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Companion Planting

by Stephen Powles
Published: Last Updated on
Companion Crops

Companion planting is a method of growing different plants together in close proximity for the purpose of improving the health and productivity of the plants. While much of the knowledge about companion planting has been passed down through the generations based on observations and experiences, there is also a scientific basis for many of the positive and negative effects of growing certain plants together.

Companion Crops

Companion crops are plants that are grown together in close proximity, often in the same field or garden bed. The purpose of growing companion crops is to improve the overall health and productivity of the plants. There are many different combinations of companion crops that can be grown together, depending on the specific needs and characteristics of the plants.

For example, some plants have natural pest-repelling properties that can help to deter pests from attacking their companion crops. Marigolds, for example, are known to repel many types of insects, and can be grown alongside other crops to help protect them from pests. In addition, some plants have deep root systems that help to improve soil structure and increase the availability of water and nutrients for their companion crops. Legumes such as beans and peas are known for their ability to fix nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that other plants can use, making them valuable companion crops for plants that require a lot of nitrogen.

On the other hand, there are also some combinations of plants that are not compatible and may have a negative impact on each other when grown together. For example, some plants may produce chemicals that are toxic to their companion crops, or may compete with them for resources such as water and sunlight. It’s important to do some research and choose companion crops that are compatible and will benefit one another in your specific growing conditions.

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Three Sisters Planting Method

The “Three Sisters” method is a well-known example of companion planting that has been used by Native American farming societies for centuries. The method involves planting corn, pole beans, and squash together in the same field or garden bed. The corn provides support for the pole beans to climb, while the beans help to restore nitrogen to the soil for the benefit of all three crops. The squash helps to keep weeds down and shades the soil, helping to prevent moisture from evaporating from the surface. All three crops benefit from this arrangement, and the combination is often considered to be an example of symbiotic planting, where the different crops support each other in a mutually beneficial way.

Benefits of Companion Planting

Here are some specific benefits of companion planting, along with some examples of how these benefits can be achieved:

Pest control: Growing plants with natural pest-repelling properties alongside other crops can help to reduce the need for chemical pest control measures. For example, marigolds are known to repel many types of insects, and can be grown alongside other crops to help protect them from pests.

Benefits of Companion Planting

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Nutrient exchange: Some plants, such as legumes, have the ability to fix nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that other plants can use. When these plants are grown alongside crops that require a lot of nitrogen, they can help to provide the necessary nutrients for their companion crops. This can reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and improve soil fertility over time.

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Soil improvement: Some plants have deep root systems that help to improve soil structure and increase the availability of water and nutrients for their companion crops. For example, deep-rooted plants such as comfrey and alfalfa can help to break up compacted soil and improve drainage, while also adding organic matter to the soil as they grow.

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Water conservation: Growing plants together that have different water requirements can help to conserve water and reduce the need for irrigation. For example, drought-tolerant plants such as cactus can be grown alongside more moisture-sensitive plants, providing some shade and helping to retain moisture in the soil.

Increased productivity: Companion planting can help to increase the overall productivity of a garden or farm by making the most efficient use of space and resources. For example, taller crops such as corn can be grown alongside shorter crops such as lettuce, allowing both crops to thrive in the same space.

Increased pollination: Some plants, such as certain herbs and flowers, can attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. When these plants are grown alongside crops that rely on pollinators for fertilization, they can help to increase the overall productivity of the crops. For example, growing basil and borage alongside tomatoes can help to improve pollination and increase the yield of tomatoes.

Natural weed control: Some plants, such as thick-growing herbs and ground covers, can help to suppress weeds and reduce the need for mechanical weed control measures. For example, planting thyme or mint between rows of vegetables can help to deter weeds from establishing themselves in the garden.

Disease prevention: Some plants have properties that can help to prevent diseases from spreading to their companion crops. For example, growing garlic or onions alongside roses can help to prevent rose rust and other diseases from affecting the roses.

Pest deterrence: Some plants produce chemicals that can deter pests from attacking their companion crops. For example, planting tansy or nasturtiums alongside cucumbers can help to deter cucumber beetles and other pests.

Improved flavor: Some plants can improve the flavor of their companion crops when grown together. For example, growing basil alongside tomatoes can enhance the flavor of the tomatoes, while also helping to deter pests.

Best Companion Planting Combinations/Crops

Here are a few examples of some of the best companion planting combinations:

Tomatoes and basil: Basil is known to repel pests such as flies and mosquitoes, and can help to improve the flavor and growth of tomatoes when grown alongside them.

Best Companion Planting Combinations Crops

Carrots and onions: Carrots are prone to insect pests, but onions have a strong scent that can help to deter pests from attacking the carrots.

Cabbage and tomatoes: Cabbage is prone to attacks from cabbage worms, but tomatoes have a strong scent that can help to deter these pests.

Squash and corn: Squash plants have large leaves that can provide shade for the base of corn plants, helping to keep the soil moist and cool.

Beans and peas: Legumes such as beans and peas have the ability to fix nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that other plants can use. When grown alongside nitrogen-hungry crops such as corn and potatoes, they can help to provide the necessary nutrients for their companion crops.

Lettuce and radishes: Lettuce grows well in the shade of taller companion crops, and radishes have a fast growth rate, so they can be harvested before the lettuce is ready.

Marigolds and tomatoes: Marigolds are known to repel many types of insects, and can be grown alongside tomatoes to help protect them from pests.

