Combined planting is a natural, organic gardening technique that helps fight pests and grow healthier plants.
Co-planting can help you grow healthier and more productive crops without harsh pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. This gardening technique has been used for generations to naturally improve plant health and reduce pest activity in gardens, weed beds and container gardens. This year, try some of the best pairs of companion plants in your garden for the best harvest ever.
What is co-farming?
It matters not only what kind of plants you grow, but also where you plant them. As author Jessica Weliser explains in her book Plant Partners, gardens are “more of an ecosystem than a fictional environment,” and growing certain plants can be the secret to gardening success. Co-planting works by pairing suitable plants in garden beds to promote the growth of one or both plants. But what exactly are companion plants?
Companion plants are plants that benefit each other in at least one way. These benefits may include natural pest control, increased pollinator activity, improved plant and soil health, additional shade and support, weed control, and improved disease resistance.
One of the most classic examples of co-cultivation are the Three Sisters, developed centuries ago by Native American cultures. In this pairing with companion plants, corn, pumpkin and climbing grains are intertwined to promote each other’s growth.
Corn supports beans, beans increase soil nutrients thanks to their nitrogen-fixing ability, and large pumpkin leaves shade the soil to conserve moisture and prevent weeds.
The three sisters are just one example of co-farming, although there are many. Over the years, recommendations for companion plants were mostly based on folklore and personal experience.
However, as this gardening technique has become popular in recent years, many scientific studies have been conducted to find the best pairs of proven companion plants. The results of these tests can be found in the following tips.
1. Use herbs to repel pests
Many insect pests avoid strongly scented herbs and other plants. Growing fragrant plants under vegetables can, of course, repel many insects and even keep deer and other herbivorous creatures away from garden beds. Try these aromatic plants to repel pests naturally:
- Garlic and other allia – repels deer, snails, caterpillars and Japanese beetles
- Mint – repels flea beetles, moths and aphids
- Sage – repels cabbage moth and carrot flies
- Tansy – repels ants, beetles and many other flying insects
- Rosemary – repels cabbage rings, carrot flies and bean beetles
2. Crossing with flowers
In the past, planting together mainly focused on the benefits that different vegetable crops can offer each other when grown together. However, recent studies have found that ornamental flowers and flowering herbs may be among the best varieties to grow together.
Flowering herbs such as dill, sage and chives are very attractive to bees and other pollinators. If you decide to plant these herbs under vegetables, you can increase the activity of pollinators and increase the yield of fruit crops such as pumpkin and cucumbers.
3. Attracts beneficial insects
Just as flowering plants attract pollinators, they can also increase the activity of other beneficial insects in the garden. These beneficial insects feed on pests and reduce the need to use aggressive pesticides.
Plants such as cosmos, marigolds and marigolds can attract parasitic wasps, swimming flies that feed on cabbage rings, and other pests. These plants can be useful when growing broccoli, cauliflower and other cabbage vegetables, which are often attacked by larvae.
If you suffer from aphids, dill, alyssum, and coriander can attract beetles to keep aphid populations under control.
4. Improve the soil of the garden
Legumes such as beans and peas are known for their nitrogen-fixing ability, which naturally improves garden soil and reduces the need for fertilizers.
Planting legumes with other vegetables can help plants grow healthier and faster. Since nitrogen is particularly useful for leaf growth, growing legumes with leafy greens can help grow softer leaves. Some of the other best companion plants for legumes are:
5. Try trap plants
Trap plants are plants that are more attractive to harmful insects than vegetable plants. Trap plants that grow near your garden can keep pests away from vegetables you actually want to harvest. Some classic examples of trap plants are:
- Nasturtium can serve as a trap plant for a variety of destructive insects, including aphids and bugs.
- Pumpkin beetles often prefer Hubbard pumpkin over other pumpkin plants, so they can be used to lure these pests away from the pumpkin they already want to harvest.
6. Increase natural support
As with the Three Sisters method, high and hardy crops such as corn and sunflower can be used as a natural support for vineyards. Since you don’t have to invest in trellises systems, you can save money with these pairs of plants. The natural appearance of sunflower and cornflower climbing bean grapes can be very beautiful!
7. Protection from too many days
While most vegetables and herbs prefer to grow in full sun if you live in a hot area, some plants can get sunburned in the summer heat. Co-planting can help you avoid this. To protect sensitive plants, try planting larger foliage plants on them to provide shelter and shade in the heat of the sun.
For example, a companion growing basil tomatoes helps protect basil leaves from bright sunlight and prevent leaf burning. In turn, basil appears to reduce pest and disease problems in tomatoes.
8. Weed control
Large leaves can protect plants from sunlight, but they do more than that. Connecting garden beds with leafy greens and other large-leaved plants can help cover the garden soil.
This, in turn, prevents weed growth naturally and reduces the need for herbicides. In addition, by mulching the soil, foliage plants can slow down the rate of evaporation and help regulate the moisture content of nearby plants.
9. Plant producers quickly
Plants such as tomatoes, pumpkins, and cucumbers can grow slowly, and you may have to wait several months for the product to harvest. To maximize the area of the garden, try fast-growing vegetables among plants of the long season. Plants like carrots, radishes, and lettuce often grow fast enough that you can get a harvest or two before the tomatoes are ripe!
While most plant pairs are beneficial, there are a few plants that garden neighbors don’t do well. Species such as black walnut and fennel produce compounds that inhibit the growth of nearby plants, so they should never be planted next to vegetables.
In addition, to prevent the spread of diseases and pests, you should avoid planting similar plant species together. For example, peppers, tomatoes and other nightshades can be susceptible to the same pests and should be located at some distance from each other in the garden.