My mom did a great job instilling gardening principles in me. Even though I did not use this information for many years, I was surprised to hear myself explaining to a stranger in a garden center why you should not plant onions next to beans. I even added, “They are not friends.” That spontaneous personification led me to a good way to teach my own kids about plant buddies. While companion planting is full of conflicting information and confusing charts, it can be broken down into some key basics.
Explain the concept of companion planting
The truth is plants, like people, have preferences. The right plant buddy can help ward off insects and together they can maximize the natural strength of each while minimizing weaknesses. You do not even have to elaborate or compare this to how your daughter is friends with Marissa and not Kelsey, they will understand immediately!
- Beans are social. They get along well with most veggies, but do not like onions.
- Onions can hang out with the cabbage and the broccoli.
- Tomatoes also thrive near onions and cucumbers.
- Carrots like pea plants, lettuce, and tomatoes.
- Cucumbers are good buddies with beans, peas and radishes, but do not like potatoes.
Once those basics are covered, add some edible flowers and culinary herbs. These additions are more than just a pretty face. The right additions will keep the bugs away without harsh chemicals.
Anise is a good buddy to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. The scent keeps the aphids away by disguising the scent of these brassica plants.
Chamomile is a garden philanthropist. This plant will continue to seed and reseed from season to season leaving calcium, potassium and sodium deposits in the dirt.
Basil and tomatoes should never be apart. Not only does basil improve the flavor of your tomatoes, it repels flies and mosquitoes making it more enjoyable for you to spend time in the garden.
Nasturtiums are good near radishes and cabbage. The colorful blossoms can also add a peppery touch to your salads.
A few more plant buddies include:
- Clover and grape vines
- Dill and cabbage
- Sunflowers and corn
Plant buddy game
Make learning about companion planting fun while making it stick by using seed packet covers. If you do not have the seed packets anymore, cut images from a garden catalog. Encourage the kids to match up the buddies while you explain more about each plant.