Is your garden working hard enough? The answer, according to organic grower Claire Ratinon, lies in companion planting. “This means growing plants side by side because they have characteristics that complement each other,” she writes in her book, How to Grow Your Dinner. Mimicking nature creates a diverse ecosystem in your very own container garden, making sure every seedling thrives. And it’s basically Mother Earth’s insect control.
“If you were trying to grow something that encouraged a predatory wasp or sap-sucking bug, counteracting that with a plant that deters it does the work for you,” explains Ratinon. This method is especially perfect if you’re working in a smaller space, with individual pots rather than sprawling plots. “I’m an organic grower, so soil is life to me, but growing in planters is such a great option because nothing is permanent,” continues Ratinon. If you try a combination that doesn’t prove fruitful (sorry), simply switch around the pots and try again.
Ratinon’s formula: situate a scented flower that’s bee- or pollinator-friendly near a fruiting plant, like zucchini or peppers. She suggests researching what the unique needs of each green are and finding natural foils to balance them out. Her all-time favorite combo? Calendula (a common marigold) and tomatoes. “Actually, my biggest mistake this year was not getting any marigold seeds and just hoping that my tomatoes will be fine,” she says. (So far they are—but a little extra insurance never hurts.)
We got to peek at the pages of Ratinon’s book to share some of Ratinon’s other companion planting favorites. Grab your trowels.
Position chervil or coriander next to plants that are suffering from aphid attacks.
The onion scent of chives keeps aphids away from tomatoes.
Calendula is a great companion, as it attracts beneficial insects—such as ladybirds, lacewings, and hoverflies—that will also pollinate fruiting crops like zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes.
The strong scent of mint confuses and deters pests, including the flea beetle, which chomps holes in brassica varieties (such as mustard greens and arugula).
French marigolds (Tagetes) grown near tomatoes deter whiteflies.
Dill that has gone to flower will attract aphid-eating insects such as hoverflies and predatory wasps.
The fragrant and beautiful purple flowers of lavender attract a range of pollinators, including bees and butterflies—and they can be made into a relaxing and even sleep-inducing tea.
Thyme’s strong scent is a deterrent for the black flies that may bother your bean plants—and, if allowed to go to flower, is attractive to pollinators, too.
Excerpted from How to Grow Your Dinner by Claire Ratinon. Copyright © 2020 by Claire Ratinon. Excerpted by permission of Laurence King Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.