I was so excited this week to get past our last frost date in Chicago (May 15th), and start putting plants in the ground. I am an organic gardener, which means I don’t use any chemical pesticides to control pests. I rely on hand-picking for my Japanese beetles, and other such as companion planting. This year, I am a part of our township garden that supplies fresh produce to the local food pantry. Someone asked me “what is companion planting?”, and I thought it was a good question to answer here too if you weren’t familiar with it.
Companion planting is actually a very old , organic planting technique that uses the relationship between each plant to benefit the other for things like nutrient sharing, pest control, and either attracting beneficial insects, or repelling the bad guys away. I use companion planting through out my entire garden and most of my yard. I have some of my favorite companion planting books at the end of the post (with affiliate links), if you are interested in checking them out. I’ve learned the hard way that companion planting works.
For instance, raspberries can make potatoes and tomatoes more susceptible to blight. I lost an entire tomato crop that way. Before I plant anything now, I always check which plants harm and help the other. In this garden bed, potatoes and broccoli do well together.
Some of the most common companions are tomatoes,basil and rosemary. Those go great together,and taste good together too... but don’t plant tomatoes near corn because the same worm attacks both.
Cucumbers benefit from being planted near radishes as it deters pests. The same goes for asparagus and parsley together. Here’s a yummy way to cook asparagus.
Plant onions and garlic near lettuce to keep bugs away. Carrot and onions also go well together to to help keep carrot flies from doing too much damage.
Beans love being planted by corn,cabbage and broccoli. Broccoli keeps the pests away from the beans.
Marigolds are amazing plants to plant as companions to almost anything for pest control, like these monster ones I planted last year. As a thick border on the edge of a garden bed, they deter bunnies, and since many pests see them as stinky, they keep them away. They also add great annual color. I normally buy a few inexpensive trays from Walmart to get started, and then I seed the rest, and they fill in nicely over the summer.
While companion planting isn’t 100%, I have found as a home gardener it works close enough to keep the worst of the pests down, and what ever are left over I can use things like soapy water to take care of what’s left.
Planting flowers such as nasturtiums,sunflowers and borage attract good bugs that eat the bad guys, and support pollinators for a bigger crop harvest.
The best part is,if you are going to practice organic gardening, companion planting is a great guide to use when you are laying out a garden plan, and is helpful in deciding where everything should go. Here are a few of my favorite companion planting books. The links will take you right to Amazon. Have you tried companion planting before? What are your favorite combinations?