Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cool Companions.

It's September. And I swear, South Carolina is hotter now than in July. Yesterday, as I sprinted from the car to the grocery store through a downpour, I thought, ”Well, at least it will be a little cooler when this nasty weather lets up.” Instead, as I exited Publix, I hit a wall of heat and humidity so dense that I could barely breathe.

Seriously. I gasped for breath while loading bags into the car. And my hair looked lovely from the rain and humidity.

Today isn't much better. Our windows sport rivulets of water, the clash between outside heat and inside AC.

Thank goodness for AC.

So, although it's hard to get excited about planting a fall garden in a sauna, I'm forging ahead. 

Seeds that I planted last week are sprouting, but I'm a bit concerned about the lettuce. While I placed the trays of seeds on a shady greenhouse shelf, I fear that the intense heat cooked the seeds. I've moved the trays out of the greenhouse and plan to watch them for a few days, because lettuce sprouts pretty quickly. Otherwise, it's back to the trays to reseed. All ten varieties.


Whether your fall garden will include seeds you started using this guide, or if you decide to purchase transplants or direct seed, you need a plan.

How will you organize your garden? And how will you prevent pests from snacking on your crops?

Why, you'll embrace companion planting, of course.

Many people think of organic gardening as simply the avoidance of chemicals—or the use of OMRI approved chemicals—in the garden. However, companion planting is a main premise in organic gardening.

Companion planting involves growing different species of plants together to benefit one or both. Rather than planting a monoculture, mixed plantings attract beneficial insects, deter pests, and boost soil health to produce better harvests.

For instance, aromatic herbs like rosemary mask the scent of a crop from pests. Some plants, like mint, produce odors that deter or confuse pests. Other plants, like parsley, serve as a trap crop, drawing insects away from the main crop. Strategic companion planting can aid in pollination, with plants providing food to sustain beneficial insects. Companion plants can also create a habitat for predatory insects that feed on pests.

I often use companion planting in the spring and summer gardens, and probably one of the most widely-known pairings is basil grown with tomatoes. This summer, though, I tried a new companion planting: icicle radishes planted among squash to combat squash vine borers. After losing all of the squash plants last year, I was skeptical.

Guess what? I'm still harvesting squash.

Needless to say, I'm a believer in companion planting!

Based on the summer success, I'm planning our fall gardens to include companions. Cool weather crops can benefit from strategic, well-designed companion plantings, particularly as many of the cool crops belong to the same family: brassica.

And cabbage worms love brassica.

Cabbage worms are sneaky. And destructive. And very difficult to locate. Companion plantings help deter these nasty creatures. (But still, we need to be vigilant. Check the undersides of leaves and stems regularly.)

To save you a bit of time when planning your fall garden, I've compiled a list of cool weather crops and good companions to plant along with them:

Crop Companion Notes
Beets Onions, kohlrabi, lettuce, cabbage, garlic, mint Garlic improves growth and flavor. Mint attracts beneficial insects.
Broccoli Aromatic plants, dill, celery, chamomile, sage, peppermint, rosemary, potatoes, beets, onion Aromatic plants deter cabbage aphids, cabbage worms, flea beetles. Celery, onions, and potatoes improve broccoli's flavor.
Brussels Sprouts Aromatic plants, celery, dill, chamomile, sage, mint, rosemary, hyssop, thyme, wormwood, onions, potatoes Aromatic plants deter cabbage worm, cabbage aphids, cabbage whitefly.
Cabbage Aromatic plants, celery, dill, chamomile, sage, mint, rosemary, hyssop, thyme, wormwood, onions, potatoes Aromatic plants deter cabbage worm. Sage repels cabbage flies, cabbage looper, cabbage maggot. Chamomile and dill improve growth and flavor of cabbage.
Carrots Chives, onions, leeks, parsley, aromatic plants, rosemary, wormwood, sage Parsley repels carrot fly. Wormwood planted around border repels animals. Chives improve growth and flavor.
Cauliflower Celery Deters white cabbage butterfly, cabbage worm.
Fruit trees Chives Plant around base of fruit trees to discourage insects from climbing trees.
Kale Cabbage, potatoes, aromatic plants Aromatic plants repel cabbage fly, cabbage worms
Kohlrabi Onions, leeks, aromatic plants Aromatic plants repel flea beetle, cabbage root fly, aphids
Leeks Celery, onions, carrots Celery improves growth and flavor. Leeks repel carrot fly.
Lettuce Onions, strawberries, carrots, radishes, aromatic plants Onions and aromatic herbs deter slugs.
Onions Cabbage, beets, strawberries, lettuce, chamomile Do not plant with peas or beans. Chamomile improves growth and flavor.
Peas Carrots, turnips, radishes, mint Do not plant with onions or garlic. Mint improves health and flavor.
Radishes Beets, spinach, kohlrabi, lettuce Lettuce makes radishes more tender.
Spinach Strawberries, peas Peas provide shade for spinach.
Swiss Chard Beans, cabbage, onions Aromatic plants repel beet leaf miner. Chard grown near companion helps keep moisture in soil.

