2014-02-28 / From The Garden

Food for Thought: Companion Planting

By Cynthia Gibson


Many vegetables such as the Swiss chard above are known to be more flavorful when planted next to marigolds and nasturtiums. Many vegetables such as the Swiss chard above are known to be more flavorful when planted next to marigolds and nasturtiums. With the end of February upon us, it is time to order seeds and prepare indoor pots and seed trays for planting. Make sure to have enough potting soil and distilled water; I find it best not to use tap water for indoor potted plants. As for a few seed growing housekeeping matters, set up a table in a window with a southern exposure. Plant green peppers first, as they take the longest to germinate. Wait until the beginning of March to start your tomatoes. The rest of your vegetable seeds can be started later in March.

To maximize your garden, decide on the best plants to place next to one another. This method is called “companion planting.” Ideally, not only will the second plant maximize the flavor of the vegetable, but it will also repel certain insects.

Companion planting has been used for ages. Romans discovered that planting walnut trees around the perimeter of a garden would make the soil sterile. Flowers and vegetables chemically change the soil where they are planted. Your goal should be to plant the right combinations to make your soil not only excellent, but also to cultivate the best taste in your vegetables and fragrance from your flowers and herbs. A few rules of thumb on complementary pairings are helpful to remember:


The taste of tomatoes is improved when planted next to borage. The taste of tomatoes is improved when planted next to borage. . Garlic should be planted next to roses, fruit trees, raspberries, and blackberries.

. The taste of tomatoes is improved when grown next to borage, an annual herb also known
as starflower. Borage can be invasive, so plant it in a pot in the soil.
Borage also repels those dreaded,
green tomato worms.
. Beets like being close to any
vegetable in the cabbage family.
They thrive next to Swiss chard,
broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
. Chives improve the flavor
of tomatoes, grapes, carrots, and
peas. Chives also deter aphids and
Japanese beetles. They are good
cnadidates for your rose garden,
too.
. Eggplants do well with other
Mediterranean friends like peppers
and tomatoes.
. Lettuce thrives next to carrots and leeks.
. Broccoli is a flower and herbloving vegetable. It is most flavorful when planted next to mint,
nasturtiums, dill, and marigolds.
Nasturtiums deter aphids while
marigolds repel cabbage moths.
This is an excellent combination for
other cabbage family vegetables as
well.
In a variation on this theme,
native American Indians had a
companion planting trio they
nicknamed the “Three Sisters:”
corn, squash, and cucumbers.
The height and strength of the
stalks of corn would act as a trellis
the cucumbers and squash could
climb and thrive. You can plant
these three vegetables together
today and harvest success, but this
method and similar ideas changed
when gardens grew into farms and


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. harvesting these vegetables at the same time became impractical. However, this idea is a clever one for your backyard.

Some companion-planting advice, like planting garlic at the base of peach trees to prevent borers, is based on folklore, but it seems to work. It is always worth a try. Companion planting also aids in crop rotation; farmers grow crops of sunflowers, alfalfa, and clover to replenish nitrogen to the soil. The nitrogen then benefits the next years squash or potatoes. In addition, grasses planted in between certain crops can stop soil erosion. I always plant basil next to my tomatoes. Both taste delicious.

Return to top