Companion Planting ... The Flip Side

By starlight1153 (starlight1153) on January 25, 2014

Spring is coming soon. Maybe you've discovered a subject called Companion Planting and want to give it a try. Maybe you've spent a major portion of the winter researching for just the right companion plants for the different crops, or ornamental plants you want to grow or already have. Than again, maybe you already do some companion planting in your garden and just want to expand the practice...

Some of you may have even purchased the seed or plants suggested for companion planting to place in your garden.   Some of you may have even created nice looking maps, so you'll know just where to place everything.   You even now are anticipating having a relatively bug free garden from the usage and practice of companion planting. 2014-01-25/starlight1153/19888a  Wait!  Stop and think before you plant those newly acquired seed and plants, by taking  a look at the flip side of such plantings.  They say for every action there is a reaction.  This holds true in the garden as well.   This is article will give you a bit of information about the flip side of companion planting that  you might just want to research. 

As consumers we want to purchase the best products for our families and ourselves.  Anybody who grows plants, whether they are a small backyard home gardener or a large-scale grower strives to produce a healthy, appetizing, or visually appealing product.

More and more today you hear or read about the possible hazards from some of the chemicals used for pest control on fruit and vegetable crops.  The potential for possible health issues from some of these chemicals has generated more and more folks to start not only purchasing organically grown seed, but also, using more organic growing practices in their own gardens. 

One of the ways suggested to the use more organic practices and less chemical spraying is by interplanting with companion plants.  While this is a good practice, there are some things you should consider before you plant. 

Companion planting can be like walking through a maze.  You start out walking along fine then you hit a dead end, back up, and start again, only to repeat the process.   Here is a little bit of information about companion planting and how to do it successfully.

First, what is companion planting?  Simply put, companion planting is the growing of certain plants around or near other plants to repel destructive pests and to attract beneficials to them, leaving you to use no or less chemicals. 

There are many plants suggested for the companion planting of most types of crops or ornamental plants.  Some of those suggested companion plants may be other ornamentals, herbs and even in some cases weeds.  Yes, some weeds are actually benefical plants.

Let's start a case in study for an example. You have researched and discovered that some of the pests that may attack your tomato plants are tomato and cabbage hornworms and perhaps you have found that planting Borage near your tomato plants will help repel the dreaded tomato hornworm.  

Borage is a stunning herb.  It's true blue colored flowers are complimentary to many other flowering plants.  It is a  plant that not only looks pretty, but can be used in culinary cooking and for medicinal purposes. 2014-01-13/Patti1957/7e9252  It is also a major beneficial plant that is attractive to honeybees, ladybugs and other pollinating and predatory insects.  You want to attract more pollinators to your garden, so you don't have the backbreaking work trying to hand pollinate your crops yourself to get them to produce seed and fruits. 

Borage does have its own personal drawbacks.   Some of the pests that are attracted to Borage are Japanese beetles, grasshoppers and flea beetles.  Now you have new pests in your garden to try and control.  You can either bring out the chemicals or look for more companion plants.  You want to be healthy, more organic,  more ecologically aware.  So, you research some more and discover that planting strawberries is a good companion plant for Borage. 

Strawberries are a delicious, healthy fruit that is full of vitamins and nutrients. Good for the body, but not so good for garden as a companion plant.  Maybe, maybe not?  You decide. 

Now, let's look at some of the pests affecting strawberries.  Pests of strawberries include the strawberry crown borer, strawberry root weevil, white grubs, leaf rollers, and the 2-spotted mite for a few.  Oh no!!!!!!!!  More bugs!
Now instead of just having one or two pests to control, you have at least 10.

Let's take another example.  It is suggested that you plant squash near tomatoes.  It is an easy to grow vegetable.  Healthy for you with many culinary cooking properties and its blossoms are edible.  The pollen from the squash plants is very attractive to bees and other beneficial pollinators who may just happen to help you pollinate your tomatoes and peppers too.

Anasa tristis, the common name is that of Squash Bug. The squash bug is a major pest of squash, melons, pumpkins and other vegetables in the curcurbit family.  Other pests of squash and other curcurbit plants are aphids, squash vine bores, pickleworms, and cucumber beetles.  Still more pests are now invading your gardens. 

Another suggested companion plant for tomatoes, peppers and squash is marigolds.   Marigolds are very attractive to butterflies. Who doesn't like to see them fluttering around the yard?  They too bring a set of not so good insects with their plantings. 

