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What Are the Benefits of Companion Planting?
Companion plants will either help a specific crop grow or will grow better beside a specific crop, and can do many support jobs in the garden:
- Repel insect pests. Cabbage worms, cucumber beetles, Mexican bean beetles, carrot flies, cabbage moths—all kinds of pests can plague vegetable gardens. Many companion plants (like marigold flowers, catnip, and rue) repel specific pests and should be planted near certain crops to keep them pest-free.
- Attract beneficial insects. Pollinators like bees and ladybugs can use a little encouragement to visit vegetable gardens and pollinate the crops. Gardeners often plant attractive plants like borage flowers to encourage pollinators to visit.
- Improve soil nutrients. When crops grow, they take up valuable nutrients from the soil—leaving the gardener to do a lot of work at the end of the season to renew the soil’s nutrients. However, there are many companion plants (like bush beans and pole beans) that add nutrients like nitrogen back into the soil, helping keep other plants healthy and well-fed.
- Encourage faster growth or better taste. Many companion plants (like marjoram, chamomile, and summer savory) release specific chemicals that encourage faster growth or better taste in the plants around them, leading to quicker and better harvests for home gardeners.
- Provide ground cover. Plants that spread low across the ground (like oregano) serve as a blanket over the soil, protecting it from the sun and keeping it cooler for plants that need it.
- Provide necessary shade. Plants that grow tall and leafy (like zucchini and asparagus) can provide welcome shade for sun-sensitive plants beneath them.
- Serve as markers. When growing slow-growing plants, it can be difficult to tell where the rows will be while you’re waiting for the seeds to sprout. Gardeners often use fast-growing plants (like radishes) interspersed with the slow growers in their rows to delineate where the slow growers will be.
8 Plants to Grow With Broccoli
When growing broccoli in your garden, consider companion planting to help deter pests, help your broccoli grow stronger, and make your broccoli taste sweeter and more flavorful. Here is a guide to a few of the best companion plants to grow alongside broccoli.
- Beets aren’t bothered by broccoli hogging all the calcium in the soil, and add magnesium to the ground.
- Chamomile improves broccoli’s flavor when planted nearby.
- Nasturtium and geraniums repel all things that harm brassicas—cabbage worms and loopers among them—with their peppery, astringent scent.
- Lettuce. A mutually beneficial pairing, delicate lettuce fares particularly well in the protective shade of a mid-season broccoli row.
- Onions give broccoli better flavor when they are grown near each other.
- Potatoes usually hog a lot of nutrients in the soil, making them often unfriendly garden neighbors, but broccoli and potatoes fare well when grown next to each other.
- Radishes don’t need much room to grown and they enjoy the cool shade that broccoli can provide.
- Rosemary and other aromatic herbs like dill, basil, and mint, deter cabbage flies from laying its eggs in broccoli crowns.
Plants to Avoid Growing With Broccoli
Some plants may harm your broccoli harvest by using the same soil nutrients or by attracting pests. Here’s what to avoid planting alongside broccoli:
- Nightshades. Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers seem to have an adverse effect on broccoli in most cases, but this may not always be true in your garden.
- Cabbage and cauliflower. Doubling up on brassicas means putting plants in direct competition for many of the same nutrients and resources. Having brassicas planted close together can also attract the pests that wreak havoc on the plants, like aphids, which suck the juices out of broccoli shoots, small green caterpillars called cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, maggots, and flea beetles.
- Strawberries. Strawberries are also considered “heavy feeders” and may stunt the growth of broccoli as it grasps at depleted nutrients.
- Beans. Beans bolster nitrogen content in the soil, which may make it too strong a blend for broccoli.
Think Like a Pro
Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.View Class
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