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What is companion planting?

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.

Old headboard used as a garden bed and potatoes and broccoli for companion planting

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, or you can visit my Amazon store filled with some if my favorite gardening tools and supplies.

Garden view

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.

Fall garden raspberry bushes

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.

Lettuce and onions make a good pair for companion planting

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.

Use bamboo poles for green bean and pean support

Beans love being planted by corn,cabbage and broccoli. Broccoli keeps the pests away from the beans.

Companion planting corn and beans together

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.

Using companion planting to plant flowers, veggies and fruits together

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.

heirloom sunflower seeds

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?


Companion planting pairs for pest control. What is companion planting and how does it work?




  1. I have Soil Mates and love how it is written 🙂
    It makes a great gift paired with some garden hand tools and seed packets 🙂

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