L6COMPANION PLANTINGGOAL: Focus on the whole garden to create a thrivingmini-ecosytem that has beneficial interrelationshipsike people in relationships, certain plants like ordislike each other, depending on the specic naturesinvolved. Seedlings of transplanting size begin torelate more and more with the plants around them.These relationships become especially important as adultplants develop distinct personalities, essences, andaromas. Green beans and strawberries, for example,thrive better when they are grown together than whenthey are grown separately. To get really good-tastingBibb lettuce, 1 spinach plant should be grown for every4 Bibb lettuce plants.In contrast, no plants grow well near wormwood dueto its toxic leaf and root excretions. However,wormwood tea repels black eas, discourages slugs,keeps beetles and weevils out of grain, and combatsaphids. So wormwood is not a totally noxious herb. Fewplants are. Instead, they have their place in the naturalorder of things.Weeds are often specialists and doctors in the plant
Weeds are often specialists and doctors in the plantcommunity. They take very well to sick soil that needs tobe built up and almost seem to seek it out. Wherecultivated garden plants cannot manage, weeds are ableto draw phosphorus, potash, calcium, trace minerals, andother nutrients out of the soil and subsoil andconcentrate them in their bodies. Plants seem to haveuncanny instincts.Weeds can be used to concentrate nutrients for futurefertilization or to withdraw noxious elements, such asunwanted salts, from the growing area. A decient soil isoften enriched by adding weeds to man-made compostor by returning their dead bodies to the soil as naturedoes.Companion planting is the constructive use of plantrelationships by gardeners, horticulturists, and farmers. Ascientic denition of companion planting is “Theplacing together of plants having complementaryphysical demands.” A more accurate, living, and spiritualdescription is “The growing together of all thoseelements and beings that encourage life and growth; thecreation of a microcosm that includes vegetables, fruits,trees, bushes, wheat, owers, weeds, birds, soil,microorganisms, water, nutrients, insects, toads, spiders,and chickens.”Companion planting is still an experimental eld inwhich much more research needs to be performed. Theage of the plants involved and the percentage of each ofthe types of plants grown together can be critical, as can
the types of plants grown together can be critical, as canbe their relative proximity to one another. Companionplanting should, therefore, be used with some cautionand much observation. You may want to study the causesof some of these benecial relationships. Are they due toroot excretions, plant aroma, or the pollen of compositeowers that attracts certain benecial insects?Companion planting is a fascinating field.Some of the companion planting techniques you mighttry and experience are for health, crop rotation,nutrition, physical complementarity, and weed, insect,and animal relationships.HealthBetter growth—Growing green beans and strawberriestogether, and Bibb lettuce and spinach, has already beenmentioned. On the other end of the spectrum, onions,garlic, chives, and shallots seriously inhibit the growth ofpeas and beans. In between the extremes, bush beansand beets may be grown together with no particularadvantage or disadvantage to either plant. Pole beansand beets, however, do not get along well. The nuancesare amazing. What is the dierence between bush andpole beans? No one appears to know the scienticreason yet for this dierence in behavior, but it can beobserved.Ehrenfreid Pfeier developed a method known as“crystallization,” from which one can predict whether or
“crystallization,” from which one can predict whether ornot plants will be good companions. In this technique,part of a plant is ground up and mixed with a chemicalsolution. After the solution dries, a crystalline patternremains. Dierent plants have distinct, representativepatterns. When 2 plant solutions are mixed, the patternsincrease, decrease, or stay the same in strength andregularity. Sometimes both patterns improve, indicatinga reciprocal, benecial inuence. Or both patterns maydeteriorate in a reciprocal negative reaction. One patternmay improve while another deteriorates, indicating aone-sided advantage. Both patterns may remain thesame, indicating no particular companion advantage ordisadvantage. And one plant pattern may increase ordecrease in quality while the other undergoes no change.Two plants that suer a decrease in quality on a 1 to 1basis may show an increase in strength in a 1:10 ratio.Spacing for better companions—Using GROWBIOINTENSIVE spacing with the plant leaves barelytouching allows good companions to be better friends.All-around benecial inuence—Certain plants benetthe entire plant community. These plants and theircharacteristics are:1• Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): Creates a beneficialatmosphere around itself and attracts bees. Part of themint family.• Marjoram (Origanum majorana): Has a “beneficial
• Marjoram (Origanum majorana): Has a “beneficialeffect on surrounding plants.”• Oregano (Origanum vulgare): Has a “beneficial effecton surrounding plants.”• Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica): “Helps neighboringplants to grow more resistant to spoiling.” Increasesthe essential oil content in many herbs. “Stimulateshumus formation.” Helps stimulate fermentation incompost piles. As a tea, it promotes plant growth andhelps strengthen plants. Concentrates sulfur,potassium, calcium, and iron in its body.Stinging nettle and tomatoes are good garden companions.• Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): “Helps mostvegetables.” Stimulates phosphorus activity in itsvicinity. Encourages health and disease resistance inplants.• Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile): A lime specialist.“Contains a growth hormone which … stimulates thegrowth of yeast.” In a 1:100 ratio, it helps the growthof wheat. As a tea, it combats diseases such as
