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Gardening A-Z

Companion planting the secret behind successful gardens.


Learning which plants to grow together can greatly increase your success in the garden, whether you want to cut down on spraying or watering, attract bees or scare off the neighbour’s cat.

Awapuni gardening guru, Tod Palenski, says companion planting – the idea that certain plants can benefit others when planted next to, or close to one another – has been around for centuries and could be the making of your garden.

“With our current fixation on all things organic and environment-friendly, companion planting is really growing in popularity,” says Tod. “It’s easy to do and it can help reduce the number of chemicals used in your garden.”

Marigolds are a great example of a pest-deterring companion plant because they produce a strong smell which repels most insects. Their roots also contain a pesticidal chemical which kills nematodes (microscopic parasites living in the soil).

Tod says marigolds should be planted everywhere. Awapuni nurseries has a range of seedlings called Pop’n’Grow which make planting easier because each seedling has its own root cell, so you can separate and plant them without damaging their roots.

“Plant them amongst tomatoes and roses to deter aphids, and with potatoes and other root crops to protect them from nematodes. They’ll also keep white cabbage moths away from your brassicas,” he says. “And, if you plant them around your deck and barbecue area, they’ll deter flies and mosquitoes.”

Companion planting is about more than just repelling pests. Tod recommends planting basil with tomatoes.  The basil not only repels flying insects, but it can also help improve the growth and flavour of your tomatoes.

Companion planting can also be used to attract beneficial insects which are essential for cross-pollinating flowers and fruit trees.

“Zinnias are the perfect companion for brassicas, tomatoes and roses because they attract aphid-eating lady bugs. They also attract bees and butterflies, so they’ll help your garden pollinate.”

Zinnias are easy to grow, adaptable and quick flowering. Their bright, bold colours add instant charm to your garden and, Tod says, if you plant them now they’ll last well into autumn.

Companion planting can also be used to conserve moisture in your vegetable garden. Tod suggests planting squash vines beneath your corn and beans.

“They shade the ground and, in doing so, regulate the soil temperature and conserve soil moisture, sort of like a living mulch,” he says. “They also have small, prickly spines along their stems which can help deter rats and rabbits.”

For larger furry pests, Tod recommends planting rue, a small herb that you can plant around borders to keep cats and dogs off your garden beds.

“Cats and dogs dislike the smell of rue, so it’s great for discouraging them from digging and doing other things in your garden. However, it’s not a good companion for cucumbers, cabbage or herbs.”

When it comes to companion planting there is a lot to learn, but Tod says your first step should be to have a good look around your own garden to see what’s working and what isn’t. Chances are you’re doing some of the right things already.

“Treat yourself to a good book on the topic or spend some time on google. Your garden will reward you for your effort.”