Companion gardening is a terrific way to prevent many types of problems, but it also is a way to enhance your vegetable garden in many ways. Companion gardening is a method of pest control that’s used around the world. Certain plants benefit your vegetable garden by increasing flavor, confusing pests, attracting beneficial insects, or providing support. It is an old practice, utilized by the American Indians who grew pole beans with corn and squash. The corn acts as a trellis for the beans to climb; the beans fix nitrogen in the soil for the corn to utilize (corn needs lots of nitrogen), and the squash provides the ground cover to keep the weeds out without robbing the corn or beans of their nutrients. This classic example of companion planting was so widely utilized it became known as the three sisters.
This gardener, according to his blog, planted rows of squash between rows of corn and bush beans. Pole beans would have been a better choice, but both provide nitrogen for the corn. When beans develop, they actually pull nitrogen from the air and fix it in nodules on their roots with the help of beneficial bacteria. These pro-biotic nitrogen fixing bacteria are essential for both an abundant harvest and to turn the beans into a green fertilizer. Many gardeners till the spent bean plants back into the soil after the harvest is finished. I don’t because I don’t till anything; my raised beds don’t require it. I do, however, try to leave the bean roots in the beds.
Cottage gardens in the 19th century were initially vegetable gardens with lots of flowers planted between the vegetables. They were densely planted, often including fruit trees and herbs. The gardens would spill over into the neighbor’s gardens, and companion planting was discovered. Marigolds with tomatoes, dill with cabbage, zinnias with herbs, tomatoes with carrots, onions with eggplant… the list goes on and on. I found a great book on the subject printed by Rodale, the organic gardening expert publishers. Here’s a direct link to Amazon.com; just click on the picture in the left hand sidebar of the book “Great Garden Companions” by Sally Jean Cunningham.
This book was one of the three books that got me started. Utilizing these principles, I planted flowers and herbs all over my beds, and the results were spectacular, both beautiful and bountiful. The flowers attracted lots of bees which in turn pollinated all of my eggplants, cucumbers, squash along with the other fruiting vegetation. The herbs confused the bad bugs; I didn’t need to use any pesticides. The flowers were downright beautiful.