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rynthae
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Location: Naples, FL

Suggestions and Experience with Companion Planting?

Hello everyone!

I am not new to gardening, though I will admit that my experience with fruits and vegetables were pretty limited in the past (mostly zucchini and fruit trees). I have recently moved to Florida and want to take advantage of the wonderful sunshine here by starting lots of fruits and vegetables! I want to keep the garden organic, though, and avoid the use of any pesticides and herbicides. Because of that, I have been looking into companion planting more.

So, first I was wondering what plants do you guys recommend for keeping pests away? It seems like I see the Asteraceae (marigolds, aster, zinnias) and Lamiaceae (mint, rosemary) family members mentioned a lot for this. Were any preferable or more effective over the others? Also, has anyone tried anything unorthodox like Lavender (a relative of mint), or lemon balm to any effect?

One more question - bear with me! :wink: Has anyone tried spraying a solution infused with the beneficial plant (say marigold or peppermint "tea" for instance)? If so, did it work out at all?

Thanks so much for your patience, guys - any help or advice is much appreciated!

-Ryn

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Suggestions and Experience with Companion Planting?

For keeping pests away, along with what you mentioned, allium family is very effective, garlic/ onions/ chives etc. I scatter them through all my veggie beds. I grow a lot of lavender and lemon balm and it is near my veggies, but not mostly in the beds with them. Hard to say if it is helping keep pests away or not.

Along with keeping pests away, the other thing companion planting is good for is attracting beneficial insects, both pollinators and predators on the bad guys. So in your garden, you want to grow flowers for the honeybees and you want to grow nectar flowers for the predators. One powerhouse one is braconid wasps. they are teeny (maybe 1/4 inch long) and don't sting, but they lay their eggs in various caterpillers like tomato hornworms, cabbage worms etc. Then the larvae hatch out and eat the caterpiller. The adult braconids like plants that have nectar in tiny florets. That includes carrot family stuff (dill, fennel, carrots, parsley -- if left to flower) sweet alyssum, chamomile, buckwheat, and others.

The allium family stuff makes good insect repellant when made into an infusion with hot peppers-- garlic pepper spray. Mint might work like that as well, haven't tried it. Part of why marigolds are recommended for companion planting is that they exude a substance from their roots that keeps away the bad root nematodes. Spraying marigold would not accomplish that.

It's not companion planting, but one of the best things you can do for your organic garden is have lots of birds. So think about bird feeders (even seed eating birds usually eat some insects at some point in their life cycle), bird bath/ water source, bird houses. Especially to get started you can purchase some beneficial insects like ladybugs, preying mantis, etc for release in your garden, but you will still want to have plants they like, so they will be happy and stay.

Plants for ladybugs include a lot of the same ones as for the braconids, but also yarrow, tansy, coriander, penstemon, marigolds. Preying mantis like to have some tall grass habitat.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

imafan26
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Re: Suggestions and Experience with Companion Planting?

Mint family, alliums, composite and asteraceae, nasturtiums and the parsley family are the best for pests and attracting beneficials and bees.

I usually use fennel as my main attractor of beneficial insects. They have a very long bloom period and it is the flowers are an important nectar source. The only thing is that you need to plant the fennel off in a corner of the yard by itself. It attracts the aphids away from other plants and is usually loaded, but the aphids don't bother the fennel and they feed the lady bug larvae. The seed heads attract lacewings, ladybugs, parasitc wasps, and tachinid flies who also need nectar and water to survive.

My backup plants are dwarf french marigolds (nemagone) and African marigolds (crackerjack) they act as trap plants for aphids, attract lady bugs and repel nematodes. They will also have the bees visit them

Sunflowers, basil (in flower), pineapple sage, borage, lavender, marjoram, alyssum, cuphea, nasturtiums. Queen Anne's Lace provide nectar for the bees and other beneficial insects as well. Either water the plants early in the morning or leave a shallow tray filled with pebbles and a little water out for them. (I use a ceramic pot saucer, it isn't much good for anything else.

You do need to be careful because these plants are not always companions. Like the fennel that really doesn't like to be within ten feet of almost anything . gingers, horseradish, gynuura(cholesterol plant) are not bothered by fennel so are ok with it.

Nasturtiums, onions and beans should be kept at least 10 ft away from each other. They attract the same kinds of aphids.

Dill helps tomatoes when it is young but will stunt tomatoes once they start to bloom.

https://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

bostinofx86
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Re: Suggestions and Experience with Companion Planting?