of wheat. As a tea, it combats diseases such asdamping off in young plants. Concentrates calcium,sulfur, and potash in its body.• Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Increases the“aromatic quality of all herbs.” “In small amounts” ithelps most vegetables. Concentrates potash in its body.• Oak tree (Quercus spp.): Concentrates calcium in itsbark (bark ash is 77% calcium). In a special tea, ithelps plants resist harmful diseases. Its beneficialinfluence helps create excellent soil underneath itsbranches—which is a great place to build a compostpile, but keep the pile at least 6 feet from the treetrunk so the nearby environment will not be conduciveto disease or attractive to harmful insects.Note: Lemon balm, marjoram, oregano, dandelion, chamomile, stinging nettle, andvalerian are perennials. They are traditionally planted in a section along an end ofthe bed so they need not be disturbed when the bed is replanted.Soil life stimulation—Stinging nettle helps stimulate themicrobial life, and this helps plant growth.
Plant root systems improve the topsoil by bringing up nutrients from thesubsoil.Soil improvement—Sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)brings up nutrients from the subsoil to enrich a depletedtopsoil. After years of dead sow thistle bodies enrich thetopsoil, heavier-feeding grasses return. This is part ofNature’s recycling program, in which leached-outnutrients are returned to the topsoil, and it is a naturalmethod for raising new nutrients to the upper layers ofthe soil. It has been estimated that 1 cereal rye plantgrown in good soil produces an average of 3 miles ofroots per day; that is 387 miles of roots and 6,603 milesof root hairs during a season. Plants are continuouslyproviding their own composting program underground.In 1 year, plants put 800 to 1,500 pounds of roots peracre into the soil in a small garden, and red clover puts1,200 to 3,850 pounds of roots into the soil in the sameperiod of time.2
period of time.• Approximately, a minimum of 0.5 lb of nitrogen isneeded per 100 sq ft of growing area annually. Abouthalf of this can come from a legume, such as vetchand/or cold-weather fava beans, such as the Bannervariety that lives to 10°F., interplanted with a wintergrain, such as wheat or cereal rye. This is a kind ofrotation in space. The vetch and favas would beharvested while immature, when they are at 50%flower, so the nitrogen fixed in their nodules canremain in the soil. (If the legumes are allowed to go toseed, the nitrogen will be taken up and used in theformation of their seed.) The other half can come froma good and sustainable addition of compost.• And/or rotation over time can also be used. This wouldbe when you grow a grain, such as corn in the mainseason one year, and then grow a legume as a “catchcrop” afterwards—and harvest it at 50% flower tokeep the nitrogen in the soil.RotationsFor many years Ecology Action often followed a heavygiver, heavy feeder, light feeder, low nitrogen lover typeof crop rotation approach. However, we discovered thatthis process, while it was good for organizing one type ofrotation program, was complicated and did not takeeverything into account. One example is potatoes, which
everything into account. One example is potatoes, whichare a “light feeder” crop according to the denitionsinvolved, yet they, along with tomatoes, are in realityamong the heaviest “heavy feeders.”Eventually, we began to research rotations anddiscovered that many rotation programs exist. However,it was difficult to find a repeating pattern in almost all ofthem. In addition, it has been observed that biologicallyintensive food raising, because of the diversity of crops ituses, produces genetically diverse compost piles. The useof the cured compost from these piles throughout thegrowing area, in turn, is itself a kind of “rotation.” As aresult of this and a lot of experience, we have developedthe following simpler rotation guidelines:Agricultural recycling: To preserve the soil’s nutrients, plant heavy feeders,then heavy givers, then light feeders.• For main-season crops, with few exceptions, we try notto grow the same crop, or a member of the same
to grow the same crop, or a member of the samefamily, in the same growing bed 2 years in a row. Inareas where 2 or more crops can be grown in the samegrowing bed during the year, we do not grow the samecrop, or a member of the same family, in that bed asecond time during the year. In addition, we try togrow a quick-maturing 60+-day “catch crop” after themain-season crop whenever possible. Fast-maturingbean and amaranth varieties are examples of this. (Alist of plant families is given on this page.)• In addition, for non-main-season crops planted in thefall, there are 3 possible approaches: a 3-year rotationand 2 types of 2-year rotations.• There are some points to be noted in these 3approaches. All begin with a planting for nitrogenaccumulation to build up the soil before grains aregrown to maturity. The second rotation system doesthis with a legume only and, therefore, provides themost nitrogen for the soil. The first rotation system hasa third part, which grows a legume to maturity inorder to provide a period of soil resting.3• You may want to experiment with differentcombinations, depending on the quality of your soiland the type of climate you have. The important thingis to develop a combination that provides the nitrogenyou need and that grows sufficient mature biomass andimmature biomass to produce enough cured compostto maintain sustainable soil fertility while you growfood for yourself.
