Many plants, when grown next to each other, provide a benefit or improve the quality of the other plantsaround them. They may make the nearby plants grow bigger and stronger, improve their flavour, repel pestsor attract beneficial bugs. Some plants provide shade for the others or help break up heavy soils with theirroot systems. Putting it simply, they are great neighbours to have. Companion planting has been used for centuries to help gardeners control pests and diseases, improve the health of plants and to produce more abundant crops. However, over time, companion planting has become quite convoluted and confusing for gardeners but it needn’t be. There are five main styles of companion planting which can be used individually or combined and although doing them all is near on impossible, having a go at a few methods should yield great results. MIXED PLANTINGS This is probably the easiest of all methods since it is simply about the layout of the vegie patch. Instead of planting in lovely straight rows, the vegetables are mixed so that the insects are confused by the array of smells and foliage and have more difficulty finding the plants they prefer to lay their eggs on or eat. You can imagine how easy it would be for a white cabbage moth, for example, to find a patch full of leafy cabbages but if these were mixed amongst other vegetables and annuals, it makes their work harder and perhaps less likely that they would find and damage every cabbage in the garden.PLANTS THAT REPELRepellent plants are offensive to insects and help deter them from areas of the garden. Garlic and onions are terrificfor this as their rancid smell fills the air on a warm day. Other insect repelling plants include:Basil Aphids, fruit fly, white fly, and house flies, mosquitoesHyssop Cabbage mothChives Airborne & soil borne insects, aphids, crab appleDill White cabbage mothFennel FleasLavender Flies, beetles, mothsOregano White cabbage mothPennyroyal Flies, mosquitoes, fleas, ants, miceRosemary Cabbage moth, bean beetle carrot fly snails, slugs , mosquitoesSage Cabbage moth, carrot fly, flea beetle, slugsSouthernwood Cabbage moth, mosquitoes, flies, fruit fliesSummer Savory Bean beetlesTansy Jap beetles, cucumber beetles, ants, flies, fleas, cutworms, cabbage worms , fruit mothThyme Cabbage wormCatmint AntsCatnip Flea beetle, antsCoriander AphidsGarlic Japanese beetle, aphids, peach leaf curl, apple scab, red spider mite, black spotMarigolds Mexican beetle, nematodes, various insectsMint White cabbage moth, caterpillars, aphids, flea beetles, miceNasturtium Squash bugs, pumpkin beetles, aphids, white flyWormwood Small animals, flea beetle, mosquitoes, mice, caterpillars, mothsINSECT TRAPPING PLANTSInsect trapping plants lure insects away from other valued crops. Nasturtium is aterrific lure since it is very tough, grows in the back corner of the garden with littleeffort and is very attractive to whitefly, aphids and snails. Once there, thesepests can be handpicked or sprayed with pesticide without affecting thevegetables in the garden. And since nasturtium dies down and then reseeds,any damage from these pests quickly disappears.Comfrey and silverbeet are great traps for snails and slugs and because they arequite robust. The snails are simply collected and the damaged leaves removedand thrown into the compost. New leaves soon appear.
INSECT ATTRACTING PLANTS Some plants are very attractive to beneficial insects that are predatory or assist in pollination and they are terrific planted strategically in the vegetable patch or garden bed. Although ladybirds seem quite sweet, in actual fact they are vicious predators that eat up to 500 aphids a week. To encourage them into the garden, it is simply a matter of using as few pesticides as possible and planting lots of annuals with tiny flowers such as alyssum or dill. Hoverflies also prey on aphids and planting marigolds will help attract these good bugs into the garden.Bees are essential for pollinating our vegetables and flowers and, with numbers on the decline, it is more importantthan ever for us to ensure that they have a healthy environment to thrive in. There are many plants that attract beesinto the garden including lavender, thyme, cornflower, hyssop, rosemary, sage, catmint, oregano, sage and marjoram.GOOD COMPANIONSBy combining plants that are compatible, the harvest ends up healthier or more flavourful. For example, peas and cornare often grown together as corn requires lots of nitrogen which peas are excellent at trapping in the soil. The peasalso use the corn stem to climb over so that the pods don’t touch the ground. Garlic is supposed to make roses smellbetter and cabbages enjoy the shade provided by cucumber vines. The plants below enjoy each other’s company.Basil Tomato (Improves growth and flower)Borage Tomatoes, squash, strawberries (Attracts bees, repels tomato worm, increases fruit)Chamomile Cabbage, onionChervil Radishes (Increases growth and flavour)Chives Vegies, roses, apple trees. (Increases rose perfume. Discourages climbing insects)Garlic Roses (Makes their flowers smell better and repels aphids)Hyssop Cabbage, grapesMint Cabbage, tomatoesNasturtium Radishes, cabbage, fruit treesPennyroyal RosesRosemary Cabbage, beans, carrots, sageSage Cabbage, carrots, rosemarySavory Beans, onionTansy Fruit trees, roses, grapesThyme CabbageDill Carrots, tomatoes, celeryOnion Carrot, beet, lettuce, Silverbeet (Scent masks the carrot scent and fools the carrot fly)Oregano Cabbages, cauliflowers, grapesParsley Chives, roses, tomatoes, carrotsSunflowers Squash, cucumbers (Provides shade)Potatoes Bush beans (Protect each other from beetle attack)Radishes Carrots (Plant seed together. Harvest the radish first to loosen the soil for the carrots)Tomatoes Asparagus (The chemical in asparagus repels tomato pests)Cucumbers Cabbages (Cucumbers use cabbage leaves to shelter from the heat)Pelargonium Grapes ALL ROUND GOOD GUYS Plant thyme in the corners of the vegie garden or use carpeting thyme along paths to attract bees to cross-pollinate. Grow garlic randomly around the garden (except near strawberries, peas, beans & cabbages). It deters insects and improves the perfume of roses. Plant in March and harvest in December. Use marigolds as edging plants around the vegie garden as insects don’t like the smell and they also deter nematodes. Feverfew and southernwood have insect repellent properties. Plant them throughout the garden but also near the chook pen or dog kennel. Chamomile and yarrow help improve the vigour of the plants around them. They are easily included in garden beds or vegie patches. For more advice, visit any Better Pets and Gardens store. www.betterpetsandgardens.com.au Better Pets and Gardens 2011