Soil Mates: Plant Romance in Your Yard

in Build Green Lawn Yard,Landscape,Native Plants

Your landscape plants, like people, get along with one another in a variety of ways. Some plants do well as neighbors, and then again, others growing near each other don’t seem to thrive.

Use companion planting in your yard as an important part of integrated pest management and sustainable landscaping. To make it a balanced eco-system, your yard needs fertile soil with a diversity of plants, insects, animals and other organisms.

Most of us know certain plants need different amounts of water and light. But surprisingly, many plants have natural substances in their roots, flowers and leaves that can either repel or attract bugs depending upon your needs. In some situations they can affect another’s growth and for edible plants, even enhance harvest flavors.

Long before pesticides were available, farmers learned by trial and error that grouping certain plants together would help both plants. Companions like tomatoes and parsley, or peas and carrots grow very well when they’re planted near each other.

Planting lemon-scented thyme amongst your roses, for instance, can enhance the fragrance of your yard. Parsley is said to also increase the fragrance of roses when planted around their base.

Plants with strong odors, such as herbs and certain flowers, will keep bad insects away so they won’t harm other plants in the garden.

Peppermint’s menthol content acts as an insect repellant for aphids and flea beetles. Bees; however, love mint!

To discourage aphids be sure to plant garlic and marigolds around your roses or other plants that are being attacked.

In essence, companion planting helps you create a balanced eco-system in your yard. Position these plants along front borders, as backdrops, or in amongst your flower or planting beds where you have specific needs.

As much as possible use nursery-grown native plants and seeds so the insects you want to attract already know what to look for.

Yellow-flowering nasturtium is an annual favorite. This plant acts as a lure for aphids, and white flies. Plant it near gardenia or other white-fly prone shrubs.

Another lure plant is sunflowers.  Ants will herd aphids onto their stalks. The sunflowers are tough so the aphids cause very little plant damage and you yield a nice batch of seeds for the birds!

Hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar of nasturtium, zinnia and sunflowers and they tend to munch on whiteflies in the area!

Beneficial insects like ladybugs, praying mantis, lacewings, parasitic wasps and ground beetles are extremely good for your yard.

Plant Asters, coneflower (Echinacia purpurea) and yarrow to attract good bugs.  That white sweet clover flowering in your lawn attracts bees and other good flies, so consider leaving an unmowed area along your yard edges.

Plants with simple open cup-shaped flowers are the most popular with good insects.

Beneficial bees flock to annual flowers like sunflowers, sweet peas and nasturtium.  Plant daisy and chamomile among your sun loving shrubs to attract beneficial hover flies, predatory wasps and robber flies.

Yarrow has insect repelling qualities and is an excellent natural fertilizer. It also attracts predatory wasps and ladybugs to name just two. It may increase the essential oil content of herbs when planted among them. Also, it is said a handful of yarrow leaves is beneficial in your compost pile.

But some plants can also stop other plants from growing if they’re planted too close together.

Native black walnut trees (Juglans nigra), for instance, produce an undesirable substance called ‘juglone’.  Azaleas, rhododendrons, mountain laurel and some others planted near or under this shade tree tend to yellow, wilt and die.

Keep mint and parsley well away from one another; they are garden enemies.

Notwithstanding potential garden unrest, using companion planting is a great sustainable strategy. It combines beauty and purpose in your yard to give you a a healthy nurturing environment.

There are lots of ways to incorporate these useful plants into your garden and yard.  Go ahead – have fun and let your imagination soar.

Oh and here’s some more plants that attract beneficial insects.

What ‘soil mates’ have you found that make a good match in your garden? Feel free to share here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

BJ March 29, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Just wanted to say thanks – very helpful article!

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