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WISDOM FROM THE WILD CHILD GARDEN: MAY 2024: COMPANION PLANTING 101

Companion planting with herbs benefits plant growth and health!


WHY COMPANION PLANT? Herbs enjoy growing and fruiting next to their plant buddies and this is the basis for companion planting. By putting certain herbs and plants together, the likelihood that they will thrive and produce better than they would on their own increases.

 

In the wild, companion planting happens naturally and forms a symbiotic ecosystem where each plant serves a purpose for the benefit of the whole. Mimicking this system within the garden encourages growth, wards off pests, reduces disease, and can improve the plant flavors.

BENEFITS OF COMPANION PLANTING:

·        Increase yields.

·        Repel and confuse bad pests.

·        Encourage pollination.

·        Provide shelter and support for beneficial insects.

·        Herbs are the easiest plants to intersperse between food plants.

·        Herbs can be planted with vegetables without harming them.

·        Herbs are strongly scented to attract beneficial insects.

·        Herbs are light feeders and won’t deplete the soil.

·        Herbs won’t rob the soil of nutrients that other plants need.

There is a flip side to companion planting, and plants that tend to fight each other for resources or are susceptible to the same diseases and pests should not be planted together.

·        Beans & Onions: onions exude a chemical that can stunt the growth of beans when planted too closely.

·        Tomatoes & Corn: both suffer from corn earworm.

·        Carrots, Coriander, & Dill: coriander and dill produce compounds that can harm carrots and will impede their development.

HERBS FOR COMPANION PLANTING: reminders to help choose herb companions:

·        Don't plant tall plants near ones that need full sun.

·        Use pest controllers near sensitive herbs.

·        Avoid monocultures or the same plant grown in a mass.

·        Avoid fast-growing plants in large and open spaces.

·        Plant loads of pollinating herbs near vegetables.

Anise (Agastache foeniculum): is an upright perennial with light green angular stems that are clothed in lovely anise scented leaves. In summer, lavender to purple flower spikes draw a crowd of bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

 

Anise flowers are pollinated by various types of bees including honeybees, bumblebees, Halictid bees, digger bees, leaf-cutting bees and masked bees, and by pollinating flies, butterflies, skippers, moths, and hummingbirds. The aromatic foliage repels deer and other herbivores.

 

Plant anise with cilantro or coriander to promote its germination and growth, and plant it near cabbage, beans and grapes.

Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum): one of the most popular and widely used culinary herb, sweet basil is a common ingredient in Italian pesto recipes.

 

Sweet basil attracts bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, and repels the asparagus beetle, carrot fly, tomato hornworm, mosquitos, flies, and whiteflies.

 

Sweet basil is an excellent companion for tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, parsley, lettuce, beans, beets, cabbage, eggplant, potatoes, marigolds, and oregano.

 

Avoid planting sweet basil near rue and sage.

Borage (Borago officinalis): an edible annual herb that has culinary and medicinal uses. The leaves and flowers of borage taste like cucumbers and can be added to salads, used in stocks, soups and stews, or brewed to make a refreshing tea. The edible flowers add color to summer salads, can be candied for cakes, and look lovely floating in summer drinks and mocktails.

 

Borage is a fast-growing herb with clusters of starry blue flowers that are beloved by bees, butterflies, pollinating wasps, and other beneficial insects. It repels tomato and cabbage worms and other garden pests.

 

Borage is a wonderful companion plant for tomatoes, cabbage, strawberries, grapes, peas, beans, cucumbers, and squash. It releases calcium and potassium into the soil that assists in pest control and combats diseases such as blossom rot.

 

Avoid planting borage near potatoes or brassicas.

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium): is a cool season annual that resembles parsley and has leaves that are delicate and sweet and have an anise-like flavor. Chervil has medicinal and culinary uses, and is used in French cuisine along with chives, tarragon, and parsley to make up the delicate bouquet called “fines herbes”.

 

Chervil attracts bees, butterflies, lady bugs, hoverflies, and other beneficial pollinators with its flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen. Chervil helps to deter snails and slugs and protects lettuce varieties, broccoli, and other shade-tolerant vegetables from aphids and other insects when companion planted.

