Growing Companions

With winter in full swing and 2022 behind us, it is not too early to think and plan for spring 2023! A variety of plants need to be potted 8-12 weeks before the last frost in the spring, so that means seed starts could be started as early as the end of February! Planning ahead for spring planting can help ensure a prosperous and healthy garden. Here at Wellfield, we have already ordered seeds for the vegetable garden and for the sensory garden. While it is enticing to plant whatever seems fun and interesting next to each other, it is important to consider companion plants and their importance. 

Companion plants are plant types that cohabitate well together and provide some sort of benefit to at least one party involved. Peppers such as jalapeños can be affected by garden pests like eelworms and nematodes. These garden pests can seriously damage and even kill vegetables in your garden if not treated. Varieties of marigold help repel these pests by releasing a chemical called alpha-terthienyl into the soil which deters nematodes and eelworms alike from the pepper plant. Marigolds planted near jalapeño peppers can help the plant thrive, pest free, in your garden.

Certain vegetables and herbs do better with a specific type of nutrient in the soil. For instance, cilantro benefits from a higher concentration of nitrogen. More nitrogen in the soil helps provide nutrients to the herb and helps it flourish. So, in order for cilantro to reach its full potential it is best to plant it near nitrogen producing plants such as beans and lupine. These species can act as a companion plant for cilantro. Lupine is pictured below in the foreground of the image.

Companion planting in these cases can be described as commensalism, where one party is benefited and one is unharmed. The marigolds benefit the jalapeños by producing a chemical to deter pests from the plant, however the marigold was neither harmed nor benefited from the jalapeño plant. The same goes for the relationship between cilantro and lupine. The lupine provides a nitrogen rich soil for the cilantro plant to prosper in, however, the lupine is not affected by the cilantro. 

While planning your garden for 2023, it can help to consider what your plants’ needs are and what can help them do better in the environment in which they live. Gardeners everywhere could benefit from companion planting, and it is a helpful technique to consider.

Ariana Guerrero
Lead Horticulturist

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