Companion Plants for Pest Control

April 8, 2010


“COMPANION PLANTING” — the theory that certain plants benefit each other when grown in close proximity — has proven an effective means of pest-control here at A Garden for the House. Last summer, rabbits immediately stopped munching my cosmos and zinnias after I edged the plants with fragrant lavender. And onions, when planted around the vegetable beds, have surely repelled moles, voles and certain insects, too. Now, what other plants are thought to aid each other in the garden?

COMPANION PLANTS:

Allium (onions, chives, garlic, shallots). Plant near roses, fruit trees, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, and other vegetables. Deters aphids, weevils, moles, fruit-tree borers. Protects roses from mildew, black spot and aphids.

Basil. Plant near tomatoes or asparagus. Repels aphids, flies, mosquitoes and spider mites; controls the tomato hornworm and asparagus beetle.

Beans. Plant near beets, carrots, cucumber, corn, eggplant, potatoes. Encourages growth by adding nitrogen to soil; is reported to control the Colorado potato beetle.

Borage. Plant around tomatoes, strawberries, fruit trees. Repels the tomato hornworm; attracts honeybees.

Castor Bean. Plant near vegetables to thwart moles. Do not, however, mistake the castor bean as edible; all parts of the plant are poisonous.

Celery. Plant near broccoli, cabbage, leeks, tomatoes, cauliflower. Deters the white cabbage-moth.

Coriander. Benefits all vegetables by repelling aphids.

Cosmos. Plant between rows of corn. Thwarts the corn worm (see comment #25 below).

Cucumber. Grown up cornstalks, the prickly vines of the cucumber discourage woodchucks and raccoons.

Fennel. Plant near tomatoes. In reader Karin’s  experience (see comment #25 below), tomato hornworms devour the  fennel, and and leave the  tomatoes alone.

Geranium. Plant near cabbage, corn, grapes, roses. Repels cabbage worms; may thwart Japanese beetles.

Horseradish. Grow near potatoes, to discourage Colorado potato beetle.

Hyssop. Locate near cabbage and grapes; deters the cabbage moth.

Lavender. This is my favorite repellent. Protects vegetables and flowers from rabbits and woodchucks.

Leeks. Plant near celery, carrots and onions. Repels carrot flies.

Marigold. Plant near tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, roses. Deters a wide range of harmful insects.

Nasturtium. Plant near cucumbers, squash, other veggies, and fruit trees. Repels cucumber beetles, white flies and squash bugs. Deters fruit tree borers.

Oregano. Plant near broccoli. Repels white cabbage moth.

Parsley. Grow near asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, roses. Deters carrot fly and beetles.

Pennyroyal. Place near broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage. Thwarts ants and cabbage maggots.

Pyrethrum. Plant in both vegetable and flower gardens. Impedes aphids, leafhoppers, ticks, pickleworms and cabbage worms. Repels the dreaded iris borer.

Radish. When you sow vegetable seeds directly in the garden, be sure to sow radish, too. It sprouts quickly, insects get used to the taste, and therefore leave your other, more-cherished seedlings alone.

Rosemary. Plant near carrots, cabbage, beans. Restrains carrot flies and cabbage moths.

Rue. Reportedly repels Japanese beetles.

Sage. Plant near carrots and others. Fends off carrot flies, cabbage moths, ticks.

Soybeans. Adds nitrogen to the soil, a benefit for all heavy-feeders. A possible deterrent for the Japanese beetle.

Summer Savory. Aids beans by frightening the bean beetle.

Thyme. Plant near cabbage to control flea beetles, cabbage maggots, and cabbage moths.

Does companion planting appeal to you? Let me know, in the comments field below.

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Comments

  1. Eric says:

    Kevin, this is great information. I grow my vegetables in raised beds (like you do) and this list gives me a sense of what to plant where.

  2. Adele says:

    I have always planted tomatoes and basil together, because I like to eat them together! Good to know that in the garden, basil actually benefits the health of tomatoes.

  3. Sheila says:

    I always plant T & B together, too! And I've never seen a tomato hornworm. Sounds like a dreadful creature!

  4. Sheila – trust me…the tomato hornworm is not something you want to meet!

  5. Katreader says:

    I'll be sure to try some of these. Sad to report, in my experience rue doesn't repel Japanese Beetles. I have a gorgeous, huge, rue right next to one of my rose of sharons and those dastardly bugs still destroy the rose of sharon. They don't bother the rue though…

  6. Katreader – I believe you. Japanese beetles are fearless.

    As I recall, you treated your lawn with milky spores last year. Perhaps it will “kick in” this summer? Let me know if you notice any reduction in JBs…

  7. Andrew says:

    I've noticed that rabbits leave all of my “smelly” plants alone — snap dragons, petunias, etc. These would be good companion plants, I think, for the vegetable garden.

  8. Andrew – you're absolutely right. In fact, a flower garden or vegetable-bed edged with snapdragons (all one color of the dwarf variety would look especially nice) is unlikely to be bothered by rabbits or woodchucks.

  9. Wendy says:

    What a great list of companion plants! Have you also used an organic bug spray for pest control, such as Safer Brand's Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer? It’s safe to use up to the day of harvest. And it’s easily broken down by the environment.

  10. Welcome, Wendy! Thanks for the tips. I've heard nice things about Safer products. To date I have not required them. However, should the good people at Safer's invent an organic spray to eradicate the Japanese beetles from my rose garden, I'd be the first in line to buy the product!

