The In’s and Out’s of Companion Gardening

This relatively new method of gardening capitalizes on the strengths and weaknesses of the most common types of plants found in the family garden.

The family garden is a trend that will likely continue into the foreseeable future as supply chain disruptions, brought about by the recent pandemic, continue over the next few years. It never hurts to have a ready supply of vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices available when you need them. Where garden space is limited–even where it’s not–it’s also wise to realize the most with the least, and that is where this relatively new method of growing plants–Companion Planting–comes into play.

Essentially Companion Planting is the act of placing possibly dissimilar plants next to one another in your garden. It’s designed to leverage the strengths of each plant species for the good of one another while promoting healthy soil. Through its effective use, you can expect better protection from things like the weather, the sun, and wind. Because this growing method plays on the strengths of each individual plant type, you also can expect larger yields, thus making up for expected crop losses. Additional benefits include better pest control, improved taste, and more. You also can save space within your garden using Companion Planting, such as tomatoes and carrots, or potatoes with beans and corn.

In the past, mono-cropping was the common method used when gardening. It was common practice to place tomatoes exclusively with tomatoes, corn with corn, potatoes with potatoes. Today, using Companion Planting, your tomatoes will taste better when you plant basil alongside them. Now, you can maximize your efforts by harvesting them together at the same time. Another example is the placement of horseradishes with potatoes, together which increases resistance to diseases. In fact, beans can be grown alongside almost any garden plant including flowers.

Using the Three Sisters planting method, it’s possible to leverage the unique characteristics of three plants to provide a number of benefits for the good of all three. One example is placing corn, beans, and pumpkins. The pole corn provides a natural trellis for the beans which, in turn, will trap nitrogen in the soil while providing shade for the root systems of the corn. In addition, Pumpkins offer ground cover, minimizing the problematic growth of weeds while helping to keep troublesome pests at bay.

Other examples of plant combinations and the side benefits include planting pumpkins with sunflowers, nasturtium next to squash to keep vine borers away, and sweet marjoram with flowers to make herbs and vegetables taste sweeter. Likewise, planting tomatoes with lettuce is a good combination because the former offers shade for the latter; and in turn, the lettuce repels pests dead set on eating the tomatoes. These and the other combinations to come will benefit the soil and general ecosystem while providing insect diversity while decreasing the presence of parasites–all while assisting the gardener’s effort to get the most from their garden for the least effort.

The following is a list of plants along with suggested companion plants that go well together. This list is not a definitive collection, but merely the beginning of what should be an interesting effort on your part to learn more about Companion Planting from others who have been experimenting with it for some time now.

Partial list of Companion Plants:

  • Artichokes: offers shade to vegetables. Commonly accompanied by carrots, beans, and tomatoes.
  • Asparagus: goes well with tomatoes and parsley.
  • Beetroot: great companion plant commonly matched with broccoli, lettuce, beans, onions, cabbage, and lettuce; also with passion fruits.
  • Beans: great with corn, cucumbers, potatoes, soybeans, and celery.
  • Brussel Sprouts: goes great with sage, thyme, malting barley, and clover.
  • Cabbage: a common vegetable that improves the taste of most foods. Goes well with beans, corn, and other vegetables.
  • Carrots: great for those with eyesight issues. Can grow them with onions, tomatoes, leeks, alliums, and other vegetables.
  • Cauliflower: goes well with celery, peas, spinach, and beans.
  • Celeriac: best grown with other herbs such as brassicas, bush beans, and cucumbers.
  • Celery: you can grow this tasty plant with bush beans, cucumbers, and brassicas.
  • Courgette: Combination Planting enhances pollination, which assists courgette in its growth.You can add are the Nasturtiums.
  • Fennel: herb and Florence fennel can be grown with almost any vegetable that requires shade.
  • Garlic: can be grown with lettuce, peas, potatoes, celery, and cucumbers.
  • Mushrooms: you can grow them almost anywhere. Grow them with vegetables, like turnips, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.
  • Onions: grow onions with vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, and cabbage.
  • Pak Choi: requires high levels of nitrogen in the soil, so plant them with beans and peas. Use garlic and onions to also repel pests.
  • Potatoes: this common vegetable goes well with beans, corn, passion fruit, and brassicas.
  • Radishes: plant them with eggplants, lettuce, peas, cucumbers, pole beans, and common beans.
  • Spinach: along with Swiss Chard, these two plants go well with produce that have large green leaves. Grow with passion fruit, brassicas and cauliflower.
  • Runner Beans: plant them with plants such as strawberries, celery, and radishes,
  • Sweet Potatoes: ideal when combined with beans, corn and peas.

Remember, this list is far from complete.

Remember, nature knows best, and in the wild, mono-cropping largely does not exist, aside from a l limited number of local examples. Using Companion Planting assists in pollination, pest control, while consolidating space and increasing crop production, or yield. In a word, it allows you to realize a larger variety of plants in a single space. This is an ideal planting method where it comes to smaller family gardens as well as larger plots in the rural and suburban countryside.