Companion Plants: Beneficial and Pest Repellent Help for Crops

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Companion plants that are beneficial and help with garden pests in the vegetable garden.
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Companion flowers that help other plants in the vegetable garden.
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A guide to the plants that complement the greens you want to grow in the garden.

My husband, Ross, and I have been collecting information on
companion planting for use in our own garden. During this
research, we’ve found many pointers in various works, but
no extensive, easy-to-use listing of each crop’s
preferences, so we’d like to share with you the guide
we’ve drawn up for ourselves.

Our list was compiled while reading and taking notes on
Beatrice Trum Hunter’s Gardening Without Poisons . . . which we highly recommend for
further information. We’ve also used hints from other
sources, including articles in Organic Gardening and
Farming
magazine, and have been greatly encouraged by
The Organic Way to Plant Protection from Rodale
Press.

You’ll note that many of the companions cited in the list
are intended as pest repellents. It’s true that healthy
plants, growing in fertile, humus-rich soil, are much less
attractive to insects than less sturdy specimens. All the
same, if you’re just beginning to build up your land (as we
are), you don’t have to stand by helplessly and watch your
crops devoured: You can beautify your garden with certain
flowers and herbs which tend to ward off intruders. Just be
sure to plant the companions early, so they’ll be fairly
good-sized and maybe even blooming by the time the
vegetables sprout. If you’re not fighting a particular
pest, you can simply choose a few favorites from the
“generally helpful” group to scatter in and around your
garden plot.

As a rule, it’s advisable to separate vegetables that
attract the same harmful insects. (We’ve included some
warnings to this effect in the list.) There are cases,
though, where it’s expedient to lure the pests away from a
main crop to feed on a “trap crop” nearby — and we’ve
noted a few such examples.

You’ll also see that some pairings are recommended as
“mutually beneficial” and it’s wise to arrange your
planting accordingly (by alternating rows of beans and
potatoes, for instance, and sprinkling radish seed among
the lettuce). Just what makes these relationships work
isn’t known in some cases —  but there’s no doubt that
certain combinations have turned out well for many
experienced gardeners, and the fruits of their experiments
can help you make your plot a thriving, harmonious
community.

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