Keeping company

G Magazine

Help your garden grow with ‘companion planting’, positioning plants together that are mutually beneficial for each other.


Credit: iStockphoto

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Companion planting (positioning plants together that will be mutually beneficial in some way) can help to deter pests, attract beneficial insects, prevent soil infections that would otherwise require crop rotation, help to fix nitrogen in the soil or even improve the taste of those neighbouring vegetables.

Companion planting works in many different ways, and unfortunately it is not as simple as plants ‘liking’ each other. Instead, it is about understanding how the circle of life works in your garden and how you can use this to your advantage. The most important points to consider are:

1. Disguise: Predators can distinguish the produce they like to eat by sight or smell. By planting fragrant plants and other plant shapes around your vegies you can confuse predators that might otherwise choose to feast on your yummy produce.

2. Avoid straight rows: The traditional vegetable garden with lines of vegetables sitting out in the open is an invitation for predators to come and feast. Planting in blocks or scattering produce throughout garden beds will help to deter pests from your garden as they will look for another garden with a more accessible smorgasbord.

3. Interplant: If you must have a dedicated vegetable garden, make sure you interplant using herbs, other vegetables, ground covers and even flowers. This will help to improve the performance of your produce as well as minimise disease and insect occurrences.

4. Use natives: Incorporate flowering native plants such as callistemon and grevillea throughout your garden. This will encourage native birds that will happily feast on any tasty bugs that enter your garden by mistake.

5. Relax: Try not to take gardening too seriously and let nature take its course. Let a few plants go to seed. This will encourage beneficial insects to the garden and can also act as a lure to keep other insects away from the plants you are trying to protect.

Some great produce companions:

Asparagus > Comfrey
Cabbage and broccoli > Celery, silverbeet, beans, peas
Capsicums > Dwarf beans and peas
Carrots > Onions, tomatoes
Celery > Corn
Corn > Perennial sweet pea
Eggplant > Flowering annuals and perennials
Lettuce > Celery
Onion > Pansy
Potatoes > Comfrey, horseradish, broadbeans
Rhubarb > Chrysanthemum
Roses > Garlic, chives, chamomile, horseradish
Strawberries or Zucchini > Chamomile

Extracts from Smart Gardening by Marcelle Nankervis $34.99 Exisle Publishing, www.exislepublishing.com.