Good companions in the Garden

Asparagus is one of the interesting companion plants.

By Beatrice Hawkins

Companion planting is something that has always interested me.

If, by growing plants together, I can reduce the amount of pesticides I need to use, I’m willing to give it a try.

While not a strictly organic gardener I do try and limit my input of chemical fertilisers and use of sprays.

I’d rather share my crops with bugs than spray with chemicals, so long as the bugs are not too voracious.

So recently when I saw an article on companion plantings I was keen to read it and share.

The list was for plants that we shouldn’t grow together and the list started with Fennel.

Apparently it releases a compound into the soil that will, in some instances, stunt the growth of some plants or

conversely, causes others to bolt.

It is a good plant to grow in a garden however and the answer is to have it in a pot, no soil contamination that way for other plants, but will then attract pollinators and other beneficial insects to the garden.

Cabbage moths and the subsequent caterpillars will quickly destroy brassicas.

However they are not fussy feeders and really like strawberries.

So don’t plant strawberries close to cabbages, broccoli, etc. and

expect a good harvest.

The caterpillars will very likely get the fruit before you do.

While some aromatic herbs like dill and oregano, are beneficial to cucumbers, sage is not and actually

reduces the growth and production.

Another interesting tip was to avoid planting any of the allium family, onions, garlic, chives etc near


They seem to inhibit the growth of asparagus and if planted too close as you pull the

onions you are likely to disturb the asparagus corms and reduce the harvest.

I don’t have asparagus in my garden but intend to in the coming months.

It will, however, be in a bed designated solely to them so they

can spread as much as they like without competition.

I did have some random feral plants come up at the base of my front steps in the crack in the concrete and also near the mailbox.last year.

Onions also do not like legumes and will stunt their growth and also contain natural anti bacterial

properties that reduce the nitrogen fixing capacity of the peas and beans.

Because tomatoes and corn are both heavy feeders it is not a good idea to plant them closely, or in a spot

where either have been grown the previous year, unless you fertilise heavily. They both are susceptible to

similar pests and so increase the likelihood attack on either.

While dill and carrot are both members of the umbellifer family they are so closely related that they can

easily cross pollinate and affect both crops.. especially if you want to keep seeds. The resulting seeds

may not be what you are looking for in either plant!

I love grape vines and until recently had a lovely black muscat growing on my back fence. Black

muscats, for me ,are the only black grape worth eating.

This comes from having grown up enjoying

them from a family members vineyard at Mudgee. Then, when I married , there was a huge vine over the

concrete in the back yard along with several other varieties. I was thoroughly spoilt for choice! I am not

a fan of the current proliferation of seedless varieties that are so popular. Compared to a good black

muscat I find the others tasteless and all very similar!

However, all that aside, apparently brassicas and grapevines are not a fan of each other and tend to stunt

the growth of both.. maybe because they compete for moisture!

Tomatoes and potatoes are not a good combination as they are susceptible to the same pests and it

provides a smorgasbord for bugs that can easily transfer from one to the other and decimate production of

both. Some of these pests over winter in the soil so it is very important to rotate nightshade crops every three

to five years.

Basil and Rue also have a mutual dislike for each other and will not grow well in close proximity. Basil

though is ideal to grow with tomatoes, as not only do they go well together in a salad, basil deters many

of the pests that like tomatoes.

Borage is another plant that helps tomatoes and if grown in close proximity deters pests and seems to

increase yield. Whether this is due to the fact that the lovely blue flowers attract pollinators is open to

discussion. I only grew borage once and loved the look of it but it escaped the home garden and was

found in the paddock well away from the house yard. Smartly removed as we didn’t want a repeat of so

many other garden plants that have gone feral St John’s Wort in particular.

Another of these great plants that will help tomatoes, is any of the varieties of thyme, and along with my

favourite, sweet Alice, alyssum, is a great ground cover around the tomatoes and attracts pollinators.

Peas, beans and other legumes are also wonderful companions for tomatoes as they have the ability to fix

nitrogen so give the tomatoes a welcome boost growing together.

Don’t forget the Garden Extravaganza in St Mary’s Hall in Wood Street, on the Wednesday and Thursday

during Jumpers and Jazz.