Companion planting is not a new idea to the gardening world. There is evidence of farmers using these same techniques dating back to Bible times.
Many people are familiar with the idea of planting the “Three Sisters,” a Native American technique that combines corn, squash, and beans. These three veggies, when grown together, help each other to grow well. Each of the sisters contributes something to the planting. Together, the sisters provide a balanced diet from a single planting.
The beans pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil. As the beans grow through the tangle of squash vines and wind their way up the cornstalks into the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together. The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist and preventing weeds. The prickly squash leaves also keep away raccoons, which don’t like to step on them.
We use this method in our vegetable garden. I also like to plant herbs as companion plants to certain vegetables and flowers. A companion planting plan integrates Mother Nature’s traits as well as your choice of what you want to grow. Today I’m talking about some of my favorite herbs and what they do to help your garden grow better.
Basil: Good companion for tomatoes, basil makes tomatoes taste better and it’s also good for peppers. Likes to grow next to oregano. Basil’s aroma repels flies and mosquitoes, so place some potted basil on your outside decks and by house entrances; and you will also be protected. Basil acts as a fungicide.
Cilantro/Coriander: Helps spinach and repels or distracts white flies and aphids.
Anise grows well with coriander, and together they are a good deterrent for snails and slugs.
Chives – A member of the onion family: Helps carrots, tomatoes and members of the cabbage family grow well. You can make a spray out of chives steeped in water to kill powdery mildew. Repels cabbage worms.
Dill: Helps cabbages, cucumbers (plant cukes first, then dill a week or so later), lettuce, onions). Repels squash bugs and cabbage looper. The flower heads of dill are one of the best nectar sources for beneficial insects in the garden. Do plant dill in an appropriate spot for the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars to feed on. Even their caterpillars are beautiful. It’s the orangish yellow & black butterfly.
Fennel:Attracts ladybugs and repels aphids. Don’t plant too close to dill.
Garlic: Helps roses, cucumbers, lettuce. It used to be a common thing to plant garlic near roses. Repels aphids, cabbage looper, ants, rabbits.
Oregano: Helps tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. It acts as an insect repellent for cucumber beetles. Repels aphids.
Mint: Peppermint helps members of the cabbage family, including kales. Repels cabbage fly. Plant a container near the kitchen door to keep ants away. Attracts beneficial insects. Mint ,with its white flowers, attracts pollinators like bees.
Marigolds – Tagetes/French or Calendula species: Tomatoes love marigolds, and so do peppers, and cucumbers, even cabbage. Plant them everywhere! Certain varieties of marigolds, like the French marigold, produces a pesticidal chemical from their roots, so strong it lasts years after they are gone. One of the reasons marigolds are so good as companion plants is their scent – it’s strong! Pests don’t like that aroma at all.
A quick and healthy appetizer
Mix together and add more (or less!) of any one item according to your taste.
3 large tomatoes, diced
4 green onions, sliced
Jalapeno peppers to taste, seeded and diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons sweet onion
Palmful cilantro, chopped
Salt and lime juice to taste
Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP, CMH, is a Certified Culinary Professional and Certfied Modern Herbalist, educator, author, founding editor of www.Abouteating.com
a popular website that showcases her many interests in healthy living.