How TO... MASTER COMPANION PLANTING
Certain plants make excellent (raised) bed-fellows and for generations gardeners have capitalised on this, sowing selected flowers alongside fruit and vegetables in order to get the best from their crops. Some plants help to encourage beneficial insects or deter pests without the need for sprays and chemicals, while others quite literally act as a support. Utilise these plant friendships to reduce your workload in the veg patch and secure a bumper harvest.
PUT THEM OFF THE SCENT
Growing big blocks of the same crop in one space makes it easier for pests to find their favourite plants and quickly work their way through them. Some plants can confuse insects with their smell. Planting alliums (such as onions, garlic, spring onions, leeks or chives) in between rows of carrots can throw carrot root flies off the scent, while the pungent fragrance of French marigolds around the greenhouse can deter whitefly from tomatoes.
MAKE A SACRIFICE
Many caterpillars love munching through nasturtiums. Having a patch near brassicas means cabbage white butterflies will be more likely to lay their eggs on the nasturtiums than your broccoli or cabbage. They’re also loved by aphids, so can help lure the sap-suckers away from runner beans and French beans.
Avoid the need to spray crops infested by blackfly and greenfly by encouraging their natural predators instead. The pretty flowers of poached egg plants are loved by hoverflies, who will happily devour nearby aphids while they’re in the area. Ladybird- and lacewing-larvae like eating greenfly, so
lure them into your garden with fragrant perennials such as phlox and lavender.
Get the most from your patch by taking advantage of the ways plants grow: tall, trailing and climbing. The ‘three sisters’ technique is the best way to capitalise on this – tall sweetcorn acts as a climbing support for runner beans, while rambling squash clamber over the ground, acting as a mulch to keep the soil moist. The roots of the beans fix nitrogen in the soil to feed the corn and squash. In a similar approach, quick-growing crops, such as salad leaves or radishes, planted in between slow-growing parsnips and sprouts maximise the space and prevent weeds from growing.
Some gardeners believe that planting tomatoes and basil in the same bed improves the flavour of both. They prefer similar conditions and feed, so will maximise your space and time – plus they’re a match made in heaven on the plate.