You all might already be familiar with the term “companion plants,” and for those who don’t know what companion planting is, it is simply planting different types of crops in the same space, called Companion planting. This process gives us several benefits, such as an increase in yield, improvement in soil health, etc.
So, In this article, we will learn more about the concept of companion planting in more detail. We will talk about the various benefits of the companion technique and multiple examples of companion planting pairs. Let us also discuss the different challenges that occur and the solutions for companion planting.
Understanding Companion Plants
To understand the working of companion plants, you need to know about the definition of a symbiotic relationship between plants. When we grow specific plants that mutually benefit each other, they are symbiotic. For example, when legumes are in a symbiotic relationship, since they have root nodules, they benefit the other neighboring plants because it helps improve the soil quality.
To start companion plants, gardeners should research the growth habits and pest vulnerabilities of the plants they want to grow, choose plants that complement each other’s needs, and experiment with different combinations to see what works best. Additionally, many resources are available online and in books for learning more about companion planting, including guides to specific plant combinations, tips for natural pest control, and advice for improving soil health.
Types of companion plants
Now that we have understood what companion planting is and how it is helpful for the mutual benefit of the companion plants. Let us discuss the different types of companion plants in detail:
- Intercropping: In this process, we will simultaneously plant two types of crops in the same area. We can select these crops based on their characteristics in general. For instance, one can provide shade for another plant, or the other helps protect the plant from harmful pests. And this process of Intercropping also allows us to increase soil fertility.
- Interplanting: This process is also known as polyculture. This is mainly useful for us to create a healthy ecosystem for different kinds of plants to support each other. We can use this process is make the most of our small garden spaces. In Interplanting, as the name suggests, we plant different plants nearby.
- Trap Cropping: The trap cropping process is quite a strategic process. As the name indicates, we put a trap plant that is attractive to pests and another crop that is not attractive to pests. The other yield is safe when pests attack because there’s a trap plant. For instance, consider marigolds near tomatoes; they will attract whiteflies and are away from the plants. By this process, even without using high amounts of pesticides, you can protect your crops sustainably.
Best practices for companion planting in the home garden
So, now that we discussed the different types of companion plants let us discuss the best practices for companion planting in the home garden:
- Firstly, you must determine whether the plants you chose for companion plants are compatible. Forming a symbiotic relationship would ensure that the plants benefit from this process.
- Crop rotation is yet another great practice that lets prevention of soil-borne diseases. Please make it a habit not to plant the same plant in the same area. By doing this, you will know the difference in the growth of the crop yourself.
- You must ensure you keep your garden clean and healthy and that your plants are supplemented with all the nutrients, water, and everything they need. This will help prevent pests since you are taking care of the plants regularly, and you can easily spot the growth of problems and take necessary measures.
- Consistently implement organic gardening practices because chemical pesticides affect the beneficial organisms supporting plant growth. So, instead, you need to stop using excessively loaded chemical pesticides and include organic alternatives for your plant care.
Popular companion plants combinations
Let us discuss some of the famous companion plants combinations:
- Basil and Tomatoes: These are the most common companions for companion planting. The scent of Basil helps in repelling pests and improves the tomatoes’ flavor. Since Basil is easy to grow, you can plant around the tomato plant’s base or try interplanting them in rows.
- Cucumbers and Dill: Cucumbers and Dill are also great companions. You can plant dill around the base of the cucumber plants or try interplanting them. Since Dill helps attract beneficial insects and pollinators, this eventually helps cucumbers ward off pests.
- Carrots and Onions: Carrots and Onions are another excellent companion plants combination. You can plant carrots in rows and then interplant onions in between the carrots. Carrots help improve the soil quality of onions; on the other hand, onions help repel carrot flies.
- Corn, Beans, and Squash: These are also popular as the “Three Sisters,” a combination planting technique that originated in America. Here, the corn provides a trellis for the beans to grow, the squash acts as a ground cover, and the beans are used to help fix the nitrogen in the soil to help corn and squash.
- Any Garden plant with Marigolds: If you want a pop of color in your little garden, Marigolds are the first thing that comes to mind. They also have a strong scent that prevents the pest problem and are an excellent companion to any plant. You can interplant any plant with Marigolds.
Companion planting for common vegetables and herbs.
Let us discuss companion planting for common vegetables and herbs:
When planning your home garden, it’s essential to consider which plants will grow best together. Certain vegetables and herbs thrive when planted with specific companions. For example, tomatoes do well when planted with basil, borage, carrots, onions, and parsley. Carrots grow best with beans, onions, peas, radishes, and sage.
Peppers benefit from planting near basil, carrots, onions, and tomatoes. Cucumbers do well with beans, dill, peas, and radishes. Lettuce often does best when planted with carrots, radishes, and strawberries. Beans do well with carrots, corn, cucumbers, peas, and potatoes. Rosemary tends to thrive when planted near cabbage, carrots, and sage.
Sage is a good companion for beans, cabbage, rosemary, strawberries, and thyme. Thyme grows well with cabbage, eggplant, potatoes, and strawberries. Lastly, basil typically does well when planted near tomatoes, peppers, oregano, asparagus, and eggplant.
How to create your companion plants combinations
- Creating our companion plants can be a fun experience. Firstly, you must start by researching how various plants grow, conditions, pest vulnerabilities, etc. When you explore this, you can get an overview of what types of plants to choose for companion plants.
- When choosing the plants for this, you must also consider the root depths. Because if you select both deep-rooted plants to be companions, then it’s likely that they will compete for the resources such as water and nutrients from the soil. So, combining shallow-rooted plants like radishes and lettuce with carrots or onions is better. You can follow interplanting them.
- To conclude, it’s important to try using a different combination of plants and observe them to find the best pairs. You should note which couples are good and which ones doesn’t and make certain adjustments in upcoming planting choices.
Challenges and Solutions
One of the main challenges is the potential for pests to be attracted to companion plants that are more vulnerable than the main crop. To prevent this, gardeners should choose companion plants with similar pest resistance levels and rotate crops and companion plants annually. Another challenge is the risk of overcrowding and competition for resources, which can be avoided by selecting companion plants with similar growth habits and spacing requirements and providing adequate water and nutrients. Let us discuss them in a little more detail:
- Pest control with companion planting: While companion planting is an effective natural way to control pests, it can also create problems for vulnerable neighboring plants by attracting pests. For example, using marigolds as a pest deterrent may backfire by inviting pests that specifically target marigolds. To avoid these kinds of issues, it’s vital that you choose companion plants that have comparatively high resistance to problems with the main crop. Also, select companion plants with similar pest resistance and rotate them annually to avoid infestations.
- Companion planting for soil health: Companion planting can boost soil health through nitrogen fixation and increased organic matter, but it requires us to be more careful and attentive. Certain companion plants, like beans and peas, can only drain the soil of nutrients with proper crop rotation. To avoid this, select companion plants that complement the main crop’s nutritional needs and practice regular crop rotation.
- Dealing with overcrowding and competition: Companion planting can lead to overcrowding and resource competition, reducing growth and yields. To prevent this, choose plants with similar growth habits and space requirements, prune and thin as needed, and provide adequate water and nutrients.
By planting certain species of plants together, gardeners can create beneficial relationships between the plants that can lead to better growth, pest control, and soil health. However, companion planting also presents some challenges that gardeners must be aware of.
Overall, companion plants can be a rewarding and sustainable approach to gardening that benefits both the plants and the gardener. By following the principles of companion planting and being mindful of the challenges, gardeners can create a thriving and harmonious garden ecosystem.