Companion plants are those which grow together under circumstances that are mutually beneficial for themselves and for the gardener. While a great deal has been written about the subject much has proven to be false as the vast majority of plants, flowers and even vegetables seem to be able to grow side by side much more peacefully than most humans. But there are some exceptions that deserve a Nobel Plant Prize for services to the garden!
Most notable are garlic, onions of most sorts, and chives for their ability to repel a variety of insects, especially ants, aphids, and mealybug. For best results plant clumps of them between susceptible plants i.e. under rose bushes and fruit trees; between delphiniums; or alternating rows or clumps among broccoli, cabbages,and other vegetables and flowers.
Many herbs with their strong aromatic scents also repel insects and some believe they help control disease when inter planted among more tender subjects. Most effective ones to try are: anise, basil, coriander, feverfew, lavender, mint, rosemary, sage, tansy, thyme,and yarrow.
Marigold (Tagetes Erecta) is a well-known flowering herb that helps control beetles,caterpillar and blackfly when planted between beans, cabbages and a variety of other plants.
Marigold roots also secrete a substance that helps to control and reduce the spread of nematodes in the soil.By composting the entire marigold plant back into the affected soil as a "green" manure over several seasons, nematode can be eliminated from that spot. Chrysanthemums also work nearly as well and is said to be effective against bean beetle.
Nasturtium and many plants with yellow flowers (mustard,cosmos, coreopsis, bolting cabbages/broccoli,etc.) make effective decoys in the companion garden. Insects are attracted to the colour yellow as are the birds that feed on these insects.
By planting a cluster of yellow flowers at a reasonable distance away from tender plants you want to protect and near enough to protect the feeding birds, they will quickly eat up a lot of your insect garden problems before damage is done!
Some plants just like being together. For example, plants that prefer to grow in acid soils often grow much better when planted in a group. This is because their foliage drops to create an acid mulch around the plants and many even secrete minor amounts of acid into the soil to sustain the soil PH.
These acid-loving plants all love to live together: azalea, arbutus unedo (strawberry tree), boronias, calluna vulgaris (heather),camellias, daphne, epacris longiflora (native heath), eriostemons,all ericaceae (heath family),gardenia, gordonia, kalmia (mountain laurel),and rhododendrons.
And some plants are just down right helpful. Legumes (peas, beans, etc.) add nitrogen to the soil which can help other plants that need nitrogen to grow better. Try planting climbing beans with corn. The beans will help fertilize the corn while the corn will provide a helpful support to the beans!
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