It can be tempting to use pesticides when you find one of your precious garden plants covered in bugs! However, there is a kinder solution to gardening that can be more advantageous to your garden in the long run.
Companion planting has been practised in gardening and agriculture for hundreds of years. It's a completely natural technique and is thought to help protect crops from pests while optimising yields and supporting garden wildlife. In this article, Garden Organic explains what companion planting is and how we can practice it in our gardens.
Planting sacrificial flowers in the vegetable garden has been practised by organic gardeners for hundreds of years; this practice is also known as polyculture, companion planting or inter-cropping, all of which refer to the planting of mutually beneficial plants together.
The main reasons for this are to deter pests, attract beneficial insects to increase productivity, and produce healthy plants.
Here are my tips on using flowers for the benefit of growth in the garden:
1. Companion plants as pest deterrents
There’s little in the way of solid evidence on how effective specific pairings are against a particular pest, but many gardeners swear by particular combinations.
French Marigolds not only add a pop of colour to your vegetable patch but are also believed to help to repel whitefly and aphids with their pungent scent. At our organic demonstration garden – Ryton Organic Garden - we plant them all over, but we find them particularly useful around Tomatoes and Beans. In addition, they are thought to deter eelworms which often attack potato plants.
Herbs are an organic gardener’s friend as they are multi-functional - not only are they culinary and attractive, those with a strong aroma are also said to deter pests. Hence, plants such as Thyme, Marjoram and Parsley are great for dotting in between your vegetables.
2. Sacrificial plants
Sacrificial plants are ones that you plant in the knowledge that they will be loved by certain pests, giving your more prized plants a break. There really is only one plant worth mentioning here and that’s the nasturtium. Cabbage whitefly, blackflyand aphids, in general, seem to adore them making them a great first line of defence against these pests.
Basil is reported to draw whitefly away from tomatoes, or cucumbers are grown under glasshouses, so it’s worth a try – plus Basil and tomatoes are great companions on the dinner plate too!
Plants to attract pollinators
Flowers grown amongst your veg will attract a wide variety of pollinators which will help to increase yields. Sweet Alyssum, Calendula and the Poached Egg Flower (Limnanthes douglasii) are all excellent in this regard. What’s more, by inter-planting your veg with quick-crowing flowers, you’re providing valuable ground cover to prevent weeds, helping stem the spread of diseases and providing different root structures to improve your soil. You can even use tall plants like sunflowers to provide shade for crops that tend to bolt.
There are so many benefits to mixing up your plants it’s hard to narrow down to just a few. The more diversity you can include in your growing space, the better your plants will grow – so mix up your planting, try a few different things and see what works for you.
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