Companion planting is a very wide subject and there are several approaches that one can take. Essentially, you want your plant containers to work well together and companion planting involves growing and grouping garden plants, edibles and flowers so that they actively help and support their companions.
In this article we talk about companion planting that will promote your container garden in some way ... perhaps by enhancing flavours, or repelling insects and bugs, or by promoting growth of nearby plants and vegetables or regenerating the soil by adding trace elements thus enriching the ground. Some plants act as decoys by enticing pests away from other plants and yet others, known as masking plants, may emit a smell which confuses insects who then bypass the favoured plant or fruit.
Still other plants are companions by encouraging a diversity of beneficial insects and bugs. These plants grow readily from seed and include mint, thyme, sage, coriander and chives ... and flowering examples for good companion planting include marigold, calendula, cosmos, lavender and Echinacea. Inviting pollinators into your space is good gardening sense. Bees love the bright colours and nectar of many plants and then hoverflies, also attracted by colour, are deadly enemies to aphids.
In another article we will offer plant recipes as they say - some suggestions for plant combinations for containers.
The role of plants can be a complicated one ... not for the plants ... but for us to find out about and use to our advantage. There are some nurturing plants, like legumes, peas and beans that have the ability to capture nitrogen from the air and add to the soil thus benefiting plants around them. Other plants are sacrificial or martyr plants; they are prepared to ‘suffer’ to protect their companions.
Choosing Companion plants:
Of course it makes sense to choose to grow plants in the same container that need the same or very similar conditions when it comes to sunlight, soil and water. Mint is a dappled sun and very thirsty fellow and it just would not make sense to grow it in the same pot as a succulent like vygies that need hot sun and far less water. It seems obvious, yes, but often we go for the look and not the practicality of gardening in pots – and then we can be disappointed when we don’t get the results we initially sought.
Another consideration is to mix and match your flowering plants with containers of herbs and others of vegetables. Of course, if you only have some space for only one or two pots, no fuss. Just include nasturtium somewhere, whatever you do.
So now, which plants go well together?
Much has been passed down through the generations from much trial and error – which you can appreciate took a long time ... season after season, year after year, area after area, soils and water after soils and water! There are many recommendations for vegetable and herb companion planting that are available.
It makes a lot of sense and it allows us to take advantage of this wonderful knowledge at our finger tips. Of course combinations of plants not mentioned below don’t mean that they won’t grow together – it’s just that those suggestions below are known to work.
When you are considering new pots and containers of herbs and vegetables then also consider the following:
BASIL: Grows well with oreganum, sweet bell peppers and tomatoes.
BEANS: grow well with broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, peas, rosemary, strawberries, spinach and tomatoes. DO NOT plant beans with or to near chives, garlic, leeks, marigold, onions, or peppers.
BROCCOLI: grows well with beans, carrots, chives, cucumbers, dill, garlic, lettuce, nasturtium, onions, rosemary, sage, oreganum, spinach and thyme. DO NOT grow broccoli with or near peppers, strawberries or tomatoes.
CARROTS: grow well with or near beans, broccoli, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, peas, peppers, rosemary, sage and thyme. Carrots will have a good flavour if grown with or near tomatoes, but the carrots will have stunted roots. DO NOT grow carrots with or near dill.
CAULIFLOWER: Grows well with beans, carrots, chives, cucumbers, dill, garlic, lettuce, nasturtium, onion, rosemary, sage, spinach and thyme. DO NOT grow cauliflower with or near peppers, strawberries or tomatoes.
CHIVES: Grow well with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, parsley and tomatoes. DO NOT grow chives with or near beans and peas.
CUCUMBER: Grows well with beans, broccoli, cauliflower, dill, lettuce, nasturtiums, onion, peas, peppers and tomatoes. DO NOT grow cucumbers with or near sage.
DILL: Grows well with broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, lettuce and onion. DO NOT grow dill with or near carrots or tomatoes.
GARLIC: Grows well with broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, strawberries and tomatoes. DO NOT grow garlic with or near beans or peas.
LEEKS: Grow well with carrots, onion and spinach. DO NOT grow leeks with or near beans or peas.
LETTUCE: Grows well with broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, dill, garlic, onion, sage, spinach and tomatoes.
MARIGOLD: Grows well with tomatoes, DO NOT grow marigold with or near beans.
NASTURTIUM: Grows well with Broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers and tomatoes.
ONION: Grows well with broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, dill, leeks, lettuce, parsley, strawberries and tomatoes. DO NOT grow onions with or near beans and peas.
OREGANUM: Grows well with basil and peppers.
PARSLEY: carrots, chives, onions, peas, peppers and tomatoes.
PEAS: Grow well with or near beans, carrots, cucumbers, parsley, spinach and strawberries. DO NOT grow peas with or near chives, garlic, leeks or onions.
PEPPERS: Grows well with basil, carrots, cucumbers, oreganum, parsley, peas, rosemary and tomatoes. DO NOT grow peppers with or near beans, broccoli or cauliflower.
ROSEMARY: Grows well with beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and peppers.
SAGE: Is a beneficial plant to your containers in general. DO NOT grow sage with or near cucumbers.
SPINACH: Grows well with broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, peas and strawberries.
STRAWBERRY: grows well with or near beans, garlic, lettuce, onion, peas, spinach and thyme. DO NOT grow strawberries with or near broccoli or cauliflower.
THYME: Is a beneficial plant to your containers in general. It grows well with broccoli, cauliflower and strawberries.
TOMATOES: grow well with basil, beans, chives, cucumbers, garlic, marigold, parsley and peppers. DO NOT grow tomatoes with or near broccoli, cauliflower or dill, onion. If you grow tomatoes with carrots, the carrots will taste sweet but have stunted growth.
Insect repelling plants are useful additions to your container garden – and besides their ability to act as anti-bug remedies, they are pretty, edible and easy to grow.
Here are some of the hardest working ‘mates’ for your containers.
CHIVES: Repel aphids, carrot rust fly and Japanese beetles.
SAGE: Repels cabbage moth and carrot rust fly.
OREGANUM: Repels cabbage moth. It is especially effective if grow with or near broccoli or cauliflower.
NASTURTIUMS: Trap aphids, deter whitefly, repels cucumber beetles.
LEEKS: Repel carrot rust fly.
DILL: Repels aphids and spider mites. Attracts wasps that eat caterpillars.
MARIGOLDS: Rabbits don’t like marigolds! Repels whitefly and kills nematodes.
GARLIC: Repels aphids, whitefly, Japanese beetles, root maggots and rust fly.
CORIANDER: aka Cilantro repels potato beetles, aphids and spider mites. It is especially effective if grown with spinach.
Do I remember what to grow with what or what doesn’t like what or which plant does what? For sure not – I just do not have that sort of memory! I refer to my lists all the time (which I have filed in the back of my gardening journal) or stuck on the wall above my potting table as a reminder.
What do you want your container garden to do?
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