The idea of companion planting is nothing new. Look in any old time garden book or farmer’s almanac, and find a list of companion planting tips and tricks. The only difference between these folklore based recommendations, and today’s modern gardening magazines, is that we now have scientific proof to back up what our grandparents have been telling us all along.
Companion planting is simply growing plants together in certain pairings so that they benefit one another. This “assigned seating” results in insect protection, improved growth, and even better flavor at harvest.
Herbs benefit the garden in several ways:
The odor of the herb can mask an otherwise tasty plant from its insect pest. Their scent can also be used to confuse or deter insects from attacking – We are all familiar with marigolds used in this way, but catnip, mint basil, and tansy are other herbs that work well.
Herbs can be used to provide food for the beneficial insects that you want to live in the garden. By allowing these beneficial insects to have a place to live and lay eggs, you are increasing the *good army*, that can beat out the offenders. Yarrow, goldenrod, fennel, dill are all herbs that will increase the number of beneficial insects like parasitic wasps and bees, lacewings and ladybugs to your garden. These insects look delicate but are voracious eaters of other insects that harm your garden.
Herbs can also act as sacrificial plants, so the offending insects and even larger pests can eat them, skipping your own portion of the garden completely. This is a great way to work in harmony with nature – a key point of organic gardening. The fact is, our gardens are not just tasty to us, they are tasty for wildlife as well. With a little extra effort, there can be enough plants in the garden for everyone.
Some companion herbs :
Mints – This family of herbs, including catnip, and work well their scent can repel both cabbage moths and aphids. Because mints are invasive, growing them in pots, set in the ground, is a good idea.
Basil – Sweet basil repels aphids and mosquitoes. Basil is said to slow the growth of milkweed bugs and act as a fungicide. Basil is fast-growing enough to plant wherever it is needed, even after the season starts and you notice some insect damage. Basil is also perfect for repelling tomato hornworms and it is believed that planting basil with tomato plants, will improve the tomato’s flavor at harvest. Since these two flavors pair so well, it is also convenient.
Yarrow – Not just for herbal medicine, yarrow is fantastic at inviting beneficial insects to the garden. Parasitic wasps and hoverflies both appreciate yarrow.
Parsley – Grow parsley in your asparagus bed to repel asparagus beetles
Rue – Growing rue may seem old fashioned, but it has been proven to repel Japanese beetles. Rue works its job so well, that it can be dried and sprinkled around beetle-infested plants as well. Rue can cause skin rashes, so use with caution and avoid planting in areas that children or pets may play in.
Thyme – Repels flea beetles, and grows upright or trailing, ensuring the perfect variety for any garden landscape. Thyme is a low maintenance herb that’s useful in and out
Let me know if you have any questions about the herbs I mentioned and more importantly, share your favorite companion herbs!