Planting your own crops in your yard can take a lot of time and effort, but it’s rewarding once you see the literal fruits of your labor.
But to ensure you get the best harvest, sometimes it takes more than randomly placing your plants whenever there’s space. It’s proven that some plants can grow healthier and produce better fruits when placed next to the right companion plant. If you’re not familiar with the method, below are a few reasons that will make you want to start.
What is companion planting?
Companion planting or intercropping is the method of growing two or more plants together for mutual benefit.
With the right plant combination, you can improve their health and encourage more fruit yield just by being near proximity to each other. But if you’re not careful, you can also stunt their growth or end up killing your plant if paired with the wrong one.
Although most information on companion planting is based on folklore and tradition, scientific research backs up several of these pairings. This method is often used for growing vegetables and fruits, but some ornamental plants can also benefit from this technique.
What are the benefits of companion planting?
If you want to get a better yield this year, here are a few reasons you might want to consider companion planting in your garden:
Some plants naturally deposit nutrients into the soil, creating a healthier environment to grow in and neighboring plants to benefit from. For instance, legumes tend to deposit nitrogen on the ground to balance the nutrients without using external fertilizers.
Deep-rooted plants, like carrots or parsnips, can also prevent soil from compacting while providing air circulation for shallow-rooted vegetables. They also help draw nutrients to the top of the earth, improving the health of other surrounding crops.
Attracts or repels insects
Depending on your goal, the right plant combination can attract beneficial pollinators or repel pests from your plants. Flowering plants can attract butterflies, bees, and birds into your yard, increasing its diversity. Birds can also be excellent pest controls since they tend to consume a variety of insects in their diet.
Pungent plants, like onions, can also deter harmful insects from damaging the leaves and fruits of neighboring crops. Strategically placing aromatic plants near vulnerable ones can allow you to yield a better harvest.
Provides protection and support
Tall plants can provide excellent support for climbing vines, thus eliminating the need to put up trellises. Corn is a common example when grown near pole beans, cucumbers, or peas.
While tall and leafy plants can provide shade and protection against the intense heat. Hardy and heat-resistant plants, like sunflowers, are often used to shelter smaller and less heat-tolerant crops. You can also use the protection of larger plants as a shelter for seedlings to protect them against the elements until they’re ready to be replanted.
What are examples of companion planting?
One of the best companion plant pairings is tomato and basil since the smell of basil can mask the tomatoes against pests, like aphids, spider mites, and hornworms. Basil also improves the taste of tomatoes, making your pasta and salads refreshingly good in the summer.
Oregano has several plant companions, but it thrives well when grown near parsley. Since oregano is notorious for taking over your garden, planting it near parsley will help keep it in check. Similar to tomato and basil, parsley also improves the taste of oregano – making your dishes even more flavorful.
You can also plant flowers near vegetables, like marigolds and squash since the fragrance of the blooms keeps pesky insects away from your crops.
How do I start companion planting?
If you want to start companion planning, the first step you need to do is to research which plants will go best together. This will give you a better understanding of what each plant needs to survive and how they will benefit from each other.
The next step is to create a plan of how you’ll set up your garden. This will allow you to visualize how to fill up each plot of soil so your plants can fit and leave room for more. It’s better to write this plan down or create a rough diagram so you can refer to it later and keep your project organized.
Once you’re satisfied with your plan, that’s when you can get your hands dirty in the garden! Remember that the more variety of plants you grow in your yard, the more they will benefit since this will attract a variety of beneficial insects and pollinators.
Keep in mind that companion planting will require a bit of trial and error to see what will work for your plants. So it’s important to understand the biodiversity of your garden to help you with your gardening choices.