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Companion Planting

Many plants, when grown next to each other, provide a benefit or improve the quality of the other plants around them. They may make the nearby plants grow bigger and stronger, improve their flavour, repel pests or attract beneficial bugs. Some plants provide shade for the others or help break up heavy soils with their root systems. Putting it simply, they are great neighbours to have.

Companion planting has been used for centuries to help gardeners control pests and diseases, improve the health of plants and to produce more abundant crops. However, over time, companion planting has become quite convoluted and confusing for gardeners but it needn’t be. There are five main styles of companion planting which can be used individually or combined and although doing them all is near on impossible, having a go at a few methods should yield great results.

This is probably the easiest of all methods since it is simply about the layout of the vegie patch. Instead of planting in lovely straight rows, the vegetables are mixed so that the insects are confused by the array of smells and foliage and have more difficulty finding the plants they prefer to lay their eggs on or eat. You can imagine how easy it would be for a white cabbage moth, for example, to find a patch full of leafy cabbages but if these were mixed amongst other vegetables and annuals, it makes their work harder and perhaps less likely that they would find and damage every cabbage in the garden.

Repellent plants are offensive to insects and help deter them from areas of the garden. Garlic and onions are terrific for this as their rancid smell fills the air on a warm day. Other insect repelling plants include:

Basil:     Aphids, fruit fly, white fly, and house flies, mosquitoes
Hyssop:   Cabbage moth
Chives:   Airborne & soil borne insects, aphids, crab apple
Dill:   White cabbage moth
Fennel:   Fleas
Lavender:   Flies, beetles, moths
Oregano:   White cabbage moth
Pennyroyal:   Flies, mosquitoes, fleas, ants, mice
Rosemary:   Cabbage moth, bean beetle carrot fly snails, slugs , mosquitoes
Sage:   Cabbage moth, carrot fly, flea beetle, slugs
Southernwood:  Cabbage moth, mosquitoes, flies, fruit flies
Summer Savory:   Bean beetles
Tansy:   Jap beetles, cucumber beetles, ants, flies, fleas, cutworms, cabbage worms, fruit moth
Thyme:   Cabbage worm
Catmint:   Ants
Catnip:   Flea beetle, ants
Coriander:   Aphids
Garlic:   Japanese beetle, aphids, peach leaf curl, apple scab, red spider mite, black spot
Marigolds:   Mexican beetle, nematodes, various insects
Mint:   White cabbage moth, caterpillars, aphids, flea beetles, mice
Nasturtium:   Squash bugs, pumpkin beetles, aphids, white fly
Wormwood:   Small animals, flea beetle, mosquitoes, mice, caterpillars, moths

Insect trapping plants lure insects away from other valued crops. Nasturtium is a terrific lure since it is very tough, grows in the back corner of the garden with little effort and is very attractive to whitefly, aphids and snails. Once there, these pests can be handpicked or sprayed with pesticide without affecting the vegetables in the garden. And since nasturtium dies down and then reseeds, any damage from these pests quickly disappears.

Comfrey and silverbeet are great traps for snails and slugs and because they are quite robust. The snails are simply collected and the damaged leaves removed and thrown into the compost. New leaves soon appear.

Some plants are very attractive to beneficial insects that are predatory or assist in pollination and they are terrific planted strategically in the vegetable patch or garden bed. Although ladybirds seem quite sweet, in actual fact they are vicious predators that eat up to 500 aphids a week. To encourage them into the garden, it is simply a matter of using as few pesticides as possible and planting lots of annuals with tiny flowers such as alyssum or dill. Hoverflies also prey on aphids and planting marigolds will help attract these good bugs into the garden.

Bees are essential for pollinating our vegetables and flowers and, with numbers on the decline, it is more important than ever for us to ensure that they have a healthy environment to thrive in. There are many plants that attract bees into the garden including lavender, thyme, cornflower, hyssop, rosemary, sage, catmint, oregano, sage and marjoram.

By combining plants that are compatible, the harvest ends up healthier or more flavourful. For example, peas and corn are often grown together as corn requires lots of nitrogen which peas are excellent at trapping in the soil. The peas also use the corn stem to climb over so that the pods don’t touch the ground. Garlic is supposed to make roses smell better and cabbages enjoy the shade provided by cucumber vines. The plants below enjoy each others company.

Basil: Tomato (Improves growth and flower)
Borage:  Tomatoes, squash, strawberries (Attracts bees, repels tomato worm, increases fruit)
Chamomile: Cabbage, onion
Chervil: Radishes (Increases growth and flavour)
Chives: Vegies, roses, apple trees. (Increases rose perfume. Discourages climbing insects)
Garlic: Roses (Makes their flowers smell better and repels aphids)
Hyssop: Cabbage, grapes
Mint: Cabbage, tomatoes
Nasturtium:  Radishes, cabbage, fruit trees
Pennyroyal: Roses
Rosemary: Cabbage, beans, carrots, sage
Sage: Cabbage, carrots, rosemary
Savory: Beans, onion
Tansy: Fruit trees, roses, grapes
Thyme: Cabbage
Dill: Carrots, tomatoes, celery
Onion: Carrot, beet, lettuce, Silverbeet (Scent masks the carrot scent and fools the carrot fly)
Oregano: Cabbages, cauliflowers, grapes
Parsley:  Chives, roses, tomatoes, carrots
Sunflowers: Squash, cucumbers (Provides shade)
Potatoes: Bush beans (Protect each other from beetle attack)
Radishes:  Carrots (Plant seed together. Harvest the radish first to loosen the soil for the carrots)
Tomatoes: Asparagus (The chemical in asparagus repels tomato pests)
Cucumbers: Cabbages (Cucumbers use cabbage leaves to shelter from the heat)
Pelargonium: Grapes

Plant thyme in the corners of the vegie garden or use carpeting thyme
along paths to attract bees to cross-pollinate.

Grow garlic randomly around the garden (except near strawberries, peas, beans & cabbages). It deters insects and improves the perfume of roses.
Plant in March and harvest in December.

Use marigolds as edging plants around the vegie garden as insects
don’t like the smell and they also deter nematodes.

Feverfew and southernwood have insect repellent properties. Plant them
throughout the garden but also near the chook pen or dog kennel.

Chamomile and yarrow help improve the vigour of the plants around them.
They are easily included in garden beds or vegie patches.

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