Why you should try companion planting in your garden
A natural and organic way to garden
A few years back, I decided to sow some nasturtium seeds. I loved the flowers, but I was told that they also act as a very good sacrificial plant.
The caterpillars loved them. They munched their way through my nasturtiums, which made me sad, but it did mean that my brassicas were safe.
This was my introduction to companion planting and it opened up many possibilities, in terms of gardening organically and using more environmentally sound methods.
Companion planting is the process of planting two plants together for their mutual benefit. The idea is that of creating a natural balance in the garden, between your crops and the pests, but also to encourage pollination.
Nasturtiums in particular are a wonder plant when it comes to pest control. They are so easy to grow and come in the brightest of colours for your summer garden, but they also have great pest management skills.
Plant them away from your beloved brassica crops, cucumbers and tomatoes to lure away the aphids, as they will prefer the nasturtiums every time. And not just your crops, it will work with your roses and lupins too.
And it’s not just aphids that are attracted to them, nasturtiums will draw in our prized pollinators and beneficial insects that will also have a munch on those pesky pests. An organic form of pest control.
Another popular pairing that many gardeners swear by is that of planting marigolds amongst tomatoes. Marigolds are a wonderful summer bedding plant that flower reliably all summer until the first frosts and they enjoy the same growing conditions as tomatoes.
But it is said that the distinctive fragrance of marigolds will deter whitefly and they are loved by ladybirds and hoverflies that also prey on aphids.
I've said it before, but borage is truly my super plant. It will attract a wealth of bees and butterflies, who do a brilliant job of pollinating our crops and flowers. But plant borage among your strawberry and tomato plants and it will improve their flavour and increase their yield.
This year, I have sown borage next to my strawberry plants and l can confirm that the strawberries have been delicious.
Another wondrous plant combination is planting basil with tomatoes. In the kitchen, these two go together brilliantly, but they also do well planted next to each other in the garden.
The strong scent of the basil will protect the tomatoes and deter pests. And as with borage, it has been said that pairing basil with tomato plants will improve their flavour and yield. And by letting your basil go to flower, this will attract the pollinators too. Win win.
Likewise the strong scent of mint plants will deter pests of carrots, tomatoes and brassicas, if planted nearby. However due to its vigorous growing nature, you may want to plant mint up into a pot to contain its spread. And continuing with herbs, the strong scent of thyme will confuse and repel blackfly on roses.
And speaking of roses, they love a good companion. Why not try underplanting your rose bushes with nepeta, salvia or lavender. They will not only improve the look of your rose and complement them well, but their scent will confuse the pests and deter them.
Nepeta, salvia and lavender are also pollinator magnets and will attract a vast array of bees, butterflies and hoverflies into your garden. Great for the pollinating jobs you have in your garden, but don’t forget that hoverfly larvae love to tuck into aphids, which in turn love to tuck into our own plants.
Many gardeners swear by these plant pairings every year and would not garden without them. It is a much more natural way of gardening, working with nature, instead of against it. And if it is a way to restore the natural order of things, then that is something worth shouting about.
So next year, why not plan your garden to include some of these wonderful companion plants. They will not only improve the yield and flavour of some of your crops, but their pest management skills are hard to beat, in terms of their organic and environmentally sound principles.
And if nothing else, you will see many more pollinators visiting your garden and that can only be a good thing.