Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Companion Gardening - Nature Works It's Magic

Companion planting can be used to combine beauty and purpose to give you an enjoyable, healthy yard or garden. Let your imagination soar and have some fun choosing plants for your beds. Companion planting is based on the idea that certain plants can benefit others when planted in near proximity. It can be described as the establishment of two or more plant species in close proximity so that some cultural benefit (pest control, higher yield, etc.) is derived.

Many plants have natural substances in their roots, flowers, and leaves that can alternately repel or attract insects depending on your needs. In some situations they can also help enhance the growth rate and flavor of other varieties. Companion planting helps bring a balanced eco-system to your landscape, allowing nature to do its' job. Nature integrates a diversity of plants, insects, animals, and other organisms into every ecosystem so there is no waste.

By using companion planting, many gardeners find that they can discourage harmful pests without losing the beneficial allies. There are many varieties of plants that can be used, be open to experimenting and find what works for you. Some possibilities would be using certain plants as a border, backdrop or interplanting in your flower or vegetable beds where you have specific needs. Use plants that are native to your area so the insects you want to attract already know what to look for! Plants with open cup shaped flowers are the most popular with beneficial insects.

There are hundreds of web sites that give information on companion planting, but because we are concerned only with medicinal herb gardening, I will just touch on those plants that are of concern to us.

AMARANTH: Good with sweet corn, it's leaves provide shade giving the corm a rich, moist root run. Host to predatory ground beetles. Eat the young leaves in salads.

 ANISE: Good to plant with coriander, good host for predatory wasps which prey on aphids and is also said to repel aphids. Deters pests from brassicas by camouflaging their odor. Improves the vigor of any plants growing near it.

BASIL, OPAL : An annual herb said to repel hornworms! Keep away from rue and sage.

BEANS: All bean enrich the soil with nitrogen fixed form the air, improving the conditions for whatever crop you plant after the beans are finished. Summer savory deters bean beetles and improves growth and flavor. Keep beans away from the alliums (onions, garlic, leek, chive).

 BORAGE: plant near tomatoes, squash, strawberries and most plants. Deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms. One of the best bee and wasp attracting plants. Adds trace minerals to the soil and a good addition the compost pile. Borage may benefit any plant it is growing next to via increasing resistance to pests and disease. It also makes a nice mulch for most plants. Borage and strawberries help each other and strawberry farmers always set a few plants in their beds to enhance the fruits flavor and yield. Borage flowers are edible.

CARAWAY: Good for loosening compacted soil with it's deep roots, good next to shallow rooted crops. Caraway can be tricky to establish. The flowers attract a number of beneficial insects especially the tiny parasitic wasps. Keep it away from dill and fennel.

 CATNIP: Deters flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants and weevils. Fresh catnip steeped in water and sprinkled on plants will drive away flea beetles.

CHAMOMILE, GERMAN: Annual. Increases oil production from herbs. Host to hoverflies and wasps. Accumulates calcium, potassium and sulfur, later returning them to the soil. Leave some flowers unpicked and German chamomile will reseed itself. Roman chamomile is a low growing perennial that will tolerate almost any soil conditions. Both like full sun.

 COMFREY: This is one amazing plant. Accumulates calcium, phosphorous and potassium. Likes wet spots to grow in. Good trap crop for slugs.

CORIANDER (Cilantro, Chinese Parsley): Repels harmful insects such as aphids, spider mites and potato beetle. A tea from this can be used as a spray for spider mites. Plant with anise, caraway, and dill.

COSTMARY: This 2-3 foot tall perennial of the chrysanthemum family helps to repel moths.

DILL: Attracts hoverflies and predatory wasps. Repels aphids and spider mites to some degree. Also may repel the dreaded squash bug! (scatter some good size dill leaves on plants that are suspect to squash bugs, like squash plants.) Dill attracts the tomato horn worm so it would be wise to plant it away from your tomato plants. Do plant dill in an appropriate spot for the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars to feed on. Even their caterpillars are beautiful. Do not plant near carrots, caraway, lavendar or tomatoes.

