There are many plants that you can grow in your vegetable patch that will encourage beneficial insects, redirect the unwanted attentions of pests and attract pollinators that will feed on unwelcome visitors, as well as improving crop yields and the overall health of your plants.
Some strongly scented crops, planted alongside one another can be beneficial as they confuse flying pests.
Alliums interplanted with carrots confuse both the onion and carrot fly, so positioning rows of onions, shallots or leeks alongside your carrots will be beneficial.
Try rosemary and sage near your cabbages to deter cabbage fly and coriander and chervil to repel aphids; use the strong scent of basil in the greenhouse to attract whitefly away from your tomatoes and cucumbers.
Many companion plants can also be used as sacrificial plants in the vegetable patch.
Tropaeolum (nasturtiums) are excellent in the vegetable patch: they attract blackfly and whitefly and are also a magnet for caterpillars so are a fabulous choice to plant next to your cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli.
Tagetes (French marigolds) deter nematodes in the soil by emitting strong chemicals through their roots. They also encourage the growth of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil which assists in the transfer of nutrients to the roots of growing plants. Raking Tagetes into the soil at the end of the season will ensure that their benefits continue, even after the flowering season is over.
It is also a good idea to plant a selection of nectar-heavy varieties that will attract pollinators, boosting the productivity of your plot.
Try Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg plants) around your raspberries and soft fruits: they will attract bees and so improve pollination and fruit production while also encouraging hoverflies which will feed on aphids. Limnanthes will readily self-seed at the end of the season, so their benefits can be reaped year after year.
Calendula officinales (pot marigolds) are an excellent choice to encourage pollinators to your courgettes, while annual chamomile will attract bees and butterflies along with parasitic wasps, a useful predator to encourage into your plot.
Borago officinalis (borage) is a fantastic choice in any garden; its nectar-rich flowers are irresistible to bees and encourage butterflies, while their roots release minerals deep down in the soil that can be utilised by nearby plants.
Try planting Euphorbia lathyris to deter voles and moles, as the scent from its roots is believed to be repellent to both. Although this spreads readily, it is easy to remove when young but don’t forget to wear gloves when handling it as the sap is toxic.
Using these organic methods to ensure there is balance and productivity in your vegetable patch is a fantastic way to garden sustainably while ensuring that your plot retains its ecological health, at the same time as providing healthy fruit and vegetables for your table.
Blog post written by Jo Chamberlain