The following chart, companion planting chart , courtesy of the Wasatch Community Garden Organization, will be a great resource when designing your garden.
What if I told you that you could have… a compact garden that thrives during dry spells, keeps bad pests away while sheltering garden helpers, allows for multilevel gardening without staking support, keeps weeds down, provides more flavor and yield without pesticides, herbicides or any other nasty interventions… cheaper, more organic and easier? Impossible?? Think Garden Companion Planting!
Maybe you’ve heard of the Three Sisters, a Native American example of this companion planting genius: Beans, corn and squash are planted together; the corn stalks support the climbing beans and provide just the right amount of shade for the squash, which trails on the ground, keeping it moist, suppressing weeds and warding off pests, while the beans make atmospheric nitrogen available to the corn and squash. It’s a win-win situation!
Planting different species close together is an age-old practice that proves highly effective in modern times, too. Here are the specifics:
Companion planting is a great idea for smaller gardens. You can save space by planting a vining plant under a taller plant to fill up the otherwise empty space that might be prone to weeds – just like in the corn and the squash example above. Or why not fill the gaps between slow growing crops with quick growing vegetables? Radishes are a sensible companion to sow between rows of slower growing crops.
Keeps the Soil Moist
Preventing the soil from drying out is best achieved by covering up large areas of open soil. Squashes and cucumbers are particularly helpful for shading the soil and holding water. Don’t forget that larger plants can also provide welcomed shade to seedlings and shade loving plants. Spinach and radishes, for instance, thrive well together.
Ground coverage is not only essential for keeping the soil moist, it is also important for organic weed control. By planting pumpkins or other creepers in between beans or sugar snap peas, it will help the climbers to grow without having to compete with weeds for nutrients from the soil.
Deters Pests and Parasites
Pest control is easier with companion planting than it is with monoculture. Many fragrant herbs act as insect repellents and will protect their companions. Mint, for instance, deters ants and cabbage moth, while lavender repels ticks. Aphids and beetles hate marigold – a useful trick for planting with tomatoes and roses. Planting daffodils around beds of root vegetables can create an effective barrier to rodents.
Plants that attract bees and butterflies will bring in more pollinators, which in turn ensure a better crop yield. Beneficial insects will want to spend more time in your garden if there is plenty of food available, so make sure you include patches of pineapple sage, mint, verbena, zinnia and yarrow in your vegetable garden.
Provides Physical Support
Climbing plants obviously need support, but rather than just trellises and frames, there are many tall plants that can be cultivated to provide the same benefit. Corn and sunflowers can support cucumbers and peas.
Improves Crop Yield and Flavor
This is where companion planting really is effective. The reason why some plant companions do so much better together instead of on their own is that they have complementary nutritional requirements. Sweet marjoram, planted with beans, cucumbers or pumpkin, helps to increase their yield. Radishes benefit from having nasturtiums planted nearby, while dill and tarragon help to improve the flavor and crop of cabbages.