Carol Chernega is the author of A Dream House: Exploring the Literary Homes of England. She writes and speaks on English gardens and pruning. She owns One Garden at a Time, a garden maintenance company.

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Companion Plantings in the Kitchen Garden
by Carol Chernega       #Beneficials   #Misc

Bulbs like Allium spp. may help keep moles out of your kitchen garden.


Gardeners consider a wide variety of factors when designing a landscape. We consider flower color, bloom time, plant height, and plants we just couldn’t resist when we visited the nursery. Over the years, we’ve also observed that certain plants do well under particular conditions. Some like shade, others sun. Most evergreens like acidic soil, whereas most vegetables and flowers like a neutral soil pH. So, we tend to group plants according to the conditions they like.

But we can also group plants in a different way. We can group them according to those that help each other in one way or another. This is called companion planting, and it can make your garden not only beautiful but also healthier.

Companion plants can be divided into three loose categories: Plants that repel pests, plants that attract pollinators, and those that provide shade.


Artemisia can help deter animals from your garden. Planted in pots, they can easily be moved to different areas.
 

Repelling Pests
Have you ever wondered why your grandmother grew mint near the kitchen door? It wasn’t just a convenient spot to pick mint for iced tea. Mint also keeps ants away. So planting it near the house is a smart idea.

Here are some other time-honored ways to keep pests out of your garden.

If deer are a problem in your kitchen garden, surround it with smelly plants that deer don’t like such as boxwood (Buxus spp.), herbs, and Artemisia absinthium.

Marigolds are a classic companion in the vegetable garden.

Deer will not eat poisonous plants such as daffodils (Narcissus spp.), foxglove (Digitalis spp.), Euphorbia lathyris, and hellebores (Helleborous spp.). Mix these in among your plantings, and the deer may avoid the whole area.

Have moles in your garden? Onion relatives (Allium spp.), such as garlic, chives. and onions, should help to keep them away.

Plant nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) in a circle under fruit trees to repel aphids and borers. Nasturtiums can also repel aphids from broccoli and squash.

Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) repel the bean beetle when grown among your bean crop. Their strong scent may repel other pests. French marigolds (Tagetes patula) also help control nematodes in the soil. This takes a full season to be effective, so planting them in different areas of the garden each year will help enrich the soil over a long period.

Basil (Occimum basicicum) repels flies and mosquitoes. So growing it around your patio or water feature will be beneficial. You can also grow it next to your tomato plants. This makes it easy to pick during harvest time, as basil and tomatoes are classic companions for cooking.

Most herbs repel caterpillars.

Tomatoes protect asparagus plants from the asparagus beetle, so interplanting these two crops is extremely beneficial.

Beans help to protect potatoes against the potato beetle.
 

Flowers That Attract Pollinators
Most fruits and vegetables need to be pollinated to produce crops. Attracting a variety of bees, insects, and butterflies helps in this process. The crucial aspect of this is that it is important to attract pollinators throughout the spring, summer, and autumn so that pollinating will take place at the correct time. Using plants that flower throughout the seasons will help with this process.

Planting flowers that have a long bloom time will also help. Verbena bonariensis attracts lots of insects and butterflies. It is an annual in our area, but it does re-seed, and will therefore come back each year.


Fruit trees don’t have to be confined to the orchard. Here, they provide shade for vegetables during the hot, dry summer months.
 

Plants That Provide Shade
Most vegetables and herbs like full sun, but hot afternoon sun can be intense. So, planting a low hedge such as boxwood (Buxus spp.) on the sunniest side of your garden can help protect your plants from heat.

Likewise, fruit trees in the kitchen garden provide shade for plants like lettuce and other plants that wilt in the heat. It is generally best to use dwarf varieties when you want to use fruit trees in this way, so that they don’t overwhelm the garden as they grow taller.

You can also plant short vegetables among taller ones so that the tall ones will help shade the shorter ones. For example, plant carrots among the tomatoes.

Finally, you can put taller, long-blooming perennials around the perimeter of the kitchen garden. They’ll help provide shade as well.

 

A version of this article appeared in a May/June 2017 print edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of Carol Chernega.
 

 

Posted: 06/09/17   RSS | Print

 

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