For every gardener, the battle with pests and weeds is a never-ending and exhausting process. Ditching the synthetic products and going organic definitely doesn’t make your job easier. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a healthy and thriving garden without the chemicals. Here is when companion planting comes in hand.
The technique is often incorporated in permaculture, together with mulching, changing crops and polyculture. There is a wide variety of systems and ideas using companion planting such as square foot gardening and forest garden. Companion planting turned out to be extremely useful in organic gardening because it excludes any synthetic products for pest control and weed reduction.
What is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is the idea of growing different crops in proximity for providing pest control and pollination and for attracting beneficial creatures. Furthermore, this technique allows using the garden space more effectively and increasing the crop productivity.
This is not a new concept, but it started gaining more popularity among the organic gardeners just recently. The history of companion planting can be traced back to China, where the mosquito ferns have been planted together with rice to protect the crop from other competing plants. In 1970, the practice was widely promoted during the organic gardening movement.
Types of Companion Planting
There are several companion planting categories depending on how they benefit the grower:
- Increased level interaction – plants are grown at different levels in the same space. For example, one crop serves as a trellis for another.
- Hedged investment – the practice of growing different crops in one place to increase the chances of getting some yield, even if one of the crops fails.
- Pest suppression – some companion plants produce chemicals that prohibit the pests and fungi from harming the crop.
- Protective shelter – one plant provides shade or a wind barrier for another.
- Positive hosting and predator recruitment – some companion plants produce pollen that may help increase the population of predatory insects that feed on the pests.
- Pattern disruption –pests tend to spread more easily in a monoculture garden. By surrounding the crop with companion plants the insects’ progress will be disrupted.
- Trap cropping –some plants are known for driving off the insects from other crops.
Basil makes a great companion plant for most garden crops, especially tomatoes and sweet peppers. The green herb not only improves the growth and flavour of its neighbours, but also repels a wide variety of insects such as aphids, mosquitoes and tomato hornworms. Be sure to keep basil away from rue.
Alliums (onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, chives and leek)
These plants are particularly beneficial for fruit trees and night shades like peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and carrots. Because of their strong scent, these crops repel all kinds of pests, including rabbits, slugs, aphids, carrot fly, cabbage maggots and worms. Avoid growing beans and peas around these plants.
Beans and other legumes
Since beans contribute to the nitrogen fixation of the soil, they prove very helpful in the garden. This plant goes well with crops such as beets, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, corn, kale, potatoes, radishes, strawberries and peas. Beans and legumes attract snails and slugs that help eliminate the Colorado potato beetle. To keep away the aphids from your beans, plant them together with marigolds. Avoid growing beans near onions, garlic and scallions.
Cabbage Family (cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts)
If you want to protect your delicious crops, plant dwarf zinnias near your cauliflower or broccoli. The plants from the cabbage family go well with aromatic herbs like hyssop and thyme, as well as with potatoes, onion, and beets. Celery helps repel the cabbage worms. Keep them away from strawberries and tomatoes.
Corn, beans and squash is one of the most popular companion planting combinations. The cornstalk serves as a support for the bean vines. On the other hand, the squash leaves work as living mulch and prevent the soil erosion and weed evolvement.
More tips on planting and gardening find at: http://citygarden.org.uk/soil-turfing-composting/