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Companionship Can Help Your Garden Grow

Posted May 30, 2001

— Whether you are growing flowers or vegetables, plants needs more than just a little rain and sunshine to flourish. Plants also need quality time together.

Geoffrey Neal's garden at the Logan Trading Company in Raleigh is packed with a variety of different flowers and vegetables. And for good reason.

"Nature doesn't plant a single plant in straight rows out in the fields. Nature mixes plants up," he says.

In gardening, it is called companion planting.

The concept is simple: If you just plant one type of flower or vegetable, plants may not do well because they will fight for the same nutrients in the soil and provide a large target for their enemies.

"Cabbage moths are much more likely to come in and ravage your crop if all you have planted are those cabbages," says Neal.

That is why gardens love a variety. For example:

Good Companions:

  • Aromatic herbs like basil and parsley will help repel insects away from other plants. Marigolds will do the same for your tomato plants.

    "Their root systems release chemicals into the soil which is known to be a detriment to certain types of roundworms called nematodes, which do attack tomato plants," says Neal.

  • Plants with large leaves, like squash or watermelon, will cover the ground and act as a natural weed suppressor.
  • Tall plants, like tomatoes, can help shade-loving plants, like lettuce.
  • Shrubs and trees provide shade for flowers, like impatience. They also draw up moisture for ferns.
  • There are some combinations are not good. For example, Neal says pole beans shouldnotbe planted near beets, cabbages onions or sunflowers.

    For the most part, gardening experts say variety is the spice of life in the garden.

    If you are looking for good combinations of plants, ask an expert at your favorite garden center.

    You can also try keeping a garden journal to determine what works best for you.


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