Companion planting is a gardening practice where different plant species are grown together to mutually benefit each other. This practice has been used for centuries and has gained increasing popularity in recent years, particularly among organic gardeners. In this beginner’s guide to companion planting, we’ll explore what it is, its benefits, and some of the most popular companion plant combinations.
What is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is the practice of planting different crops close together for the purpose of enhancing the growth and productivity of each other. It’s based on the idea that some plants have chemical compounds that are beneficial to others when grown close by. This practice is an environmentally-friendly and sustainable way to garden because it minimizes the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals by promoting a natural balance in the garden.
The Benefits of Companion Planting
1. Pest Control
One of the biggest advantages of companion planting is pest control. Certain plant combinations repel harmful insects, while others attract beneficial insects that help reduce the number of pests. For example, planting marigolds alongside tomatoes can repel nematodes, a type of soil-borne insect that can damage tomato roots. Additionally, basil planted next to tomatoes can repel whiteflies and hornworms.
2. Improved Soil Fertility
Another advantage of companion planting is that it can improve soil fertility. Certain plants have the ability to break down soil nutrients that other plants can utilize. For instance, legumes like beans, peas and clover can fix nitrogen in the soil through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. This nitrogen is then made available to other plants grown nearby.
3. Increased Yields
Companion planting can also boost productivity by increasing yields. Certain plant combinations can stimulate growth and enhance the flavor of nearby plants. For example, plant garlic next to raspberries to increase their yields and improve their flavor.
Popular Companion Plant Combinations
1. Tomatoes and Basil
Tomatoes and basil are a classic example of companionship in the garden. Basil emits an aroma that repels pests like whiteflies and hornworms, while also enhancing the flavor of tomatoes.
2. Cucumbers and Radishes
Cucumbers and radishes are a great pairing because they both grow quickly and benefit each other. Radishes, when planted alongside cucumbers, repel cucumber beetles, while the cucumbers provide shade for the radishes and help keep the soil cool.
3. Carrots and Onions
Carrots and onions are another perfect combination. Onions help repel carrot flies, while carrots can help suppress weed growth when planted closely together.
Companion planting is a time-tested and proven gardening technique that brings many benefits to the garden. By utilizing the natural relationships of different plant species, gardeners are able to create a thriving and productive garden ecosystem that is both sustainable and eco-friendly. Whether you’re a beginner gardener or an experienced one, incorporating companion planting into your gardening strategy is an easy way to get the most out of your garden while promoting a natural balance.