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.
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.
Cucumbers like to be grown with plenty of different plants. They’re said to grow nicely with beans, corn, peas, sunflowers, lettuces and particularly radishes, which may repel cucumber beetle. Some say they don’t like growing next to potatoes but others say they do.
Tomaoes grow well with celery, parsley, carrots, chives and asparagus. But aren’t fans of rosemary, potatoes or fennel. And plant French marigolds (pictured) next to tomatoes to protect them from nematodes.
If you’re a household of carnivores then sage is a very handy herb to have in the garden. Its leaves compliment all sorts of meats including chicken, fish and pork. And its complimentary powers don’t just start in the kitchen. Sage is said to protect cabbage from cabbage-moth and carrots from carrot-fly. It’s also said to enhance the growth of both carrots and cabbage, and also strawberries and tomatoes.
Nasturtiums aren’t a favourite of all gardeners but they’re a great natural repellent against several pesky pests and in particular - aphids. These plant lice will be all over your garden at the moment and especially like the shoots on new roses. So if you want to try a natural repellent, plant orange coloured nasturtium around your roses.
They’re also said to repel woolly aphids which are fans of apple trees. And if you grow them in amongst your vege patch they may attract and distract insects which would normally first feast on your brassica plants like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale.
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.
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 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 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.
They virtually never attract pests or diseases and they grow well with parsley, because they like the same conditions. Chives are also said to prevent apple scab and ward off other insects from apple trees if planted near the base of the tree. And garlic chives are said to repel aphids from roses.
Plant it next to your roses to ward off aphids, beneath apple and peach trees to prevent apple scab and leaf-curl and next to your tomatoes to protect against red spider. Crush a few cloves, soak in a litre of water for a couple of days and use it as a spray to keep at bay ants, spiders, caterpillars and cabbage and tomato worms too.
Broad beans are considered a green manure. This means the bacteria on the roots of a broad bean plant turns nitrogen gas into forms that other plants can use – called nitrogen-fixing. Broad beans and potatoes like to be grown together because they each protect the other from pests. And broad beans also grow well next to spinach. But, don’t plant them next to onions!