food for yourself.• In tropical areas, you will need to substitute warmer-weather crops that provide the same functions.A 3-YEAR ROTATIONYear 1: The growing of a compost crop interplantedmixture (see Ecology Action’s Self-Teaching Mini-SeriesBooklet 14) with double the amount of seed of cold-weather grains broadcasted (wheat or hull-less barley orhull-less oats or triticale, and cereal rye) and legumes(broadcasted vetch and a sown cold-weather fava bean).The entire crop is harvested when it is immature so amain-season crop can be planted in time to go tomaturity. (Inoculation of the legumes with the relevantnitrogen-xing bacteria for the crops involved will beneeded if the soil does not already contain thesemicrobes.)Year 2: The transplanting of a cold-weather grain(wheat or hull-less barley or hull-less oats or cereal ryeor triticale), with the entire crop being harvested atmaturity. In areas with a long main growing season, amain-season hot-weather crop is planted afterward to goto maturity. In areas with a short main growing season,we try to grow a quick-maturing 60+-day “catch crop”after the grain harvest whenever possible. Fast-maturingbean varieties are examples of this. Or an immaturecompost crop, such as pearl millet, may be grown at thispoint.
point.Year 3: The transplanting of a legume (a cold-weatherfava bean variety), with the entire crop being harvestedat maturity. In addition, we try to grow a quick-maturing60+-day “catch crop” after the legume harvest wheneverpossible. Amaranth is an example of this. Or animmature compost crop, such as pearl millet, may begrown at this point.3-Year RotationYear1Immature grain/legume combination for nitrogen in crop biomass& nodulesYear2Mature grain for calories and mature biomassYear3Mature legume for soil nitrogen restingA 2-YEAR ROTATIONYear 1: The transplanting of a legume (a cold-weatherfava bean variety), with the entire crop being harvestedwhen it is at 10% to 50% ower, so a main-season cropcan be planted in time to go to maturity. (Inoculation ofthe legume with the relevant nitrogen-xing bacteria forthe crop involved will be needed if the soil does notalready contain these microbes.)Year 2: The transplanting of a cold-weather grain(wheat or hull-less barley or hull-less oats or cereal rye
(wheat or hull-less barley or hull-less oats or cereal ryeor triticale), with the entire crop being harvested atmaturity. In areas with a long main growing season, amain-season hot-weather crop is planted afterward to goto maturity. In areas with a short main growing season,we try to grow a quick-maturing 60+-day catch cropafter the grain harvest whenever possible. Fast-maturingbean varieties are examples of this. Or an immaturecompost crop, such as pearl millet, may be grown at thispoint.2-Year RotationYear 1 Immature legume for nitrogen in crop biomass & nodulesYear 2 Mature grain for calories and mature biomassANOTHER TYPE OF 2-YEAR ROTATIONYear 1: The growing of a compost crop interplantedmixture (see Ecology Action’s Self-Teaching Mini-SeriesBooklet 14) with double the amount of seed of cold-weather grains broadcasted (wheat or hull-less barley orhull-less oats or triticale, and cereal rye) and legumes(broadcasted vetch and a sown cold-weather fava bean).The entire crop is harvested when it is immature, so amain-season crop can be planted in time to go tomaturity. (Inoculation of the legumes with the relevantnitrogen-xing bacteria for the crops involved will beneeded, if the soil does not already contain these
needed, if the soil does not already contain thesemicrobes.)Year 2: The growing of a compost crop interplantedmixture (see Ecology Action’s Self-Teaching Mini-SeriesBooklet 14) of legumes (broadcasted vetch and a sowncold-weather fava bean) with transplanted cold-weathergrains (a dierent grain from the one grown in Year 1,and cereal rye). The vetch and fava bean crops areremoved when they are at 10% to 50% ower, and theentire grain crop is harvested when it is mature. Inaddition, we try to grow a quick-maturing 60+-day“catch crop” after the grain harvest whenever possible.Fast-maturing bean varieties are examples of this. Or animmature compost crop, such as pearl millet, may begrown at this point.Additional years: The same cycling as Year 1 and Year2 above, with a different grain being used with cereal ryein each succeeding cycle.Another 2-Year RotationYear1Immature grain /legume combination for crop biodiversity andnitrogen in crop biomass & nodulesYear2Mature grain for calories & immature legume combination fornitrogen in crop biomass & nodules
