Rural Missouri - April 2013 - (Page 10)
Certain plants can
improve the health
through a network
help ward off plant
pests and disease.
Marigolds are a
In the roots of
both the French
— a substance
that is toxic to
certain types of
Some vegetables, herbs and
flowers protect and feed
each other when
grown side by side
photos by Rick Wetherbee
Above: Companion planting can beneﬁt your garden by providing nutrients, protecting against disease, repelling pests and attracting beneﬁcial insects and bug-eating
birds. Right: A diversiﬁed garden uses a variety of plant scents, colors and textures as
natural pest barriers. Opposite page: Marigolds, seen here with parsley, contain thiopene in their roots — a substance that is toxic to some soil-dwelling nematodes.
by Kris Wetherbee
ave you ever noticed in your
garden how one vegetable
plant can fail in one location yet thrive in another?
Given the same soil, water and light,
the two plants don’t seem to grow the
same. The difference may be a plant
that’s growing next door.
This plant compatibility is the
foundation of a gardening technique
known as “companion planting,”
a synergistic plant partnership that
encourages plants to thrive and grow.
This type of garden diversity is a complex codependency that increases the
likelihood of combining plants that
enhance each other’s performance.
Companion planting can beneﬁt
your garden through ﬁve ways: providing nutrients, protecting against
disease, repelling pest insects, attracting beneﬁcial insects and attracting
Nourish your garden
Certain plant allies improve the
ﬂavor of neighboring vegetables by
providing nutrients. For example,
comfrey, buckwheat and other plants
with roots that grow deep can mine
nutrients and bring them up to the
surface, making them more available
to other plants. Various cover crops —
alfalfa, clover and vetch — also nourish neighboring plants with essential
nutrients and trace minerals including
nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron.
Other plants — such as peas, beans,
lupines and clover — have the ability to transport nitrogen from the air
down into their roots where bacteria
can convert it into a plant-friendly
form for neighboring plants. In this
case, corn, peas and other nitrogenhungry plants make great companions
as they will beneﬁt from the “nitrogen-ﬁxing ability” of these legumetype plants.
Protect your garden
Certain plants can improve the health
of neighbors through a network of
defensive chemicals that help ward
off plant pests and disease. Marigolds
are a classic example. In the roots of
both the French and African varieties, you’ll ﬁnd thiopene — a substance that is toxic to certain types
of soil-dwelling nematodes. As such,
marigolds make great companions for
tomatoes, beans and other plants that
are susceptible to nematode damage.
Plants that use similar defensive
chemicals to protect against diseasecausing pathogens include garlic,
onions and chives — commonly
known compatibles that prevent
black spot on roses and scab on
apples. Likewise, brassica roots release
chemicals that suppress some soilborne diseases. Equally important are
silica-rich plants such as comfrey and
borage, which may help neutralize
rust, fungal attacks and other waterborne diseases. And dandelions in a
tomato patch are a good thing as their
presence may deter fusarium wilt, a
soil-borne fungal disease that reduces
plant health and overall yields.
Other ways companion plants protect is by keeping it cool. Summertime
heat can take a toll on radishes, spinach, lettuce and turnips. Larger plants
such as pole beans and tomatoes provide needed shade, conserving moisture and reducing heat that would
cause these vegetables to become
woody or bolt.
Repel garden pests
Most pests locate their next meal by
searching out their host plant’s chemical odors or color. A diversiﬁed garden
boasts a complexity of plant odors,
colors and textures, thereby composing a natural barrier that makes it
harder for these pests to locate their
How easy would it be for the cabbage moth to hone in on an area
growing just broccoli and cabbage?
By surrounding and interplanting the
same area with carrots and onions,
you confuse the moth by masking the
scent of the broccoli and cabbage.
Strongly scented plants also beneﬁt their neighbors by masking their
odors, especially against pests that rely
on scent to locate good eats. Rosemary,
sage, lavender, oregano and other
strong-smelling plants often foil aphid
attacks on susceptible neighbors.
Another example is planting your garden’s perimeter with garlic and marigolds to repel aphids and beetles.
Other plants contain phytotoxins
that lure, then sicken or kill pests.
Mustard oils found in cabbage and
similar plants often poison unsuspecting spider mites, mosquitoes and Mexican bean beetles. Therefore, cabbage,
broccoli and kale make good companion plants for beans.
Sometimes, a gardener can repel
bugs simply by creating a physical barrier between the critter and the plant
it wants to eat. If raccoons are raiding
your sweet corn, surround it with a
scratchy barrier of squash vines. Interplant tomatoes with your cabbage and
cauliﬂower. The tomato’s sticky, hairy
leaves deter ﬂea beetles that love to
devour the other vegetables.
Catnip is another repellent plant
when it comes to ﬂea beetles, Colorado potato beetles and green peach
aphids. But you don’t necessarily have
to plant catnip in your garden to beneﬁt from its protection. Catnip easily
self-seeds; however, if you grow it outside the garden, it can then be cut and
used as a protecting mulch.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - April 2013
Rural Missouri - April 2013
Table of Contents
It’s all about redemption
Best of rural Missouri
Hearth and Home
Marmaduke’s Cape expedition
The soldier’s paper
Rural Missouri - April 2013