 

Chervil serves as an excellent companion plant for carrots and radishes and makes radishes hotter and crisper. It also grows well with cilantro, coriander, and dill when all three are grown in a container.

 

Avoid planting chervil near alliums because it can stunt their growth, and carrots because it attracts carrot root flies that may cause cross-pollination and cause issues with seed saving.

Dill (Anethum graveolens): is a popular culinary herb that has feathery and aromatic blue-green foliage and tiny yellow flowers in summer. The leaves have an anise and parsley taste and have the best flavor when harvested straight from the garden. It’s flavor compliments soft cheeses, white sauces, egg dishes, seafood, chicken, salads, soups, and vegetables.

 

The flowers produce nectar and pollen that attracts honey bees, bumblebees, ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies that feed on aphids and other insect pests. These beneficial pollinators also help improve overall crop yields. Dill repels cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, spider mites, and the tomato hornworm.

 

Dill makes an excellent companion for cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, cucumber, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, borage, nasturtiums, and marjoram that all benefit from its insect repellant properties.

 

Dill should not be planted near angelica, caraway, carrots, fennel, hot peppers, or bell peppers.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): is an aromatic Mediterranean herb that has edible yellow blossoms, seeds, feathery leaves, pollen, roots, and stems which have long been prized for their robust anise-like fragrance and flavor, and their usefulness as ingredients in cooking, magical potions, and traditional medicine.

 

Fennel attracts a wide variety of pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden especially when it flowers. It deters wildlife and other pests with its strong scent.

 

Fennel can be planted near dill, however, since they are in the same plant family, the two may cross-pollinate.

 

Fennel is best planted by itself in a container away from other vegetables to prevent cross-pollination but close enough to attract pollinators. It stops the germination process of caraway seeds, hinders the germination of coriander and prevents it from producing seeds, and disturbs the growth of beans.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): is a cooling and drying nervine herb with a strong lemony smell and a mild pleasant lemon-like flavor. This popular mint family plant produces thick beds of fragrant leaves that emit a delightful scent that permeates the garden. Medieval beekeepers rubbed crushed lemon balm in their hives to encourage nesting. 

 

Lemon balm has beautiful flowers that attract beneficial pollinators. The leaf’s strong aroma deters pests such as cabbage moths, mosquitoes, and gnats.

 

Companion plants that pair well with lemon balm include dill, basil, squash, broccoli, the cabbage family, cauliflower, hollyhocks, melons, angelica, nasturtiums, squash, and tomatoes.

 

Lemon balm should not grow next to wormwood or annual herbs such as basil.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus): is an aromatic grass that is packed with a strong citrus flavor and aroma. In the garden, lemongrass forms a tall, grassy clump that is 3 to 5 feet tall that thrives in full sun, and rich, well-drained soil. It can be repeatedly harvested throughout the growing season to increase yields, and is used in many Thai dishes and soups.

 

Lemongrass attracts a variety of bees and contains citronella, a plant oil with a pungent aroma that repels mosquitos and other pests.

 

Plant cilantro, basil, thyme, mint, lemon verbena, echinacea, marigolds, mango, cucumbers, fennel, onions, tomatoes, and peppers as companions for lemongrass that will benefit from its pest repellant properties.

 

Avoid planting lemongrass near lavender, rosemary, sage, and thyme that have different water requirements.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare): is a bushy perennial herb with square stems that are clothed with small, aromatic, and rounded to ovate leaves, and pinkish-purple to white flowers that bloom above the foliage.

It has a strong, zesty, peppery, and spicy flavor and is used fresh or dried as a culinary herb in tomato dishes, soups, casseroles, sauces, stews, stuffing, eggs, chili, pizza, summer squash, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, mixed greens, and onions, or as a marinade for lamb, game meat, or beef.

 

Oregano flowers attract bees and beneficial insects, and the oil has antimicrobial properties that make it a great natural insecticide for deterring aphids, the cabbage butterfly and the cucumber beetle.