Plant Families for Planning Rotations (Avoid planting members of thesame family in subsequent years.)BEET FAMILY (Chenopodiaceae)beets / mangels / spinach / chard / orach / quinoaSUNFLOWER FAMILY(Compositae, Asteraceae)lettuce / endive / sunflower / salsify / artichoke / cardoon /Jerusalem artichokeGRASS FAMILY (Gramineae, Poaceae)corn / rice / barley / wheat / oats / rye / millet / sorguumPEA FAMILY (Fabaceae, Leguminosae)beans / peas / fava beans / runner beans / cowpeas /lentils /garbanzos / peanutsCOLE FAMILY (Brassicaceae)broccoli / cabbage / cauliflower / kohlrabi / kale / collards /radish / rutabaga / turnip / mustardMORNING GLORY FAMILY(Convulvulaceae)sweet potatoesAMARANTH FAMILY (Amaranthaceae)amaranthBUCKWHEAT FAMILY (Polygonaceae)buckwheat / rhubarbPARSLEY FAMILY(Umbelliferae, Apiaceae)carrots / parsnips / celery / parsley / fennel / coriander /cilantroONION FAMILY(Amaryllidaceae, Alliaceae)garlic / onions / leeks / chivesTOBACCO FAMILY (Solanaceae)
TOBACCO FAMILY (Solanaceae)tomatoes / potatoes / peppers / eggplantSQUASH FAMILY (Cucurbitaceae)cucumbers / gourds / melons, including watermelons /summer squash / winter squash / pumpkinsMINT FAMILY (Labiatae, Lamiaceae)basilMALO FAMILY (Malvaceae)okraLILY FAMILY(Liliaceae)asparagusCaution: Some people of Mediterranean descent are fatally allergic tofava beans, even though the beans are very popular and widely eaten inthat area. People on certain medications experience the same reaction.Check with your physician first.Nourishing the SoilOver time—Companion planting over time has beenknown for years as “crop rotation.” A major form of thisis given in the preceding pages. Another approach usedby some is described below.After properly preparing the soil, heavy feeders areplanted. These are followed by heavy givers and then bylight feeders. This is a kind of agricultural recycling inwhich people and plants participate to return as much tothe soil as has been taken out.Heavy feeders—most of the vegetables we like and eat(including corn, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and cabbage)—take large amounts of nutrients, especially nitrogen,from the soil. In the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method, after
from the soil. In the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method, afterharvesting heavy feeders you can return phosphorus andpotassium to the soil in the form of compost.To return nitrogen to the soil, grow heavy givers.Heavy givers are nitrogen-xing plants or legumes, suchas peas, beans, alfalfa, clover, and vetch. Fava beans arealso good for this purpose. Not only do they bring largeamounts of nitrogen into the soil, they also excretesubstances that help eradicate tomato wilt–causingorganisms.After heavy givers, plant light feeders (all root crops)to give the soil a rest before the next heavy feederonslaught. Three vegetables are low nitrogen lovers:turnips (a light feeder), sweet potatoes (a light feeder),and green peppers (a heavy feeder of nutrients otherthan nitrogen). The 2 light feeders would normally beplanted after heavy givers, which put a lot of nitrogeninto the soil. You may nd it useful to have them followa heavy feeder instead. It would also be good to havegreen peppers follow a heavy feeder. (They normallycome after a heavy giver and a light feeder.)4 You shouldexperiment with these out-of-sequence plantings.In space—Companion planting of heavy feeders, heavygivers, and light feeders can be done in the samegrowing area, or space, at the same time. For example,corn, beans, and beets can be intermingled in the samebed. Just as with companion planting over time, youshould proceed with care. In this combination, the beans
should proceed with care. In this combination, the beansmust be bush beans, since pole beans and beets do notgrow well together. Also, pole beans have been reportedto pull the ears o corn stalks. Sometimes pole beanshave been grown successfully with corn, however, and avegetable such as carrots may be substituted for the beetsso you can use the tall beans. When dierent plants aregrown together, you sacrice some of the living mulchadvantage to companion planting “in space” because ofthe dierent plant heights. One way to determine thespacing for different plants grown together is to add theirspacing together and divide by 2. If you grow corn andbeets together, add 15 inches and 4 inches for a total of19 inches. Divide by 2 and you get a per-plant spacing of9½ inches. The beets, then, would be 9½ inches fromeach corn plant and vice versa. Each corn plant will be19 inches from each corn plant and most beet plants willbe 9½ inches from the other beet plants nearest to them.In the drawing below, note that each corn plant gets the7½ inches in each direction that it requires for a totalgrowing area with a diameter of 15 inches. Each beetplant, at the same time, gets the 2 inches it requires ineach direction for a growing space with a 4-inchdiameter.A spacing example for 3 crops grown together—corn(a heavy feeder), bush beans (a heavy giver), and beets (alight feeder)—is given on this page. You should note thatthis approach to companion planting in space uses morebush bean and beet plants than corn plants. Be sure to
