Companion Planting Explained
Companion Planting Explained
Companion Planting is Nature's solution to every gardening problem.
It simply means using plants to help out other plants - whether that's by keeping pests away, improving the soil or attracting pollinators.
Here we explain which plants you should add to your garden as companions for every purpose.
1. Deterring Pests
Common garden pests hate the smell and taste of plants like Mint, Chives, Alliums, Lavender and Marigolds. Plant these and the pests will steer well clear.
Sage: Plant near brassicas to deter Cabbage Root Fly and Cabbage Moths.
Mint: The strong scent of Mint deters pests such as Onion Fly (onions), Aphids (tomatoes, roses, cucumbers, courgettes, peppers, runner beans) and Flea Beetles (cauliflower, cabbage, kale).
Garlic Chives: Use near carrots to deter Carrot Root Fly, and with Roses to prevent black spot. Additionally, chives help prevent apple scab so they're a great plant to have near apple trees.
Garlic: Garlic is an allium and has a similar deterrent effect to Chives, especially against aphids - grow it near plants threatened by aphids, such as Peppers and Tomatoes.
2. Attracting Predators
Predators are your friends. By cultivating plants that are attractive to them, you’ll soon have an army of ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings feeding on the insects that would otherwise eat your crops.
Marigolds: An incredibly effective plant in attracting ladybirds and hoverflies which will eat known garden pests such as aphids. Plant near Brassicas and Salad leaves.
3. Sacrificial Crops
Also known as trap crops: sounds sinister, but makes a lot of sense. By planting these alongside peas and beans you’ll draw the caterpillars and aphids away from your precious crops and they’ll eat these instead.
Nasturtium: A fast growing plant that will cope in areas of partial shade and poor soil. It is used to lure away aphids from your other crops and is known as an ‘aphid trap’. Nasturtiums are also edible.
Chives: Chives draw aphids away from your plants so are great for planting among celery, tomatoes, peppers, and peas.
French Marigolds: These attract slugs, thrips and nematodes - grow them near courgettes and strawberries.
4. Attracting Pollinators
The most essential element of a successful garden, these plants will attract bees and other insects to pollinate the rest of your plants.
Chamomile: a superbly scented flower that will draw in many pollinating insects whilst also deterring pests. It is frost and drought resistant and will grow well in partial shade so perfect around a host of other plants.
Lavender: Lavender will bring literally hundreds of bees into your garden and promote fantastic pollination. Its strong scent will also help to deter pests.
Basil: Attracts bees into the garden and is also said to improve the flavour of tomatoes if grown together.
5. Improving Soil
These plants will help to fertilise your soil and improve its nutritional balance.
Comfrey: extracts nutrients with its long roots from deep in the ground. You can then clip the leaves and use them as an organic mulch for wherever needed throughout the garden, or boil it down into a 'tea' for use as fertiliser (allow to cool first).
Red Clover: absorbs nitrogen from the air and then fixes it into the soil to promote green, leafy growth. Also very attractive to pollinators.
Peas: fantastic for improving the soil's nitrogen levels. You can plant peas somewhere after you have grown something that has taken a lot of nitrogen out of the ground. This will be most plants but especially any brassica such as broccoli, cabbage or Brussels sprouts.
Companion planting is a cost effective and environmentally friendly way of improving your garden and keeping pests under control. This growing season, why not put away the bug spray and give it a go?
Written by Ally North.