Some combinations of plants just work well together. Tomatoes and basil, for example: not only do they look good, they make a perfect partnership in the cooking pot too.
But there are some combinations that go beyond looking (or tasting) good. Companion planting uses features of one plant to protect or benefit another, so you get pest-free, happier and healthier plants.
Look out for companion plants to put with your flowers, fruit and vegetables in our garden centre in St Albans: you'll also find seed of annual companion plants to sow each year. They work together in several different ways - here are some of the many combinations to try.
Insect pests often rely on a sense of smell to find their prey, so if you disguise that smell with another even stronger-smelling plant, you'll put off the insects, too.
- French marigolds (Tagetes) and tomatoes to keep away whitefly
- Onions planted around carrots to confuse carrot fly
- Garlic at the feet of roses making them taste nasty to aphids
Often pests will abandon one plant if something more delicious comes along. It's a little hard on the decoy plant, but it's very effective.
- Nasturtiums planted at the feet of broad beans to attract blackfly away
Some plants just help each other out. Tall, sturdy plants support climbers; broad-leaved plants act like a living mulch, holding in water and suppressing weeds.
- Sweetcorn with its feet kept cool by broad-leaved squash
- Clematis allowed to scramble up into apple trees (it'll attract pollinators for the fruit, too)
- Strawberries and borage, said to improve their flavour
Plants that attract pollinating insects are beneficial for anything that's fruiting nearby, as while hoverflies, bees and lacewings are in your garden they'll also stop by to pollinate your beans and munch on a few aphids, too.
- Sweetpeas scrambling up the fence behind courgettes
- Lavender planted round the trunks of pear trees
- Herb fennel (allowed to flower) and runner beans
Please ask the staff in our St Albans garden centre for more information and advice about using companion plants to keep pests at bay.