FENNEL: Fennel is not friendly and will inhibit growth or cause them to bolt. It actually kills many plants. Dill is the only thing you can plant with fennel. Plant it alone. On a positive note the foliage and flowers attract beneficials such as ladybugs, syrphid flies, tachninid flies, beneficial parasitoid wasps and hoverflies. Fennel is also a good flea repellent. Dried fennel leaves provide additional flea repelling insurance when put inside the dog house or kennel.

 GARLIC: Repels aphids, Japanese beetles, codling moths, root maggots, snails, and carrot root fly. Accumulates sulfur, a naturally occurring fungicide which will help in the garden with disease prevention. Concentrated garlic sprays have been observed to repel and kill whiteflies, aphids and fungus gnats among others with as little as a 6-8% concentration!

HOREHOUND: (Marrubium Vulgare) like many varieties in the mint family, the many tiny flowers attract Braconid and Icheumonid wasps, and Tachnid and Syrid flies. The larval forms of these insects parasitize or otherwise consume many other insect pests. It grows where many others fail to thrive and can survive harsh winters. Blooms over a long season, attracting beneficial insects almost as long as you are likely to need them. For best results use horehound directly as a companion plant.

HYSSOP: Deters cabbage moths and flea beetles. Do not plant near radishes. Hyssop may be the number one preference among bees and some beekeepers rub the hive with it to encourage the bees to keep to their home. It is not as invasive as other members of the mint family making it safer for interplanting.

LAVENDER: Repels fleas and moths. Prolific flowering lavender nourishes many nectar feeding and beneficial insects. Lavenders can protect nearby plants from insects such as whitefly. Use dried sprigs of lavender to repel moths.

LEMON BALM: Sprinkle throughout the garden in an herbal powder mixture to deter many bugs. Lemon balm has citronella compounds that make this work: crush and rub the leaves on your skin to keep mosquitoes away! Use to ward off squash bugs!

 LOVAGE: Improves flavor and health of most plants. Good habitat for ground beetles. A large plant, use one planted as a backdrop.

MARIGOLDS: (Calendula officinalis): Given a lot of credit as a pest deterrent. Keeps soil free of bad nematodes; supposed to discourage many insects. Plant freely throughout the garden. The marigolds you choose must be a scented variety for them to work. One down side is that marigolds do attract spider mites and slugs.
French Marigold (Tagetes patula) has roots that exude a substance which spreads in their immediate vicinity killing nematodes. For nematode control you want to plant dense areas of them. There have been some studies done that proved this nematode killing effect lasted for several years after the plants died back. Whiteflies hate the smell of marigolds. Do not plant French marigolds next to bean plants.
 Mexican Marigold (Tagetes minuta) is the most powerful of the insect repelling marigolds and may also overwhelm weed roots such as bind weed! It is said to repel the Mexican bean beetle and wild bunnies! Keep away from beans and cabbage.


MARJORAM: As a companion plant it improves the flavor of vegetables and herbs. Sweet marjoram is the most commonly grown type.

NASTURTIUMS: An excellent companion for many plants deterring aphids, squash bugs, and striped pumpkin beetles, wooly aphids, whiteflies, cucumber beetles and other pests of the cucurbit family. Great at attracting predatory insects and is a trap crop for aphids. It likes poor soil with low moisture and no fertilizer. Keeping that in mind there is no reason not to set potted nasturtiums among your garden beds. Studies say it is among the best at . The leaves, flowers and seeds of nasturtiums are all edible and wonderful in salads!

OREGANO: repels cabbage butterfly and cucumber beetle.

PARSLEY: Attracts hoverflies. Use as a tea to ward off asparagus beetles. Let some go to seed to attract the tiny parasitic wasps and hoverflies. Parsley increases the fragrance of roses when planted around their base. Keep away from Mint.

