Companion Planting in a Vegetable Garden
Companion planting in a vegetable garden is one of the best ways to make full use of your vegetable garden. In this post, I will be writing about how to make the most use of your garden space and which plants you should grow side by side, commonly known as companion planting.
What is Companion Planting in a Vegetable Garden?
Growing vegetables or flowers side by side to help each other is known as companion planting. Companion planting often refers to pairing up a vegetable plant with a flowering plant or a herb plant to deter unwanted pests and produce better yields. The plants are mutually beneficial to one another. For example, growing marigolds next to a tomato plant will help keep away pests from attacking your tomatoes.
What are the Benefits of Companion Planting in a Vegetable Garden?
We all know how upsetting it is to wake up in the morning and find that our beloved vegetable has been fully eaten by a pest. There are many benefits to companion planting such as:
- Keeps away unwanted pests
- Attracts the right insects that eat the pests
- Attracts butterflies and bees which help with pollination
- Efficiently maximises the use of space
- Brings colour and vibrancy to your vegetable garden
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Companion Plants by type of Vegetable
Cabbage, Broccoli and Cauliflower
If you are planning to grow cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower, grow nasturtiums near them. Butterflies will lay their eggs on the nasturtiums instead of your cabbage. As a result, when the eggs hatch, the caterpillars will eat the nasturtiums not your cabbage. You can also grow mint around them to keep certain beetles away.
Carrots have many companions that you can choose from. Mint, marigolds, onions, leeks, and even garlic chives will keep the annoying carrot fly away from the carrots. Whilst mint is a good companion plant for many vegetables, just be aware that it is an invasive plant. Therefore it will grow rapidly and take over any space it finds. I grow mint in pots and dot them around the garden.
Related Article: Can I Use Neem Oil for Plants as Pest Control?
If you are planning to grow courgettes, try growing pollinating flowers around them to increase pollination around the courgette flowers.
Marigolds are great companions for tomatoes. Marigolds attract beneficial insects that are good at keeping aphids and carrot flies away. Basil is also a good companion for tomatoes.
Grow onions and carrots side by side to keep carrot flies away.
Sweet peas are a great pair for beans as their flowers attract pollinating insects. You can grow beans around sweetcorn and sunflowers. The tall stalks will work as trellis’ for your beans to climb on.
If you are planning to grow garlic, plant them around roses. In this instance, the flower benefits from the vegetable. Growing garlic next to roses helps to keep pests such as aphids away from the roses.
Last year I grew lettuce next to my spinach and this seemed to have kept snails away from the spinach. Radish is also a good companion for spinach. The radish leaves will be good for pests who love to munch on leaves, therefore keeping them away from the spinach.
Companion Planting in Flower Beds
If you already have the following flowers in your garden, then think about growing some vegetables around them. Below is a list of flowers that are good companions for home grown vegetables.
Lavender is a garden favourite amongst many gardeners. This fragrant flower attracts pollinating insects therefore ensuring that your vegetable flowers are pollinated. It is also helpful in repelling cabbageworms, therefore a good pairing for cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
Grow peas, carrots and lettuce around calendula.
Whilst we all know there are health benefits of chamomile tea, we do not always grow it in the garden. However, if you already have chamomile in the garden, pair it up with cucumbers, beans or even brussel sprouts.
Sweet alyssum are delicate little flowers that attract many beneficial insects to the garden. If you have these in your garden, grow potatoes, broccoli and carrots.
One of my favourite flowers are zinnias because of their vibrant colour. Not only do they bring colour to the garden, they are great for attracting pollinating insects. Grow cucumbers, cauliflower, tomatoes and potatoes if you have zinnias in the garden.
The Three Sisters Planting Method
Have you heard of the three sisters planting method? This method of growing is used to plant climbing vegetables with tall standing vegetables as well as vegetables that like to sprawl out, such as pumpkins and squash.
For example, in a three sisters method a sweetcorn plant would be the centre of the growing area, it would then be surrounded by 3 to 4 bean plants, followed by pumpkin plants around it. The cucumbers will use the corn plant to climb, therefore eliminating the need for a trellis. As the cucumber grows, the pumpkin plant will start to spread across and around the base of the corn plant. This systems comes from an age-old traditional method used by Native Americans to maximise the use of their space.
Below are examples of your different types of vegetables that you can use to create a 3 sisters planting system:
- Tall standing plants: corn and sunflower
- Climbers: cucumber and beans
- Spreaders: pumpkin and squash
Gardeners have started to favour companion planting vegetables over single crop rows of vegetables. This is due to the many advantages of mixing up different plants. If you are interested in starting a companion planting vegetable garden, introduce it in a couple of rows by growing the beneficial plants side by side and see how you find it. A few handy tips if you are just starting out with companion planting in your vegetable garden:
- Grow vegetables with flowers to attract bees.
- Provide a healthy mix of herbs such as mint and lavender to deter pests.
- Grow what you will eat.
- To prevent food waste, plant in quantities that you will use.
- Offer surplus to friends, family and neighbours.
- Spread out the growth by planting seeds at different times of the month so that the plant produces food throughout the season.
Have you tried companion planting? Let us know about your success and failures in the comments below!
The Grow Network
I recently came across a community called the Grow Network. This is a community of growers interested in growing their own food, making and using herbal alternative medicine for personal health, as well as the environment.
The Grow Network have a load of resources that are useful for beginners and also for experienced gardeners. Joining the community is free. You can also take advantage of the shop which offers organic herbs and online courses on how to grow your own food and medicine.
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