Spring Companion Planting for a Healthy Garden!

It’s that time of year again! Where we start preparing the garden for the sunshine, and thinking what we are going to plant for the warmer seasons 🙂

Benefits of Companion Planting

Companion planting is one of the main methods we use at our farm to be able to repel certain pests, attract others, and overall keep our garden healthy and happy without the need of adding chemicals to your plants to keep those pests away! Companion planting doesn’t need to only mean pest repellant though, plants can be used to support other plants by:

  • Creating a shelter/barrier for other plants. For example, in the summer we grow lettuce behind our corn crop in order to create shade for the lettuce. Or growing our fava beans in between globe artichokes in order to act as a wind barrier.
  • Certain flowers can be used to attract beneficial insects such as bees that will help to pollinate your crops
  • Certain crops can also be used to repel insects that may be attacking or harming your crop.
  • Crops can also be used as a physical support system, for example, such as the three sisters, which we will discuss in more detail later on.
  • They can also be what we like to call ‘sacrificial plants’. For example, if we have a crop that we know insects especially love, we may grow a border of chard around it so that the insects opt to eat our chard instead of the crop we are trying to grow. We usually get a good harvest of chard still too 🙂
  • Certain crops can also be used to enhance the flavour of your veg, for example, growing certain herbs such as chives or coriander
  • Certain companion plants can also help support the soil and nutritional needs of your crop. For example, if you pair legumes, which fix nitrogen into the soil with a nitrogen hungry crop

Companion planting is one of the top things that we consider when planning and planting our farm so that we can ensure the highest quality veg, and also give it the best chance possible to thrive within its natural environment, whilst using nature itself to support it.

The Three Sisters

This is one of the most popularly known companions, and it is so well renown for a reason. This combination offers several benefits to one another, with each crop work to support each other in the heat of the spring and summertime. The three sisters can be a combination of several different crops, however, the one that is most popularly know is:

  • Using pumpkin/squash as a shade cover. It crawls across the soil, the leaves are large, and covers the surface area of the soil. This provides shade to keep the soil cool, preserve water, and assist the other sisters.
  • Next you would use corn, which adds to the nutrient balance of the soil, and act as a trellis for the next sister to climb.
  • Your final sister is some sort of climbing bean/legume. This will climb the corn and use it as a support system, and fix nitrogen into the soil to support the nutrition of the other sister crops.

Tomatoes, Marigolds and Basil

This is one of our absolute favourite companion plants for the season, and one we repeatedly use without fail every year. We get a lot of pests for tomatoes here in Malta, and Marigolds work wonders at keeping them away. They specifically help in keeping away white fly, thrips, and hornworms from your tomatoes. This is the main companion we use for tomatoes, however, we also tend to add basil either directly between the tomatoe plants or as a row next to the row of tomatoes as this also further repels unwanted pests from your tomatoes, and also enhances flavour. Basil and tomatoe aren’t just delicious on your plate, but they can start helping with flavour from the soil!

If you are selling these, especially to restaurants, it is also beneficial because marigolds are an edible flower which have a high value for restaurants, and therefore, are able to earn more out of your crop not only from your beautiful and tasty tomatoes, but also from the flowers themselves. Which of course are also very beautiful to look at in your garden and attract pollinators.

Cucumber, Dill, and Legumes

Cucumber has several companions, however, this is a combination that will help in creating a productive and delicious crop. First of all, we all know that dill and cucumber taste divine together (dill pickles?), so this can act as a flavour enhancer for the cucumber. However, it is also beneficial is it attracts beneficial pollinators which will help in pollinating your cucumber crop. As for the legumes, these, as previously mentioned, are nitrogen fixing. This is important for balancing the ph of the soil which will in turn support growth and provide the nutrition that the cucumbers require. If you really want to get wild, and you are using a small cucumber variety that isn’t too heavy, you can also plant corn or sunflowers for the cucumbers to trellis up.

With this in mind, you can start to imagine a a very vibrant garden filled with vibrant crops and flowers, full of pollinators, and a healthy crop production for you to enjoy the bounty of 🙂

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