Companion planting is where two or more crops are grown together for the benefit of one, or all. The most successful combinations mirror nature. They can be an important part of planning a successful and productive garden.
Plants have natural affinities with others of their kind. The smell of volatile oils from many plants can above all discourage pests, making them excellent companion plants. Perhaps the most well known is the relationship between the tomato plant and the strong smelling French Marigold. This is said to deter whitefly, for instance.
While there is little scientific proof of these associations working, if you talk to any experienced gardener they will certainly provide plenty of anecdotal evidence. Tomatoes like to be grown with Basil and Parsley. Useful for cooks as well as gardeners. And separating rows of brassicas with onions has always been popular. This is possibly due to the strong scent of onions confusing the cabbage pests.
English Marigold (Calendula) can provide welcome splashes of colour in the kitchen garden. The added benefit is that they attract pollinators. Along with Yarrow (Achillea) and Hyssop they also attract hover flies. The hover flies will lay their eggs around these plants and when they hatch the larvae feast on aphids.
Some gardeners know Chamomile as the 'plant doctor'. This is because of its alleged ability to encourage the production of essential oils making their scent and taste stronger. It is attractive and easy to grow so a worthwhile addition to any planting scheme.
Another garden 'must have' is the super fragrant Lavender. This acts as a general insect repellent whilst still attracting bees to your plot.
Crops and their Companions
Different combinations work in different conditions, so experimentation and experience is the best guide. Below are some combinations of crops and their companions that work well in most situations:
- Asparagus: Tomatoes, Parsley, Basil
- Beans: Carrots, lettuce,parsley, spinach
- Beetroot: Onions, cabbages
- Cabbages: Celery, mint, thyme, onions, nasturtiums
- Carrots: Peas, radish, chives, onion, leek
- Courgette: Nasturtiums
- Lettuce: Strawberry, beetroot, radish
- Onions: Carrots, beetroot, chamomile, courgette
- Parship: Garlic
- Peas: Potatoes, radish, carrot
- Spinach: Strawberry
- Tomato: Celery, basil, marigolds, foxglove