If you are one of the unfortunate people that had a close encounter with poison oak you should know by now how to identify and stay away from this plant. This is how repellent plants work and the same principal applies to pests if you know how to use the correct plants. Companion planting will help you protect your garden and keep pests far away from it.
Companion planting is a mystery that has fascinated gardeners for hundreds of years and in recent times it has become a method that is of great interest for scientists. For the common gardeners, the chemical interactions between plants and animals are not of interest and they are happy to know that it works, regardless the science behind it.
Companion planting refers to making good use of companion plants for different reasons such as:
- Increasing the health and vigor of your crops
- Planting more plants into less space
- Attract beneficial insects
- Repel insects and other pests
Repellent plants, as the name implies, are those plants that discourage harmful pests. Among the vegetables, there aren’t many repellent plants, but the situation changes when it comes to herbs and flowers.
In recent years herb gardens have become more and more popular since herbs are easy to grow and they provide that fresh aroma that you can’t find anywhere else. Few people realize that herbs shouldn’t be planted all together and that they should try and scatter them around the garden to help with pest management. The trick is to plant herbs where the pests they repel are likely to be.
Companion planting and various repellent plants for your garden
If bean beetles are having a party in your snap beans, you can plant summer savory with the beans and you will keep these nasty beetles at bay. As an additional tip, when you cook the beans, throw a few springs in the pot and you will notice how savory enhances the beans flavor.
The onion family is one of the most powerful repellent of all family plants and knowing how to make good use of onions, garlic, leeks, chives and shallots will keep your garden safe from intruders.
Garlic is one of the most used plants when it comes to companion planting and for good reasons. Garlic repels everything from aphids to cats. If you plant it around roses it will discourage aphids and red spider mites, and you won’t have to spray your roses with poisons to have beautiful roses.
Related reading: How to plant and grow garlic
Clumps of garlic chives planted around and among your rose bushes are both attractive and repellent. They please the eye with delicate white blossoms while repelling red spider mites and aphids. They are nearly as effective as garlic, but they are much better behaved and the chemical exuded from their roosts helps to prevent black spot.
Scatter clumps of chives, onion sets, and garlic cloves throughout your garden. Those you don’t eat will come back even stronger next year. Unlike commercially grown garlic, your table, homegrown garlic, harvested as you need it, is never hot or bitter.
Marigolds are some of the most favorite repellent herbs and are vastly used with companion planting. They exude a chemical from their roots that discourages the growth of harmful nematodes (microscopic worms that damage the roots of many crops). Marigolds also repel the Mexican bean beetles from snap beans and improve the health of potatoes and strawberries. Keep in mind that only the small aromatic French marigolds repel pests. The tall odorless plants are not effective.
Alfalfa has been used in fields in order to help replace the nitrogen depleted by years of growing tomatoes, corn or other crops. The field is planted with alfalfa, allowed to grow wild and plowed under the following season. Besides supplying the soil with nitrogen, it also increases the level of potassium, iron and phosphorus. It is also used as a decoy plant to distract pests looking for “green” plants to land on.
Catnip repels flea beetles, aphids, squash bugs, ants and weevils, but being a mint, it is both perennial and invasive. Plant it in a pot buried in the center of a large bed. Plant potatoes around the catnip, and scatter a few small pots of the herb around the bed. Catnip also attracts cats and although they can help to repel gophers you have to keep in mind that it can also turn your garden into a kitty litter. Bok choy and potatoes are attacked by the flea beetle, but they work well in rotation. Catnip as companion planting that can also be used with bok choy and once you dig the potatoes, scatter bok choy seeds around the catnip as a fall crop.
Anise is an herb popular with chefs, but it also attracts a species of wasps that preys on the aphid. The aphids, just like the wasps, will smell the anise and will generally stay away from the areas where this herb is planted. The smell of anise can also mask the scent or nearby veggies and will effectively hide them from pests.
Coriander or cilantro is also a good companion planting ally that repels aphids, spider mites and the potato beetle with its strong scent. If you plant coriander among carrots, it will protect them from the carrot rust fly.
