Plants have friends, too! And it can benefit your garden to keep them together. Companion planting means different things to different people, but it generally refers to practices that are aimed to repel/confuse harmful insects, and practices that enhance the health and vigor of plants - to some, it's a combination of both. Perhaps the most commonly known companion planting method is interspersing scented marigolds among vegetables and herbs; marigolds repel nematodes (microscopic worms), and can be particularly beneficial in tomato crops.
While the information available on companion planting is often a combination of folklore and fact, anecdotal evidence attests to the benefits of the method. It is also can be a fun experiment to try with kids in your garden.
Companion planting includes the following practices:
- Planting certain herbs and flowers among vegetables; they can attract pollinators like insects and birds, which are also natural predators to certain pests.
- Strategically placing plants in your garden that mask or hide a crop from pests, or produce odors that confuse and deter pests.
- Planting "nurse plants" to provide breeding grounds for beneficial insects.
- Planting a trap crop that attracts a particular pest, and can be placed near different varieties of plants that are susceptible to those insects.
- Identifying and working with growing tendencies - i.e., tall plants can provide shade for sun-sensitive shorter plants.