What is Companion Planting? Garden Tips 2023

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what is companion planting

Before you scatter seeds throughout your garden, it’s important to take a minute and plan it out. This way, you can get the best results from your garden without having to put in tons of work and effort.

What is companion planting: When you plant two crops together that complement each other, you get a host of benefits. Some plants will naturally repel pests, while others will attract beneficial insects that feed on unwanted bugs. You can also plant taller crops to provide shade or lower crops to provide ground cover and prevent soil erosion.

How does companion planting work?

Companion planting works when you plant two or more plants together that work in a symbiotic way. These plants create their own micro-ecosystem.

While you might think that companion planting is when you place similar plants together, it’s usually the opposite. This is because plants within the same family can actually cause more issues, such as spreading viruses that both types are susceptible to.

Instead, companion planting works best when you have different plants that have their own abilities. This way, you can control the spread of diseases and ward off unwanted insects.

Benefits of companion planting

benefits of companion planting

Pest control

One of the most frustrating experiences of gardening is when your hard work is eaten in the middle of the night. Insects can’t help but look for new food sources.

There are two ways that companion planting can help with pest control. The first is by deterring unwanted insects and the other is by sacrificing themselves.

There are some plants that attract certain types of harmless insects, which will then feed on harmful insects. For example, green lacewings aren’t too detrimental in your garden and will happily eat aphids, which can cause a lot of damage.

If you have a type of crop that requires a lot of hard work to keep up, you might want to plant a sacrificial crop near it. This way, insects will eat the crop you don’t care about, keeping your more beneficial crop safe.

Critter Control

In addition to small bugs eating your food, larger pests, such as rabbits and deer, might want to munch on your hard work. In this case, planting strong-smelling plants can help deter larger critters from getting into your garden.

For example, garlic has a very strong smell to it, which deer don’t like. Many gardeners will plant a thick row of garlic as a barrier for wandering deer.

Weed control

Whenever there is bare soil, weeds will pop up. While there are many ways to solve this issue, such as adding bark mulch, planting low-lying ground cover is another convenient way.

This ground cover will fill in the blank spaces around your plants but won’t compete for too many nutrients, so your main plants will still thrive.

Shade

Similar to weed control, having low-growing plants can help keep the soil cool. If you have plants that don’t do well in the hot afternoon sun, having the right companion plant can ensure that shallow roots are covered and your main crop won’t wilt under the hot temperatures.

Taller plants can also create shade for plants, and when planted in the right location, this can help with the afternoon sun. Crops such as corn can provide partial shade to smaller plants next to them.

Controlling soil erosion

When there is bare soil, water can more easily wash away soil. Adding companion plants will fill in these gaps and ensure there are enough root structures to keep the soil intact.

More plants also mean better water retention. This means you will have plants that can withstand high temperatures and drought conditions.

Extra structure

While it is certainly easy enough to build a lattice or trellis next to vine-like plants, you can also add a natural element with tall companion plants. For example, the tall stalks of corn can act as a climbing element for pole beans.

What is an example of companion planting?

Tomatoes and basil

Not only do they taste great together, but planting tomatoes and basil together is an excellent example of companion planting. This is because the sharp scent of basil will detract certain bugs that naturally want to flock to tomatoes.

Cucumbers and marigolds

You will often see marigolds planted among vegetable gardens for good reason. These plants naturally repel aphids and beetles, which is great for crops such as cucumbers, which insects love to munch on.

Carrots and onions

The strong smell of onions is a natural defense against many insects, including aphids. They are also good at repelling carrot flies, so planting them next to carrots is a bonus.

Mint and Lettuce

Because lettuce grows so low to the ground, it is a favorite food source of slugs. Mint has a very strong scent so planting it next to lettuce will stop slugs from gathering.

What to avoid when companion planting?

Whenever you can, you should always try to promote companion planting. There are so many advantages to it, and there aren’t many times you want to avoid it.

However, there are certain plants that should not be planted together.

Those of the nightshade family, including tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, should not be planted near each other. This is because they are very susceptible to disease and one disease will easily spread from one to the other.

Another combination to avoid is beans and onions. Beans can actually prevent other plants from growing properly, chief among them plants from the allium family.

While both pumpkins and summer squash are technically okay together, they need a lot of space. If you plant a lot of pumpkins and summer squash varieties nearby, they can grow over each other and take up too many nutrients.

Finally, some plants, such as cucumber and rosemary should be avoided because of the potential for unwanted flavors. Cucumbers can easily take on other flavors and because rosemary is so strong, you can end up with herb-tasting cucumbers.

Conclusion

Companion planting has many advantages including keeping pests away, providing shade, and creating a stronger soil foundation. The more you plan your garden, the easier it will take care of itself.

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