When doing this method of companion planting do you notice a need to feed plants more nutrients sense there will be more plants in the potted plant than one?

For instance I am growing green onions with some potted plants and noticing that I am having a nutrient defficency with my plants.... Can this be do to the extra 2 green onions per pot? I started doing some foliar spraying noticing the stems and leaves turning to a nice green... I am trying my indoor growing for the winter I normally have no issue in the summer outside.. I feel it because I am always making my own soil from my compost so theres plenty of nutrients to be shared throughout the plants..

Thanks let me know your thoughts.

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JC's Garden
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Location: Moultrie, GA Planting Zone 8, Sunset Zone 31

Re: Suggestions and Experience with Companion Planting?

I'll second what the others have said. I practice companion gardening and it's made a real difference in the amount of insect damage I get. The 'work horse' in my garden is the French Marigold. They have several benefits.
I think success using companion gardening has a lot to do with location and what grows well in your area. For example nasturtiums, they may be great companion plants but all they do for me is die. :? I've always heard bee balm was the bomb for attracting pollinators, not in my garden.
If it's a plant you don't often see in your area, don't count on it for companion gardening. Grow it anyway if it's pretty or tastes good. :)

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Suggestions and Experience with Companion Planting?

Have you seen the big long companion planting guide thread? A lot of work by one of our members who isn't around as much these days (we miss you gixx!!)

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... n+planting
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

imafan26
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Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Suggestions and Experience with Companion Planting?

I don't often plant more than one plant in a pot unless it is a 20 inch pot. I may put in roses and garlic together. Many of the herbs are not heavy feeders so they don't take a lot of nutrients but, there are anti-companions that don't do well together so you do need to take account for that. I don't plant more than one thing in a pot less than 20 inches mainly because things like green onions have a surprisingly large and long root system and require the pot be watered more often.

To control nematodes with biocidal plants like sun hemp, India mustard or marigolds, these plants must be planted thickly with no weeds to act as nematode hosts. In the case of marigolds, not all marigolds work. You need to get the right marigold for the right species of nematode and be aware that marigolds can still harbor different nematodes.
Marigolds trap nematodes in the living plants, and the susceptible crop planted within a couple of months to benefit. Because French marigolds do not have as deep a root system as the African marigold or sun hemp, they work mostly at the surface. These plants help to reduce nematode populations but do not eliminate them. You will still need to make sure you follow strict sanitation procedures to prevent spreading the nematodes to other parts of the garden that do not have them.
https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/PD-35.pdf
https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/PD-32.pdf

For plants that are highly susceptible, isolation may be the best bet. Nematodes are very common here so selecting nematode resistant cultivars gets the best results and luckily there are a lot of plants bred with nematode resistance. However, if I want to plant some of the heirloom tomatoes or ginger (there are no nematode resistant varieties), they have to be planted in disease free soil or in pots with sterile media off the ground and tools and hands need to be washed before touching the soil and plants so that nematodes will not be transferred from the garden to the pot.

As for the beneficial insects, creating a habitat for them is not that hard, you want to have long lasting flowers throughout the year, a water source ( either wet leaves in the morning or a shallow tray of pebbles and water), habitat plants that insects lay eggs on and raise larvae or artificial hives for solitary bees. An small pot or 4 inch pvc pipe section make a good toad house. I plant alyssum, cuphea, finocchio fennel, marigolds, nasturtiums (seasonal), sun flower (seasonal), borage(seasonal) and lavender multifida (zone 9-11) a landscape lavender that will bloom nearly year round, unlike the edible lavenders that only bloom for a short time once a year. If you cover crop, buckwheat attracts a lot of beneficial insects and grows very fast, 6 weeks to bloom. I also let basil, onions, perilla, pretty much everything go to seed and collect the seeds to replant. Pretty much anything in bloom will attract many beneficial insects and bees. What you really need to avoid is resorting to spraying to control pests. The garden patrol will not get every bug so you will need to learn to tolerate some damage, make plants healthier by making sure they get what they need nutrients, space and water, selecting the best cultivars for your location, and culling weak plants.

Birds do eat a lot of insects but unless they have a roosting place like trees, they will try to nest in your attic. They will also eat your seeds and young seedlings and need I say anything about bird poop. If you do put out a feeder, don't do it regularly because the birds you attract will be mostly seed eaters and they will wait for you to feed them rather than catch insects. It may also attract other wildlife you may not want around.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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