bush bean and beet plants than corn plants. Be sure toplant the corn and beet seedlings 2 weeks before thebeans, or the beans will retard the others’ growth.An easier, and probably just as eective, method ofcompanion planting in space is to divide your plantingbed into separate sections (or beds within a bed) foreach vegetable. In this method, a grouping of corn plantswould be next to a group of bush beans and a group ofbeets. In reality, this is a kind of companion plantingover time, since there are heavy feeder, heavy giver, andlight feeder sections within a bed. Roots extend 1 to 4feet around each plant, so it is also companion plantingin space. We recommend you use this approach.Additional spacing patterns no doubt exist and will bedeveloped for companion planting in space.2-Crop Companion Planting
Multicrop Companion Planting in SpaceNote: When interplanting corn with other crops (e.g. beans and squash), transplantthe corn 2 weeks before the other crops, so the corn has time to establish itself first.Compromise and planning—You can see by now that
Compromise and planning—You can see by now thatcompanion planting involves selecting the combinationof factors that works best in your soil and climate.Fortunately, the myriad details fall into a pattern ofsimple guidelines. Within the guidelines, however, thereare so many possible combinations that the planningprocess can become quite complex. Be easy on yourself.Do only as much companion planting as is reasonablefor you and comes naturally. What you learn this yearand become comfortable with can be applied next year,and so on. An easy place to start is with salad vegetables,since these are generally companions. Also, it is easier tocompanion plant over time rather than in space. Sinceyou probably will not have enough area to use an entirebed for each crop, you might create several heavy feeder,heavy giver, and light feeder sections within each bed.You may want to grow a preponderance of crops from 1group, such as the heavy feeders. (It is unlikely that youwill want to grow one-third of each crop type.)Therefore, you will need to make adjustments, such asadding extra fertilizer and compost, when you followone heavy feeder with another. Because of lack of space,you may have to grow some plants together that are notcompanions. If so, you may need to be satised withlower yields, lower-quality vegetables, and less-healthyplants. Or you might try to alter your diet so that it isstill balanced but more in line with the balances ofnature. At any rate, you can see it is useful to plan yourgarden in advance. You will need to know how many
garden in advance. You will need to know how manypounds of each vegetable you want during the year, howmany plants are needed to grow the weight of vegetablesyou require, when to plant seeds in ats and in theground, when and how to rotate your crops, and when toraise and transplant herbs so they will be at the peak oftheir own special inuence. Use the Master Charts inchapter 8 to assist in this work. Herb plants should bereasonably mature when transplanted into a bed forinsect control or general benecial inuence to havetheir optimum eect as companions. Try to plan yourgarden 12 months at a time, and always at least 3months in advance.3-Crop Companion Planting
C = Corn (15″C)B = Beets (4″C) = Bush beans (6″C)Note: Using the sun and shade technique is one way to make the most of your plants’physically complementary characteristics.Physical Complementarity
Sun/Shade—Many plants have special needs for sunlightor a lack of it. Cucumbers, for example, are very hard toplease. They like heat, moisture, a well-drained soil, andsome shade. One way to provide these conditions is togrow cucumbers with corn. The corn plants, which likeheat and sun, can provide partial shade for the cucumberplants. Having lettuce or carrot plants nestle amongother plants for partial shade is another example.Sunowers, which are tall and like lots of sun, should beplanted at the north side of the garden. There they willreceive enough sun for themselves but will not shadeother plants.Lettuce plants can be nestled among other, larger plants for the partial shadethey need.
