Good gardeners are caring and attentive to their veggies. They fret over watering and sometimes even over over-watering. They provide rich soil, packed with nutritious compost and covered over with thoughtful layers of mulch. They keep the weeds down, put in handy garden stakes to climb up, and (some, like my wife) even talk to the plants as they tend the patch. It’s a beautiful thing to behold and even better thing to taste. Fresh veggies rock.
Another thing that good, and smart, gardeners do is plant with purpose. They pair plants that work well together, that can be beneficial to one another. Some plants are particularly well suited to repelling insects, others to fertilizing, others for providing shady respite, or aerating the soil or pulling up nutrients from deep below the earth’s surface. Plants do so much more than just producing food, and it’s wise to take advantage by grouping plants carefully.
Here are some classic combinations to get started with:
1. Carrots and Onions
These two vegetables are a necessity for just about any reasonable sauce, soup or broth, thus, they are present in most gardens. Putting them near to one another makes great sense because each acts as a natural pest repellent for the other. Carrot flies hate the smell of onions, and onion flies aren’t into carrots. This works equally as effectively with other onion-y plants, such as leeks and chives.
2. Tomato and Basil
It’s great when the garden works logically. Tomato and basil are a classic combination on the dinner table, and they work similarly wonderfully in the garden. Basil, a mosquito and bug deterrent, makes a great companion for nearly any plant in the garden, but it is particular good for tomatoes and lettuce. So, come to think of it, planting all three of these together might not be the worst idea, as the tomatoes would shade the lettuce a bit while the lettuce works as a ground cover.
3. Corn, Squash and Beans
Due to Native Americans, this may be the most famous of companion plantings, and it comes in three. Corn, squash and beans work splendidly together. Beans fix the nitrogen in the soil, acting as a sort fertilizer for the other two. Corn provides a living pole for the beans to climb up, and squash (or pumpkins or melons) crawl along the ground covering the soil, which protects it from erosion and drying out when the corn is young.
4. Broccoli and Beets
Broccoli and beets are both great sources of nutrients for our bodies, and in the garden, they work famously together because of nutrients. Broccoli loves calcium in the soil, but beets aren’t too concerned with it. Additionally, both of these guys benefit from a little dill added to the mix, as it will handle the insect situation. Broccoli also gets along with other dark, leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard.
5. Eggplant, Peas, and Peppers
Who doesn’t love stuffed eggplant? Who doesn’t love stuffed peppers? Well, both could be on the menu. These two work well together because they like the same growing conditions: hot and sunny. Plant them with some bush peas (or beans) to thwart the advances of Colorado potato beetles, which love eggplants. Throw some marigolds, a friend to most plants, in the same bed, and it’ll help with other insects.
6. Mint and Cabbage
Mint can be a quite invasive plant, running shoots all over the place. However, it is remarkably good a repelling pests, including ants, fleas, rodents, aphids and cabbage moths. It also attracts quality predatory insects like bees and hoverflies, as well as earthworms. What’s more is that, while it’s keeping the pests at bay, mint improves the health of cabbage plants.
7. Borage and Strawberries
Sure, this is a veggie patch, but if there’s a chance to grow, and to eat, some strawberries, why pass that up? Borage, for those unfamiliar, is a medicinal herb that is often used to make a tea that has a distinctive calming effect. In the (fruit and) veggie patch, these two team up splendidly. Borage is great for trace minerals and preventing pest problems, and it enhances the yield and flavor of the strawberries.
8. Radish and Cucumber
Radishes are well-respected members of the garden as they are powerful repellents for boring insects, such as squash borers, cucumber beetles and rust beetles. They work very well with cucumbers and the other members of that family (melons, squashes and pumpkins). Radishes could be thrown into the corn, bean and squash trio as a fourth component. Add some nasturtiums to help improve the soil conditions for the radishes, as well as add some spice to those salads.
Companion planting is the smart thing to do. The plants benefit from symbiotic relationships, and the gardener benefits because it means less maintenance. So, why wouldn’t we use as many clever pairings or groupings as possible?
Lead image source: Wikimedia Commons