Companion planting is also an essential component of the Mettlieder method of gardening as well as polyculture. Essentially it involves the planting of similar crops in close physical proximity to either draw pests or disease away from a plant, change it’s flavor or allow it to grow bigger.
Companion planting was very popular in the 1970s as part of the organic gardening movement. People were enchanted with the idea that different species of plant may thrive when planted close together.
One traditional practice was planting of corn and pole beans together. The cornstalk would serve as a trellis for the beans to climb. The inclusion of squash with these two plants completes the Three Sisters technique, pioneered by Native American peoples.
Here is a list of the benefits of companion planting –
- Protective shelter – one larger type of plant type may serve as a wind break for a smaller variety
- Shade cover – one plant may serve as shade from noonday sun, for another
- Flavor enhancement — some plants, especially herbs, seem to subtly change the flavor of other plants around them.
- To hedge your bets– multiple plants in the same space increase the odds of some yield being given, even if one type of plant doesn’t make it because of a pest infestation or weather conditions
- As trellises for climbers– plants which grow on different levels in the same space, can provide ground cover or trellis for another plant
- Nitrogen fixation – some plants infuse nitrogen in the ground, making it available to other plants as is the case with bean plants fixating nitrogen for corn plants
- To repel pests– some plants can repel insects, or other pests like nematodes or fungi
- To attract positive pests– this is a plant that attracts or hosts insects or other organisms which benefit adjacent plants, as with ladybugs or some “friendly nematodes” that work the soil
- To trap pests– these are plants which attract pests away from others as is true of the marigold when it is planted near tomatoes
- Root repellents —some plants give off substances through the root that are repellent or that kill or repel other plants (weeds) and insects
Aside from being practical and traditional, a garden with companion planting is also usually quite beautiful as the close plants give it a lush and verdant appearance.