Have you ever considered the possibility that your plant might be missing a friend he could rely on for growth and support and vice versa? Well, that’s what companion planting precisely is. Take a look around nature, and you will find that it is indeed the most natural form of thriving, especially in forests where plants are codependent on each other for food, shelter, and more.
Another word often used in place of companion planting is intercropping, which involves planting and letting grow different plant species in very close proximity. You may also say it is a type of polyculture where two plants or more are produced together with mutual growth benefits.
But companion planting does not mean any two species of plants can be in a system. Instead, it requires proper understanding and knowledge of how a plant may benefit from what the other one has to offer and knowing that a bad company might be more harmful to both of them in the long run.
Benefits Of Companion Planting
Companion planting not only makes it easy to watch out for issues like a nutrient deficiency in plants, shelter requirements, pests, etc. but also resolves space concerns, giving one more option, space, and variety to explore. Let us discuss some other significant benefits of companion plants.
Maintains Soil Health
When two plants that could be apart are together, it reduces the risk of soil erosion (removal of the top layer of soil). They also give the soil time to regain its nutrient content with some plant species like legumes, beans, and peas, reviving the soil’s nitrogen content with the help of bacterias that feed nitrogen present in the air to the soil boosting its fertility. Then some plants pull nutrients from deep within the soil and bring them to the top layer.
Shade And Support
It is difficult to care for all of the plants’ needs in different seasons and growth times, especially if they are young and vulnerable. Companion planting gives you an option to let bigger plants protect the younger ones from direct sunlight, winds, etc. Vines, in such cases, make for the perfect companion as they require constant support, and there’s nothing better than a tree for the purpose.
One can also try companion planting with two species with different growth rates if no other support plants are suitable.
Pests, insects, and lack of caution happen to be the prime reason for several plant diseases, destroying even the healthiest plants in the garden. The matter might turn worse with even faster spreading conditions if similar crops have been planted in continuation. However, companion planting a species with another species can effectively delay the spread, giving one time to take proper measures.
Moreover, companion planting can even be used in a trap cropping method or used as repellents. In the trap cropping method, a plant species attract the pest so that the other is left alone. At the same time, plants like garlic, mint, marigold, basils, etc., help ward off common pests and are used as a repellent crop with other plant species.
Provides Planting Space
One does not need to have extensive planting space to have a beautiful and splendid garden with various plants. Companion planting lets you manage whatever area there is better, leaving ample for other species to grow as well.
Weed only grows where there is free space with adequate sunlight to thrive, something companion planting minimizes, limiting weed growth around the garden. Intercropping provides you the option to keep the soil moist and shady, with no direct sunlight, as well as not to leave empty spaces, saving you the trouble of having to clean up the weeds, not to mention the hindrance to your plant growth you get to avoid.
Attracting Beneficial Insects
Certain insects like bees, wasps, ground beetles, etc., are great at keeping away common pests by feeding on them and are therefore also known as garden-friendly insects. Plant species that attract such insects, needless to say, will naturally prevent pests in the plants, keeping others safe.
Popular Companion Plants
As mentioned above, not all people make good friends; not all plants make good companions either. For example, plant A might make a good companion with plant B but not necessarily with plant C and therefore requires to be well apart.
When planted with cauliflower, onions, beans, etc., leafy green swiss chard keeps the pests away. It also protects the vegetables and promotes their growth while adding an aesthetic look to the garden with green leaves and bright and beautiful chard stems.
Rainbow chard also makes for an excellent side dish; saute it with olive oil and add it to your scrambled eggs and parmesan cheese or toss some swiss chard leaves in your salad for that mild, earthly taste.
Growing basil along with tomatoes, red peppers, etc., repel many pests, including whiteflies and mosquitoes, and promote growth and flavor in the vegetables. Basils also attract bees, improving pollination.
Sage is yet another great herb that keeps both carrot flies and cabbage moths away when planted along with them in the vegetable garden, not to mention the great herb it is to have around for kitchen purposes. Just some chopped leaves of sage over the soup, and voila.
Sunflowers provide support and shade to climbing plants, making them a perfect companion in hotter climates, with their best planting buddy is cucumbers and pole beans.
Companion planting is not a modern gardening technique. However, many plants can effectively use companion planting to grow better and improve the overall garden quality. Although, one needs to choose a companion for a species carefully with proper research or expert guidance for best results.