Home  |  Contact Us

Resources → Gardening and Cooking Tips → Companion Planting  

Companion Planting

Companion plants are those pairs or groups of plants that compliment one another through their life cycles, and do not compete with one another. They also provide an attractive habitat for desirable garden critters such as beneficial insects, frogs, toads, spiders, or birds. A great book on companion planting is Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte.

Some plants can extract or accumulate certain nutrients from the soil and make them more available for other plants. An example of this companion relationship is intercropping clover or other legumes with corn. Legumes fix nitrogen in soil, and corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder.

Some plants can be grown closely together because their needs do not overlap, so they will not compete for nutrients or space. An example of this relationship is carrots intercropped with tomatoes as they do not crave the same nutrients, do not share pests, and their root structures are different and so do not compete for space. Another example of partners that also compliment one another are comfrey grown beneath apple trees.

Some plants specialize in attracting beneficial insects with their smell, their flower shape, color, size, and the timing of their bloom. Here is a list of some favorites to attract beneficials to the garden:

  • Dill | attracts hover flies, predatory wasps, honey bees; trap crop for tomato hornworm
  • Cilantro | attracts tachnid fly
  • Sunflower | attracts butterflies and bees
  • Fennel | attracts ladybugs
  • Echinacea (or Purple Coneflower) | attracts butterflies and bees
  • Yarrow | attracts predatory wasps, ladybugs, and hoverflies
  • Horseradish | an excellent perennial vegetable that attracts beneficial wasps and beetles

Some plants specialize in deterring pests:

  • Basil | wards off whitefly and tomato hornworm when planted amongst tomatoes
  • Nasturtium | attracts aphids away from beans
  • Alliums | confuse carrot fly and protect against slug damage
  • Lavender | confuses pests
  • Nettles | attract cabbage white butterflies, keeping them away from brassica crops (can be a difficult garden companion as the leaves will sting you; they are edible, though, and taste like spinach)
  • Lovage | helps most plants, tastes like celery and fennel
  • Spearmint | repels aphids and ants; caution: can be problematic as it spreads by root quite easily
  • Marigold | repels nematodes underground, and leaf hoppers above the ground

Some plants attract problem insects and can be strategically placed in the garden to trap these pests. Once you have attracted them you can know the insects off in to a bag or jar of soapy water, or vacuum them up with a hand held vacuum. Here are a few examples:

  • Wild Evening primrose | attracts and is a trap crop for japanese beetles
  • Dill | Trap crop for tomato hornworm
  • Radishes, mustards and other brassicas | trap crop for flea beetles
  • Nasturtium | trap crop for aphids

photos: CCF staff

« Cilantro

Compost: Turn food waste into soil nutrients! »