Happy companions

Your guide to growing a harmonious vegetable garden free from pests.

Words Kahu de Beer. Artwork Lisa Lodge

You know how there are certain people who seem to bring out all your good qualities? Who encourage you to be the best version of you? And then there are the others … the ones you pretend you don’t see when you find yourself in the same aisle in the supermarket. Well, this is similar to our plant friends – some thrive being around each other and others would prefer a little more space.   

Companion planting is a concept that involves grouping certain plants together for mutual benefit. Using companion planting methods enables you to get the best out of your garden by helping to discourage bad bugs, attract good ones, increase pollination, maximise use of space and improve crop productivity. With a little bit of understanding, companion planting can also reduce our need for chemicals in the garden. 

I love the uniqueness of plants and the way that each has its own likes and dislikes and particular strengths, just as we do. You’ll often find that foods that pair so well on our plates are ones that were destined to be together from the beginning. Take tomatoes and basil – there is something magical that happens when we put them together. When planted side-by-side the flavour of both plants become enhanced; the aroma from the basil also helps to confuse insects seeking to eat tomatoes. These two even go so far as sharing their nutrients under the soil surface. Over and over again we see this kind of mutual love and nurturing in the plant world. And all of this to create beautiful food to nourish whoever is fortunate enough to eat it.

As well as planting vegetables that are companions alongside each other, dotting the right flowers and herbs through your garden will encourage a diversity of insects and healthier plants. Here are some suggestions. 

With potatoes, tomatoes, brassicas. Marigold roots produce a strong smell that repels most insects including white cabbage moth, a problem for brassicas.

Lavender Fends off moths, is a general insect repellent, but attracts bees.

With brassicas. Repels cabbage moth.

With asparagus, basil, carrots, celery and parsley. They all help each other grow.

Orange nasturtium 
With Brussels sprouts. Deters aphids, striped pumpkin beetles.

With tomatoes, asparagus, chives. Encourages growth of plants around it.

With cabbage. Enhances vigour

With cabbage, carrots, strawberries, tomatoes. Deters cabbage moth and carrot fly. Enhances growth.

With tomatoes, roses, grapes, aubergines. Attracts pests away from other plants.

With any plant. Helps to revive ailing plants.

With lettuce, brassicas, alliums. Adds minerals to the soil.

With leeks. Both have strong scents that repel each others’ pests.

With brassicas, beans, carrots. Deters cabbage moth, bean beetles and carrot fly, and improves the growth and flavour of all vegetables.

With all plants. Has growth-stimulating effect on plants near it. Protects the garden from disease and strengthens tender plants.

With strawberries, cucumber, almost any plant. Helps to fend off a host of pests and attracts bees.

With beets, brassicas and corn. Contain bacteria that fix nitrogen, which is a fertiliser.

Near tomatoes, silverbeet, beans. Attracts green vegetable bugs which would normally feast on these plants.

Alliums (garlic, onions, leeks) 
With nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, capsicums). Help protect against slugs, aphids and other pests.

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