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stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Companion planting: flowers with vegetables

Photo: Cosmos and SnapdragonsIt’s all very well growing 2000 flower plants but having started planting them out in the herbaceous borders it was clear that I was quickly running out of space. Some of my large swathes of perennial plants just had to go. I cut the more rampant ones back and dumped the ones that I didn’t like 100%.  I also took a long hard look at the shadier border that I’ve never really bothered with and moved any plant that can cope with semi shade to that location. But still I didn’t have enough space.

Then I had a brain wave. If marigolds are great in the vegetable patch surely some of my army of flower plants would also be good companions in the kitchen garden. I made a list of the plants that I had grown and spent a long time cruising about on the internet looking for answers. I discovered these combinations:

Dahlias repel nematodes (roundworms), so they benefit many herbs and vegetables.
Pot marigolds deter asparagus beetle
Zinnias, larkspur, cosmos attract pollinators
Asters, parsley, dill, and coriander attract beneficial insects
Sacrificial flowers such as nasturtium and nicotiana attract aphids and butterflies
Cucumbers and courgettes love nasturtiums
Cabbage and dill are a perfect combination
Lettuce likes to grow near cleome and nicotiana
Strawberries enjoy the companionship of nigella, borage and pyrethrum
Borage is a good all-rounder across the board
Achillea boosts the flavour of aromatic herbs such as thyme and rosemary

So I edged all my vegetable borders with flowers. Apart from the bed that is edged already with garlic shallots.  As paths divide the separate borders, the shade from taller plants falls on these. This was a good move as I’m finally finding homes for all my flower plants and hopefully the vegetables will benefit too.

I also read an interesting article that explained that herbaceous gardens with separate kitchen gardens used to be for those who had enough wealth and land. The cottage garden style evolved from the time when vegetables and flowers were planted together and the beneficial and bad alliances were well known.

This morning I found this comprehensive list from the Canadian Organic Growers which is one of the best ones that I’ve seen on the Internet.

I would love to hear any companion planting tips that you have as I’m sure that I’m only scratching the surface of this method. If companion planting can giver us tastier, stronger crops without the need for chemicals it’s well worth giving it a go.


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8 Comments

  1. Louise H

    Hi Fiona,

    I’ve been fiddling around with companion planting myself for years with some really good results and a few spectacular failures! There seems to be any amount of contradictory information out there so plenty of room for experimenting. Here is the www for the best website I’ve come across so far, some good unusual information. As they advise, I have had briliant results planting my PSB and other brassicas in my rhubarb patch. www.ghorganics.com/page2.html

  2. Very interesting, thank you.

    I’m just as keen to learn what NOT to plant together as I have only recently learned that some things should positively NOT be planted together. Now I’m living in fear of some accidental planting accident that will ruin a crop!

  3. Stephanie in AR

    I leaned the hard way to plant only orange marigolds in the garden. Some insects are attracted to the color yellow (thus the yellow sticky traps) and when yellow marigolds are planted in the garden only bad things happen. I later read that yellow marigold are great to plant well away from the garden for exactly that reason. Live & learn.

  4. Bridget @ Cabbage Tree Farm

    How timely! We are just in the process of re-doing our veg garden and I had the same idea of planting flowers in there too. We already have lots of borage and marigolds coming up everywhere. Thanks for your list.

  5. cathy

    I’ve been having a lot of fun this year putting vegetables into landscaped areas. I’m thinking about micro-climates and keep looking for spots for another squash plant or another group of onions. It’s fun.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hello LouiseH

    Thank you so much for the link – it’s brilliant.

    Yes I agree, there are lots of conflicting bits of advice out there. I grew brassicas in my rhubarb patch last winter and they did grow well (didn’t know rhubarb was beneficial at the time!)

    Hi Ann

    I planted leeks beside my runner beans which was a mistake as they hate each other! Now I’m being very careful about what goes where as I want the best fruit and veg possible.

    Hope that your veg patch works out well!

    Hi Stephanie

    Thanks for that great tip. Luckily I only have orange marigolds on the plot this year. I did read somewhere that yellow nasturtiums are a good sacrificial plant near brassicas.

    Hi Bridget

    Isn’t it great when desperation drives you to discover new things.

    Good luck with the veg patch.

    BTW we are growing cabbage trees this year!

    Hi Cathy

    Great idea. I’m trying to use all our space too. It’s amazing how much space that we wasted in the past.

  7. KateUK

    go easy on the borage…a thug!

  8. Magic Cochin

    “Borage is a good all-rounder across the board”

    Hee hee! too right it is!
    There isn’t a corner of my veg plot it isn’t springing up in this spring!!!!!

    Celia

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