Corn can provide the shade that cucumbers enjoy.Shallow/Deep rooting—One example is shallower-rooting beans interplanted with deeper-rooting corn. Adynamic process of improved soil structure occurs overtime as plants with root systems of diering depths andbreadths work dierent areas of soil in the plantingbed.5Fast/Slow maturing—The French intensive gardenerswere able to grow as many as 4 crops in a growing bedat a time due to the staggered growth and maturationrates of dierent vegetables. The fact that the edibleportions of the plants appeared in dierent verticallocations also helped. Radishes, carrots, lettuce, andcauliower were grown together in 1 combination usedby the French to take advantage of these differences.Vertical location of the plant’s edible portion—Seefast/slow maturing illustration, opposite.
Weed, Insect, and Animal Relationships“Weed” control—The growth of beets, members of thecabbage family, and alfalfa is slowed down signicantlyby the presence of weeds. To minimize the weedproblem for sensitive plants, you can grow other plantsduring the previous season that discourage “weed”growth in the soil in the current season. Two such plantsare kale and rape. Another example is the Mexicanmarigold (Tagetes minuta).6 “In many instances it haskilled even couch grass, convolvulus (wild morningglory), ground ivy, ground elder, horsetail, and otherpersistent weeds that defy most poisons. Its lethal actionworks only on starch roots and has no eect on woodyones like roses, fruit bushes, and shrubs. Where it hadgrown, the soil was enriched as well as cleansed, itstexture was rened, and lumps of clay were brokenup.”7 Some care should be taken when using thismarigold, however, since it might also kill vegetablecrops and it does give o toxic excretions. Tests need tobe performed to determine how long the inuence ofthese excretions stays with the soil. But to cleanse a soilof pernicious weeds and thereby get it ready forvegetables, Tagetes minuta appears to be a useful plant.
Sow thistle grows with lettuce in one example of shallow/deep rootingsymbiosis. Their roots do not compete with each other.Insect and pest control—At least 2 elements areimportant in companion planting for insect control. Firstis the use of older plants with well-developed aroma andessential oil accumulations. You want the insects toknow the plant is there. Second, it is important to use alarge variety of herbs. Five dierent herbs helpdiscourage the cabbageworm buttery, although oneherb may work better than another in your area. Testingseveral herbs will help you determine the ones that work
several herbs will help you determine the ones that workbest for you. The more “unpleasant” plants there are inthe garden, the sooner harmful insects will get the ideathat your garden is not a pleasant place to eat andpropagate. Using a large number of herbs also ts inwith the diversity of plant life favored by nature. Muchmore research needs to be performed to determine theoptimum ages for control plants and the number ofcontrol plants per bed. Too few plants will not controlan insect problem, and too many may reduce youryields. Some insect controls are:An example of using fast/slow maturing to advantage is to interplant carrotswith radishes.• Whiteflies: Marigolds—but not pot marigolds(calendula)—and flowering tobacco. The first aresupposed to excrete substances from their roots thatthe other plants absorb. When the whiteflies suck onthe other plants, they think they are on a strong-tastingmarigold and leave. The flowering tobacco plant has asticky substance on the underside of its leaves to whichwhiteflies stick and die when they come for a meal.• Ants: Spearmint, tansy, and pennyroyal. Mint often
