Companion Gardening Lets Plants Help Plants

Bee on FlowerAs the bee population continues to drop, gardeners need to find a viable alternative to pollinators. It turns out that the plants may be the answer to their problems.

The Bee Population is Going Down

Bees are some of the most dependable pollinators, propagating seeds in different areas just by flying from one plant to another. Due to a condition called Colony Collapse Disorder, the bee population has been plummeting at an alarming rate. In the US, 25 percent of the managed honeybee population has disappeared since 1990.

They play a huge part in pollinating vegetables and fruits, helping countries make billions of dollars in production. With the numbers going down, gardening experts suggest companion gardening as an alternative.

Companion Gardening

Companion gardening involves planting different crops close to one another. While it does not propagate seeds, it protects plants from pests and maximizes the space for growth. It also attracts pollinators; thus, promoting growth. Garden writer, consultant, and lecturer Sally Cunningham shares more reasons to pair plants with one another. These include:

  • Shade
  • Physical support
  • Increased soil nutrition
  • Habitat for beneficial insects that eat garden pests

“We plant flowers and herbs around our vegetables to develop our little army of pest-eating insects (many of them also pollinators),” Cunningham says.

Plant Combinations for Companion Gardening

She also points out that companion gardening is a matter of pairing the right plant types together. The garden writer suggests the following plant pairings:

  • Nightshade plants such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, with annuals like calendula, parsley, and dill
  • Cauliflower with broccoli, as they block weeds and worms, and makes the soil cooler
  • Potatoes with beans, as they attract beneficial insects and are found to have fewer pests
  • Squash and radish to capture pests; planting edible blue flowers along with the squash attracts pollinators
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Other professional vegetable growers like Bill Davidson, a local foods educator in the Extension, suggests the following combinations:

  • Tomatoes with clovers, as the tomatoes are heavy feeders and will benefit from the clover’s nitrogen fixing; clover also prevents the growth of weeds and other pests and keeps the tomatoes moist
  • Buckwheat with fruit trees, as the fast-growing buckwheat prevents weeds from growing around the trunks, and it is a good source of phosphorus and calcium; it also attracts pollinators such as bees and flies, increasing yield over time

Plant placement is crucial in making companion gardening a success. You’ll be able to grow a lush and healthy garden by letting plants help plants.