2014-01-24/starlight1153/582101Marigolds repel nematodes, but for them to be effective you need to know which nematode you have.  All marigolds act differently.  Different marigolds release different chemical compounds that are toxic to specific types of nematodes. Although it is thought that the dwarf French types seem to work the best.  More pests of the marigold include leaf-miners, snails, slugs, cabbage loopers, aphids, thrips and white flies. 

Just those few types of plants have now produced major colonies of pests in your gardens.   Are you feeling like you need to bring out the chemical sprayer yet?  Like I said, it is like trying to go through a maze.   What can a person do to try and stay organically minded and away from chemical usage and poisons?   How can you plant beneficial companion plants and yet control the pests?

It is not easy, but it can be done if your willing to spend some time researching.  Maybe some of you remember way back in 1st and second grade drawing a line from a picture to the word it corresponded too.  You're going to be doing something on the same principal.  

Get yourself some paper and a pencil or index cards.  Index cards work so much better than paper as they are thicker to work with and easier to save in a small box or just secure with a rubberband.   If using paper, draw a line down the center, putting beneficals on one side and pests on the other.

Whichever you decide to use, put the name of the plant at the top. Than leave a small space.

Underneath the name, label it "Insects that are benefical."   To find those insects that are beneficials, search using phrases like "beneficials of (than name of plant") or "beneficial insects of (name of plant.")   List those insects.

The second half of the page, again, at the top put the name of the plant. Than underneath label it "Pests."  To find those insects that are attractive to your plants but a pest in your garden, search phrases like "pests of tomatoes."  List those pests.

Now underneath, both columns draw a line across the page. This is if you are working on paper.    Repeat the above steps, only now you will be using your second plant.   Than do your third, fourth, ect...

While you are researching beneficals, you can also add things like "Trap Crop for aphids or Repels moths.   The more information you add to each side, the more informed you will be to make a decision on which plants to plant and near who. 

Eventually, you will end up with something that will look like a grid.   You will have lists of good bugs against bad pests for each plant type.   Just make sure you put the name of the plant at the top of each section you do.  It's a pain if you forget that step to remember what plant you did.   Have done it myself many a time.   

Once you have your page filled up you want to cut the squares out.  Again, before you cut make sure each square has the plant name on it.  Can't stress this point enough. 

What you will end up with is something that looks roughly like this:






Tomato Hornworm
  Cabbage Hormworm



Predatory Insects



Japanese Beetles
Flea Beetles



All types of bees
Butterflies and Moths



Squash Bug
Squash Vine Borers
Cucumber Beetles



Repels Nematodes
Attracts Bee Species



Cabbage Loopers
White Flies


Now, whether you have used paper or index cards, just at a glance you should be able to start seeing some sort of pattern. 

Take tomatoes for instance, you can see aphids are one of their pests.  Now look down to marigolds.  You can see that aphids are a pest to them.  Planting the peppers next to the tomatoes?  Aphids love peppers too.   So now you have to decide.   Do I just try and control the aphids on my tomatoes, or do I plant marigolds as trap crop.   Using the Marigolds as a trap crop looks like a good idea until you see that you have the potential of having six new pests around too. 

It's not easy trying to decide what plants to use for Companion Planting, but by taking a critical look at each plant individually, you will not only be a more informed gardener, but possible save yourself time and energy of treatment of the pests. 

The goal of gardening is to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Companion Planting can be an enjoyable experience.  By doing it you can save space and create some beautiful gardens at the same time.  I highly recommend it with a little planning and research.   

I have seen some beautiful gardens and plots created by the use of Companion Planting.   If you would like to share your experiences and pictures with other gardeners trying to learn, come join us here in The Cottage Garden Forum.  Everybody is welcome to join in and make themselves to home.


2014-01-24/starlight1153/004691"One of my flower beds - Veronica Darwin's Blue in the middle with Penstemon Husker Red


Special Thank you to Patti1957 and tcs1366 for use of their photographs.

Borage photograph copyrighted to Patti1957 of the Salsa Garden and the Seed Cellar store

Tashkent Marigold photograph copyrighted to tcs1366

Veronica and Penstemon photograph copyrighted to tcs1366










Related articles:
beneficial insects, Borage, chemical free gardening, Companion planting, garden pests, Marigolds, organic growing practices, Peppers, Squash, Strawberries, Tomatoes

About starlight1153

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Good info! nap Jan 27, 2014 10:51 PM 5

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