The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion (Lyons Press, 2018) by Amy K. Fewell helps beginners and experts alike make the most of their homegrown herbs. This guide takes readers through the basics of using herbs in their home. Fewell speaks from experience, after growing her own herbs for years. The following excerpt is her explanation for herbal companion planting.
Interweaving your herbs into your garden beds is an incredible skill that truly blew my mind when I first learned about gardening. Who knew that planting these beautiful, tasty herbs next to your garden vegetables and plants would produce an incredibly healthy fruit or vegetable?
Companion planting is beneficial to the life cycle of your garden vegetables, fruits, and other herbs. You can deter pests or attract helpful insects. Companion planting can also allow the herbs to increase the essential oils that are within other herbs around them. On the other hand, there are some herbs that shouldn’t be planted near certain plants. But for the most part, plants just love the heck out of each other.
Almost any herb can be companion planted throughout your garden; however, here are some of the main herbs that I companion plant on a regular basis.
Basil: It’s common knowledge that basil pairs well with tomatoes. I’ll prepare a plate of homegrown tomatoes, basil, and feta or mozzarella any day of the week during the summer months. I’ll devour it myself if no one is around to watch me. And then, I’ll make another plate for everyone else. Growing basil near tomatoes, asparagus, oregano, and peppers, helps deter unwanted pests like flies and mosquitoes, and enhances the flavor of its companion plants.
Chives: These do great when planted with any other herbs, bringing out and enhancing the natural essential oils in the companion herbs around it. It is also great when planted next to carrots, squash, and tomatoes, as it repels aphids and enhances flavors. Plant chives with peppers, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, potatoes, strawberries, rhubarb, and kohlrabi for flavor enhancement and overall plant health. Chives have also been known to deter Japanese beetles.
Garlic: I enjoy planting rows of garlic throughout my garden. It does well with just about any vegetable, but it really does enjoy being near leafy vegetables (cabbage, kale, greens), tomatoes, carrots, and beets. Garlic is great to repel unwanted fungus, Japanese beetles, aphids, rabbits, moths, and snails.
Mint: Mint saves my life from cabbage moths—be it peppermint or spearmint. My goodness, I cannot even express to you how much I need any type of mint (especially peppermint) in the garden. Peppermint and spearmint especially do well among cabbage, kale, and other large leafy greens that are susceptible to cabbage moth damage. Mints also deter ants, aphids, flea beetles, and squash bugs. Just keep it away from your chamomile.
Parsley: Asparagus, corn, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and peas all benefit from companion planting with parsley. Parsley attracts butterflies and pollinators to your garden, and is known to repel beetles.
Rosemary: A fabulous herb that also repels the evil cabbage moth and the bean beetle. It’s also the arch nemesis of slugs and snails. Plant among beans, peppers, cabbage, kale, sage, and broccoli.
Thyme: Make thyme your friend, no pun intended. Ever since I’ve included thyme in my herb garden and around much of my vegetable garden, I’ve seen a decrease in tomato hornworm and cabbage worm. Thyme pairs well with cabbage, potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes. Thyme also attracts honeybees, and is great for pollinators. When planted near your bee hives, thyme will enhance the flavor of your honey and promote good bee health.
While there are a lot of herbs you can grow in your garden that are beneficial to your health and other plants, there are also a lot of herbs that you can find growing freely in the wild. We encourage wild herbs, like plantain, to grow among our garden plants and in our yard. In the next chapter, I’ll go over some of my favorite wild herbs to forage that I also encourage to grow right in my own backyard. Don’t worry, if you can’t find them in your region, you can grow many of them right in your garden beds.
Reprinted with permission from The Homesteader's Herbal Companion (2018), by Amy K. Fewell and published by Lyons Press.
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