One of the companion planting plants that is not grown as often as it deserves is rhubarb. This is a beautiful plant that is used as an old fashioned pie ingredient, but it is also a repellent plant that keeps red spider mites and aphids away. The root substance it exudes can improve health and productivity of potatoes, cabbage and broccoli.
Rue is a beautiful herb with a bitter taste and smell. Plant it in flower beds where it will complement bright colors and repel Japanese beetles. Rue leaves can also repel fleas so if you have dogs, make sure you put a few rue leaves in their bedding.
When it comes to companion planting, Feverfew is one of the herbs that can be scattered around the garden with a liberal hand. It has repellent proprieties, grows easily and makes fine flowers. Feverfew can be started from seeds in the spring or grown from cuttings or root divisions. This herb repels insects of all nature and you can also make a weak infusion to control whitefly, spider mites and leafhopers.
Parsley is a good for companion planting as it repels carrot flies and provides a favorite environment for ladybugs. If you soak it in hot water, parsley will discourage the asparagus beetles from attacking your crop.
Basil emits a scent that repels many insects that aim to harm our garden, like thrips. The best part about basil is that it can also repel insects that are attracted to you, insects such as mosquitoes and flies.
Borage is indicated for companion planting since it has a double duty. It repels the tomato hornworms and cabbage worms while attracting bees and wasps. This is an easy growing and self-seeder plant that is often found growing wild. Borage can be used even after the plant has died, it can be cut up for mulch and it still retains its pest repellent proprieties.
Rosemary is a good repellent plant that helps repelling months, beetles and flies. It’s a plant that also helps in the growth of beans and carrots, and it has many health benefits. You can read more about it in the article recommended bellow.
Recommended article: How to grow and use rosemary
Chervil is a good deterrent plant that protects your lettuce, cabbage and other leafy plants from slugs.
Kelp is another herb that can be used for companion planting and it helps repelling aphids, slugs and Japanese beetles. It’s a plant that can also be used as mulch or as a spray directly on the affected plants.
Lemon balm has been used in companion planting as its scent can successfully keep mice away from your garden and home. It also repels mosquitoes and squash bugs, but it’s the most preferred plant when it comes to fighting a rodent infestation.
Mint is a plant that has been used in companion planting for many years since it attracts predatory wasps and it also helps in the fruiting for tomatoes and peppers. The menthol in the leaves and stems acts as a repellent for ants, flea beetles, moths and aphids. Mint, just like lemon balm is also good at repelling rodents. However, there is also a drawback of using mint with companion planting and if it’s not controlled it will take over a garden.
Oregano is a plant that helps keeping cabbage butterflies and cucumber beetles away from your garden. It has also been established that growing oregano alongside cabbage and cauliflower will aid in the growth of these vegetables.
Thyme is used in companion planting to repel cabbage worms. The cabbage worms do not like the scent of any variety of thyme and they will stay away from your garden. This plan can also be used as ground cover or on trellises surrounding the garden.
Clover is another plant used as ground over to keep weeds under control and to distract cabbage worms from reaching the cabbage. It is also a good environment for a predatory bug (the ground beetle) that keeps your garden safe.
Nasturtium is a flower that is preferred by many professional gardeners when it comes to companion planting. It acts as a trap crop for aphids and repels whiteflies, cucumber beetles and more. The same scent that acts as a repellent also attracts beneficial insects for your gardens.
Tansy plants are used in companion planting as a method to repel squash bugs, Japanese beetles, certain kinds of ants and mice. These plants will replace the potassium that other vegetables take from the soil. The leaves of this plant are dried and used indoors to keep flies away.
Valerian is a plant that repels mosquitoes and flies and it also helps with companion planting by supplementing the vigor of plants that grow near it. It provides a good addition of phosphorus to your plants and if you make yourself a nice cup of tea, you will benefit from the calmative and muscle relaxant proprieties.
Repelling insects using natural methods makes much more sense than poisoning them along with your vegetables and your soil. Companion planting is not an exact science and you have to experiment and see what works for your garden. Most of what has been learned about companion planting has been learned not by scientists, but by gardeners and farmers like you and me. There is no doubt that we have much more to learn when it comes to companion planting and this can only be achieved if you have a genuine interest and the ability to keep good records, and share the word with others.
Happy gardening and God Bless!
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