Companion Planting with Herbs
Companion Planting vegetables is as old as agriculture. Through the centuries,
people have realized some vegetables actually aid others in their growth, help repel
insects or act as a trap crop to encourage insects to congregate on them, the more
easily to be dispatched.
But, it isn’t only vegetables that aid in each other’s growth, herbs are quite at home
in a companion planting program. Many herbs invite beneficial insect pollinators or
predators to the garden. The chemicals given off by certain herbs can aid in
vegetable production, as well.
Whether you grow your vegetables in an in-ground garden or in containers, herbs
can be interplanted to aid your production. The various herb plants work best
interplanted with your vegetables.
If you’re a row-type gardener, plant your herbs every so often down the row. If your garden is more of a casual bed plan, just plant the herbs here and there in the bed. Container growers can either plant herbs in the containers with the vegetables or in separate containers and place them near and around the vegetable containers.
It has been shown that intermingling herbs and different vegetable plants rather
than planting row-type gardens can help protect your plants from attack by harmful
Without a direct path from one plant of the same variety to another of the
same variety and another and another…. down the row, insects have a harder time
taking hold of one crop and destroying or damaging it if the same type of plant is
not planted right next to each other.
What herbs are best?
Almost all the culinary herbs we use are beneficial as Companion Plants. The list of
herbs that attract predators to your garden are long: dill, mint, yarrow, catmint,
lavender, bee balm, marigold, tansy, coneflowers, basil, thyme, hyssop, marjoram,
sage, caraway, fennel, angelica, butterfly flower, and chives.
Give fennel some room of its own to grow, however, as many plants do not do well planted too close to it.
Although, my licorice grows right in and around the fennel in my herb bed.
Dill, hyssop, marigolds, and thyme will lure cabbage moths from your cabbage and
other brassica varieties such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts.
Thyme also repels whitefly. Catnip is good for controlling flea beetles, which also
enjoy snacking on your brassicas.
To repel aphids, use chives, garlic, garlic chives, and borage. Herbal, edible flowers
of nasturtiums and calendula attract hoverflies, whose larva eat aphids. Borage also
repels tomato hornworms and helps control cutworms. Chives and garlic chives
also help keep mildew from the plants near it, which is why they’re often planted
To attract beneficial insects, such as bees and hoverflies, which will help pollinate
your crops, plant peppermint, rosemary, thyme, mints, and sage. If you’re worried
about the mint taking over, just plant it in a big pot buried about halfway into the
Summer savory enhances the flavor of green beans and helps repel bean beetles.
Planting oregano with beans also adds to their vigor.
If you think you have root-knot nematodes, plant marigolds, Tagetes erecta or T.
patula, instead of your vegetable crop for a season. Turn under the whole plant in
the fall. This practice should take care of root-knot nematodes for about 3 years.
There are a few practices that have been found to be useful when planting herbs to
attract beneficial insects, whether they are predators or pollinators. Since it’s the
flowers on most herbs that attract the insects, try succession planting so you have
flowers opening every few weeks.
If you plant a trap crop, be sure to deal with the insects either by pulling up the
crops and destroying them or destroying the insects with an approved- organic, of
course- insecticide. Otherwise, you’ll just make the problem worse by setting up a
nursery where your damaging insects will thrive.
It’s best to have your herbs growing before your vegetables get too large, so the
herbs can bring the predatory insects to the garden to keep harmful insects off your
small plants. Pay attention to when the herbs should flower or are flowering when
trying to bring in pollinators. You want the flowering herbs when the vegetable
plants are blooming, too, so an optimum fruit set is achieved. Succession planting
really helps with this step.
Companion Planting Chart
|Basil||Tomatoes Dislikes Rue||Flies, Mosquitoes|
|Borage||Tomatoes, Squash, Strawberries||Tomato Worm|
|Caraway||Plant throughout the garden to loosen the soil. Avoid Dill|
|Catnip||Eggplant, Cabbage, Broccoli, Kale||Flea Beetle, Ants|
|Dead Nettle||Potatoes||Potato Bug|
|Dill||Cabbage Dislikes Carrots and Caraway|
|Fennel||Most plants dislike this herb|
|Feverfew||roses||attracts aphids away from roses|
|Flax||Carrots, Potatoes||Potato Bug Japanese Beetle,|
|Henbit||General Insect Repellent|
|Hyssop||Cabbage, Grapes Dislikes Radishes||Cabbage Moth|
Whether you grow in a garden bed or containers, you can use herbs to help with your vegetable production. You’ll have great results! And, remember, bringing beneficial insects into your garden will very much lessen the pesticides you’ll have to use to keep your vegetable plants healthy and growing strong.
Cindy Meredith is the owner of The Herb Cottage, a rural who has a wide range of knowledge about gardening. Her favorite topics include growing herbs and heirloom vegetables, and using herbs in the kitchen and for wellness. The dynamic website, theherbcottage.com, for herb and plant a lover is a handy source for growing information for all gardeners, especially Texans and other folks who live in hot, humid climates like ours. The newsletter from theherbcottage.com is full of information about herbs, herbs, and vegetable growing and using herbs in everyday living. Sign up on the website.
Cindy loves to talk about herbs, gardening, and especially- gardening with herbs.