Companion Planting

What is companion planting?

Some plants grow better, or even best, when they have a friend to help them through (don’t we all). On the flip side, plants may also have enemies that may hinder each other’s growth. Having a diverse mix of plants in a garden reduces the likelihood of disease spreading. Some plants even help to deter garden pests.

Put simply, companion planting means to plant in a way that will encourage happy relationships between plants.

A common example of companion planting is “Three Sisters Planting” involving corn, beans, and squash. Beans, like all legumes, fix nitrogen in the soil, providing the much needed nutrient for the growing corn. The corn stalks provide support for the beans, and the spreading leaves of the squash shade out most weeds from growing.

There are quite a few plants that expert gardeners and scientists have found to benefit each other. The trick is to do a little research, then try to make up the best situation possible. For a quick reference of good and bad companions, check out the chart at the bottom of this page, made by Yard Surfer.

Tomatoes and basil make great companions because they deter pests and are even said to enhance flavor.

What are the benefits of
companion planting?

Aiding in nutrient uptake

Deterring pests

Providing structural support

Improving taste

Help fight disease

Protect from frost or sun

The reasons behind most of these benefits can get pretty scientific. A lot of chemicals and nutrients interacting with each other. We have some green thumbs, but are definitely not experts on the subject. If you wish to know more about the science behind companion planting, check out this article from the pros.

The main reason to incorporate companion planting into the garden is because it has so many benefits, with very few costs. Really, the only additional cost is the time that it takes to plan and plant. But what may take a bit of extra time early on could save time later on, and reduce the amount of crops lost to pest or disease.

Depending on the pair, plants may receive different benefits from each other. Sunflowers can provide shade and structural support for growing cucumbers. Rosemary helps deter pests away from carrots and tomatoes.

tomatoessBut be cautious when planting, some plants may actually make an area worse for neighboring plants. Growing tomatoes and corn together may attract Helicoverpa zea (the tomato fruitworm/corn earworm). Tomatoes also don’t grow well with potatoes, because they may be attacked by the same blight, Phytophthora infestans.

Now, I bet you’re wondering…How do I start?!

  1. Do a bit of research.
    This maybe not the most exciting part of gardening for some of us, but planning is important. Especially when incorporating companion planting into your garden, things tend to work out best when you have a plan.
    Before you plant, maybe ask yourself…What do I want to plant?
    Do some plants get along? Are there plants do not get along?
    Where do I want to plant? How should I arrange things?

    Bright orange and yellow calendula flowers

    These bright orange and yellow calendula flowers help deter pests away from different fruits and vegetables.

  2. Plant!
    It really is that simple. And planting is definitely one of our favorite parts of gardening. We really enjoy getting into the soil and preparing for the future harvest.When planting, it is usually best to try and plant the companions at the same time. This way, they are able to grow together. At times this may not be possible, and that is fine too. If you already have plants established, try adding some flowers or herbs between the plants. Marigolds are beneficial for several plants, including beans, eggplant, Irish potatoes, and tomatoes. Marigolds give off a chemical that repels nematodes and other pests.Don’t worry if things get a little crowded. A full garden bed looks nice, and helps reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation through the soil. Companion planting works great with container gardening. Since the plants that get along can be in the same pot, and those that don’t can be separated. This tiered planter is great for plants that you want grown together.

Now that you see how easy companion planting is, there is hardly a reason not to incorporate it into your garden! If you have any questions or comments, please contact us!

Here is this awesome companion planting cheat sheet from Yard Surfer!