Best Plant Combinations for Organic Gardens
We all know that basil and tomatoes taste awesome together. But did you know that they grow well together, too?
It's an example of something called "the three sisters," in which different types of plants are planted together so they'll grow better. It's nothing new: Native Americans planted corn, beans, and squash (aka "the Three Sisters") together to get maximum harvest from minimal space. The tall corn supported the climbing beans; the beans added nutrients to the soil for the corn; and the low-growing squash vines served as a kind of living mulch, keeping water in and weeds out.
Here are some great reasons to try companion planting, plus some of the best combinations to grow:]
Companion planting helps keep bad bugs away. Many pests find the best plants on which to raise their unwelcome families through scent. You can confuse the heck out of them by planting certain strong smelling herbs and flowers among your veggies. Here are some pairings to try:
- Basil with tomatoes: Repels hornworms and mosquitoes.
- Nasturtium with squash: Helps keep squash bugs away.
- Tomato with asparagus: Repels asparagus beetles.
- Mint, thyme, and chamomile with cabbage, collards, and other greens: Discourages cabbage moths.
- Border of thyme or lavender: Repels slugs throughout the garden
- Onions with carrots: Keeps the carrot flies away.
- Radish with cucumbers: Radish flowers attract cucumber beetles, so they leave the cukes alone.
Let's not forget the companion planting superheroes of the garden: French marigolds. They help keep away a whole host of intruders, like Mexican bean beetles, aphids, potato bugs, squash bugs, and nematodes that damage plant roots. Plus, they add a beautiful burst of color to the garden!
Companion planting helps attract the right kinds of bugs. Of course, not all insects are bad. In fact, you need the good guys - think bees, butterflies, ladybugs, ground beetles, lacewings, even some wasps and flies - to help with pollination so you'll get a good harvest. What's more, some of these beneficial insects actually feast on pests, making your work easier.
Queen Anne's Lace
(*Plant mint and lemon balm in containers so they don't take over the garden.)
Also, consider allowing parsley and other herbs, plus veggie plants like carrots and celery, to bloom once they're done producing. The beneficials will love 'em!
Companion planting can help you get a better harvest. This is a great way to get the most from the space you have. For instance, combine tall, sun-loving crops, like tomatoes, with shorter plants that enjoy a bit of shade in the heat, like lettuce. Add trailing nasturtiums around the border of the bed, and now you have beautiful, edible flowers to add to your lettuce and tomato salads. Put a trellis along the back edge of the space for cucumber vines, and you've added another ingredient for your salad. The nasturtiums encourage pollinators to visit, which in turn leads to more tomatoes and cucumbers to harvest. These bright flowers also serve as a trap for aphids, protecting your edibles.
Or maybe you want to create a container garden that's not only pretty, but edible, too. For a cool season combination, consider planting kale in the middle; surrounding it with aromatic herbs, like sage, to protect the kale from cabbage moths; then adding pollinator-friendly violas along the edge of the container (plus, you can eat the blooms!).
Whatever you plant, and whichever style garden you choose, be sure to plant your green babies in Nature's Care® Organic Garden Soil (for in-ground gardens), Nature's Care® Organic Potting Mix (for containers), or Nature's Care® Organic Raised Bed Soil for the best results. Then, a month after planting, start to feed your veggies, herbs, and flowers with Nature's Care® Organic and Natural Vegetable, Fruit, and Flower Food - after all, plants need nutrition, too! Be sure to follow the directions on the label.
Sure, companion planting requires a little more thought than just tossing some plants in the ground. But it's totally worth it, since you'll be fighting fewer pests, attracting more pollinators, and improving your harvest. That's what we call a win-win-win!