As a vegetable and herb grower; plus wanting to actually enjoy everything I've grown, I have found companion planting to be one of the most important strategies to incorporate into the planning of all my gardens. I strive to have a beautiful nontraditional garden yard with brilliant displays of focal point corn and mullein reaching to the sky, all the while protecting and being protected form their own plant friends. My tomatoes with their display of juicy plump goodness and the nasturtium that's trailed its way through it....I'm serious. All of this in the front yard too! Really though, plants' themselves can offer protection from pests and diseases, can help build the soil, control weeds and even improve the growth and flavor of their neighbors. One could easily pull this off in any style of garden from a messy cottage (which I like) to an elaborate formal masterpiece.
By mixing your plantings you have a better chance for insect control than with the traditional row vegetable gardens that we're so used to seeing. In a monoculture environment plants become vulnerable as they have no assisting plants to protect them. This is why we see such high pesticide use in our farm fields. Take a look at how plants grow in the wild; they don't grow in perfect little rows all exposed, and neither should yours. By companion planting you can completely disregard the need for pesticides.
I'm a firm believer that wild plants, herbs, and even ornamental's play a vital role in the plant community. Some plants have the ability to bring valuable trace minerals from deep within the soil up to the surface. Look to the common dandelion for this, as these deep diggers send their roots into the ground and actually penetrate the hardpan and condition the soil. Some can work as valuable herbicides and fungicides by putting off smells that deter pests, others attract or lure pests keeping them off the plants we value, and some just contribute to successful growth.
I love to plant calendula and nasturtium everywhere since they are known to help with beetles, tomato worms, squash bugs, whiteflies, aphids, nematodes and other harmful insects. Onions and all Alliums are another favorite of mine that are scattered throughout the garden as they provide protection from moles, cabbage butterflies, tree bores, mildew, black spots, aphids and many other pests....not to mention that they're winter hardy and their flowers are spectacular.
Plant tansy with roses, raspberries, potatoes and squash because it is a deterrent to beetles, squash bugs, flies and ants.
Sage and rosemary are worth growing as companion plants; they discourage slugs, beetles, cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies.
Parsley is a good "lure plant". It invigorates the growth of roses, tomatoes, and asparagus while repelling beetles, flies, and aphids.
Basil contains camphor, which confuses and repels hornworms and other munching insects. Also improves flavor of tomatoes, onions and peppers.
Feverfew contains pyrethrum, so plant several as "lure plants" near flowers and veggies because it will attract and kill feasting aphids.
Hyssop, thyme and wormwood are good companions with the Brassicas as they help repel the white cabbage butterfly.
Lovage is known to improve the overall health and flavor of many plants.
Stinging Nettle helps neighboring plants be more insect-resistant. Helps with lice, slugs, snails, strengthens growth of tomatoes and mint, protects fruit from mold, and important in the compost pile.
I wish I could go on forever but there are many useful websites and books out there all about companion planting. Mix and match your borders with herbs, vegetables, and ornamentals, and you'll be surprised by how many fewer aphids are sucking the life out of your brussel spouts and mint....I'm serious.
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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Jessica Morgan, M. H., Morgan Botanicals.
Disclaimer - The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should not use the information in this article for self-diagnosis or to replace any prescriptive medication. You should consult with a health care professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem, suffer from allergies, are pregnant or nursing.
Jessica Morgan, M.H.