Psychologists and other may tell you that co-dependency is a bad thing (and I would too, except I am not a licensed mental health professional). But in gardening, co-dependency can mean better plants, better yields and fewer pests in the garden.
As I read more on it and talk to more organic gardeners, the m.ore I learn. The newest tidbit of knowledge is about companion planting.
Companion planting is the planting of different crops in close physical proximity because they assist each other in nutrient uptake, pest control, pollination, and other factors necessary to increasing crop productivity.
Companion planting is used for many reasons;
Flavor enhancement — some plants, especially herbs, seem to subtly change the flavor of other plants around them.
Increased level interaction — plants that grow on different levels in the same space, perhaps providing ground cover or working as a trellis for another plant
Nitrogen fixation — plants that fix nitrogen in the ground, making it available to other plants
Pest suppression — repelling pest insects, weeds, nematodes, or pathogenic fungi, through chemical means.
Pollinator and predator recruitment — The use of plants that produce copious nectar and protein-rich pollen in a vegetable garden (insectary plants) is a good way to recruit higher populations of beneficial insects that control pests. Some insects in the adult form are nectar or pollen feeders, while in the larval form they are voracious predators of pest insects.
Positive hosting — attracts or is inhabited by beneficial insects or other organisms which benefit plants, as with ladybugs or some “good nematodes”.
Protective shelter — one type of plant may serve as a wind break or shade for another.
Trap cropping — plants that attract pests away from others
Many of the modern principles of companion planting were present many centuries ago in the cottage garden.
For gardeners, the combinations of plants also make for a more varied, attractive vegetable garden. It can also be used to mitigate the decline of biodiversity.
Companion planting was widely touted in the 1970s as part of the organic gardening movement. It was encouraged for pragmatic reasons, such as natural trellising, but mainly with the idea that different species of plant may thrive more when close together. It is also a technique frequently used in permaculture, together with mulching, polyculture, and crop rotation.
One traditional practice of Native Americans was planting of corn (maize) and pole beans together. The cornstalk would serve as a trellis for the beans to climb while the beans would fix nitrogen for the corn. The inclusion of squash with these two plants completes the Three Sisters technique, pioneered by Native American peoples.
While I am still a new companion planter, I have started my garden and enhanced it with the principles in mind.
I planted carrots together with my tomatos as the carrots fix nitrogen into the soil and the tomatoes are heavy nitrogen consumers.
I also planted my brocoli, califlower, cabbage, etc. to sheild peppers and egg plant from the direct heat of the sun.
I have also added marigolds to the garden. Marigolds (Asteraceae Calendula officinalis) are a wonder-drug of the companion plant world, invoking the saying “plant them everywhere in your garden”. French marigolds produce a pesticidal chemical from their roots, so strong it lasts years after they are gone. Mexican marigolds do the same, but are so strong they will inhibit the growth of some more tender herbs. Certain Varieties of marigolds (Tagetes) can help manage eelworms (Root-knot nematode) when planted the year before.
Marigolds help most plants, especially tomatoes and peppers, cucurbits (cucumbers, gourds, squash), brassicas (broccoli, kale, cabbage). Marigolds protect from pests such as nematodes, beet leaf hoppers, and a host of other pests
Here is a link to a list of companion plants. I encourage everyone to read up on this process and introduce companion planting into your garden!