Companion Planting Techniques
Companion planting is the use of different plants, closely planted together, to benefit the ecology of the garden. It is used especially to keep various pests away. Plants can be used to improve soil conditions, and to improve the flavour of nearby vegetables. The goal is to have a diverse garden mimics what we see in nature. Mono crops that have become the standard in farming are very unhealthy for the soil, insects, and all other wildlife.
Another important factor is to make sure your garden is flowering continuously throughout the season. This helps to attract a diverse number of small pollinators that will help ensure a successful pollination of your crops.
Attract Pollinators and Predatory Insects
Predator insects are attracted by the nectar in flowers. They will ‘hang out’ around the flowers and feed on both the nectar and nearby insect pests. These insects act as the security guards of your garden and never harm your plants. Some of these predatory insects will lay eggs on your plants. The larvae that hatch from these eggs can be voracious predators of pests, such as aphids. The less diverse your garden is the bigger advantage for fruit and vegetable eating pests. You are essentially creating a safe haven for pests if you don’t consider ways to attract predator insects. Here is a short list of some great predator insects to have in your garden: Green lacewings, lady beetles, assassin bugs, praying mantis, ground beetles, hoverflies, and damsel bugs.
Basil is an annual herb that can be grown along other larger plants such as tomatoes. Basil improves the flavour of tomatoes, and it will attract pollinating insects and predators. It has been used in companion planting with tomatoes for many centuries. Basil will also repel pests, such as white flies, mosquitoes, spider mites, aphids, and hornworms.
French marigold is a must for companion planting, it will produce a strong chemical to deter pests, such as nematodes. Nematodes attack the root systems of plants. It is so strong that the chemical will still be effective years after the plant is gone. They will repel white flies, some species of beetles, and nematodes.
Mountain mint is a perennial herb that will repel mosquitoes, rodents, fleas, aphids, white cabbage moths, and ants.
Catnip may attract lots of cats to your garden but it is also a very effective pest repellent. It will repel mosquitoes, aphids, various beetles, cockroaches, and much more.
Borage is an annual herb. It will repel the tomato hornworm, and cabbage worm. It helps keep tomato plants healthy.
Some plants help to condition the soil enabling the surrounding plants to thrive. The most famous of these are legumes (beans). Beans help to affix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, and lots of vegetables need a good source of nitrogen. Often people will grow beans with corn and squash. The beans provide the nitrogen for the corn and the squash provides the shade for the soil.
Not all plants will help each other and some should be kept separate. For example, corn can attract tomato fruit worms, and potatoes can make your tomato plants susceptible to blight fungus.
Gardening Pest Control
When spacing the herbs mentioned above, you can drastically improve your harvest and avoid pests through companion planting. Various herbs can be grown right next to your vegetables. Some herbs such as mint and oregano should be kept to the side of plants, because they have strong root system and can take over a garden very quickly. If planted with a buried 6” border around them it will keep them in check and stop its spreading.
Greek oregano is a wonderful herb to add to your garden. This is the oregano used for “Oil of oregano”, because it’s leaves are loaded with essential oil. Fresh leaves taste great to in salads. In terms of companion planting, it will attract a large amount of tiny pollinators and predator wasps. These pollinators don’t bother humans and the tiny oregano flowers will attract literally hundreds of them.
Wild thyme is another great herb for companion planting. Thyme produces hundreds of flowers and that small pollinators go crazy for.