Spring is just around the corner. If you have a green thumb that means another season of flower and vegetable gardens bursting with color and fruit. But for us regular folk, it’s a time when we roll up our sleeves, dig around on Pinterest, put some plants in the ground and hope for the best.
For horticultural novices and seasoned pros alike, there are some tried-and-true tricks that can elevate your gardens. I have two words for you: companion planting.
Many master gardeners believe that particular plant combinations make for a healthy and beautiful garden. The root is this: some plants form symbiotic relationships and help each other grow. Science on companion planting has confirmed that certain combinations of plants have real and unique benefits. Practical experience from plants people demonstrates how to pair certain plants for their mutual benefit.
Logically speaking, companion planting makes sense. For instance, tall plants provide shade for sun-sensitive shorter plants. Vining plants cover the ground, while upright plants grow up, allowing two plants to reside in the same patch.
Companions can also serve a dual purpose of preventing pests. Onions, for instance, repel pests, and heartier plants can act as bait to lure pests away from more delicate ones. Other plants work by attracting insect predators to attack companion plant’s pests.
Take a look at this list of seven companion plants before you start planting. It provides ideas for a few simple tweaks to take your garden from lacking to lush.
1. Tomatoes and Cabbage – Ever notice those large holes in your beautiful cabbage leaves? The culprits are diamondback moth larvae. Tomatoes act as a repellent to the larvae, which turn into hungry caterpillars that munch on cabbages.
2. Cucumbers and Nasturtiums – Master gardeners agree, the nasturtium’s vining stems make them a perfect companion for rambling cucumber and squash plants. Nasturtiums notoriously repel cucumber beetles, and also serve as a habitat for other predatory insects, like spiders and ground beetles.
3. Roses and Garlic – From traditional red to vibrant yellows and oranges, roses are a garden staple. For years, gardeners have been planting garlic with roses, because garlic helps repel rose pests. Garlic chives are thought to be just as repellent, and their tiny purple or white flowers in late spring are the perfect accompaniment to rose flowers and foliage.
4. Corn and Beans – Beans are corn’s best friends. They help boost health corn harvests by attracting beneficial insects that prey on pests like leafhoppers, fall armyworms, and leaf beetles. Because the bean vines climb the corn stalks, their pest repellant abilities protect the entire plant.
5. Marigolds and Melons – Besides being attractive in their own right, marigolds have special properties that protect melons. Certain marigold varieties can control nematodes in melon roots as effectively as chemical treatments.
6. Peppers and Pigweed – Pesky leafminers prefer both pigweed and ragweed to pepper plants. When planting and tending, just be mindful to remove the flowers before the weeds set seed.
7. Cabbage and Dill – Fragrant dill is a great companion plant for cabbage family members like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. This herb attracts the tiny wasps that control imported cabbage worms and other pests, leaving cabbage plants healthier and pest-free.