When the lawn and garden are ailing, many of us instinctively reach for the pesticides. Poisons offer a quick fix for landscaping problems, but in the grand scheme of things, their damage reaches a lot farther than an anthill in your yard. Rainfall can wash hazardous products like these into streams and rivers, affecting everything from the natural wildlife that lives there to the clean water we rely on in our homes.
We’re passionate about always finding the environmentally friendly solutions—and in this case, the fix is as easy as a little companion planting. Helper plants like marigolds, geraniums, and parsley deter insect pests and deer and even enrich soil conditions and attract bees. The practice of pairing two complementary species is a time-honored tradition: farmers have long rotated corn fields with alfalfa to rejuvenate the soil. Companion planting relies on a similar concept, except the two species are allowed to grow closely next to each other, offering mutual benefits that will enhance your gardening the natural way. Here are six couples that love to grow beside one another.
Roses and Garlic. Growing a perfect, perfume-heavy rose takes the know-how of an experienced gardener. Luckily, you have some help standing by in the form of one of these beneficial companion plants. Garlic—or any member of the genus allium, which also includes onions, leeks, shallots, and chives—successfully wards off rose pests like aphids and helps roses beat black spot, the most common disease found in the bushes. Choose flowy purple or yellow ornamental alliums, also known as flowering onions, for a pest prevention strategy that’s as pretty as it is effective!
Borage and Fruit Trees. If you’re hoping to grow your own fruit this year, you’ll need to first create some buzz. Specifically, you’ll need the help of beneficial bees to spread pollen and fertilize your trees. Borage, a self-seeding medicinal herb, has starry blue flowers that honey bees, bumble bees, and native bees all love. Plant them around fruit trees to speed pollination—and to help with soil conditions, as well, since borage adds trace minerals to the soil surrounding it. For those with culinary interests, the leaves and flowers of borage are edible and have a flavor similar to cucumbers, making them a great addition to soups and salads.
Radishes and Seedlings. Not only do adult radishes discourage cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and stink bugs, they also make a great companion for young seedlings in your garden. When you sow seeds, just add a few radishes into the mix. The seeds sprout very quickly, so surrounding pests will become accustomed to the radish-y taste and will leave your other seedlings alone. A small preventative measure goes a long way!
Dill and Parsley with Flowers and Vegetables. Dill and parsley attract beneficial insects, such as parasitic wasps, that feed on harmful plant pests. They also draw bees for pollination. Keep dill away from carrots and tomatoes, however, as it can attract tomato hornworm or stunt carrots as they grow. Parsley makes a much better choice for these vegetables.
Grapes with Rosemary, Geraniums, or Hyssop. Grapes can be temperamental, making them a difficult plant for all but the most experienced gardeners. However, using beneficial companion gardening, you can beat some of the worst pests out there. Rosemary, with its strong scent, is a natural pest repellant, while geraniums are lovely and keep beetles and worms away. Hyssop, an ancient herb used for purification, has the additional benefit of encouraging grape growth when planted near vines. It’s also been known to improve the flavor of the fruit.
Marigolds and Just About Anything. Marigolds are super pest preventers, helping just about any plants they’re near. They’re especially beneficial as a border around gardens, since they repel beetles, nematodes, and rabbits. They’ve also been known to ward off squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies, so they make a great companion for almost any vegetable.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Spreading Pesticides
Of course, companion planting won’t help much if you’re already in the thick of an invasion. Still, before you spread dangerous chemicals on the ground, it’s worth evaluating the situation for an alternative method.
●Is the damage really from pests? Improper irrigation, poor drainage and soil conditions, and physical damage from lawnmowers are just as likely the culprit. Before you decide that pests are the problem, make sure you properly identify them.
●Is there a less invasive alternative to chemical pesticides? In many cases, homemade cures like hot pepper, garlic, and soap sprays offer a much less hazardous option that’s as effective as commercial pesticides. Neem oil and insecticidal soap are two other choices available to organic gardeners, which cause far less damage to the environment.
●Is the soil the issue? Certain pests, like fungus gnats, feed off of fungi in the soil. This is commonly the case with potted plants and container gardens. In this case, you may simply need to transplant them to fresh pots filled with uncontaminated soil to take care of the pests.
Many times planting with companions brings color and life to your yard that you just won’t get with conventional garden planning. You’ll look out your home windows to a yard that’s greener and healthier. And you’ll rest easier, knowing that you’re getting 100 percent all-natural pest prevention!