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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.

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. 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).

Marigolds should be planted everywhere. 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. 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. I recommend 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, if you plant them now they’ll last well into autumn.

Companion planting can also be used to conserve moisture in your vegetable garden. I suggest 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. They also have small, prickly spines along their stems which can help deter rats and rabbits.

For larger furry pests, I 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 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.

FAQS


Rhubarb

According to some, digging rhubarb leaves in to the soil where you plan to plant your members of the brassica family (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage etc) might help prevent club root.

Leeks, celery, carrots, and spinach

Celery, carrots and spinach are the perfect companions for leeks. Grow your leeks and carrots in alternate rows to protect each other from insects. Place your spinach in amongst your leek seedlings to optimise the use of your space – the spinach will be ready to harvest before the leeks need the room. And add some celery next to all of the above, as it likes the same conditions and soil nutrition.

Basil

Planted in the garden or in pots on a windowsill, basil is said to repel aphids, house-fly, fruit-fly and whitefly. Although, some of our regular readers may remember the debate that ran in 2014 in several editions of Cultivated News where people said basil hadn’t helped them get rid of whitefly. It's also a topic of contention as to whether basil planted next to tomatoes will make your tomato fruit taste any better is debateable.

But they do taste great together in salads and on pizzas and bruschetta, so we think there's nothing to lose by growing them side-by-side and saving time when you come to harvest. And if you plant enough you may also repel the pesky whitefly and have plenty to mix up into a tasty pesto. And Awapuni stocks several varieties including basil bush, cinnamon, greek mini, lemon, mixed, red rubin and the regular sweet. Visit the online shop to see what's available or here for Tod’s tips on how to plant.

Lavender

Lavender is the perfect companion to any garden – particularly any with fruit trees, flowers or vegetables like zucchini and cucumbers that can benefit from a bit of cross-pollination from bees. Their fantastic blue colouring will attract bees and they provide a lovely scent.

Radishes and lettuce

Radishes like to be planted next to lettuces because of the lettuce’s ability to control flea beetle.

Marigold

Marigold can set up a barrier around your vege garden, in particular your lettuces, against insects and bugs that don't like the smell of marigold.