Companion planting benefits both you and your plants in many different ways. You don’t need to be on your own personal homestead to start this journey, either!
First, let’s define companion gardening. Companion gardening is planting plants in close proximity to one another so they can benefit from each other.
In this article, we are diving into the top 5 reasons to start companion gardening and some beginner basics to get you started.
Top 5 Benefits of Companion Planting
Companion planting offers smaller and more delicate plants a form of protection from sun, wind, and different weather conditions.
Sunflowers offer fantastic shade for lettuce and other salad greens since these plants prefer filtered light.
On the opposing side, planting amaranths next to young corn plants helps keep the soil moist with shading from their large leaves, assisting the corn by letting their roots run deep into the ground.
Providing shelter for your plants is so much more than just a bit of shade, during the heat of summer months, a lot of plants need a break from the sun. By providing extra shelter with other plants, you are lowering the amount of moisture that is lost from the plant’s leaves and the top layer of soil.
Did you know instead of buying pricey trellises and arbors, you can use plants instead?
The best way to get all the benefits of support is to plant beans or peas next to corn crops. These vining and climbing vegetables will use the corn stalks as an all-natural support system. This extra air flow also helps with preventing any plant disease.
Better yet, once the beans and peas die off for the season, they create more soil nutrients for the corn. You get an organic support system for these plants and a natural fertilizer all in one.
Giving plants extra support aids in keeping their fruits off the ground, which prevents rot and pests like slugs from getting to the crops.
Get a Higher Yield and Healthier Plants
Companion planting is proven to aid in better harvests and overall better plant health. But why? In short, the answer is diversity.
Herbs do an excellent job when mixed with vegetable plants. Dill aids in the growth of cabbage, brussel sprouts, and broccoli, creating a more extensive, healthier vegetable harvest. Radishes are a garden’s workhorse. You can pair them with almost any other vegetable or herb in a companion garden.
Radishes use their long roots to create channels where the pairing plant can get to more water sources. They also grab up nitrates from the soil aiding in water quality.
Companion planting is great for keeping pests in control. Of course, a bug-free garden is not possible, nor is it good for your plants. The goal is to attract natural enemies. Almost like a garden’s bodyguard making sure to control the number of insects allowed on the plants at one time.
Planting leeks, celery, and onions next to carrot crops. This will keep carrot flies away and give carrots a better chance to flourish. Another great example is basil, lavender, and marigolds, not only do they attract pollinators, but they attract these natural enemies.
Do you have limited garden space but want to produce a variety of veggies? With companion planting, you have the option of planting more within smaller areas. You could even use this to your advantage when container planting.
All the voids the garden would have just grown weeds before can now be filled with your favorite herbs or salad greens. Not only is this adding more tasty greens to your diet, but can cut down having to weed dramatically.
Make sure to plant things that are not going to compete with one another, for example, you wouldn’t want to plant 3 root vegetables together but planting lettuce, carrots, and peas together would work great since they all have different growth patterns.
Just make sure to research before planting. Some plants don’t go well together and can hinder their growing process or stunt them all together.
Attracts More Pollinators
Even if you’re not a fan of the insects summer brings, your garden sure is!
Creating the perfect habitat for these beneficial bugs only increases the chances of a bountiful harvest. This doesn’t have to be only other vegetable and herb crops. This can also be local wildflowers.
Local wildflowers are your area’s number one food source for your friendly pollinators, and they are sure to visit if you plant them.
Learn more about why pollinators are so important for the ecosystem and a vegetable garden.
How to Start Companion Planting
How do you begin to start companion planting? The best first step is to set up a game plan and do some research.
Firstly, follow the rules of rotation gardening: never plant the same crop in the same space multiple years in a row. This almost always causes nutrient deficiencies in the soil, causing diseased vegetables.
Different crops need different spacing, light, and other conditions in order for them to grow. Planning out their locations beforehand is vital if you want your product to thrive.
This also saves you a headache when purchasing seedlings. This way, you save time and money knowing exactly what works and where it goes.
Next, you’ll need to research what plants benefit from one another. As mentioned earlier, this is important because some crops can hinder others’ growth and well-being.
Once the weather is suitable for planting and you have your plans, it’s time to begin your combination garden.
Friendly reminder that it’s always best to start small. Companion planting aims to create an ease of gardening and bring in more benefits than hindrances.
Avoid Common Mistakes
The biggest mistake when companion planting is planting the wrong combo of crops together. But what makes these crops bad neighbors? In short, plants are always competing for the best soil, light, and space.
One great example of this is tomato and corn. Firstly they compete for the same soil nutrients. Second, tomatoes attract hornworms and other funguses that love corn, so planting them together becomes a recipe for disaster.
It’s also best to avoid planting crops together that are susceptible to the same diseases. Make sure to keep these crops far away from one another so they cannot spread the disease.
What Are Some Plants That Go Well Together?
Tomatoes and Basil
Not only is this the perfect combination in the kitchen, but they also are lovely in the garden. Basil keeps away hornworms which can cause significant damage to tomato plants.
Corn and Green Beans
Green beans use corn as an all-natural trellis, preventing you from buying one. The beans also pull nitrogen from the air and push it through their roots to share with the corn.
Carrots and Onions
Onions repel the carrot fly, which can eat through a carrot crop in no time. Plus, it’s also a delicious combination in the kitchen.
Lettuce and Mint
Planting mint within your lettuce beds will deter slugs from a midday snack. This option is great when trying to avoid pesky weeds. The less space available for them to pop up, the better.
Plant Edible Flowers
Companion planting flowers will attract even more pollinators making your harvest ever larger. Make sure to plant flowers with the same bloom time as your veggies to get these amazing benefits. Research what flowers are widely grown in your area to keep the ecosystem functioning like a well-oiled machine.
Chamomile, lavender, marigolds, sunflowers, and violets are some fantastic edible flowers you can add to your companion garden.
Like most herbs, these are great in teas and different herbal supplements. They can also be used as all-natural fragrances when making candles or other personal items. Some of these even carry their own medicinal purposes.
One of the best edible flowers doesn’t even need to be planted. That’s right! It’s the ever-famous dandelion.
These flowers, or weeds, are known for their annoyance but are actually highly nutritious. All parts of the dandelions are edible, the flowers could be fried or used to make jelly for your morning toast, and the leaves and stems are perfect for a free tasty salad.
So the next time you want to toss those flowers to the side, think again because you can use them for companion planting!
Companion planting is all about using every bit of land to your advantage. Flowers benefit your plants by bringing in more pollinators, and they can benefit you with their flavor, remedies, and beauty.
Wrapping Up Companion Planting
With so many benefits to companion planting, why not start your research before the planting season? No space is too small to benefit from combination planting. You may need even less space when placing plants near one another.
Plant local wildflowers as pollinators and check what herbs can steer away harmful critters. Remember, a lot of pollinator flora is edible!
If you want to start a companion planting today, look into the 6 best seed starting racks so you are ready to get planting!