It’s now a well-known fact that certain plants grow better when planted near to each other as they improve each other’s well-being and protect each other from attack by insect pests. Now this is the kind of gardening I like, letting Nature lead the way and do the work! This is especially useful when applied to your vegetable garden, ensuring that your vulnerable vegetable seedlings are given the best start by planting them along with their companion plants. Companion planting is the best way of using a small space for maximum production of healthy plants and vegetables. Certain plants actually help to improve the soil structure and quality and reduce pest attacks.
Tomatoes for example, secrete an alkaloid substance which repels nematodes in the soil (eelworms) which cause root knot and plant death. Some plants are also heavy soil feeders, meaning they take up and need a lot of the soil’s nutrients and minerals, while some plants are light feeders, and others even give food back to the soil. So growing a variety of flowering plants amongst your veggies actually causes them to symbiotically assist each other and help them all to thrive.
Growing several crops together provides a symbiotic and biodiverse community of plants, called ‘Polyculture’, whereas the traditional farming practice of only growing one crop is called ‘Monoculture’. Monoculture was designed by farmers to suit mass growing and harvesting techniques, but this method invites pests in for mass attack and depletes the soil. There is a big difference between growing for profit and growing for self-sufficiency and companion planting is definitely the best method for home gardeners as it most closely emulates the natural balance of nature left to its own devices. So a tip would be to rather plant your veggies and companion plants in loose groupings rather than rows, so that the shade of taller plants helps vulnerable seedlings and plants which attract certain pests, protect others from those pests. Plants naturally grow in crowded conditions so emulate this too in your vegetable patch in what Jane Griffiths calls a ‘Jungle Style’ of companion planting. Jane is the author of the book, Janes Delicious Garden, and is a vegetable gardening guru in South Africa, using natural and organic principles of growing healthy vegetables and plants.
Companion Planting List
Here is a list from Soil For Life of common vegetables and their associated companion plants that help them thrive, as well as those plants that they prefer not to be close to. Funny how plants are so like people!!
|Bush Beans||Most vegetables but especially Beetroot, Carrot, Celery, Mealies, Leeks, Potatoes, Strawberries, Radish, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Lettuce, Marigolds, Petunias||Onions, Garlic, Chives, Fennel|
|Climbing Beans||Mealies, Carrots||Sunflower, Onions and Cabbage family|
|Beetroot||Bush Beans, Onions, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Cruciferous veg, Chives||Climbing beans|
|Cabbage family, Broccolli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Kale, Kohlrabi||Beetroot, Celery, Lettuce, Onion, Potato, Tomato, Bush Beans, Chamomile, Dill, Thyme, Sage, Oregano, Marigolds, Rosemary||Climbing Beans, Strawberries, Garlic, Rue|
|Carrots||Bush Beans, Lettuce, Leeks, Onions, Peas, Radish, Tomato, Climbing Beans, Parsley, Dill, Sage|
|Celery||Bush Beans, Cabbage family especially Cauliflower, Leek Tomato|
|Cucumber||Bush Beans, Cabbage family, Celery, Mealies, Lettuce, Radish, Sunflower, Nasturtiums||Potato|
|Eggplant (Brinjal)||Bush Beans, Peas, Potato, Nasturtiums|
|Leeks||Beetroot, Bush Beans, Carrots, Celery, Onions|
|Lettuce||Carrots, Radish, Onion, Spinach, Chervil, Strawberry|
|Mealies||All Bean varieties, Beetroot, Cucurbits (Cucumber and Squash), Potatoes|
|Onions||Beetroot, Cabbage family, Carrots, Lettuce, Leeks||Peas, Beans|
|Parsley||Basil, Chives, Asparagus, especially in shade of Tomatoes|
|Peas||Carrots, Radish, Spinach, Turnips|
|Potato||Bush Beans, Cabbage family, Mealies, Peas, Marigolds||Sunflowers, Tomatoes, Rosemary, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Squash|
|Radish||Quick growing and happy to be interplanted with most vegetables and beans|
|Soya beans||With most vegetables and interplant with Mealies|
|Squashes and Pumpkin family||Mealies, Radish||Potato|
|Strawberries||Bush Beans, Onions, Peas, Spinach, Lettuce, Marigolds, Borage||Cabbage family (Brassicas)|
|Sunflowers||Cucurbits, Sweetcorn||Climbing Beans, Potatoes|
|Tomatoes||Asparagus, Basil, Celery, Onion, Cabbage family||Apricot trees, Potatoes, Fennel, Strawberries|
|Zucchini (Baby marrows)||Nasturtiums|
Another small example of this system I can demonstrate from my own veggie garden experience. We have wild Gooseberries that popped up amongst my lettuces and spinach which are extremely prone to caterpillars. Now that my gooseberries are ripe, the red-wing starlings and olive thrush birds are regulars coming to have a Gooseberry or two. But they are also keeping the caterpillars at bay and my Spinach plants are much happier since the gooseberries have been nearby. I’m happy to forfeit a few gooseberries a day as they self-seed so readily giving me a good supply, and the protection they offer is a great payoff!
Companion planting and natural gardening guidelines:
- According to Jane, these companion planting tips will help to encourage healthy, symbiotic benefits to your plants:
- Mix fast and slow-growing, early and late harvest crops in your beds.
- Mix heavy and light feeding vegetables.
- Mix long rooted plants with shallow rooted plants.
- Use sun-loving, tall or leafy plants as umbrella plants to shade those needing less sun.
- Sow several varieties of each vegetable. This provides an assortment when you harvest, helps confuse pests and aids the soil.
- Harvest whole plants as soon as they begin to crowd others too much. Don’t wait until they mature. Rather add them to salads and stir-fries and have fewer, healthier plants.
- Be ruthless with the plants you don’t want – pull them out when they are young.
- Sow fast-growing, shallow rooted plants like mustard, Asian Greens, radishes and buckwheat to crowd out weeds you don’t want.
- When planting bought seedlings, don’t plant them all at once. Rather do succession planting to overlap harvesting time.
- Plant as much variety as possible.
- Continually feed your soil with compost!
- Share seedlings with fellow gardeners. We often we have too many of the same plant for our needs.