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Finding Community in a Garden

Next to composting, I'm entranced by companion plants. These are plants that when sowed together keep away pests that are harmful to one or the other of the companion plants. They are indispensable to the organic gardener.

One of the best known pairings is marigolds and tomatoes. Marigolds keep away those monstrous horned, green worms that so love tomatoes. When you use companion planting, you never have to worry about whether the plant got entirely coated with pesticide or was washed off in the last rain.  Companion plants work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No worries about getting poison your harvest either.

They work in a variety of ways from smell to chemistry to having mutually beneficial waste products or impacts on the soil.

Here are some other common combinations for a companionable garden:

  • Basil is a good plant to have near tomatoes. (It also repels mosquitoes and flies.) 
  • Borage helps strawberries thrive and is good with tomatoes and squash. Bees love borage, which brings them in to pollinate your garden.
  • Chamomile is good to plant with onions and cabbages
  • Dill is good planted near cabbages, lettuce, corn and cucumbers.
  • Garlic repels red spider mites.  It's a good plant to have near fruit trees and tomatoes. When chopped and soaked in water or mineral oil, it can make a good pest repelling spray for plants.
  • Geraniums also discourage red spider mites.  They work well planted near corn and grapes.
  • Horseradish repels potato bugs, but it can spread prolifically in a garden.
  • Lemon balm is another good companion plant for tomatoes
  • Nasturtium are cheerful companions for collards, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes and fruit trees.
  • Rosemary loves beans, carrots, cabbage and sage.
  • Rue is a good pest repellent for strawberries and fig trees
  • Oregano repels cucumber beetle.  It's a good companion for collards, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and grape vines.
  • Sage is good near rosemary, cabbage and carrots
  • Thyme keeps worms away from cabbage
  • Yarrow works almost like a double agent in the garden.  It attracts predatory wasps, which then feed pesty insects to their larvae.  It also attracts ladybugs and hoverflies.
Some plants like lovage, marjoram and tarragon are good next to just about anything you plant in a garden.

Just as some plants put together have beneficial effects, other combinations can have deleterious effects.  Avoid these combinations:
  • Dill planted near fennel -- they can cross pollinated.
  • Mint near parsley
  • Sage near cucumbers
  • Rosemary near potatoes
  • Rue near basil

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