Ever wonder what your plants get up to in the garden when you’re not around? Who knows what kind of scandals, romances and drama play out in the garden beds! Is your rose bush wilting because it just had her heart broken by the neighbouring hydrangea? Was a summer long friendship between the marigolds and petunias ruined by garden gossip? Maybe the marjoram is secretly pining away for the out-of-reach sunflower? Oh, if plants could talk!
Whether it’s Fred and Ginger or Damon and Affleck, romances and bromances capture our attention in the movies and media, but what about in our own yards? Believe me, West Coast Gardeners, there’s plenty of drama going on in your garden that you might not be aware of. Let’s take a look at what plants love each other’s company and which ones should be on opposite ends of the yard.
Kate and William - A love for the ages
There are many plants that we could call soulmates...basically made for each other. Some of this is common sense, for example; planting tall crops like sunflowers and lupine to help shade your tender lettuce, kale or other leafy vegetables.
However, did you know that basil is a best friend (and possibly romantically involved) with a number of other garden residents? Not only does it improve the flavour of tomatoes, peppers, beans and lettuce, but it also repels many nasty insects such as aphids, mites, flies, tomato hornworm and mosquitoes (which makes it my best friend at least). Basil’s true love is tomatoes and if you plant it anywhere from 10 inches away from them, it will improve the crop yield of your fruit.
Playing the field like Dicaprio
When it comes to making matches, tomato plants are a lot like Leo...with a new girl every month. If you want healthier fruit with less pests, try these pairings. Borage, a not-so-common herb in the garden, repels tomato worms and improves the flavour and growth rate of your plants. Other herbs that also improve the taste and keep away bad insects include chives, garlic, marjoram, oregano, tarragon, sage and catnip.
Bodyguard herbs for your celebrity crops
Paparazzi follows celebrity couples around like aphids! Luckily there are lots of companion plants that will help with the aphid problem (unfortunately not even strings of garlic will keep the paparazzi away). Chives, marigolds, oregano, garlic and catnip are fantastic at repelling aphids.
Nasturtiums help with aphids, but in a different way (think body-double). Aphids are naturally drawn to these flowers, more so than many other plants in your garden, so they act like a trap for these insects. Instead of crowding your tomatoes or peppers, the aphids all go after your nasturtiums. Of course this isn’t great for the nasturtiums, but you can use a safe insect spray to zap all of the aphids at once, rather than having to spray your other plants (especially edible crops).
The Angelina of the garden
Everyone wants to go out with Jolie, or maybe be her best friend. In the garden the marigold is everyone’s ideal neighbour, especially the vegetables. She helps everyone grow better, look better, and keeps away all manner of pests. This includes deterring aphids, potato bugs, squash bugs, nematodes and maggots. As well, if you plant enough of them they will even keep the deer from nibbling your plants.
Other plants that attract all the best people (or garden insects) are carrots, dill, parsley and parsnips. These will bring in ladybugs, praying mantises and spiders to your garden to help eat those nasty bugs you don’t want.
Keep Mary-Kate and Paris on opposite sides of the garden
There are some people that need to be kept far, far apart. Even though there isn’t twitter in your garden (although maybe your potatoes have a secret social media feed…) things can still get ugly. For example, beans (and their cousins, peas) don’t play well with a lot of different plants. Don’t position any of the garlic or onion family near them or we’re talking serious cat-fight.
As well, peppers and jalapenos will cause a scene if placed too close to the beans. Even the popular marigolds can’t get along with them. However, that being said, beans do play well with carrots, cauliflower and corn. Beans produce a lot of nitrogen in the soil which these vegetables need.
Another hard one to get along with is broccoli (as well as cauliflower). If your garden was a celebrity party you wouldn’t want the seating plan to have broccoli anywhere near peppers, squash, (including pumpkins and zucchini) strawberries or tomatoes. Not unless you’re looking for some drama!
We can still be friends...
Although not all of your plants will become Thelma and Louise, or even Batman and Robin, you can use these tips to improve the yield and health of your garden.
Mint plants will repel slugs, which means it’s great to plant near vegetables.
Catnip (as well as attracting friendly neighbourhood cats) will also keep away aphids, flea beetles and ants.
A crop of celery will keep the whiteflies away from your garden bed.
And if you want super tender radishes, try planting them next to your lettuce.
It’s hard to keep track of all the make-ups and break-ups in the news, but in your garden you can control the relationships and keep everyone happy.