Companion Planting for Beginners

he core principle behind companion planting is to grow two or more kinds of plants together with the hope of yielding mutual benefits.
The core principle behind companion planting is to grow two or more kinds of plants together with the hope of yielding mutual benefits. (Photo: Annabelle M/Flickr)

Companion planting is an eco-friendly, old-time garden practice. Early European settlers in America found Native Americans planting corn, pumpkins, and climbing beans close together.

The core principle behind the practice is to grow two or more kinds of plants together with the hope of yielding mutual benefits.

Why Try Companion Planting?

Companion planting is gaining popularity among today’s backyard gardeners. One of the reasons for its popularity is the ability of certain plants to attract beneficial insects.

These insects feed on common garden pests like aphids and caterpillars. This means having these plants in your garden reduces the need for toxic synthetic pesticides.

Sometimes, plants also make suitable companions because they offer a physical advantage. For example, you can plant radishes, spring onions, or leaf lettuce between rows of sweet corn, peppers, or tomatoes.

The early crops mature before the taller crops shade them too much. As the taller crops grow, their shade keeps vegetables such as the leaf lettuce cooler, which makes the plant produce longer.

Early European settlers in America found Native Americans planting corn, pumpkins, and climbing beans close together.
Early European settlers in America found Native Americans planting corn, pumpkins, and climbing beans close together. (Illustration: Anna Juchnowicz/Wikimedia Commons)

Popular Companion Plant Combinations

If you want to try companion planting in your vegetable garden, below are a few science-backed combinations you might want to try.

  • Experienced gardeners plant lettuce and poached egg plant together. Hoverflies love poached egg plant, and aphids feed on lettuce. The hoverflies eat aphids, providing a robust pest control system for your lettuce plants.
  • Tomatoes and borage are excellent companions. Borage attracts pollinating bees and tiny, pest-eating wasps.
  • Borage is also a good companion to strawberries. Research indicates that borage enhances the flavor and vigor of strawberries.
  • Broccoli and crimson clover form a great team. Spiders usually lurk among the clover, where they will prey on pests.
  • You can plant nasturtiums with your fava beans. The nasturtiums lure black flies away from the beans.
  • Nasturtiums are also the food of choice of cabbage worms, which makes them an excellent companion for plants in the cabbage family.
  • The smell of garlic deters the green peach aphid, so you should grow it near peach and nectarine trees.
  • Some species of chrysanthemum attract pollinators and produce a compound called pyrethrum. The compound can be effective in controlling many pests.
Some species of chrysanthemum produce a compound called pyrethrum.
Some species of chrysanthemum attract pollinators and produce a compound called pyrethrum. The compound can be effective in controlling many pests. (Photo: Geunsoo Sim/Pixabay)

Gardening for the Environment

You may be using chemical pesticides and fertilizers in your garden right now. We have all seen the studies showing what these substances are doing to the environment.

When you mix different plants together, you not only help the planet, you are also creating a colorful, more fragrant garden for yourself. Companion planting can make your garden that much more attractive.

Close spacing can keep weeds at bay as plants mature, as well. Some plants attract bees, which can help in the pollination of other plants.

If you want to try companion planting in your garden, we recommend that you take a look at the charts here

Here’s a quick video…

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