Before chemical sprays were readily available on store shelves, gardeners applied the principles of companion planting to grow healthy, pest free plants and vegetables to feed their families; we should look to learning from them.
Although many gardeners can give anecdotal evidence of the benefits of companion planting there are still those who consider it to be a myth; scientific information is very limited with regards to enlightening us on the actual merits of companion planting, even though gardeners throughout Europe steadfastly argue that if used correctly, the method is faultless, and a true way to be organic.
Regardless of the arguments for and against companion planting, it is safe to say that some combinations do work, and its worth looking at reasons given why this alternative to toxic sprays is successful.
Companion planting is essentially a method of growing the correct combination of plants together to help them fight off pests, improve growth and enhance flavor. If this is done correctly then you can also attract beneficial insects to improve your plants, but be warned that some plants can be detrimental to others, so make sure you choose good neighbors.
Whatever the outcome of trying this type of protection for your garden plants, you can be assured of a very interesting showcase of plants that can bring balance and harmony to your garden and just maybe, healthier organic plants without having to use toxic fertilizers. Obviously this would be of great benefit to the environment.
You can refer to lots of very comprehensive lists of companion planting that justify the use of this type of protection, and who can argue the fact that generations of gardeners who have never used modern day methods of protection have always provided very healthy vegetables for their family. Still, with very little scientific facts to back any of this up, I guess the majority of gardeners will still use the quick fix of toxic sprays and fertilizers, and so long as there is no sign of pests in their garden, bugger the planet.
Anyway, let's have a look at some of the companion planting combinations that might just work for you. If you have cabbages, and broccoli in your vegetable patch, try growing rows of onions around them, the argument here is that the onions stronger scent will confuse and deter cabbage moths, so your cabbages and broccoli would be less prone to the caterpillar and larval infestation. Tansy is also very effective for protection against many caterpillars.
Try planting a few French marigolds and nasturtiums near your tomatoes or roses to reduce aphids. Flavor and yield are increased in strawberries if you plant them with or in a combination of borage, chives, marigold, lettuce, onion, sage, and spinach.
Various herbs have very strong reputations in protecting citrus, stone fruit, roses, and lettuce. Planting garlic, cloves, basil, lavender and sage will help deter aphids and fruit fly.
Strong claims have been made that if you plant chamomile alongside culinary herbs it encourages the flavor and increases the production of essential oils.
It's been noted that many advocates of companion planting frequently plant heavy feeders such as sweet corn and squashes alongside nitrogen fixing legumes such as beans and peas, in doing so they give protection to the soils nutrient need. The corn provides a natural support for the climbing beans while the squash vines smother the weeds and help prevent soil moisture from evaporating, this is mutually beneficial for all plants.
If companion planting is something you would like to try to combat pests and diseases in your garden and move away from using chemical pesticides and fungicides, its best to make some sort of commitment to a few rules. Be prepared to experiment and do some reading on what to plant together, then keep written records on what combinations have been successful for you. Combinations of soil and locations and conditions can have varying results so success should be carefully noted.
With a little planning, your garden can become a very interesting place to observe how well plants can thrive and protect each other.
Companion planting is a fantastic way to achieve biodiversity within your garden. Experiment to your heart's desire and you will meet with success, after all, what have you to lose except maybe planet Earth; now there's a reality.