PEPPERMINT: Repels white cabbage moths, aphids and flea beetles. Bees and other good guys love it.

 PENNYROYAL: Repels fleas. The leaves when crushed and rubbed onto your skin will repel chiggers, flies, gnats, mosquitoes and ticks. Warning: Pennyroyal is highly toxic to cats. It should not be planted where cats might ingest it and never rubbed onto their skin.

PETUNIAS: Repels asparagus beetle, leafhoppers, certain aphids, tomato worms, Mexican bean beetles and general garden pests. Plant it everywhere, the leaves can be used in a tea to make a potent bug spray.

PURSLANE: This edible weed makes good ground cover in the corn patch. Use the stems, leaves and seeds in stir-frys. Pickle the green seed pod for caper substitutes. If purslane is growing in your garden it means you have healthy, fertile soil!

ROSEMARY: Deters cabbage moths, bean beetles, and carrot flies.

 RUE: Deters aphids, fish moths, flea beetle, onion maggot, slugs, snails, flies and Japanese beetles in raspberries. Lavender is a good companion. Crush a few leaves to release the smell it also repels cats. You should not plant rue near cucumbers, cabbage, basil or sage.

SAGE: Deters cabbage moths, beetles, black flea beetles and carrot flies. Do not plant near cucumbers, onions or rue. Allowing sage to flower will also attract many beneficial insects and the flowers are pretty. There are some very striking varieties of sage with variegated foliage that can be used for their ornamental as well as practical qualities.

SUNFLOWERS : Aphids a problem? Plant a few sunflowers in the garden, step back and watch the ants herd the aphids onto them. The sunflowers are so tough that the aphids cause very little damage and you will have nice seed heads for the birds to enjoy. Sunflowers also attract hummingbirds which eat whiteflies.

SWEET ALYSSUM (Lobularia maritima): Alyssum flowers attract hoverflies whose larva devour aphids. Blooms draw bees. They will reseed freely and make a beautiful groundcover every year.

 TANSY : Not the most attractive of plants. Tansy is recommended as an ant repellant but may only work on sugar type ants. These are the ones that you see on peonies and marching into the kitchen. Deters flying insects, Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, ants and mice! Tie up and hang a bunch of tansy leaves indoors as a fly repellent. Use clippings as a mulch as needed. Don't be afraid to cut the plant up as tansy will bounce back from any abuse heaped on it! It is also a helpful addition to the compost pile with its' high potassium content. Tansy Warning: You do not want to plant Tansy anywhere that livestock can feed on it as it is toxic to many animals. Do not let it go to seed as it may germinate in livestock fields.

TARRAGON : Plant throughout the garden, not many pests like this one. Recommended to enhance growth and flavor of vegetables.

THYME (Thymus vulgaris): Deters cabbage worms. Wooly thyme makes a wonderful groundcover.

White Geranium
 WHITE GERANIUMS (Geranium clarkei): Draws Japanese beetles to feast on the foliage which in turn kills them.

WORMWOOD (Artemisia absinthium): Keeps animals out of the garden when planted as a border. An excellent deterrent to most insects. Don’t plant wormwood with peas or beans. A tea made from wormwood will repel cabbage moths, slugs, snails, black flea beetles and fleas effectively. The two best varieties for making insect spray are Silver King and Powis Castle. Adversely Powis castle attracts ladybugs which in turn breed directly on the plant. Silver Mound is great as a border plant and the most toxic wormwood. Note: As wormwood actually produces a botanical poison do not use it directly on food crops.

YARROW (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow has insect repelling qualities and is an excellent natural fertilizer. A handful of yarrow leaves added to the compost pile really speeds things up. It also attracts predatory wasps and ladybugs to name just two. Increases essential oil content of herbs when planted nearby.

ZINNIA (Zinnia elegans): Pretty zinnias attract hummingbirds which eat whiteflies. Alternately the pastel varieties of zinnias can be used as a trap crop for Japanese beetles. All zinnias attract bees and other insect pollinators.


Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants

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