In planning and planting my yearly vegetable garden, I strive to include companion planting among each vegetable bed.
What is companion planting?
Companion planting is the process of closely planting crops that either protect each other from pests, enhance growth or improve flavour.
A well-known example of companion planting is tomatoes with basil. Plant 2 to 3 basil plants per tomato plant and the basil will help to improve the flavour of your tomatoes. If anything, basil takes up very little space and is a convenient herb to plant among tomatoes. It makes for an easy harvest and basil will improve the flavour of your tomato sauce.
Another well-known Native American companion planting technique is the “Three Sister’s Method”. The three sisters referred to are corn, beans and squash. The corn is the support and will grow vertically. The beans will twine around the corn, not requiring any staking. The squash or pumpkins will sprawl across the soil, acting as a living mulch, thereby protecting the soil from weeds and moisture loss. In addition, the prickly leaves of the squash will deter raccoons and other pests from walking across it and eating the corn.
There are many other companions, ones that work well together and ones that don’t.
An example of one that shouldn’t be planted together is dill and fennel. Dill and fennel are of the same plant family, Apiaceae. Fennel is an herb with a very strong aroma. When dill is planted next to fennel, it takes on the smell of its neighbour. In addition, since both are of the same plant family, their seeds will cross pollinate. If you’d like to save seeds from dill, those seeds may produce fennel plants, or a cross of the two.
Some other benefits of companion planting
Here are the benefits:
- The right companion plant will act as a “host” plant, detracting pests away from the main crop. For example, nasturtiums planted among beans will act as a trap crop for aphids, keeping them away from the bean plants.
- Certain pests and predators will stay away from specific plants due to a dislike of their odour, taste, etc.
- Some plants will provide structural support for companion plants, such as the corn in the “Three Sisters Method”.
- Tall, leafy or bushy plants will provide shade for leafy greens. For example, sunflowers will provide the much needed shade to lettuces and other leafy greens, during the heat of summer, with their large leaves and tall flower stalks.
- Pollinator-friendly flowers planted next to vegetable crops will attract beneficial insects and help with pollination. For example, nasturtiums and marigolds planted next to squash and zucchini plants will attract pollinators, thereby assisting with pollination.
For a list of other companion plants, I have prepared a Companion Planting Chart. I will be adding to this list in future and as I learn and discover new companions in the garden. To download a copy of this chart, please click on the link, enter your email address and it will be sent right to your inbox.
If I’ve missed any companion plants, that you have found to be true, I’d love to hear about them! Please leave me a comment below or send me a message. I’d love to hear from you!