Choosing Friendly Plants Can Help Control Pests
Who are your best friends in life? It might be your siblings, your significant other, or your roommate from college. No matter who you feel closest to, it's a safe bet to say that they're probably the people who have shown themselves to be dependable, trust worthy, and aligned with your life values. In other words: people that have your back when the going gets rough.
This method of choosing friends keeps us safe, and is actually very applicable when it comes to gardening. Companion gardening is the practice of planting certain combinations of flowers, vegetables and other plants in close proximity to each other so as to control pests and increase yields naturally instead of with chemicals. It's true that most companion gardening principles are based in sense, but it's reinforced by scientific principles and tests that have proven it works. The theory is that pests find their host plants through taste and smell. Mixing different crops together, or combining them with ornamentals, makes it harder for pests to find their host plants and travel through the crop.
It's important to choose your garden buddies carefully, because just as some plants help protect each other and produce larger yields, some are incompatible, and should be kept separated at all times. For example, beans don't generally get along with onions, and carrots like to avoid dill whenever possible. If you're starting to make plans for your spring garden, thinking about pairing up some of these friendly plants:
Companion Planting Combos That Work
Roses and chives: Garlic is said to repel rose pests, and garlic chives are just as repellent, so this is a good way to protect your roses.
Collards and catnip: Studies have found that planting catnip with collards reduces flea-beetle damage on the collards (and your cat will love you!)
Radishes and spinach: Radishes lure leafminers away from spinach, and the damage leafminers do to radish leaves doesn't prevent the radishes from growing nicely underground.
Tomatoes and cabbage: Tomatoes are repellent to diamondback moth larvae, so they can keep your cabbages safe because diamondback larvae are caterpillars that chew large holes in cabbage leaves.
Marigolds: Plant these all through your garden. They discourage Mexican bean beetles, nematodes, and other insects. Called the "workhorse" of companion plants for all the benefits they bring to the garden.
Cabbage and dill: Dill protects cabbage family plants, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts because dill attracts beneficial wasps that control cabbageworms and other cabbage pests.
Cucumbers and nasturtiums: Nasturtiums are known to repel cucumber beetles, and they provide a great habitat for predatory insects like spiders and ground beetles.
Learn More about Companion Plantings
To learn more about companion planting in your area, contact a local University extension office or sustainable gardening store, and ask them for guides about native plant combinations that help ward off garden pests and provide suggestions about how to use your garden's layout to make the best use of your space.
Beth Buczynski is a freelance copy writer and environmental blogger. She holds a Master's in Public Communication and Technology with specialization in Environmental Communication from Colorado State University, and is passionate about leaving this planet in better shape than she found it.