 

Oregano is a good companion to all vegetables, especially those that are most susceptible to sap-sucking insects like aphids. Plant it near peppers, eggplant, squash, beans, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, turnips, strawberries, basil, chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme.

 

Avoid planting oregano near arugula, garden peas, watercress, mint, asparagus, taro, skirret, butterbur, black chokeberry, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, spinach, and groundnuts as these plants like moist soil and oregano doesn’t.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita): is a versatile herb with a wide range of uses and benefits, and is used in cooking to add flavor, aroma, and freshness to salads, sauces, cocktails, teas, and seasoning.

 

Peppermint flowers are a source of nectar for bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and predatory wasps that help pollinate nearby plants or prey on garden pests. It has a strong scent that deters aphids, black flies, cabbage loopers, cabbage moths, cabbage worms, cabbage maggots, flea beetles, squash bugs, whiteflies, and ants. 

 

Peppermint is a notorious spreader with horizontal roots that will conquer the root systems of nearby plants if given the chance. It’s best to plant mint in its own pot or plant it near good companion plants that can handle a bit of sprawl in the garden bed while benefiting from mint’s pest-repelling powers. Good companions include beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, lettuce, marigolds, onions, peas, radishes, roses, and tomatoes.

 

Peppermint should not be planted near rue or parsley.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): is an upright evergreen herb with intensely aromatic and needle-like leaves and clusters of pale blue or white flowers. It has a strong, pungent, and slightly bitter flavor and aroma and is a popular culinary herb that is used in a wide variety of cuisines. Rosemary has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and memory-enhancing properties and is used in herbal medicine.

 

Rosemary is great for attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and discourages detrimental pests such as flies, mosquitos, cabbage loopers, cabbage moths, Mexican bean beetles, Japanese beetles, carrot flies, slugs, and snails.

 

Rosemary is a good companion for cabbage, beans, carrots, peppers, chives, fennel, lavender, marjoram, oregano, parsley, sage, summer savory, tarragon, and thyme.

 

Rosemary should not be placed near mint plants to avoid them competing for space, or pumpkin vines which attract root rot and powdery mildew.

Sage (Salvia officinalis): is a bushy and spreading evergreen herb with strongly aromatic, finely veined, and silver-gray leaves. The flowers are camphor-scented, two-lipped, and lavender-blue and bloom on upright flower spikes. The fragrant leaves have a strong and slightly bitter flavor and are used to season savory or meat-based dishes.

 

When allowed to flower, sage attracts bees and butterflies and it deters cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, cabbage worms, beetles, black flea beetles, and carrot flies.

 

Sage is a good a companion plant for broccoli, cauliflower, rosemary, cabbage, and carrots.

 

Do not plant sage near cucumbers, onions or rue.

Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus): is a woody and upright perennial that has narrowly lance-shaped and aromatic leaves with a distinctive licorice taste and warm spicy flavor. The leaves can be used fresh or dried to make sauces, marinades, and dressings, and to add flavor to poultry, fish, beans, beets, carrots, peas, summer squash, and egg dishes.

 

Tarragon attracts bees, butterflies, birds, ladybugs, hoverflies, and predatory wasps that drink the nectar then use insect pests as food for their larvae. It is a general insect repellant that repels most pests.

 

Tarragon is a good companion to most vegetables, particularly eggplant, and it pairs well with chives, lemon balm, lemon thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage.

 

Avoid planting tarragon near dill or parsley.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): is a small aromatic herb that forms a low cushion of branching and woody stems that have dark gray-green leaves and spikes of whorled white or pink flowers. The leaves have a pungent and spicy flavor, and are used fresh or dried as a seasoning in culinary recipes such as soup, broth, tomato and wine-based sauces, oils, butters, syrups, vegetables, meat, and fish dishes.

 

The flowers are rich in nectar and attract bees and butterflies. Thyme deters cabbage worms, whiteflies, and cabbage maggots.

 

Thyme is a good companion for bay, basil chives, dill, fennel, lavender, lemon verbena, lovage, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, summer savory, strawberries, cabbage, and other brassicas.

 

Avoid planting thyme near parsley, cilantro, tarragon, basil and chives as they prefer a moister soil.


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