Companion planting has been practiced for generations because increases the growth probability of many crops. Certain plants grow very well next to each other, and certain combinations can even enhance the growth of the plants. Every type of plant has a specific effect on the soil; they give and take nutrients and each plant has its own unique demands. Companion planting helps farmers to discourage harmful pests from destroying their crops while encouraging good bugs to stay. Companion planting’s three main benefits include pest control, productivity and pollination.
Historic Examples of Companion Planting
Native Americans knew to plant corn, squash and beans next to each other. Each of the plants provided something that the other needed, allowing the crops to grow in harmony. The corn stalks provided something for the beans to climb as they grew while the squash provides a cover for the ground to prevent weeds. The beans wouldn’t compete for nutrients as they can supply nitrogen. This combination is referred to as the “Three Sisters.”
Companion Planting Combinations
If you are planning a garden, consider these common companion planting combinations. Each one has its own unique benefit for the crops involved:
- Growing basil near tomatoes can repel tomato hornworms
- Plotting lettuce and carrots next to one another can enhance the flavors of both crops
- When nasturtiums are grown near squash they may repel squash bugs
- Marigolds, mint, thyme, or chamomile can repel cabbage moths
- Leeks can repel carrot flies and enhance onion and celery growth
Marigolds are one of the best companion plants. Both French and Mexican marigolds have strong pesticidal effects, but Mexican marigolds can actually inhibit the growth of more fragile plants like certain herbs. Marigolds are commonly grown near tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, cucumbers, squash, kale and broccoli, but they can benefit most plants.
Trap cropping is another form of companion planting but it is typically not mutually beneficial between the two companion crops. Trap cropping is commonly used to deter pests from one crop while pointing them towards another. Eliminating the use of pesticides, this method can save the focus crop from being destroyed by pests. For example, alfalfa or mustard greens can be planted near strawberries to prevent lygus bugs from destroying the strawberry crop; when planted among cucumbers and squash, radishes can repel cucumber beetles; radishes can also repel root flies from cabbage plants.
Both trap cropping and companion planting can be great methods of deterring pests without using pesticides. It is a natural form of growing fruits and vegetables that can be easily integrated in a garden. Simply use trial and error to identify the best combinations for your garden and location.