Lowdown on companion planting

In these hard economic times, companion planting offers gardeners a way to grow vegetables sustainably and affordably. 

Quite simply, companion planting is about growing plants together that work well together, in order to produce a healthy crop. The interplanting of herbs, flowers and vegetables works in three ways:

Attracting pollinators: fruiting veggies (squash, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers etc) need insect pollination. That means planting nectar rich flowers as well as flowering herbs close to fruiting vegetables to attract bees and butterflies

Managing pests: herbs with  strongly aromatic leaves (thyme, sage, garlic chives, lavender) may repel or deter pests. Other herbs (fennel, nasturtium) act as trap crops attracting the pests to their flowers and away from the vegetables. Marigold roots emit a substance that deters nematodes.

Improving the soil: Chamomile and Lovage benefit the veggies planted closes to them. Green manures (clover, vetch, legumes, mustard) improve soil texture and fertility or fumigate the soil. Borage, yarrow and comfrey are mineral-rich herbs for adding to the compost or as a soil-improving mulch. 

Other aspects to consider when companion planting include using taller plants to shade lower growing tender plants (Sweet corn and pumpkins), nitrogen fixers for leafy greens (Swiss chard with bush green beans), and plants that have the same water requirements (Sweet peppers and lettuce). 

Probably the best-known companion planting combo is sweet basil planted in-between or close to tomatoes to repel insects, its flowers attract bees and tomato lovers swear that basil  improves the flavour of tomatoes. 

Should mid-summer see an overload of pests, the healthy option is targeted spraying (only on pest infected plants) with an organic insecticide like Ludwig’s insect spray or Margaret Roberts Organic Insecticide.

Sowing of companion vegetables, herbs and flowers can start in September and Kirchhoffs has a large range of heirloom open-pollinated, non-GMO varieties for organic gardening.

Visit www.kirchhoffs.co.za

Garden tasks for September:

• Prepare garden beds for sowing or planting after the last frost

• Increase watering as the days get warmer

• Keep on harvesting winter and spring crops

• Keep brassicas, especially kale and cabbage free from aphids 

Veggies to sow now.

Summer rainfall regions

Bush/runner beans, beetroot, brinjals, cabbage, carrot, peppers, cucumbers, celery, lettuce, melons, marrows, mealies, melon, parsnip, peas (in cooler areas), pumpkins, radish, rhubarb, spinach and Swiss chard, squash, turnips, tomatoes

Lowveld and KwaZulu Natal coast

Asparagus, bush/runner beans, brinjals, peppers, cucumbers, mealies, and radishes

Winter rainfall regions 

Bush/runner beans, beetroot, brinjals, carrot, peppers, cucumbers, celery, lettuce, melons, mealies, parsnip, pumpkins, radish, rhubarb, Swiss chard, squash, turnips, tomatoes.

Article published in Tuis