Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Herb of the Week - Companion Planting

In keeping with National Herb Week, I wanted to focus on not just one herb, but many, so I chose

Companion Planting as the Herb of the Week.

Companion planting is placing complementary plants together so they help each other.  When I first started gardening, I understood this concept from books and lectures I’d heard, but I do not think I was convinced it would really work.  However my first garden was only 10 by 7 feet so if I wanted to put in everything I wanted herbs and vegetables had to be interspersed, so I tried a few companion planting ideas to craft my pairings and to my surprise, what I had read about really worked!

The reason this concept actually results in better gardens and plants is simple science:
  • Some plants give off odors or chemicals that repel insects
  • Some plants attract beneficial insects
  • Some pants attract insect that will pollinate other pants.
  • And some plants lure harmful insects away from valued plants

Here are some herbs that have companionship properties:

  • Nasturtium repels aphids, squash bugs and striped pumpkin beetles, meaning it is great in a vegetable garden and mice in containers to keep other plants healthy.
  • Catnip repels ants and flea beetles.  I like it out in large garden patches that are away from the house in sandy soil which ants love.
  • Chives is another plant that discourages aphids.  It is also good at suppressing fungus.  Perfect addition to containers.
  • Feverfew will attract aphids, so you can place it near flowering plants aphids normally enjoy so they bother it instead.
  • Yarrow attracts hoverflies lady bugs and wasps, all of which prey on aphids.

Experimentation is the only way to find the best companion herbs for your gardening needs, but here are some general guidelines to get you started.

          Plant                          Goes well with                    Harmful to                     Benefited by
Petunias, tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, oregano
Common rue, sage & rosemary (deadly to rosemary)
Chamomile or anise
Tomatoes, cabbage (repels tomato hornworms & cabbage worms) strawberries, squash, fruits

Basil, wheat, onions, cabbage, cucumber

Tomatoes, carrots, apple trees, roses, mums, sunflowers (repel aphids)

Anise, caraway, spinach, dill (repels spider mites, you can even make a tea with the seed for a treatment)

Lettuce, cabbage, sweet corn, cucumbers,
Carrots, caraway, lavender, tomatoes (attracts hornworm) will cross pollinate with fennel

Deters rabbits and Japanese beetles fruits trees (apple pear and peach), roses, cucumbers, lettuce, celery

Cuttings and mulch made from mint are great around turnips, cabbage, broccoli, and mustard.  Even works with mice.

Sage, cabbage, beans, carrots by deterring cabbage moths and bean beetles

Beans, broccoli, cauliflower,  cabbage and carrots
Rue, cucumbers, onions
Especially eggplant, but good anywhere in the garden for it repelling qualities


Gopher Purge
Spread 20 feet of roots whose smell repels moles and gophers.

Health improver for almost all plants

Deters Japanese beetles in roses and raspberries

Deters flying insect especially those attacking fruit trees, roses and raspberries

Dogs and other animals avoid this and stay away from your garden

Nematodes in the ground around any plants

Cabbage, grapes


Summer Savory
Bean plants

This is a bit of information to get you thinking about Companion planting as you plan your garden for 2011.  And if you want to learn more here are some of the places I used when doing my research.

Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham (Rodale Press, 1998)
Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening: Companion Planting by Susan McClure and Sally Roth (Rodale Press, 1994)
Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte (Storey Publishing, 1998
Your Backyard Herb Garden by Miranda Smith (Rodale Press, 1997)
The Ultimate Book of Herbs and Herb Gardening by Jessica Houdret (Hermes House, 2002)

~Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
copyright 2011

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