  11. Ginger says:

    I live in an apartment building, and have been slowly expanding my miniature flower bed (originally 3'X 3'and maybe 2″ deep). The biggest challenge of course has been the rocky, gravel-decorated soil, with barely enough worm & microbial life to break down fall leaves & kitchen trash.

    This year, however, neighbors joined me, smelling bits of lavender & parsley from last year. As I invited them to break up & plant garlic, gestures helped overcome the language barrier enough to explain bugs don't like things that smell strong.

    It seems strange to me that this is a new concept, but it highlights the importance of working together! :-)

  12. Ginger – What a great story. I think that gardening, on any scale, is a universal language.

  13. Dean says:

    Thank you. I will use these hints.

  14. christine says:

    Thank you !

    This is great information. Some of the ideas I already use, but there is a few that I will need to try in this years planting season :o )

  15. Linda says:

    Great info, thanks!
    what about snails & slugs?
    anything that will repel deer?

  16. great ideas. i put out a small bowl of beer for the slugsand deer will keep out, hopefully with lumps of hair from the barbershop around the perimeter of the garden.

  17. Linda Jenkins says:

    What can I do to repel rabbits? They have chewed some of my hostas to the ground.

  18. diane carlsen says:

    thanks for the list — it mentions several companion plants to affect cabbage worms and moths,
    my main insect problem (altho the moths are pretty flitting around) Which would you say would
    be the first and best to try?

  19. Beverly says:

    I discovered an accidental combination last summer that made a huge difference in my gourd vines. A chance seedling of Artemisia ‘Sweet Annie’ landed quite close to my gourd trellis. I allowed it to remain. The absence of cucumber beetles, spotted and striped, was remarkable and in stark contrast to the plague of them I dealt with on the gourds the previous summer. (only 20 feet away from this position).

    It is certainly possible that something else was at play (no chemicals, though) but I thought it was ironic that the presence of Sweet Annie coincided with the absence of the pests.

    Right now I am combing the miles of garden beds for another Sweet Annie seedling to use in the same way this year.

  20. Chris says:

    Nice list! I also plant pots of catnip among my eggplant. It repels those aweful black flea beetles. Don’t put it in the ground though, unless you really want it. It is a relative of mint and will take over. And I find that lemon balm around the border of my garden repels critters. Grab a handful of lemon balm leaves and rub them on your skin for a natural deliciously lemon smelling insect repellant. It is a mint relative too and will spread and reseed itself. But it is attractive and has so many uses that I let it go.

  21. Jana Hensley says:

    What would be good to put near my geraniums for the little black speck type bugs?

  22. BONNIE says:

    Very nice to know, thanks

  23. BONNIE says:

    I”m sorry to say I have tomato worms and I always plant basil next to my tomatoes. Ugly creatures!!

  24. Greer Conrad says:

    tomato hornworms are nearly impossible to find. They are very good at blending into the foliage. If you see the little black pellet droppings and eaten leaves, you will know there is one there somewhere. You can spend quite a few minutes trying to locate the little bugger and they will hold on for dear life so wear gloves and pull hard to dislodge them. I tried feeding one to the chickens and they turned up their noses ( assuming they have noses). Good hunting.

    Thanks for the list. I have several of the plants listed in my garden. Unfortunately, not planted where they would do the most good according to the list. Next year!!!!

  25. I didn’t see fennel on your list, so here is my experience with it.

    I had never grown it or even tasted it ( not fond of taste ) so experimented one year about 12 yrs ago. Had it fairly close to the large tomato patch I was growing for us and my husband’s large family in Louisiana.

    Went out one day and the fennel was decimated ! Hornworms ( 2 ) by then Huge ones were still munching away.. never touched a tomato plant.. So I now Companion Plant fennel with my tomatos.

    Another one I learned about yrs ago from a woman who wrote for Llewellans Moon Sign book I used to get every year, I am a plant by the moon kinda gal, was the first person I had read concerning Companion Planting. Her full name escapes me but am fairly sure her first name was Loretta ( and in Young , actress ).
    Some day I have to find her book on this.

    Anyway, this was back in the late 70′s and early 80′s, so it has been awhile as you can deduce. One I remember very well of her tips on Companion Planting was Cosmos and Corn to stop the corn worm. She claimed interplanting cosmos worked wonders to deter the buggers and the corn shaded the cosmos from the full hot sun in Summer.

    Anyway, I know this is an old thread, but I hope you see this and can add those two to your very helpful List !!

    Karin

  26. Karin – Marvelous tips concerning fennel and cosmos. Will add to the list up top.

  27. Donna K says:

    Just found this on Pinterest!! Printed out for my husband who has the green thumb in our yard! Now maybe we can grow more veggies with the suggestions! Thank you!

  28. Cara H says:

    Kevin, thanks for such a great list. I’m printing it right now so I have it available when I plan for next year. And I love how you continue to monitor the comments on your original article and add to the list. Nice!

  29. Bonnie Hawley says:

    In answer to the comment about slugs–I have over 150 hostas and never have any slug damage on them because I surround them with sand (the builder’s kind, not playbox sand). The little buggers get ‘scratched’ on the sharp edges and die from dehydration. I think this would work around any plant that slugs are attracted to.

    Thanks for the list–I too am printing it for future reference.

  30. Sharon says:

    Kat Reader – Plant garlic around your roses & the Japanese will not eat them. Great repellent my Dad taught me.

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