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What Is Companion Planting?

Updated on July 27, 2017

Companion Planting Defined

What is companion planting? Companion planting is defined as an organic gardening practice in which two different types of plants are grown in close proximity and confer benefits upon one another, resulting in a healthier yield. In other words, you plant two different things next to each other, and each helps the other. How they help one another varies. Some plants trap or repel insects that harm their companion. Others replace lost nutrients in the soil. Companion planting has been used by gardeners for centuries, and its origins are lost in the history of agriculture. In modern times, scientists have begun testing companion planting theories and have discovered that many of the old wives' tales surrounding companion planting are based in fact.

After being interview for a gardening magazine last month (I am the author of a gardening book called Get Your Hands Dirty - A Beginner's Guide to Gardening) and stumped by a question about companion planting, I decided to research it more for my own article. I realized after researching the topic that I actually use many of the companion planting tips but I didn't know they were called companion planting! Isn't that just like gardening? A lot of what I know about gardening was passed to me by my father, my older sister, and my next door neighbor, three people who loved to grow vegetables, flowers, and houseplants. Each taught me something different and taught me from their own personal storehouse of knowledge. Like the farmers of old, I learned to plant marigolds around tomatoes to keep bugs away from my dad and my next door neighbor, but I didn't know that this was companion planting.

There are many benefits of organic gardening and benefits of using companion planting methods. Like most gardening practices, however, you'll figure out what works best in your garden through applying each idea systematically and noting your results.

Companion Planting Chart

Below is a basic companion planting chart, listing just a few of the plants to group together for benefits. Use the links at the end of the article to learn more. There are many, many combinations of flowers, vegetables and herbs that provide benefits to one another - and even some weeds that provide benefits! The chart below, however, provides simple and basic combinations that beginning organic gardeners can try.

Companion Planting Chart

Plant this...
With this...
To do this...
Alliums (onions, garlic)
Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli
Repel slugs, aphids and other insects
Corn, spinach, lettuce, carrots, strawberries, cucumbers
Replenishes nitrogen in the soil
Lettuce, onions
Compost beet leaves to add magnesium to soil.
Repels pest insects
Carrots help tomatoes grow better, but the carrots may be smaller.
Marigolds deter many insects
Mint repels slugs
Peppers need moisture, and basil grows densely enough to provide shady, moist soil near roots
Repels tomato hornworm

Companion Planting Is a Complex Subject

Companion planting is quite a complex subject. The chart above provides some simple, basic, starter advice for anyone just beginning to explore companion planting. You can use companion plants in a small organic garden or on a larger scale. Many herbs and flowers such as geraniums and marigolds repel insects, while certain plants such as nasturtiums are often planted near crops to attract and trap various insects, luring them away from other more valuable plants. Try a few companion plants in your gardening plans and see if it makes a difference. You'll certainly add variety to the garden!

© 2011 Jeanne Grunert


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    • Jojosi profile image

      Gillian Namele 5 years ago from Complicated

      It is true. I have also used this method for a long time, but I didn't know it had a name. I have founnd the chart useful as well. Thank you for the info.

    • aquaponics4you profile image

      aquaponics4you 6 years ago from India

      You really changed my mindset thanks

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 6 years ago from USA

      Great advice and such helpful charts! I voted this up:)

    • Art byT Print profile image

      Art byT Print 6 years ago from Earth

      Thanks! This is very interesting & the chart is very useful.

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 6 years ago

      Useful information in this page, I use companion planting and it does work. I believe that the marigolds are helpful on my vegetable plot in keeping pest off the nearby crops. The companion list will be useful when people are planning what to plant.