09 Apr 2017

A visual guide to companion planting

A visual guide to companion planting

A visual guide to companion planting

If gardening can sometimes feel like a solitary activity, freeing yourself from anthropocentric ideas of ‘togetherness' and learning to hang out with your plant life can be a rewarding and friendly experience. We know from our daily lives that living entities prosper when they work together (as long as they don't end up ripping each other's throats out), and this is a principle that works human-human, human-plant, and – as is often overlooked – plant-to-plant.

Yes, companion planting is a neglected art which, when embraced, can make your gardening efforts more efficient and more rewarding. Cultivating appropriate plants side-by-side, and avoiding clashing species, can help these plants to become strong and healthy. It can also improve the flavour of your food crops, and help to frighten off harmful insects and defend against other pests such as fungus and disease.

The borage herb, for example, is great for protecting strawberry crops, by attracting pollinating insects that make a tasty entrée to wasps and the praying mantis, which will arrive subsequently to eat up all manner of other pests that can destroy your berries. Sometimes species-on-species violence is for the greater good!

Carrots are a great aid to bean crops (although sadly the assistance is uni-directional) since they repel certain flies and add a subtle tang to your beans. But while you may be tempted to pre-season your carrots by growing them alongside coriander or dill, these herbs should be avoided since the chemicals they emit will damage your little orange babies.

Everyone loves to raise a good, healthy tomato crop, and you can add flavour to the bulbous rouge ones by planting them alongside carrots, celery, chives or basil. And that way – hey presto – you have all the ingredients you need for an excellent tomato soup (and most of the ingredients you need for a bit of a Bloody Mary). Basil, thyme and parsley will also spice up your potatoes, though you need to keep them away from your tomatoes – potatoes and tomatoes suffer from the same diseases, so putting them together can wind you up with a double tragedy.

Companion planting is both a challenge and a pleasure, and there is always more to learn about the wonderful partnerships that nature has created and which you can nurture. For a few more ideas on different plants and veggies that you can grow in close proximity, check out this wonderful new visual guide from Home Advisor.


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