There are a number of ways to use companion plants to your advantage. You can space them throughout your garden, plant them as a boarder to protect the plants inside (like pest repelling marigolds) or use them as decoys to lure harmful insects away from other plants. If your garden space is limited, plant them in pots so you can move them as you need them.
Herbs with Repelling Personalities
Good repelling companions are often herbs. Garlic, for example, helps bush beans repel aphids. Catnip next to eggplants will repel flea beetles and chives under an apple tree will discourage apple scab. Strong smelling herbs that repel a variety of pests include anise, cilantro, dill, scented geranium, mint rosemary, sage and tansy.
Herbs as Enhancers
Some herbs improve the flavor of their companions. Borage is said to improve the taste of strawberries and basil and thyme improves the flavor of tomatoes. Other herbs simply enhance the growth of their companions, like chervil improves radishes and summer and winter savory boosts onions.
Herbs Families that Lure Beneficials
Daisy family: goldenrod, chamomile, coreopsis, marigold, sunflower, tansy and yarrow will attract beneficial insects like assassin bugs, honeybees, hover flies, lacewings, lady beetles and parasitic wasps to your garden.
Mint family: The aromatic foliage of catnip, bee balm, hyssop, lavender, sweet marjoram, oregano, sage and thyme lure honeybees, hover flies and parasitic wasps. When planting herbs in this family as companions, keep them in pots or they will take over your garden!
Carrot family: The umbrella shaped flower clusters on angelica, anise, caraway, dill and fennel all work to attract hover flies, lacewings, lady beetles and parasitic wasps.
Vegetables as Companions
Peas: Peas can be planted around tomato cages in early spring. As the weather allows, transplant the tomatoes. As the peas grow up the cage, they will protect young tomato plants from wind and keep them warmer. They'll also leave the soil nitrogen enriched before dying off.
Corn and Squash: These two vegetables love to grow together. Squash provides shade for the soil, which reduces weed growth. Their prickly stems help deter hungry rabbits and raccoons. Corn, meanwhile, provides shade for squash and lends itself as a natural climbing trellis.
Pole Beans and Corn: These also make good companions. The beans provide corn with nitrogen-enriched soil and the corn is happy to let the beans climb up its stalks.
It's good to note that while some plants enhance the growth and success of their companions, others can actually hinder it. Dill, for example, should be planted away from tomatoes, sage away from onions and garlic away from peas and beans. Although marigolds, sunflowers and wormwood enhance some plants, they hinder the growth of many. Once you decide on the types of plants you want to grow, consult with the many books and resources available to find out which plants make good companions for them.
© 2005 ThriftyFun
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com
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