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Companion Planting: Nature's Perfect Partners

“A good companion shortens the longest road.” –Turkish Proverb Quote

“It's easier to find a traveling companion than to get rid of one” –Art Buchwald

Companion planting represents organic gardening’s basic concept of learning from nature. The idea behind companion planting is that there are certain plants, when grown together, which have a mutually beneficial relationship unique to that combination. Companion planting has been practiced for centuries: you may be familiar with the traditional Native American combination of the “Three Sisters,” which combines corn, beans and squash. While many combinations of plants have been shared between gardeners for generations, science has also proven the many benefits.

The Three Sisters

  • The Myth: The story behind the “Three Sisters” begins as a creation myth from the Iroquois Indians. According to the myth, the Sky Woman fell from the sky after peering through a hole in it. She was pregnant when she fell, and when she landed on earth, she gave birth to a daughter. The daughter grew up and also became pregnant with twin boys, but she died in childbirth. Sky Woman buried her, and from her grave came three plants: corn, beans, and squash. From these plants, there was enough food for the twin boys, and later, all of humanity.
  • The Science: Studies have proven the symbiotic relationship of corn, beans, and squash. Corn provides a structure for the beans to climb. In return, the beans replenish the soil with nutrients, particularly nitrogen, which corn uses heavily. All plants need nitrogen as food and beans work with the rhizobium bacteria to convert nitrogen in the air into a useable source in the soil. Finally, the squash leaves serve as living mulch for the other two plants. Because they grow close to the ground, they block out sunlight which reduces seed germination from weeds.

Some ideas for companion plants:

 Plant Friend Foe
 Basil  Asparagus  Tomato, Parsley
 Beans  Veggies & Herbs  Onion
 Cabbage  Aromatic Herbs, Dill, Celery  Strawberries
 Pole  Beets, Onion Family, Chamomile, Spinach, Chard  Beans, Tomatoes
 Eggplant  Beans, Marigold  
 Lettuce  Carrot, Radish, Strawberry, Cucumber  
 Squash  Nasturtium, Corn, Marigold  Irish Potato
 Tomato  Onion Family, Nasturtium  Irish Potato
 Fennel  Marigold, Asparagus, Carrot, Parsley, Cucumber  Cabbage Family

Flowers Make Good Companions Too!

Some flowers have the ability to fight off pests that may bother your veggies. Planting in and around your veggie garden will not only fight pests, it will make it extra colorful!

  • CATNIP: Deters flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants and weevils.
  • CHRYSANTHEMUM: Kills root nematodes. White flowering chrysanthemums repel Japanese beetles.
  • DAHLIA: These beautiful, tuberous annuals repel nematodes.
  • FLAX: Flax contains tannin and linseed oils which may offend the Colorado potato bug. Plant with carrots, and potatoes. 
  • Marigold: The more potent mexican marigolds, deter undesireable insects from invading your vegetables with a notable scent.
  • Nasturtium: These edible plants make a wonderful companion to gourds. The thick leaf coverage these plants provide creates an effective barrier to insects such as squash bugs and beetles.  Attracts many beneficial insects.