When I first heard about this concept, which boils down to friends and enemies in the garden, I was really intrigued.
Many books and charts and pages of notes later, I started in and created a garden of beautiful chaos.
There are a ton of vegetables in this picture. Can you see them?
This is the point of one aspect of Companion Planting.
I call it “Confuse a Bug”. By planting herbs and flowers around the food plant, the odor that draws the bug to the target plant is hidden. The highway is reduced to a small foot path.
Some of the most popular vegies have a huge “I’m yummy!!” bulls-eye target painted on them by having a strong distinctive scent.
In this raised bed, the scents of Napa cabbages and Purple Broccoli are well hidden by big marigold plants and basil. (Plus, a volunteer lettuce well on its way to going to seed so it’s very bitter smelling.) Everything in this bed was raised from seed started inside in April.
All the cabbage family, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. will draw the white butterfly that lays eggs that hatch into green caterpillars that eat huge holes into the cabbages. Without companion planting, just one day your garden will be filled with cute white butterflies that flutter romantically around your baby cabbage plants.
Which should fill your heart with horror. They are there to eat your food without mercy.
Fill your cabbage patch with herbs!!!
This patch of kale, cabbage and kohlrabi has much Sweet Annie Artemisia, piles of dill, parsley, and garlic chives planted in and around dense grouping. There is a bit of damage but most of the heads are perfect. The Sweet Annie Artemisia is a powerful protective plant, and the scent is intoxicating for people. At the end of the season, cut branches to dry and enjoy as a wreath or just in a floor vase.
This bed is packed with food plants and companion plants. They make it work. In nature you see plants cuddled together and making it work. Less open space in your garden means less weeding and more confusing pests.
Tomatoes – the reason most people garden. Also, the reason that many people get discouraged and quit gardening.
It’s clear when you look in the seed catalogs what humans love. There are two or three types of parsnip, turnip, and rutabaga seed varieties offered. But turn to the section of the catalog that hosts tomatoes – and boy, howdy, the pages explode with luscious colors, sizes, and detailed descriptions of flavors! Talk about food porn!
Bugs feel much the same way about tomatoes. Attacked by flea and stink beetles, tomato hornworm, aphids, and a whole bunch more – tomatoes again have a strong scent. Your first defense against pests is to not be findable.
Cover the smell of your coddled tomatoes with beneficial herbs and flowers. Put marigolds between the plant rows. Encircle each plant with basil. Sprinkle dill seeds around every three weeks or so. This will keep a crop of the dill weed thriving and creating the strong dill scent to keep pests away. Dill is also a great home for lovely swallowtail butterflies.
Harvest the herbs frequently, even if you just put them back on the food crop. Deadhead the marigolds and sprinkle them into the crowns of the tomatoes. The growing top of the plant is often the most alluring to the pests. Clip some of the extra stems of the herbs and place them onto the big leaves of your cabbage plants.
Remember, you are a part of the garden and the Number One Companion.