• Ants: Spearmint, tansy, and pennyroyal. Mint oftenattracts whiteflies, so you may want to grow a fewmarigolds for control, but not so many as to possiblyimpair the taste of the mint, and certainly not one ofthe more poisonous marigolds. This is another area forcompromise. A few insects are probably less of aproblem than mint with a strange taste.• Nematodes and root pests: Mexican marigold (Tagetesminuta) “eliminates all kinds of destructiveeelworms … wire worms, millipedes and various root-eating pests from its vicinity.” The French marigold(Tagetes patula) eliminates some “plant-destroyingnematodes … at up to a range of three feet … Thebeneficial … eelworms which do not feed on healthyroots were not affected.”8• Aphids: Yellow nasturtiums are a decoy for blackaphids. They may be planted at the base of tomatoesfor this purpose. Remove the plants and aphids beforethe insects begin to produce young with wings.Spearmint, stinging nettle, southernwood, and garlichelp repel aphids.• Tomato worms: Borage reportedly helps repel tomatoworms and/or serves as a decoy. Its blue flowers alsoattract bees.Gophers—Elderberry cuttings placed in gopher holes andruns reportedly repel these animals. Daodils, castorbeans, and gopher plant (Euphorbia lathyrus) are allpoisonous to gophers. Be careful with the latter two,
poisonous to gophers. Be careful with the latter two,however, as they are also very toxic to children,especially infants.Birds, bees, and other animals—Sow thistle attracts birds.Some birds are vegetarian, and some are omnivorous.The omnivorous birds may stay for a main course ofinsects after a seed snack. If you are having trouble withbirds eating the berries in your berry patch, you coulderect a wren house in the middle of it. Wrens areinsectivores, and they will not bother the berries. Butthey will attack any bird, however large, that comes neartheir nest.Hummingbirds are attracted to red owers. Theyespecially like the tiny, red, torchlike owers of thepineapple sage in our garden. Bees may be attracted byhyssop, thyme, catnip, lemon balm, pot marjoram, sweetbasil, summer savory, borage, mint, and blue owers.Once in the garden they help pollinate.Animals are good for the garden, too. Their manurescan be used as fertilizers. Chickens are one of the fewreliable controllers of earwigs, sow bugs, pill bugs,snails, grasshoppers, and maggots, though you may haveto protect young seedlings from chickens pecking tastyplant morsels.Companion planting in all its aspects can be acomplex and often mind-boggling exercise—if you worrytoo much about the details. Nature is complex. We canonly assist and approximate her in our creations. If we
only assist and approximate her in our creations. If weare gentle in relation to her forces and balances, she willcorrect our errors and ll in for our lack ofunderstanding. As you gain more experience anddevelop a sensitivity and feeling for gardening, morecompanion planting details will become clear naturally.Do not let too much planning spoil the fun andexcitement of working with nature!Birds and plants can work together. The sonchus plant seeds attract the finch,which afterward eats aphids from the cabbage.ENDNOTES1 Helen Philbrick and Richard B. Gregg, Companion Plants and How toUse Them (Old Greenwich, CT: Devin-Adair Company, 1966), pp. 16,57, 58, 60, 65, 84, 85, 86, 92; and Rudolf Steiner, Agriculture—ACourse of Eight Lectures (London: Biodynamic AgriculturalAssociation, 1958), pp. 93–95, 97, 99, 100
2 Helen Philbrick and Richard B. Gregg, Companion Plants and How toUse Them (Old Greenwich, CT: Devin-Adair Company, 1966), pp. 75–76.3 Legumes fix atmospheric nitrogen in nodules on their roots duringthe first part of their growth. As the legume begins to flower and setseed, all of this nitrogen is transferred through the plant and goesinto the seed to form protein. In this way, the growing of maturelegumes provides a period of “soil nitrogen resting,” since nitrogenin the soil is not needed for their growth, provided the appropriatebacteria are present in the soil.4 This way of looking at crops was developed many years ago. It isbased on how much nitrogen crops generally consume or produce.Actually, it is not always accurate. For example, potatoes, a root cropand therefore a light feeder, consume some of the largest amounts ofnitrogen. As a result, they are functionally a heavy feeder.Nonetheless, this system can be a way to organize crop rotation. See:Francis Chaboussou, Healthy Crops (Charlbury, England: JonCarpenter Publishing, Alder House, Ox7-3PH, 2004).5 Also see Emanuel Epstein, “Roots,” Scientific American, May 1973,pp. 48–58.6 Illegal in California, where it is considered a noxious weed thataggressively takes over cattle lands and prevents fodder fromgrowing. It is probably also toxic to cattle.7 Audrey Wynne Hatfield, How to Enjoy Your Weeds (New York:Sterling Publishing, 1971).8 Ibid, p. 17.9 From Organic Gardening and Farming, February 1972, p. 54.
