbs, such as catnip, marjoram, basil, parsley, mint, rue, coriander, tansy and thyme act as repellants to vegetables planted nearby. Also, scented marigolds, when planted thickly and turned into the soil, repel underground pests.
  • Trap crops are plants that are so attractive to pests that they distract and lure pests away from nearby vegetables.  They can be planted near specific vegetables according to the pests that they attract, in order to target pests that are a problem. For example, nasturtiums attract aphids and flea beetles, while early squash plantings will draw pickleworms away from melons. Chervil attracts earwigs, dill or lovage are favorites of tomato hornworms and potatoes attract wireworms.
  • Certain combinations are beneficial for nutritional or environmental reasons. Garden space can be more efficiently utilized by planting deep rooted plants in the same space as shallow rooted ones, or tall crops may be planted for shorter, cool loving crops to provide shade. Cornstalks can provide shade for summer plantings of lettuce or sturdy support for climbing beans or peas. This arrangement is mutually beneficial because legumes fix nitrogen that would not ordinarily be available that the corn can benefit from, as well. Some plants, such as basil or tarragon are said to benefit anything that grows nearby.

 

 

Some combinations of plants should be avoided, as they can cause problems. Vegetables that are in the same family should not be planted near one another because they attract the same pests, and sun loving vegetables should not be planted with taller crops, such as broccoli or corn. Just as some plants repel pests, some plants also repel other plants. Sunflowers, rye and walnut trees secrete substances through their roots into the soil that can be toxic to other plants.

For a complete list of plants and their compatible and incompatible partners:

http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/complant.html

 

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      When I had a large garden in central Wisconsin I used some of these techniques like planting zinnias to attract the bugs and marigolds to repel them. Also made for a pretty garden with the intermingled flowers. Nice hub.

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