Companion planting in your garden

When we move into a new house and plan our garden layout or start a fresh with an existing plot, we will say to ourselves; ‘flowers here, lawn there and vegetables over in that corner there’. Well, why not mix things up a little.

The truth is, there are no absolute rules in gardening and if there are, (as long as it doesn’t affect the health of your plants) rules are there to be broken. Why not grow your cabbages with marigolds or your sweetcorn with dahlias. Many vegetables can be very architectural (artichoke, cabbages, sweet corn) or have attractive flowers (asparagus pea, runner beans, onions). I know it sounds silly, but we are so used to seeing vegetables as food, that it is easy to forget that companion planting has been practiced for a very, very long time.

In many instances, companion planting can be truly beneficial. Although some plants may inhibit others (for instance, fennel and rue are pretty unsociable plants), most may discourage pest and diseases from your vegetables, some may hide the scent of, let’s say, carrots (onions, chives) to protect against root fly. Some will support or even feed your crop.

Personally, I think the greatest benefit must be the visual impact of a well planned mixed border. I love flower and veg growing alike. Talk about having your cake and eat it! Almost literally (carrot cake being my favourite). Go on, be brave and experiment.

James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.