Companion Planting

Companion planting is when different plants are used close together to assist in the growth of a crop. This can be to increase pollination, nutrient uptake, productivity or pest control. It can also provide an attractive and varied look to a growing space.

The use of companion planting is not a new idea. It was thought to have been used originally by the Chinese to increase rice cropping. The Native Americans used companion planting. The Three Sister technique was pioneered by these people when they used maize to form the poles on which pole beans could climb. The beans then created the correct amount of nitrogen in the soil required by the maize. The squashes provided ground cover. In England companion planting came to the fore in the 1970’s as part of the movement towards organic gardening.

Companion planting can have many benefits including:

  • Repelling insects, pests and weeds
  • Encouraging pollination by planting pollen rich plants close to plants with low pollen formation to encourage insects to visit the area
  • Plants which attract beneficial insects for pollination and pest control
  • Nitrogen fixation in the ground can be provided by growing certain plants in order that others can access the nitrogen
  • Tall growing leafy plants can provide shelter or shade for other plants
  • Some plants can attract insects to them and prevent them attacking other plants i.e. planting nasturtiums close to lettuce will attract the caterpillars to them and not the lettuce

Some examples of companion planting:

Alliums – onions, garlic and leeks help to repel slugs, carrot fly, and cabbage worms. It is also said to deter rabbits

Plant with – carrots, cabbages, broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes

Beans – these help make nitrogen available in the soil for other plants to utilise.

Plant with sweetcorn, spinach, carrots and lettuce

Rosemary – repels cabbage flies

Plant with cabbage, brassicas and lettuce

Marigolds – help deter beetles and nematodes

Plant with almost anything!

Nasturtium – attracts caterpillars

Plant near to lettuce and cabbage to provide another food source

Mint – repels slugs

Plant with lettuce and cabbage

Borage – attracts honeybees and predatory insects

Plant with anything as it is beneficial to all pollination

Lupins – help make nitrogen available in the soil

Plant with sweetcorn, spinach, carrots and lettuce

Calendula – attracts pollinating insects

Plant with almost anything!

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