The desire for organically grown produce is a major driver, as is the wish to make the most of every available space in smaller sections – companion planting is probably easier managed in a small space than a large one. The bonus is not just healthy produce straight from the garden, but the enjoyment that comes from seeing a mix of plants, often combinations of flowers and vegetables, flourishing together. For more specific information on growing fruits and vegetables in NZ, check out our guide on Growing Your Own Fruits and Vegetables
Companion planting has a number of advantages; insects are repelled without the use of harmful chemicals, diseases and bacteria are inhibited – again without the use of chemicals; close planting keeps weeds in check, and more efficient use is made of soil, which is screened from the sun and therefore better able to retain moisture. Productivity can also increase thanks to increased pollination.
Diversity is essential when companion planting and it’s important to understand the different characteristics the various plants bring. Plants to attract insects of benefit include herbs such as coriander, chives, sage and thyme; and flowers like lavender, calendula and marigold. Pollinators are attracted by borage and will increase strawberry crops and repel tomato worms.
Then there are those that can decoy pests away from others; stronger smelling varieties of which nasturtium is perhaps the best known. Garlic is another. Planted near roses it deters aphids and thrips. Garlic is also recommended as a companion for apples, apricots and peaches. Companion plants that will improve the growing conditions of those around them include legumes, a valuable source of necessary nitrogen.
The key to successfully managing companion planting is getting the right companions together. Trial and error takes time, but there’s an abundance of material available at bookstores, libraries and online to guide gardeners through what works with what. Seed producers are also doing their bit; a packet of Yates Baby Beets for example, explains they’re ‘a great companion plant for beans, broccoli, lettuce, onions, potatoes and peas’.
Successful companions in the vegetable garden include lettuce with carrots, onions and strawberries; cucumbers with potatoes; sage with cabbages; thyme with any brassica and leeks with celery. Majoram and oregano both companion well with any vegetable. When it comes to floral companions, marigolds work with almost anything in the garden and nasturtiums can be grown with apples, beans, cabbages, radishes, pumpkins and potatoes. They successful repel, not just aphids, but potato bugs and destroy white fly’s in greenhouse crops. Find out how to create your own residential greenhouse on any budget with the Modern Greenhouse Guide
Irises with roses, and French marigolds with daffodils are two more combinations that look great and work well as companions.
And just as there are good mates, so too are there not so good ones. Avoid planting hyacinths with carnations, cabbages with strawberries and mint with parsley. Raspberries and blackberries are also poor companions.
By bringing together different types of plants through companion planting the eco-system is balanced and harmony reigns. It’s a practical and productive way to manage the garden environment.
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