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Companion Planting

Author: Sam Adams - Living Green

( Article Type: Explanation )

Companion gardening is the practice of growing specific plants in relation to each other. It is based on the understanding that the characteristics of each plant have an impact on the other plants around it. Such characteristics are most often the fragrance of the flower, leaves, or roots of the plant. Some characteristics are beneficial in that there is a positive impact on the neighbouring plant.

The most favoured companionship is where the positive influence is mutual and both plants benefit from their close proximity. Companion gardening takes these influences into account and the wise gardener will plant accordingly. Planting strawberries with parsley is one example of mutual positive companionship. At the same time, there are plants that have a detrimental impact on their neighbour.

In companion gardening these situations are avoided and the plants are placed at some distance. For example, lettuce should never be planted close to parsley. Other examples of positive companionship include basil with tomato, cabbage with onion, lettuce with carrots, and potatoes with mint. Plants to avoid placing together include beans with tomatoes or onions, cabbage with strawberries, and carrot with dill. Plants such as fennel and wormwood should be planted in their own beds or separate containers as they are strong enough to hinder all of their neighbours.
Companion gardening can also be useful considering the physical characteristics of the plants. For example, beans can be planted next to maize as they use the maize stalk as a trellis. This saves building a wooden trellis and allows for more intensive planting. The beans also bring nitrogen closer to the surface for the maize to absorb. Groundcover plants such as the squash family are useful beneath taller plants as they form a natural mulch.