Companion Planting

(originally published here)

Our environment is so overwhelmed with chemicals; gardens and fruit trees dowsed in toxic insecticides, suburban areas with their pristine emerald lawns sprayed with synthetic herbicides and fertilizers.  This may keep your plants bug free and richly green but at what cost?  The continual use of such products builds up in the soil, poisoning the earth and contaminating water sources.  Beneficial creatures that live in the soil die leaving the ground truly dead and useless.  More additives are then needed to encourage growth from your plants, it is a vicious cycle you get into and you still have all of these pests!  Pest populations are now out of balance, despite your liberal dosing of pesticides, because the birds, bats, toads and beneficial insects such as ladybird beetles (ladybugs), lacewings and spiders have been killed off or driven away by lack of food.  When the pests return their natural predators are long gone.

Companion planting is a chemical-free method to a healthy garden.  It entails planting certain flowers and herbs with other plants, trees and shrubs.  These companion plants then help to keep pests away or help promote the growth in one or both of the plants.  

Some faster growing varieties of vegetables might produce nitrogen in the soil that will feed their companion or a particularly pungent herb might drive away pests that usually snack on their companion.  Planting fragrant flower and herbs will bring in bees and butterflies which will help with pollination.  One example of companion planting is the Native American’s “Three Sisters” which consists of corn, beans and squash.  In this instance the beans produce nitrogen which is used by the corn. 

As for the pairing of plants, I would recommend keeping on hand a copy of the book Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte; it is a wonderful and detailed source for finding which plant goes well with what.  There are certain plants that just do not do well together so it is always nice to have something handy before you plant your garden.  For example, if you plant onion next to peas you will find that neither grows very well, planting dill near your carrots will insure that what few carrots you do manage to get will grow very poorly (I discovered this last year!).   In other instances planting certain veggies near a bed can also introduce harmful diseases.  Strawberries can spread a root rot fungus to tomatoes, potatoes and peppers.  Be sure to not use any area that strawberries have grown for at least 3-4 years for planting these particular veggies.

The first and most easily grown companion plant is the marigold, this flower can be used anywhere.  Planting these around the perimeter or in amongst the rows will help keep nasty pests away.  Inter-planting marigolds and other suitable plants help by confusing the pests with their stronger odor.  They cannot locate their target and therefore move on.  Planting alliums, such as onions, chives or garlic, between rows of brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, etc.) as well as around rosebushes and fruit trees/bushes also works beautifully to keep pests* away and promotes growth in the plants.  (*Japanese beetles, aphids, spider mites and weevils)  Nasturtium is another flower that helps your garden, like the marigold they keep bugs away from your veggies, especially squash.  The following is a basic guide to companion planting.

Grows well with
Keep away from

Cucumber, Radish, Peas, Potatoes, Celery, Summer Savory, Corn, Strawberries, Carrots, Leeks, Beets

Beetles from Corn

Fennel, Onions

Corn, Radish, Summer Savory

Beets, Fennel, Onion, Cabbage family*, Sunflower

Bush Beans, Onion, Cabbage family*, Sage, Corn, Leeks, Radish

Pole Beans, Mustard, Fennel
Cabbage Family

* Broccoli, Kohlrabi, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Kale, Cauliflower
Beets, Bush Bean, Celery, Cucumber, Onion, Lettuce, Potato, Mint, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Dill, Peppermint, Chamomile
Mint, Sage, Rosemary repels cabbage moths.

Thyme repel cabbage worms

Strawberry, Pole Beans, Tomato, Fennel

Chives, Rosemary, Sage, Radish, Lettuce, Bush Beans, Leek, Onion, Pole Bean,  Parsley, Tomato

Sage, rosemary, Leeks and onion repel carrot fly

Dill, Fennel

Bush Bean, Cabbage, Leek, Tomato


Beans, potatoes, peas, squash/pumpkins, cucumbers

Tomato, Fennel
corn, peas, radishes, beans, carrots, sunflowers

Potato, pungent herbs, Fennel

Roses, herbs (for large production of oils in plant), tomatoes, fruit trees, many  flowers & vegetables
Repels Aphids, Japanese Beetles and many other pests
Peas, Fennel
Basil, Tomatoes, Beans, Beets, Carrot, Strawberry, Cucumber, Radish

Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Lettuce, Tomatoes

Beans, Peas, Fennel
Beans, Radish, Carrot, Corn, Cucumber, Lettuce, most pungent herbs

Garlic, Onion, Fennel
Horseradish, Flax, Beans, Corn, Cabbage, Borage
Borage repels Tomato Hornworms
Horseradish repels potato bug
Pumpkin, Tomato, Squash, Sunflower, Cucumber, Strawberry, Fennel
Corn, Nasturtiums, Borage, Beans, Radish

Potato, Fennel
Strawberry, Borage, Bush beans, Lettuce, Lettuce, Radish

Nasturtium, Borage, Radish, Cucumber, Corn, Onion
Nasturtiums repel Squash bugs
Potato, Fennel
Spinach, Lettuce, Onion, Pea, Bush bean

Cabbage family*, Fennel
Sweet Peppers
Borage, Parsley, Onion
Borage repels Tomato Hornworms
Borage, Basil, Parsley, Carrot, Mint, Onion
Borage repels Tomato Hornworms
Cabbage family*, Corn, Fennel

No matter the size or shape of your garden, by adding one or more of the above mentioned, even to a few of your plants, will yield an excellent result.   It saves you money that may have been spent on pesticides or fertilizers, which without their use will help to nurture your yard’s ecosystem.  You keep the toxins out of your body, yard and any nearby water source.  Next year and each subsequent year you may notice that the pests aren’t as noticeable, your garden soil is richer and more viable and your neighbors are marveling at your beautiful gardens.
Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte Garden Way Publishing

Copyright © 2006-2012 Stephanie Lowell-Libby
Stephanie Lowell-Libby is a writer, a longtime organic gardener and former farmers’ market gardener living in New Hampshire where she is raising her beloved wee girl “Pixie” (who is, as of April 2010, battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). A photographer, passionate cook, genealogist, licensed massage therapist, Reiki Master, aspiring homesteader and spends much of her time outside enjoying all nature has to offer.