Companion planting is one of those traditional, old-school gardening strategies that just makes sense. And that may be why it’s making a comeback. Long before there were pesticides, herbicides, and industrial fertilizers, people planted certain plants together for greatest benefit. Here’s a little history and some tips for getting started.
How Did Companion Planting Start?
The history of companion planting is not well documented because it is likely a practice with ancient roots. There is evidence of this type of gardening and agriculture from around the world. And, it probably began soon after humans first settled down more than 10,000 years ago to begin farming and gave up the nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
People around the world, for thousands of years, have been using companion planting techniques, but one example from North America stands out: the planting of the “three sisters“ by Native Americans. Europeans arriving here learned a valuable lesson in the companion planting of beans, corn, and squash. The corn provided a support for climbing bean vines, the beans added nitrogen to the soil, and the leaves of squash plants provided a mulch to hold water in the soil.
Taking Lessons from the Past – Companion Gardening Today
The many examples of companion planting throughout history can be used today to make gardening more efficient, cost-effective, and organic. Here are some ideas from traditional agriculture to get you started:
- Try planting beans and corn together with lettuces at their bases. The taller plants will help shade the greens that need cooler temperatures to thrive.
- Plant marigolds near vegetables that rabbits might nibble on. They don’t like the flower’s smell. Marigold roots may also repel nematodes in the soil.
- Dill attracts wasps that eat cabbageworms, so plant the herb alongside your cabbage row.
- Put radishes near squash and cucumbers. It acts as a trap crop for cucumber beetles.
- Garlic and chives near rose bushes help repel aphids.
- Plant beans near potatoes. Beans fix nitrogen and add it to the soil, and potatoes are heavy nitrogen users.
- Grow squash wherever weeds are an issue. The large canopy of leaves help suppress them.
- Always plant flowers near your vegetable garden. They look pretty, but they also attract beneficial insects.