Saturday, March 13, 2010
It is the time of year for seed catalog browsing and ordering. I had my orders in a few weeks earlier this year (finally!) to get rolling on that seed starting so that we could have an early spring garden.
But, with all the veggie eye candy in those catalogs don't forget to look at the flowers and herbs. So many plants make great companions. They attract good bugs, repel bad bugs, trick and trap pesky bugs from your food, smell nice, make your beds look more attractive, and just generally make your garden a wonderland and not just a block of rows. Of course some flowers are edible too - another good incentive to plant them in every nook and cranny you can find. And companion planting is also about garden health - certain plants just do better next to each other, one providing a little boost of something the other needs to really flourish.
I'm by no means an expert, but I do grow my garden organically and rely on companion planting for all the above reasons. I also have very limited space and a garden that is fully visible from the street. My garden has to be integrated into my landscaping seamlessly while still optimizing what little space and sun I have! I plant fruit, vegetables, flowers, bushes, and herbs all together. No rows or square plots here! Looks are important when I have neighbors only feet away. I will admit that my garden is a wild luscious jungle by August but it is beautiful and productive...and we don't use any chemicals. Only water, kelp, eggshells, mulch, coffee grounds, water from our rain barrel (as long as we can), and whatever other natural goodies we can find to help it along or address specific issues.
I have many favorite flowers and herbs for companion planting. Here are just a few!
Attracts good bugs. What are good bugs? Bees, hover flies, wasps, ladybugs, butterflies...I know, you think you don't want bees or wasps! I have kids! I have found that if I have a yard full of good plants & a water source (bird bath) that we do not get stung (we also don't wear bright colored clothes in the garden anymore, just earth tones). Years ago we would get stung constantly. Now we don't. Really. I am happy to have them come - they pollinate the fruit and vegetables and many eat the bad bugs. We need them and we enjoy watching them work busily on those sunny summer mornings.
A few good ones (there are more, these are easy to find and pretty) :: angelica, anise, borage, caraway, german chamomile, dill, chervil, fennel, lovage, nasturtiums, parsley, tansy, bee balm, goldenrod, purple coneflower, yarrow, calendula, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers, asyssum
Repels bad bugs. To repel, the plants generally have a scent that hides the scent of the vegetables the 'bad' bugs want to ravage. A few that I like :: basil, borage, calendula, chives, garlic, hyssop, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onions, parsley, radishes, sage, savory, tansy, thyme
I like choosing plants that multi-task. :) Herbs which are great to eat but also a good companion plant. Flowers that are good at repelling bad bugs but are also tasty on a salad. And lots of color so that everything looks lovely all summer long.
If so many options seem overwhelming, I have a few favorites.
Marigolds seem to really work on keeping the rabbits out, and we seem to have less insect damage. I line all of my beds, throughout the entire yard, with marigolds spaced on the edge. They are easy to find in any nursery too, and very affordable.
Nasturtiums are the same - they look so nice, the bees love them, and they grow so easily from seed. There are many colors to choose from - and they spread great. The flowers also add a nice peppery flavor to salads.
Sunflowers are always a great addition - bees love them, and they are pretty for so long. There are so many varieties of sunflowers - from short to massive, from traditional yellow to streaked red.
So when planning your garden don't forget to scatter some of these great plants throughout your veggies to keep your garden healthier and more beautiful!
If you want to read more about companion planting or get into the details of specific companion combinations, a few good books with more detailed and extensive information::
Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden, by Sally Jean Cunningham
Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte