Monday, March 5, 2012

Companion Plants – Good Neighbors

Benefits of Pairing Plants 

Plants have unique growing habits – yet, many plants favor the same growing conditions. This characteristic is the basis for choosing companion plants.  Do the plants look good together?  Do they have the same growing requirements? Do they harm the health of its neighbors in the garden?  How can companion plants benefit its neighbors?
lungwort with cranesbill   Textures, forms, and colors are values we place on plant combinations when we layout our gardens.  Feathery leaves  of astilbe next to broad leaves of Hosta is a favorite of mine for a shady garden.  summer_cottage_garden_poster-p228211013233918314tdcp_400
P6100062 Both appreciate moist soil and diffused light.  Another feathery leaved plant is cat mint.  It’s gray-blue color pairs well with pale pink roses.   catmint with rose

Herbs make great companion plants for roses, too.  Aromatic herbs such as  feverfew, scented geraniums or thyme may ward off pesky insects like the Japanese beetle or aphids.  aphids on rose The use of other plants to discourage pest is an alternative to chemical pesticides.    Many plants have this attribute, and are considered ‘ Insectary plants’. I have always seen family vegetable gardens surrounded by marigolds.  The african marigold African Marigold and the Mexican Marigold are reliable Insectary plants. Insectary plants provide nectar and pollen, food sources, and mating sites for beneficial insects.
  mexican marigold Sweet alyssum is another favorite of mine.  I find its aroma is always inviting to me and lots of beneficial insects, like the hoverfly.
hoverfly sweet alysium insectary plant Planting two or more plants together can derive some benefits.You can choose to focus on controlling pests, attracting beneficial insects, or increasing yields. 
Increasing yield in the vegetable garden may simply be to deter the ever-hungry rabbits.  Lavender and cat mint tend to have that affect. lavender in veggies Good ‘ Insectary plants’ can be fast growing annuals, like the marigolds or cilantro, to hardy perennials like the cat mint, thyme, or Monarda – bee balm.
Companion plants can help their neighbors by providing shelter.  Tall sunflowers can shade the beans and peppers at it’s feet and ,at the same time, bring in bees and other pollinators.  sunflowers in veggie garden
cukes_lettuce These cucumbers are going to provide shade from the hot afternoon sun on this lettuce.  Another good companion!
Aromatic plants that do not have a sweet smell can confuse incoming insects.  Some of these are: mints, scented geraniums, Artemisia, onions and rosemary.  onions
Another plant that has anti-insect attracting properties is the chrysanthemum. The pyrethrums are a natural repellent element of this family of plants and is commercially used in many insect repellents.  mums_1 Mums are thought to repel, leaf hoppers, spider mites, ticks, and cabbage worms.
imagesCA4Z9MK7 There are several good plant lists that will detail companion plants for you in more detail.  Gardens Ablaze is one I found to be informative.  
As the planting time gets closer, and seeds are being purchased, keep in mind the good neighbors you wish to help you have a great garden.
What companions do you have ?
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