The Sociable Garden

The Sociable Garden…

…plants that thrive on the companionship of others

(Adapted from Sheena Adams, GardenWise online June 2011)

When surrounded by the right friends, vegetable plants, fruit trees and berry bushes will produce higher yields and tastier fruit, and be more vigorous and healthy. The trick is to know where and what to plant to confuse pests, attract beneficial insects and realize the particular properties that certain plants can bring to the garden. The practice of companion gardening or of growing compatible plants together has been followed by gardeners for centuries, and it has long been a valuable tool in organic gardening.

Flowers not only add colour and fragrance, but they also attract pollinators and deter many unwanted pests. Marigolds, petunias and white geraniums are said to help ward off harmful nematodes, cutworms, beetles and tomato hornworms. In the greenhouse, marigolds can help control the whitefly population. Nasturtiums are beneficial in reducing aphid and flea beetle populations by trapping them with their stickiness. Cosmos scare away the pesky carrot rust fly.

Garlic repels aphids, spider mites, and fruit tree borers, which are a common problem for peach, plum and cherry trees so plant garlic at the base of your tree each season. Basil improves the performance and flavour of tomato plants. Coriander is an easy-to-grow herb that is useful for its spider mite-repelling fragrance. Any plant (such as peppers) that requires extra help from pollinating insects will benefit from the nearby planting of any aromatic herb. However, dill will attract the tomato hornworm, so always plant dill and tomatoes at opposite ends of the garden.

Keep tomatoes away from all members of the cabbage family, and all peas and beans separate from the onion family.

Radishes are beneficial when planted in the hills of your cucumber, zucchini and watermelon, as they help discourage the cucumber beetle, a pest that not only devours crops, but also spreads disease. Radishes will also help protect beans, corn and peas.

Alternate broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower plants with Walla Walla onions which will discourage the cabbage worm adults (butterflies) from landing on the plant to lay larvae. In turn, the onion plant will also benefit from the broken rows, as the onion maggot will not be able to move from onion to onion.

Aphids are a natural food source for hover flies and ladybugs. To attract hover flies plant plenty of parsley throughout the garden and orchard.

Eggplants are beneficial to all parts of the vegetable garden. Their large sticky leaves attract and trap pests such as the Colorado potato beetle, aphids, flea beetles and white fly.

Peas and soybeans help restore the nitrogen in the garden that corn is notorious for hogging.

Interplanting carrots with leeks will reduce the chances of infestation from the carrot rust fly, and the roots of the leeks will help to loosen up the soil.

Peas and beans provide shade for lettuce or spinach and will reduce summer bolting. When planting, consider where shadows will be cast on late summer afternoons and be sure to take advantage of this naturally created shade.

Plant potatoes with horseradish to protect plants from the Colorado potato beetle. Be sure to remove all the horseradish at harvest to prevent it from spreading. Plant summer radish beside your leaf lettuce to make the radish more tender.