Additionally, several aromatic herbs provide a wide variety of benefits as companion plants:

Chamomile: Improves the growth and flavor of cabbage, deters pests.
Chives: Improves growth and flavor of carrots, deters pests.
Garlic: Prevent borers of fruit trees.
Hyssop: Increases yield of grape vines, lures away cabbage butterfly. Bees are attracted to hyssop, but many pests are repelled by it.
Mint: Improves health and flavor of cabbage, deters white cabbage worm by repelling egg-laying butterflies. Spearmint repels ants and helps deter aphids. NOTE: Mint can be very invasive! Plant in a container to include in the garden.
Oregano: Repels cabbage butterfly.
Rosemary: Deters bean beetle, cabbage moth, carrot fly.
Sage: Repels cabbage flies, carrot flies, black flea beetle, cabbage looper, cabbage maggot.
Thyme: Deters cabbage worm, white fly.
Wormwood: Repels animals in the garden when used as a border. Repels moths, flea beetles, and cabbageworm butterfly.

So, now we're ready. With our companion planting table in hand, we can plan our best fall gardens.

And hopefully, we'll spend more time planning delicious dinners than culling cabbage worms.

Now, if only the weather would cooperate...

Happy gardening!

XO ~


Reposted to Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest.


  1. I would love to plants tomatoes,lettuce ...in my garden,it's a big dream in my heart.I love cooking,so,what could make me more happy that to have my vegetables and prepare them?Nothing!!!!Nice week from an Italian bloggher!

    1. Lily Bets, it is really nice to cook from your own garden--I highly recommend it! Somehow, it makes cooking seem like less of a chore to me. And--thanks from visiting from Italy! ;-)

  2. Your veggie pictures are so tempting...makes me want to go and grab a beet and eat it or maybe some Brussels sprouts, yum!!! I need to share some winter savory with you my friend. The best herb going. It will remind you of Germany. yuuuummmmm.
    Now that school is in full swing are your days less hectic? We need to plan a day.

    1. We definitely need to plan a date, my friend! Oddly, you'd think that the days would be less hectic with the kids in school--but it's not always the case. Still, I'd love to have a play date with you! I've been thinking about visiting the Clemson Botanical Gardens--want to join me?

  3. That's very good harvest in your garden! 10 varities of leccutes? Wow! It's very hot here and I choose to plant very little vegetables.....

    1. Hi Malar! It's actually been so hot in South Carolina that I think my lettuce seeds aren't going to germinate. I had them in the greenhouse, and I'm afraid I need to replant them. Ah well. Your garden is always lovely. in fact, I think I'll head over there right now to see what's new! Cheers!

  4. Hello Julie, Thank you for the useful information about companion planting, I am making notes and will try this next year. Your vegetables look so beautiful, you are obviously very green fingered. Loved the brussel sprouts, my husband's favourite vegetable. Best Wishes Daphne

    1. Thank you, Daphne! My husband loves Brussels sprouts, too. I'm very hopeful that the companion planting will help rid the garden of cabbageworm--they are such a nuisance! Look forward to hearing how you garden grows!

  5. Darn, I was hoping I had won.

    I love this post and the one with the seed starting chart. You have so much information on your blog which is very helpful for me. I was looking at your pea on the chart and found you said the ideal temp for germination is 70. That is so awesome! For the first time this year I sowed peas in the summer. They are all up and growing so I am relieved it worked. I usually do them in February and it takes forever for them to grow then it gets too hot. I hope I get a lot this year-for the first time. Excellent advice!

    I feel you for the savory. Sometimes days are just like that and it can be frustrating. The provence sounds so good though!

    1. Tina, I'm glad the charts are useful! I always pull the information together for myself, so I hoped to save other kitchen gardeners some time and research. Why reinvent the wheel, right? (And yea for your peas--I'm hoping we have a good harvest before the frost. Even our youngest will eat fresh peas!) Cheers!