In the garden world, you've probably heard of the Three Sisters planting combination. What you may have not known is that there are many other companion plants that help each other out!
The Three Sisters combination includes corn, beans, and squash. These three vegetables help each other out with nutrition, support, and protection. While the corn acts as a support for climbing bean vines, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil for the high feeding requirements of corn and squash, and the squash provides mulch and root protection for the corn and beans. Along with this combination, there are others that will help your garden grow this spring.
Nasturtiums are friends to so many veggies, repelling a host of troublesome bugs and pests; they belong in every single part of your garden, but are especially useful near your cucumbers. Some say that nasturtiums even improve the flavor of cucumbers; we can't promise this, but the beautiful, edible flowers of the nasturtium will decorate all your cucumber salads and garnish your plates for months on end! Nasturtium Phoenix has a versatile plant habit: it will scramble across the garden floor if left alone, or climb a support if trained upwards.
Try adding dill to your garden, as it attracts the beneficial insects that will gobble down the troublemakers by the hundreds. Ladybugs, bees, hoverflies, spiders, wasps — all of these "good guys" absolutely love dill, and while they are in the neighborhood, they will devour many pests.
Marigolds are another vegetable garden must-have. You know about their roots killing more nematodes (soil-borne pests that destroy tomato plants, among others) than commercial pest repellents can. Well, it turns out they do a good job of repelling cucumber beetles, too. And no plant is easier to grow: just pop the seeds into the warm spring soil and you will have bright yellow and orange blooms in no time! We like this pretty Fireball marigold for its abundant blooms as much as its usefulness.
Herbs are extremely helpful in the veggie garden as well. A superstar in the squash patch, borage both attracts good bugs and repels the bad. (And its beautiful blue flowers don't do any harm, either!) This herb brings bees on the wing to help pollinate the squash, and helps deter hornworms and cabbageworms. It is even claimed to improve the growth of squash plants. Highly fragrant, these herbs all keep pests confused and at a distance. Calendula is a must have in any veggie garden and sweet alyssum will repel pests in the veggie patch before most flowering plants get the chance to!
Rosesandgarlicare best friends too. The garlic bulbs can help deter rose pests. Plant lettuce under taller flowers; they will give it the light shade it needs to grow best. Zinnias lure in ladybugs and other helpful insects to protect cauliflower, while collards pair well with catnip to reduce flea-beetle damage to the collards.
There are many more companion duos that you can plant together this year in the garden, but these are a great start to strong, healthy, beautiful plants. We offer all of these plants, plus more, at our website, www.parkseed.com!
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By Pamela Crawford, author, Easy Patio Veggies & Herbs
Photographs by Pamela Crawford
Pamela has written a great article about mixing herbs in containers. Herbs are natural companions with different textures for interest. The herb mix of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme offers lots of flavor from a small combination loaded with textural interest.
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