London (change)
Today 17°C / 6°C
Tomorrow 13°C / 4°C

Companion planting

Jekka McVicar's 10 companion plants

Jekka McVicar's organic herb garden achieved a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show 2009. We caught up with her at the show to discover her top 10 herbs for growing as companion plants.


Companion planting is an organic method of maintaining a natural balance in your garden, aiding pollination and keeping pest numbers down. Common plant combinations include growing herbs with roses to deter aphids, and planting alliums around carrots to ward off carrot root fly.

Most companion plants are strongly scented and confuse pests looking for their host plant. Others attract beneficial insects, such as ladybirds and lacewings, which prey on aphids.

Garlic chives

Garlic chives

The garlic chive, Allium tuberosum, is a hardy perennial with white star-shaped flowers. When planted alongside carrots, its strong scent confuses and deters the carrot root fly, which can normally smell carrots from up to a mile away.

Lavender in flower

Lavender

Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia attracts a range of pollinators, including bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Its strong scent can also deter aphids. Plant with carrots and leeks to confuse pests.

Wormwood

Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, is a strongly scented herb that can deter aphids and flea beetles from attacking neighbouring plants. Its yellow flowers attract hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds, which prey on aphids.

Calendula in flower

Calendula

The marigold, Calendula officinalis, repels whitefly from tomatoes and can lure aphids away from beans. It also attracts beneficial insects, including ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies, which prey on aphids.

Sage leaves

Sage

Sage, Salvia officinalis, is strongly scented and will confuse pests of brassicas if planted alongside them. Its blue flowers attract bees and hoverflies, which also pollinate crops.

Borage

Borage, Borago officinalis is an attractive plant with hairy leaves that have a slight cucumber flavour. Its delicate blue flowers are a magnet for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which pollinate crops. If planted nearby, borage can prevent attack from tomato hornworm and is said to improve the flavour of strawberries.

Thyme leaves

Thyme

Thyme, Thymus vulgaris makes a good companion plant for roses, as its strong scent deters blackfly. A tea made from soaking thyme leaves and sprayed on cabbages can prevent whitefly.

Nasturtium flower

Nasturtiums

When planted with French and runner beans, the nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus, acts as a sacrificial crop, luring aphids away from the beans. Its attractive flowers help attract beneficial insects, which prey on aphids.

Fennel, photographed at Jekka McVicar's herb garden by Kate Bradbury at the Chelsea Flower Show 2009.

Fennel

If left to flower, fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, produces attractive yellow blooms that attract hoverflies, which prey on aphids.

Mint

Mint

The strongly scented leaves of mint, Mentha spicata, confuse pests of carrots, tomatoes, alliums and brassicas, and deter flea beetles. But grow it in a pot, or it could smother your crop.



Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Companion planting
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

Newcastle 24/11/2011 at 15:28

It would be useful if there were lists of recommended books on the subject. The article was very useful but I am sure that it does not tell the whole story in such a short space. Do R.H.S. publish anything on this subject? David.

gareth079 24/11/2011 at 15:28

Great short and sweet green way to fight pests and encorage wildlife.. more of this please.

FlamingJune 24/11/2011 at 15:28

Try putting pots of marigolds in the greenhouse, you'll never have whitefly again. Also mix herbs in with the veg.

suemitch05 24/11/2011 at 15:28

I was going to have a separate herb garden but now I'll mix them in with the rest. A garden without herbs is not a garden! :-)

briony2 24/11/2011 at 15:28

would also like titles of recomended books on subject of companion growing

See more comments...