Companion planting is part joy of gardening, part organic chemistry — and according to most experts, highly effective. And we can all agree there’s something beautiful about two completely different species mutually benefitting one another, when they could simply be competing for nutrients in the soil. If you’re looking to grow some fruits and veggies in your backyard this summer, try out some of these proven companion planting methods — and we’ve even included some recipes for you to use when it’s time to harvest.
Cabbage and Dill
Reciprocity is key for companion plants, as shown by these two soulmates. The cabbage’s large body lends physical support to the lanky dill weeds (no jokes please), while the tangy herb attracts helpful wasps that munch on pesky cabbageworms and other bugs. Dill also plays well with other vegetables. “Dill is a great companion for [other] cabbage family plants, such as broccoli and brussels sprouts,” Sally Jean Cunningham, master gardener and author of Great Garden Companions, told Organic Gardening.
Recipe: Greek cabbage pie with dill and feta, courtesy of The New York Times
Eggplant and Tarragon
We all know tarragon smells fantastic, but most bugs would disagree. In fact, most of them won’t come within feet of the pungent herb. As an added bonus, tarragon also stimulates growth among plants grown within its general vicinity — and this is especially true of eggplant, since the purplest member of the nightshade family is particularly sensitive when it comes to garden growth.
Recipe: Eggplant stuffed with tarragon lamb, courtesy of Food & Wine
Potatoes and Horseradish
Streptomyces, or ‘scab’ for short, is a worldwide problem for potato crops. Once scab enters the soil, it will affect the entire planting area indefinitely — and thanks to the lesions it produces, infected potatoes are all more or less unsellable. Thankfully, a recent study published by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food suggests there is a cure for scab: horseradish, or more specifically, horseradish extract. “More tests are needed,” the report concludes, but the initial trial strongly suggests that horseradish juice all but eradicates all signs and symptoms of scab infection.
Recipe: Horseradish and sour cream mashed potatoes, courtesy of Food Network
Roses and Chives
Garlic has been proven to deter a wide variety of pests, and for this reason gardeners have treated the aromatic bulb as a go-to companion plant for centuries. But recently, as Organic Gardening reports, scientists have learned the chives that sprout out of the subterranean bulb are just as effective at keeping away the bugs.
Recipe: Obviously, you can’t eat anything with roses in it. However, you can arrange a colorful floral display on your dining room table as you prepare some garlic and chive dip (courtesy of Martha Stewart).
Tomatoes and Basil
Any seasoned gardener will tell you that tomatoes are attractive to all sorts of creepy crawlies, including aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. Basil not only staves off all of these pests (as well as mosquitoes), but also attracts bees to boost pollination and actually improves the taste of the tomatoes as they grow.
Recipe: Tomato basil soup, courtesy of Food Network.
Correction: I’ve been informed via Facebook and Reddit that not only are rose petals perfectly edible, but they are also quite delicious. My bad, I’m amazed I didn’t know that… but even more amazed at the idea that roses taste good. Please accept this recipe for rose petal jam (courtesy of AllRecipes.com) as a token of my utter disgrace.