Updated: Jun 10, 2020
At Project Abundance we focus heavily on vegetables and edible crops. However, we also see the importance of flowers within our veg plot and the wide variety of benefits achieved by companion planting. Companion planting can be used to utilise space, deter pests, and support the nutrient needs of particular plants. The major benefits to adding flowers or beneficial plants to your veg garden are the fact it attracts, feeds and provides habitat for countless species of insects, bees and other pollinators. Companion planning can also turn a mono-crop veg bed into a vibrant and interesting combination of plants and/or veg. The options are endless but we hope this article will open your mind to other possibilities while growing your veg.
Pollinators are essential to help many of our veg plants produce fruit. Courgettes or squash for example will flower, but will only produce fruit if the flower has been pollenated. This can be done by hand, or by wind and rain but bugs and wildlife play a major part in our food production, so attracting them to you garden or veg plot is a great way to increase your productivity, plant health and essentially increasing yields. plants such as comfrey, borage, lavender or chives are great options for attracting beneficial pollinators.
The 3 sisters method is a prime example of how plants can be beneficial to each other when planted in the same space. The 3 sisters incorporates, sweetcorn, squash, and climbing beans or peas. In this method, the sweetcorn acts as a cane for the peas or beans to grow up, while the peas or beans add nitrogen to the soil helping provide extra nutrients for the corn and squash. The squash plays its part by covering the floor surface keeping in moisture for both the corn and peas.
Maximise Growing Space
Another good use of companion planting is to maximise growing space. Growing carrots underneath your tomato plants, or beetroot or radish along side your cucumbers are just a couple of the many examples, which could increase your output and variety by sharing the same space. Some research is advised before making a decision as some combinations of plants and veg are not compatible, for example fennel is a great pollinator but can hinder the growth on many veg plants.
Planting companions for you veggies can help deter pests. As you produce begins to look tasty to you, it also looks and smells tasty to other animals and insects. Tactically planting potent smelling flowers or plants can either repel pests from you heard earned crop due to their strong odour, or entice them away by offering something more tempting but less valuable. A good example of this is to plant marigolds around your tomatoes to repel whitefly or protect them from root-knot nematodes (plant parasites that live in soil)
There is endless information and studies based around companion planting, on the Internet, in books or from the experience of a local farmer of grower. With so much information to trawl through and often contrasting information, it can become a little confusing as to where to start. Our conclusion is that there are some basic tried and tested methods that can certainly help in your garden or veg plot, but having a variety of veg and flowers growing together creates a more balanced eco-system. With a balanced eco-system, predatory insects are also attracted that feed on aphids, whitefly and other pests. Remember, each garden and veg plot will present its own charms and problems so there is certainly no one fix all remedy. So with all that said, get experimenting, take notes, and most of all don’t get too bewildered with all of the information available. We hope this has helped spark some ideas or opened your eyes to new approaches. Lastly, have fun experimenting.
We find the soil association a great source of information. We find their companion planting chart as a good starting point to compatible companions.
Download it here for free -> https://www.soilassociation.org/media/4340/companion-planting.pdf