What are companion plants?
We all have a family, best friends, but also rivals, or someone we just don't get along with! Would you ever choose to live with someone you don't get along with?
The same thing happens with plants: it's called companion planting! Some combinations work wonderfully well; others, on the other hand, could be harmful and negate what is being cultivated in the garden.
Companion plant consists of growing plants that interact well together, exchanging nutrients, attracting or repelling different insects with their flowers and scents, shading the soil, and keeping it moist.
Why is it so important to associate plants correctly?
Everywhere, even in the city and on the balcony, we will have to deal with unwanted guests in the garden: insects and pests. The technique of plant companionship is effective not only for better growth and yield of vegetables but also to protect them from enemy attacks.
Especially when space is limited and you want to make the most of your terrace's surface, plant companionship becomes a crucial ally for the growth of vegetables and plants that work together to keep away annoying insects, which is beneficial for us as well.
Indeed, there are some plants that naturally act as insect repellents, driving away flies and mosquitoes with their scent. This is why creating a synergistic garden, with different plants (and therefore different scents), becomes a foolproof weapon to protect your garden.
So, say goodbye to annoying mosquitoes without using chemical and toxic substances!
You will have spontaneous and strategic fertilization!
In some pairings, there is a rich exchange of nutrients, which reinforces the work of fertilization and supports the growth of the plants involved in the plant companionship.
All this leads to an improvement in plant production, whether it's flowers or fruits. If we learn how to use plant companionship with the plants on our balcony, we can even avoid using insecticides and fertilizers, obtaining healthy vegetables and herbs with a positive impact on our health and the environment.
It's a choice of sustainability, not just gardening!
Our advice is to always avoid any type of pesticide, which is not only toxic for the little creatures that annoy us but also for ourselves and the soil.
There are completely harmless and natural ways to achieve great victories, such as supporting plants with the addition of natural substances to make them even more resilient and productive, like our organic fertilizer A+B based on nitrogen, which we provide with Poty. Read more in the article "How to choose fertilizer for the urban garden?"
Come organizzare l’orto sul balcone urbano?
A small parenthesis before we start talking about plant companionship: to understand how to combine vegetables to create an effective plant companionship, we must first be aware of the physiological and organic characteristics of the plants we will grow side by side.
Inside a space that can be a pot, a raised bed, or a vertical garden like Poty. The idea is that you need to be careful about transplanting seedlings, considering not only plant companionship (which we will see later) but also the space they will occupy over time: from their growth phase, producing flowers or fruits, and to their resting phase.
Yes, because each plant has its own growth rhythm, and we must respect it!
So, always follow the instructions on the distance between plants and the period when they should be transplanted! (for any doubts of this kind, consult our link to the plant catalog where you will find information on plant care, their calendar, and the best plant companionship to experiment with!)
Companion planting: vegetables and their pairings
Let's finally take a look at the main vegetables grown at home to see how and why to pair them with each other.
Onions + Fennel, Carrots, Chard, and Spinach
Fennel benefits from the proximity of onions! It's positive to associate a plant from the garlic family, shallots, leeks, onions, with a plant from the carrot family, fennel, and celery. This is because the synergy of these two families improves soil fertility and together they can drive away both onion flies and carrot flies at once.
But it doesn't end there: different varieties of onions, specifically Flat Red Onion, Scallion, and Red Tropea Onion, associate well with the rib, spinach, and herbs. All varieties that you can find in our online catalog!
Zucchini + Aromatic Herbs
Zucchinis are heavy nitrogen consumers, so they benefit from some plants that fix nitrogen well, like legumes or aromatic herbs. Try our round zucchini that takes up less space and can therefore accommodate more aromatic varieties in its pot: mint, thyme, and sage!
If you want to experiment with more balsamic flavors, you can pair basil with zucchini, eggplants, or peppers: in addition to improving their taste (just like pasta sauce), with its antiseptic action, it will help to keep away flies, mosquitoes, and lice!
Cabbages + Lettuce and Aromatic Herbs
Cabbages get along well with thyme and mint, which manage to keep away larvae, cabbage flies, lice, and even ants. If you love exotic flavors, we recommend experimenting with a pairing with Lemon Thyme and Peppermint, which will give you citrusy and slightly spicy cabbages!
The choice is endless!
Fragola + Lattuga e Finocchio
In the pots on the balcony, you can cultivate Wild Strawberries, which adapt to living in a small space and require minimal care in exchange for abundant production. These go perfectly with Lettuce, Cabbages, and Fennel, thanks to their low height growth, which avoids competition for sunlight.
They can be successfully grown if close to Chives because it manages to protect strawberries from mite attacks, their fierce enemies.
Foolproof companion plant
Aromatic herbs can be associated with all other plant families, as well as providing beneficial aromas and nutrients to the soil. Sage attracts essential bees for pollination and other positive insects that prey on garden pests, while Lemongrass is essential to keep mosquitoes and other insects away!
Marjoram and Thyme get along with all vegetables, but particularly well with onions, improving their flavor and fragrance and attracting beloved ladybugs, a very useful insect to free the garden from its fierce enemies, aphids, while their pairing with Parsley is a stunning remedy against lice and insect larvae.
Plants that Don't Get Along with Each Other
Why avoid putting plants from the same botanical families close together?
Paradoxically, putting two components of the same family in the same pot is not strategic! This is because they would share the same vicissitudes and weaknesses.
For example, the Solanaceae family, which includes eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, etc., should never be associated because they would attract the same pests and compete with each other as they need the same nutrients.
Other mistakes to avoid
Remember to ensure that the plants have enough space and don't suffocate each other. It's better to opt for plants with compact growth, such as spinach, radishes, lettuce, etc., especially if you're cultivating in a pot! Furthermore, avoid placing plants close together that use the same level of soil, e.g., potatoes and onions, but have different root growth, e.g., lettuce and onions.
After this array of tips on how to companion plant, we're confident that everything will be easier, and all that's left is to experiment with our plants, designed to be different from the usual ones you find at the supermarket! They take up less space and will give you healthy and flavorful fruits and herbs, ready to be used in your recipes!
If after this article the world of companion planting still seems difficult to understand and you don't know where to start with cultivating on your balcony, you should know that Hexagro has an ally, it's called Hexbee!
Hexbee is a little bee that will guide you step by step in cultivation with Poty, reveal all the tricks of the trade, and solve any doubts you have! Discover at least 7 reasons why cultivating with Poty is easy!
Happy companion planting!