Companion planting, often called interplanting, is a method of gardening where garden plans are designed around mutually beneficial plant relationships. Many plants can either positively or negatively impact other plants. By designing a garden around these beneficial and detrimental plant relationships, you can increase the productivity of your garden while minimizing the labor and cost that goes into it.
Through the use of positive plant relationships, you can create natural pest control while attracting beneficial insects such as butterflies and bees. Meanwhile, you can encourage pollination, which will help to enhance the health of your garden. Companion planting can also help to maximize space within the garden, allowing you to increase growing potential within the same plot of land. Interplanting will minimize fertilizer requirements by helping to enhance the soil naturally, through nitrogen fixing plants.
All plants attract some insects while deterring others. Each different plant attracts a variety of pests, which feed on its leaves, flowers, fruits, and even root systems. Meanwhile, many plants attract beneficial insects, which can enhance the garden. Other plants possess the ability to ward off harmful pests through aroma or other properties existing in their stems, leaves, and flowers.
By understanding the insects that each plant repels and attracts, you can design your garden in a way that will minimize harmful pests while maximizing beneficial insects. For instance, marigolds are known to attract bees while deterring nematodes, Mexican bean beetles, and other insects. Basil is known to deter flies and mosquitoes and is good to plant near tomatoes. Meanwhile, tomatoes can deter asparagus beetles through releasing a compound known as solanine. Planting the three in conjunction can help you to minimize pests and enhance the growth of all three.
Companion planting can also be utilized to help minimize the growth of weeds throughout the garden. Planting ground covers, such as squash, can reduce weed growth while enhancing moisture retention and cooling the soil. This can eliminate the need for mulching while greatly minimizing weeding throughout the growing season. Weeds thrive on bare soil. Since companion planting is designed to maximize space, thereby minimizing bare soil, weed suppression is just one of the many advantages it provides.
Companion planting also has the perk of being able to naturally enrich the soil, thereby lessening the need for added fertilizers and plant nutrients. Legumes are a nitrogen fixing plant, which are capable of drawing nitrogen from the air into its leaves and releasing the nitrogen into the soil, making it available for other plants. By planting beans near nitrogen loving plants, such as corn and potatoes, you can eliminate the need for adding extra nitrogen into the soil by hand.