There are two ways companion plants can help your garden. You can drive away the bad bugs or attract the good bugs. Many of our favorite flowers and herbs do both. Companion planting is all about diversity, planting flowers and herbs throughout the garden to benefit the vegetables, and planting the right vegetables together so that they thrive.
Herbs as Companion Plants
We love the smell and taste of these wonderful plants. But they are more than just a way to add flavor to our favorite foods. Those strong scents aren’t the favorite scents of predatory bugs. The bugs look for a large patch of their favorite food, the best place to lay eggs and feast. But mix some herbs in, and the patch smells off. It doesn’t smell like a good place to eat, so they move on. So plant your favorite herb to eat with each vegetable. Plant basil in the tomatoes, dill by the cucumbers, or parsley with your carrots or onions.
It’s more than driving away the bad bugs. They can also attract good bugs. There are lots of predatory wasps, flies and ladybugs that love the herbs. Plant cilantro, parsley, mint, lemon balm and dill to attract all the good bugs to your garden.
There are many flowers that drive away bad bugs and attract good ones. They add beauty to our gardens, but they can do so much more. Some are edible, with flowers or leaves that are delicious in a salad. Others provide support to our vegetables, or a perch for birds to visit our garden. Birds that dine on the bugs that attack our gardens.
Zinnias are great anywhere you want to attract the Japanese Beetles away from your plants. I plant them in my beans, and every morning shake beetles off into some soapy water. The beetles prefer the zinnias, and my beans are saved from their ravaging attacks
Marigolds repel all the bad bugs. I plant them in my squash. Squash bugs are so difficult to deal with, but lots of marigolds and borage can make a difference. And trellis your winter squash on trellises above marigolds to keep the bugs from destroying your valuable crop.
Sunflowers are beautiful and fun, but they do more than that. They are so well rooted that I plant them in my corn. They keep the corn from falling over in a strong storm. And they provide perches for birds that come to eat all the bad bugs. They come in so many heights that you can find the perfect sunflower for your garden patch.
Borage is one of my favorites. Planted between zucchini, it helps contain squash bugs, keeping them from marching from zucchini to zucchini so you can hand pick and destroy them more easily. Planted in your tomatoes, they repel tomato hornworm. And the leaves and flowers are edible. Saute up the leaves as a green or scatter the cucumber-flavored flowers in a salad for a beautiful and delicious garnish.