Companion Planting to keep pests at bay

With the launch of our brand new Companion Plant Pack and the recent addition of some beneficial herbs, we wanted to take a little time to talk about companion planting and how you can use it to keep pests away from your previous crops.

There are a vast number of pests that magically find their way into your veg patch as soon as you plant. The usual suspects include aphids, whitefly, greenfly, cabbage white caterpillars and other caterpillars, pigeons, cabbage root fly, carrot fly and, of course, slugs and snails. There are hundreds of others, but you get the picture.

When you’re growing organically, especially if you’re new to growing your own, it can sometimes seem like you are fighting a losing battle. There are all sorts of tricks and natural pesticides that you can try, from garlic sprays to nematodes. One effective trick is companion planting.

Think of companion plants as little bodyguards for your veg. You pop a few companion plants in a row alongside a row of veg and they’ll either take a hit for the team by attracting the pests to eat themselves rather than the veg that they’re guarding, or they’ll simply look (smell) so frightening and overwhelming that the pests will avoid that part of the veg patch altogether.

There are literally thousands of ideas around companion planting and what does and doesn’t work, but some suggestions are definitely more popular than others.

  1. Plant a row or bed of nasturtiums alongside your brassicas to protect them from caterpillars. You’ll find that butterflies are attracted to the nasturtiums and will lay their eggs there instead. When the caterpillars hatch, they’ll completely destroy your nasturtiums but your brassicas will remain largely untouched. We can definitely say that this has worked for us many times in the past.
  2. Pop a few stinky plants from the allium family in a row alongside carrots to deter carrot fly. Onions, spring onions, chives and garlic chives work well. The smell masks that of the carrot plant so that the carrot fly doesn’t bother paying your plants a visit in the first place.
  3. Marigolds and Tagetes can be used anywhere that aphids and and whitefly are a problem, (for example, in amongst your tomato plants) as they will attract ladybirds and lacewing which will help to keep whitefly and aphids at bay. You can also try planting basil in pots in the greenhouse with tomatoes.
  4. Mint in pots can help wherever you have problems with flea beetles (lots of leafy veg are affected by these bugs which make lots of tiny weeny holes in the leaves). The strong scent  deters the flea beetles.
  5. Dill and fennel can also help to attract ladybirds and therefore keep numbers of aphids down.