The Secrets of Companion Planting

In a natural ecosystem, plants grow together because they’re compatible. They attract beneficial insects and pollinators, deter unwanted pests, and offer shelter and food for other critters. The plants provide each other with the things they need, whether that’s nutrients, shade, or physical support. A good example of “companion planting” is known as the “Three Sisters” — corn, beans and squash. The corn gives support to the pole beans, which feed much-needed nitrogen to the corn and squash. The leaves of the squash act as a mulch to keep the ground cool, suppress weeds, and conserve moisture. Companion planting is based on the idea that some plants and plant families grow better together. For example, tomatoes shouldn’t be grown next to cucumbers, but will grow ideally next to carrots and basil, as they improve their taste and will prevent attacks from pests. Plants like parsley, parsnip, and dill are known to attack insects like spiders and ladybugs, which is why they should be planted next to tomatoes to protect them. You can also plant your vegetables near flowers, such as Nasturtiums and Marigolds, which attract important pollinators and will boost the growth of tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, melons and squash. Plants like peppers, beans, tomatoes and potatoes object to sharing their root space. Lettuces don’t like to be near broccoli, and peas would rather be far away from onions. To learn more about companion planting, visit the Farmer’s Almanac.