Being proactive when it comes to managing pests and diseases is a must. One way to help with that organically is with companion planting. It’s a term used to describe the placement of plants in a garden that either attract, repel or confuse certain bugs and insects from finding the plants you’re trying to protect. It’s a common practice in organic agriculture and worthy for effective control in home gardens too. In this podcast, Joe Lamp’l covers the basics of companion planting and what you need to know to get started at home.
Perhaps you’ve heard of planting marigolds with tomatoes. It’s a well-known practice. But did you ever stop to wonder why that’s done? Well there are hundreds of companion planting combinations, and many have their roots in garden folklore. Yet we know today through research, that many garden pests and insects are affected by plants with certain scents, colors or compounds. So It stands to reason that having plants in our garden that possess certain traits will have an impact on certain bugs. The key is in knowing which plants work with which bug or insect.
In the marigold example, French marigolds emit such a strong scent, that many pests never pick up on the scent of other crops, thereby saving them from damage. And African marigolds exude a chemical from their roots that repels microscopic worms in soil, called nematodes.But there are a number of reasons for putting companion plants in the garden. In addition to the French Marigold example of masking plants by smell, there are many others, including planting dill next to cucumbers to repel cucumber beetles and basil or onions next to tomatoes to control tomato hornworms.
Another major reason to add companion plants to your garden is to attract beneficial insects, since many supplement their diet with nectar produced from plants with small flower clusters. Every season, I plant dill and fennel for this very reason (along with the fact that these are great host plants for attracting butterfly larvae). Queen Ann’s Lace and many herb plants are other good examples for attracting beneficials. And once the good guys are there, there’s a good chance they’ll stick around to help you with controlling garden pests.
Another common practice is to plant “trap crops” which actually attract pests to it. The thinking is, the pests are coming anyway, so they might as well go to sacrificial plant, rather than the cash crop. It’s a common practice in organic agriculture. Planting collards around cabbage is a popular trap crop for controlling the diamondback moth. In this case, the collards are the sacrificial crop, allowing the cabbage to grow undisturbed.
Yet, no matter how much folklore or scientific evidence is built into the effectiveness of companion planting, there’s no denying the benefits of having a diverse garden for adding beauty and attracting the good guys. Some plants serve as breeding grounds and habitats beyond for beneficial insects, plus we know a garden of just a single crop is far more attractive to pests. So go ahead, add a few more Burpee Home Garden companion plants, especially herbs, to reduce pests naturally while having a more attractive and diverse garden at home!
And listening to these podcasts is another great companion for diversifying your garden knowledge! This is just one of 26 podcasts created to get you off to a successful start and provide helpful, weekly tips throughout the entire growing season. And to be sure you don’t miss a single, you can subscribe to this podcast series for free in iTunes. And for more ideas and inspiration any time, be sure to check out burpeehomegardens.com.
Now go get dirty!