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Friday, July 3, 2015

Ideas for the Home Garden - Companion Planting

It's mid-winter here, and planting season is fast approaching - it will be a busy one for us this year after spending the last year working on soil and prep for our new home garden. We want to grow more of our own foods, but in compromise with maintaining an ascetically pleasing garden for ourselves, our neighbours, and eventually resale when next we inevitably move again! Our planting plans have also need to make compromises for life with pets, taking care around potentially toxic plants and trying to protect vulnerable (or tasty!) plants from falling victim to our dogs. My garden planning notes are a messy assortment of scribbles, so I decided to turn those into a series of simple infographic-style idea sheets that I could share with you here at Green in Real Life over the next few Fridays. First up is the summary of my companion planting notes and ideas:

The circles in my Venn diagram (one of my favourite ways to look at relationships visually), represent some of the main plant types that we like to have in our garden (although nowhere near all that I'd like to grow, especially with more space!). Large circles are our staples and the clusters around them show some of their planting companions and relationships between those companions. Dotted lines connect the large circles to friendly companions. Colours are based on plant colour to help with more visual connections.  

In addition to taking advantage of similar growing conditions and care to streamline your garden chores, companion planting can help do some of the work for you, like attract pollinators, deter pests, sacrificially attract pests (trap crops),  and even improve the health and condition of the soil!  On the flip side, some plants just don't get along and are best planted apart.

Attracting pollinators is always a good thing, but it can be especially helpful for your crops that aren't very attractive on their own, like the small blossoms on capsicum and chilies, or have a short bloom span.  Attracting pests sounds like a must less appealing idea, but it can actually be really handy to lure insects onto sacrificial plants and away from your high-value plantings. Damage done is less of a loss, and you can cull it any any time to clear out eggs before they hatch a new generation. For pest deterrence, some plants emit strong scents, essential oils, or have other natural properties that keep bugs at bay while others are attractive to natural predators that will nibble on your unwanted garden guests. Soil condition can be aided with plants that help to add minerals, loosen with long taproots, and more.

The right plants for you garden will depend on your specific garden space and climate/seasons, but here are some great books (see ideas below) an lots of links links that might help like Mother Earth News | Permaculture News | Wikipedia and your local specialists should have great tips, like these Kiwi sites Tui | Palmers | Kings Seed.

For our personal garden, I always like to have marigolds and a variety of alliums, and I can't resist lavender. The rest depend on what I'm growing, where, and when!  For the new garden-in-progress, some plantings were ruled out during my cross-checks on pet risks (the ASPCA has one of the best tools I have come across for checking for potential pet-toxic plants) while others have been kept but confined to fenced off areas away from our animals. I am still working on my planting plans, and suggestions would be very welcome. Have you experimented with companion planting?  If so, I would love to hear your insights on things that worked well, didn't work so well, and any neat combinations that you have discovered along the way. Thanks for sharing!

Interested in reading more about companion planting or diving into details on your favourite plants? Check out the ideas below (and more) at Amazon:


  1. I really like your simple garden information pictures.

  2. Janet HendersonMay 6, 2016 at 7:09 AM

    Thank you for the planting ideas. Would you be willing to share some of the combinations you are using and if you noticed any changes in your garden?

    1. Hi Janet! I'll share an update post and pics sometime soon, but here is a quick summary in short. Reply or message us anytime if you have questions and we'll try to help. What we have growing and where changes with the seasons around here - currently it's our autumn so we have a combination of cool-weather second plantings in our veggie beds including combos like onion/radish/beet/pea, carrot/parsnip/onion. We have chives and garlic co-planted in the perennial berry patch, and we have herbs, lavender, alyssum, pansies, and marigolds all over the place in our mixed ornamental/food landscaping. It is a new garden and this growing season was a record for pests all around our region due to weather factors, so it's hard to say whether our plantings helped on that front; however, there is do doubt about the pollinators. The mixed planting has definitely brought in the bees - the benefit for our edibles was especially noticeable on the marigolds co-panted in our veggie gardens. Hope that helps and good luck in your garden!

  3. Very informative, keep posting such good articles on go green ideas, it really helps to know about things. Thanks for sharing useful information.....


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