10 From Organic Gardening and Farming, February 1972, p. 52–53.11 Plants in the gourd family.Common Garden Vegetables, Their Companions, and TheirAntagonists9VEGETABLES COMPANIONS ANTAGONISTSAsparagus Tomatoes, parsley, basil BeansPotatoes, carrots, cucumbers,cauliflower, cabbage, summersavory, most other vegetables andherbsOnions, garlic,gladiolus, chivesBeans, bushPotatoes, cucumbers, corn,strawberries, celery, summer savoryOnionsBeans, pole Corn, summer savory, sunflowersOnions, beets,kohlrabi,cabbageBeets Onions, kohlrabi Pole beansCabbagefamily(cabbage,cauliflower,kale, kohlrabi,broccoli)Aromatic plants, potatoes, celery, dill,chamomile, sage, peppermint,rosemary, beets, onionsStrawberries,tomatoes, polebeansCarrotsPeas, leaf lettuce, chives, onions,leeks, rosemary, sage, tomatoesDillCeleryLeeks, tomatoes, bush beans,cauliflower, cabbage Chives Carrots, tomatoes Peas, beansCornPotatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers,
Cornpumpkins, squash CucumbersBeans, corn, peas, radishes,sunflowers, lettucePotatoes,aromatic herbsEggplant Beans, potatoes Leeks Onions, celery, carrots LettuceCarrots and radishes (lettuce,carrots, and radishes make a strongteam grown together), strawberries,cucumbers, onions Onions (andgarlic)Beets, strawberries, tomatoes,lettuce, summer savory, leeks,chamomile (sparsely)Peas, beansParsley Tomatoes, asparagus PeasCarrots, turnips, radishes,cucumbers, corn, beans, mostvegetables and herbsOnions, garlic,gladiolus,potatoes, chivesPeppers Basil, okra PotatoesBeans, corn, cabbage, horse radish(should be planted at the corners ofthe patch), marigolds, eggplant (as alure for the Colorado potato beetle)Pumpkins,squash,cucumbers,sunflowers,tomatoes,raspberriesPumpkins Corn PotatoesRadishesPeas, nasturtiums, lettuce,cucumbers SoybeansGrows with anything, helpseverything Spinach Strawberries
Squash Nasturtiums, corn StrawberriesBush beans, spinach, borage, lettuce(as a border), onionsCabbageSunflowers Cucumbers PotatoesTomatoesChives, onions, parsley, asparagus,marigolds, nasturtiums, carrotsKohlrabi,potatoes, fennel,cabbageTurnips Peas A Companionate Herbal for the Organic Garden10A list of herbs, their companions, and their uses, including somebeneficial weeds and flowers.BasilCompanion to tomatoes; dislikes rue intensely;improves growth and flavor; repels flies and mosquitoesBee balm Companion to tomatoes; improves growth and flavorBorageCompanion to tomatoes, squash, and strawberries;deters tomato worms; improves growth and flavorCaraway Plant here and there; loosens soilCatnip Plant in borders; deters flea beetlesChamomileCompanion to cabbage and onions; improves growthand flavorChervil Companion to radishes; improves growth and flavorChives Companion to carrots; improves growth and flavor“Dead” nettleCompanion to potatoes; deters potato bugs; improvesgrowth and flavorDillCompanion to cabbage; improves growth and health ofcabbage; dislikes carrots
Fennel Plant away from gardens; disliked by most plantsFlaxCompanion to carrots and potatoes; deters potato bugs;improves growth and flavorGarlicPlant near roses and raspberries; deters Japanesebeetles; improves growth and healthHenbit General insect repellentHorseradishPlant at the corners of a potato patch to deter potatobugsHyssopDeters cabbage moths; companion to cabbage andgrapes; keep away from radishesLamb’squartersAn edible weed; allow to grow in moderate amounts,especially with cornLemon balm Distribute throughout the gardenLovageImproves flavor and health of plants if planted here andthereMarigoldsA workhorse among pest deterrents; plant throughoutthe garden; discourages Mexican bean beetles,nematodes, and other insectsMarjoram Plant here and there; improves flavorMintCompanion to cabbage and tomatoes; improves healthand flavor; deters white cabbage mothsMole plant Deters moles and mice if planted here and thereNasturtiumCompanion to radishes, cabbage, and cucurbits11;plant under fruit trees; deters aphids, squash bugs, andstriped pumpkin beetles; improves growth and flavorPeppermintPlanted among cabbages to repel white cabbagebutterfliesPetunia Protects beans
PigweedAmong the best weeds for pumping nutrients from thesubsoil; good for potatoes, onions, and corn; keepweeds thinnedPot marigold(Calendula)Companion to tomatoes, but plant elsewhere also;deters asparagus beetles, tomato worms, and generalgarden pestsPurslaneThis edible weed makes good ground cover amongcornRosemaryCompanion to cabbage, beans, carrots, and sage;deters cabbage moths, bean beetles, and carrot fliesRueKeep far away from sweet basil; plant near roses andraspberries; deters Japanese beetlesSagePlant with rosemary, cabbage, and carrots; deterscabbage moth and carrot fly; keep away fromcucumbersSouthernwoodPlant here and there in the garden; companion tocabbage; improves growth and flavor; deters cabbagemothsSow thistle Plant in moderation with tomatoes, onions, and cornSummersavoryPlant with beans and onions; improves growth andflavor; deters bean beetlesTansyPlant under fruit trees; companion to roses andraspberries; deters flying insects, Japanese beetles,striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and antsTarragon Plant throughout the gardenThymePlant here and there in the garden; deters cabbagewormsValerian Plant anywhere in the gardenWild morningPlant with corn
gloryPlant with cornWormwood Plant as a border to deter animalsYarrowPlant along borders, paths, and near aromatic herbs;enhances essential oil production