Inter-planting two different plants, because of the benefits each has for the other is called Companion Planting. Some plants need light and others require some shade. Some have deep roots that break up the soil and other short-rooted varieties benefit by having the soil broken up for them.
There are plants that are heavy nitrogen feeders and those that don’t require as much. Legumes, such as clover, peas, beans and alfalfa capture nitrogen from the air for assimilation. They have bacterial nodules on their roots that fix nitrogen from the air, thus building up the nitrogen content in the soil. As an added bonus, the lush root growth of a legume aerates the soil.
Corn, on the other hand, is a heavy nitrogen feeder. Inter-planted with a legume such as beans, the two are compatible. Let’s take it a step farther. Plant pole beans, corn and squash or pumpkin seeds in the same planting hole at the same time. The pole beans will grow up the corn stalks and squash or pumpkin plants will act as living mulch keeping the soil moist and suppressing weeds.
Beans also grow well with carrots and cauliflower. Lettuce grows well with beets.
The cabbage family of ‘cole’ crops include broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale and kohlrabi. Late cabbage and early potatoes do well together. Dill, sage, rosemary, chamomile, and members of the peppermint family are companion plants to all members of the ‘cole’ crop family mentioned above.
Chives are commonly taken for granted in the home garden. They are usually never attacked by disease or insect. It is said that when chives are planted among roses, they repel aphids.
Cucumbers appreciate some shade and will grow well in alternate rows of early cabbage, early potatoes or corn.
The marigold gives off a substance from the roots that kills nematodes in the soil. It has also been reported that tomatoes grow better and produce more fruit with marigolds present. The odor of the foliage and blossoms of the marigold are helpful as a ‘natural’ insect repellent. Planting marigolds randomly throughout the garden is also very pleasing to the eye.
Planted near one another, some types of plants benefit from companion planting. Won’t you try some experiments for yourself.
(Originally published: The Enterprise Courier Newspaper, Oregon City, OR. ‘Gardener Corner’ column and article by Cindy Morgan 1987)