Skip to main content
UF community gardens adn bat houses. Photo taken on 04-14-17.

Companion Planting: A Beneficial Friendship

Companion Planting for Improved Health in the Garden Bed by Yvonne Florian and Nickie Munroe

Planting marigolds around tomatoes can help confuse pests.

Planting marigolds around tomatoes can help confuse pests.

Looking to give your vegetable or fruit garden even more color? How about some added benefits of pest protection to go along with it? Well look no further than companion planting! This simple gardening technique has been around for centuries and involves the practice of planting two or more different plant species near one another for a mutual benefit. There are a lot of reasons to consider companion planting but here are just a few benefits that might convince you to try it:

  • Companion planting can help preserve soil moisture
  • Can repel all sorts of insects and nematodes depending on what you plant
  • Will encourage pollinators to make a pit stop
  • Can shade tender seedlings with other plants to protect them
  • Add more color to your garden
  • Ensures that isolated plants don’t get lonely (Ok.. that’s a stretch but it’s visually appealing and always fun to try a new technique!)

 

One of the most important benefits is the ability to repel specific kinds of pests. For example, plenty of moth species just LOVE to lay their eggs on tomato and pepper plants. So planting something of a “stinky” nature (like basil or marigolds) around your tomato plants can confuse moths when they touch down to lay eggs and sometimes that’s enough to send them packing.

 

Planting sweet potatoes can help keep weeds down and preserves soil moisture.

Planting sweet potatoes can help keep weeds down and preserves soil moisture.

Another great benefit to companion planting is the ability to preserve soil moisture throughout your garden. For example, when planting bananas you’re supposed to keep a 6-Foot ring of bare soil around each sapling. Normally this would allow for a barrage of weeds to move in, but if you plant a shallow-rooted crop in that bare area (such as sweet potatoes) and top them off with a thick layer of composted mulch you can seriously cut back on potentially intrusive assaults from weeds. This also keeps the soil moist instead of having weeds suck it dry, and gives you a nice second crop to harvest when winter comes around (the mulch makes it really easy to dig your fresh potatoes up).

Keep in mind that companion planting isn’t going to solve all of your gardening woes overnight. As an aspiring  green-thumb you should be well aware of the overwhelming variation of complex issues that can plague a successful harvest! To try and avoid these hiccups, educate yourself on terms like “nitrogen fixation”, “climate co-operation”, “trap cropping” and “pest suppression”. Companion planting could be the helpful push your garden needs to thrive, but be educated and aware of the potential hurdles that can manifest when increasing the biodiversity of your homes landscape!

For information on what to plant seasonally in your lawn or garden, see the Florida Gardening Calendar at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/lawn-and-garden/florida-gardening-calendar/ .

For any questions about your lawn or garden, contact your local Indian River County horticulture agent, Leslie Nicole Munroe by phone: (772) 226-4318 or by email: lnmunroe@ufl.edu. OR contact the Indian River County Master Gardener office by phone: (772) 226-4324