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The Balance of Nature: Companion Planting

May 1st, 2009

One way to keep you garden healthy and reduce insect problems is to use companion planting. There are plants that grow well together, plants that repel insects, plants that repel other plants, and plants that improve the soil. Probably the most well-known companion planting is the Three Sisters Garden. The best way to learn about all of these is to read a few books on it, my favorite is: Carrots Love Tomatoes.
Marigolds are one of those beneficial plants it seems everyone knows about. Marigolds also deter nematodes that attack potatoes & strawberries. They do this by producing a chemical in the roots, this chemical kills the nematodes when it goes into the soil. It is produced slowly so the marigolds must be grown all season long. Marigolds also help tomatoes produce better, they help deter the Mexican bean beetle, and they help deter weeds such as bindweed, ground elder, and ground ivy. The older heirloom varieties are considered the best.
Some plants attract beneficial insects to your gardens and some deter bad insects. For example: carrots suffer from the carrot fly and onions suffer from the onion fly. However, if you plant carrots and onions together the smell of each plant makes it so that neither insect attempts to lay their eggs on the other plant.
Another way that beneficial plants work in the garden is by improving the soil. It is well known that legumes add nitrogen to the soil, that’s why they can be used as a cover crop in your garden beds. Many of these plants accumulate minerals from the soil and these minerals are put back into the soil when you compost the plants. I keep 6 comfrey plants in my garden for this purpose. The leaves are cut several times each summer and used in the compost bins.
A few more examples of companion planting:
Plant garlic with roses to protect them from aphids & other pests.
Nasturtiums keep broccoli free of aphids.
Bush beans do well when planted with celery.
Pole beans do not do well with beets.
Carrots help peas grow better.
Castor beans and foxglove repel deer.
Geraniums repel cabbage worms.
One thing to remember about this and all organic methods is that they are not instant like chemical methods often are. They are however better for your garden in the long run. I’ve had great luck with marigolds in my garden beds and by growing basil and other herbs among my vegetables.

So what kinds of companion planting work for you?

10 Comments to “The Balance of Nature: Companion Planting”
  1. Dave on May 1, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Great information! I’ve used the marigold planting in the past. I’ve also paired basil with tomatoes. This year I’ve put thyme and oregano seed in several beds to see how they work. Oregano is supposed to be a good all purpose companion. Companion planting is such a smart way to garden!

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    • Susy on May 1, 2009 at 2:58 pm

      I pair basil with my tomatoes as well. Oregano is great at attracting beneficial insects as are most herbs, especially if you let them flower.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Teri on May 1, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I am so trying nasturtiums and broccoli this year. Thanks! I planted marigolds with my beans last year. I don’t know if it did anything, but my beds looked pretty:)

    Teri’s last blog post.. 120/365

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  3. ChristyACB on May 1, 2009 at 11:00 am

    I recently bought the book “Carrots love Tomatoes” and changed some of my garden plans accordingly. Since I used raised beds and a modification of the Square Foot Gardening method, it was pretty easy to get likes with like. It was a little harder to keep antogonists away from each other. I’ve certainly noticed the difference this year though. It is pretty amazing how well it all works!

    ChristyACB’s last blog post.. Ginger Beer Results…Delicious!

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  4. Andres Stell on May 1, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I too am growing Nasturtiums to repel pests, and planning on growing Zinnias to attract bees and other beneficials. I was wondering, do you grow your Marigolds from seed or buy transplants?

    Andres Stell’s last blog post.. Lemon Basil, Opal Basil, & Genovese Basil

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    • Susy on May 1, 2009 at 2:57 pm

      I save seeds from my marigolds each year and start them around the last frost.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Andres on May 4, 2009 at 4:24 pm

        What variety of Marigolds have you found to work best at repeling pests? I have read that some people recommend the Mexican variety while others the French Marigolds. Thanks.

        Andres’s last blog post.. Lemon Basil, Opal Basil, & Genovese Basil

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  5. Mangochild on May 2, 2009 at 6:33 am

    This was such a valuable post, thank you. I would never have thought that about the onion and the carrot together, very interesting. I just learned about chives from the master gardener group around here – they noted that planting chives throughout raised beds helps fend off many pests (the names of which I can’t remember, sadly), and that oregano interplanted can attract beneficial insects.
    Do you know of any companion planting that works well for protecting/supporting eggplant?

    Mangochild’s last blog post.. Seedling Update: Seeing Progress

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  6. Dan on May 2, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I am planting carrots & beets with alternating rows of onions & shallots. I am hoping to deter carrot fly and leaf minor. I also under planted where the cucumbers will be planted with garlic & onion sets. Maybe this might deter the cucumber beetles from laying in the soil under them.

    Dan’s last blog post.. How I built my Poly Tunnel, Finally…

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  7. Lynn on May 4, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Nice post! I read about companion planting during the winter and am planning our veg patch along those lines. Sigh, but I wish marigolds weren’t so durned ugly. I really hate them, and probably won’t put any in. Maybe a few at one end of a tomato row just to see if they help. They really make me gag. I know! The drama!

    Lynn’s last blog post.. not a fence-jumping Beagle

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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