Nasturtiums and cucumbers: Nasturtiums produce chemicals that can deter cucumber beetles and other pests, making them a good companion plant for cucumbers.

Best Companion Planting CombinationsCrops

Marigolds and potatoes: Marigolds are known to repel many types of insects, and can be grown alongside potatoes to help protect them from pests.

Beets and onions: Beets and onions have similar growing requirements and can be grown together in the same space. The beets will help to deter pests such as slugs and cutworms from attacking the onions.

Carrots and radishes: Carrots and radishes can be grown together in the same space, as the radishes will help to deter pests such as carrot flies from attacking the carrots.

Peas and lettuce: Peas have the ability to fix nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that other plants can use, making them a valuable companion plant for lettuce and other nitrogen-hungry crops.

Cilantro and tomatoes: Cilantro can help to deter pests such as tomato hornworms and aphids from attacking tomatoes when grown alongside them.

Garlic and roses: Garlic has natural pest-repelling properties that can help to deter pests such as aphids and Japanese beetles from attacking roses when grown alongside them.

Thyme and brassicas: Thyme has a strong scent that can help to deter pests such as cabbage moths and cabbage worms from attacking brassicas (a group of plants including cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts) when grown alongside them.

It’s important to note that not all plants make good companion crops, and some plant combinations may have a negative impact on each other when grown together. It’s a good idea to do some research and choose companion crops that are compatible and will benefit one another in your specific growing conditions.

Disadvantages of Companion Planting

While companion planting can have many benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

Reduced yield: Some plant combinations may not be compatible and may have a negative impact on each other’s growth and productivity. For example, some plants may produce chemicals that are toxic to their companion crops, or may compete with them for resources such as water and sunlight.

Increased maintenance: Growing multiple types of plants together can require more maintenance, as each plant may have different watering, fertilizing, and pest control needs.

Limited space: Companion planting may not be practical in cases where space is limited, as the different plants may need to be spaced out in a specific way in order to benefit from their companions.

Complexity: Companion planting can be more complex than growing a single crop, as it requires careful planning and consideration of the specific needs and characteristics of each plant.

Disadvantages of Companion Planting

Unpredictability: The benefits of companion planting can be difficult to predict and may vary depending on the specific plants being grown and the specific growing conditions.

Lack of standardization: There is often no standardization or consistent approach to companion planting, as the specific combinations of plants that work best can vary depending on the specific growing conditions and needs of the plants. This can make it difficult to know exactly what will work best in a particular situation.

Lack of scientific evidence: While there are many anecdotes and observations about the benefits of companion planting, there is often a lack of scientific evidence to support these claims. This can make it difficult to determine the true effectiveness of specific plant combinations.

Limited compatibility: Not all plants make good companion crops, and some plant combinations may have a negative impact on each other when grown together. It’s important to do some research and choose companion crops that are compatible and will benefit one another in your specific growing conditions.

Increased risk of pests and diseases: Growing a diverse range of plants together can increase the risk of pests and diseases spreading between the different plants. This can be especially problematic if the plants are not compatible or if the growing conditions are not optimal for all of the plants.

Limited options: In some cases, the availability of certain plants or the specific growing conditions in an area may limit the options for companion planting. This can make it more difficult to take advantage of the potential benefits of companion planting.

Research findings on the Benefits and Drawbacks of Companion Planting

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of companion planting can vary widely depending on the specific plants being grown and the specific growing conditions. While some plant combinations may have a positive impact on each other, others may have a negative impact or no impact at all.

Research findings on the Benefits and Drawbacks of Companion Planting

One study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology found that certain plant combinations had a positive impact on crop productivity, while others had no effect or even reduced crop productivity. For example, the study found that planting basil alongside tomatoes increased the yield of tomatoes by up to 50%, while planting basil alongside onions had no effect on onion yield.

Another study published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science found that some plant combinations had a positive impact on pest control, while others had no effect or even increased pest problems. For example, the study found that planting basil alongside tomatoes helped to reduce the number of tomato hornworms, while planting basil alongside beans had no effect on bean weevils.

A study published in the journal Agricultural Sciences found that companion planting with legumes such as beans and peas can help to improve soil fertility and increase the yield of nitrogen-hungry crops such as corn. However, the study also found that some plant combinations, such as beans and onions, had no effect on crop yield.

A study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that companion planting with marigolds helped to reduce the number of pests and increase the yield of tomato plants. However, the study also found that some plant combinations, such as tomatoes and onions, had no effect on pest control or crop yield.

A study published in the journal Environmental Entomology found that planting basil alongside tomatoes helped to deter pests such as tomato hornworms and aphids. However, the study also found that planting basil alongside beans had no effect on bean weevils.

A review published in the journal Environmental Evidence found that some plant combinations, such as tomatoes and basil, had a positive impact on pest control and crop yield, while others had no effect or even reduced crop productivity. The review also noted that the effectiveness of companion planting can vary widely depending on the specific plants being grown and the specific growing conditions.

Conclusion

Companion planting is the practice of growing certain crops near each other. Science also explains many of the effects, both positive and negative, of growing certain plants together. Companion planting can have many potential benefits, such as pest control, nutrient exchange, soil improvement, water conservation, and increased productivity. However, it is important to carefully consider the potential drawbacks of companion planting, such as reduced yield, increased maintenance, limited space, complexity, and unpredictability.

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1 comment

Samukelisiwe Ngcobo December 27, 2022 - 4:42 am

Thanks for sharing such good information with us.
I would really love to be part of this team and receive more information.

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