Continuing to think about the New Year and my many resolutions conjures thoughts of good friends and the value of friendship. Just as we appreciate the help of a good friend when we’re feeling weak, your plants have the same needs. Companion planting has always been a fascinating subject to me and the way that certain herbs can protect, encourage and improve the health of their neighbors is really pretty interesting stuff. My second goal for 2012 is to use the science of companion planting more when planning what to grow, for smarter gardening. You have probably heard about The Three Sisters, a companion planting technique  devised by Native Americans to efficiently grow corn, beans and squash, by allowing each plant to help the others by sharing their resources. Think about the way plants interact with each other in the garden while you’re planning, and make this concept do the hard work for you this year!

2. Companion Planting

Many of the herbs and flowers that you may already be familiar with have specific qualities that can either encourage or even harm neighboring plants. Companion planting can help prevent pest and insect infestation, attract beneficial pollinators, amend the soil with healthy nutrients and encourage better growth, and break up tough soil so that nearby root systems can dig deeper for more moisture.  Plants like Achillea, which adds nutrients to the soil and is commonly called “All Heal” because of its medicinal affect on ailing plants nearby, and Comfrey, a great soil amendment and compost activator that can be made into a nutrient-rich compost tea for fertilizing your plants, make wonderful companion plants because they give back to the garden. Borage and Nasturtiums deter a multitude of crop damaging pests, by attracting predatory insects that prey on these harmful buggers. Herbs like Chamomile, when grown next to other aromatic or culinary herbs, will help increase their oil production, making them more fragrant and flavorful.

By planting smarter, you’ll save  yourself lots of work and reap a larger bounty from your garden! For a great diagram and more information on Companion Planting, read our previous blog, Companion Plants Are Friends Til The End! Tune in to Briscoe’s Seeds For Thought tomorrow,  for our third and last goal for 2012, Herb Gardening Resolutions, Part 3: Savor The Flavor.