The Herb Effect

Down at my garden center, we’re all getting antsy for the new growing season. We’ve ordered all of our annuals, perennial flowers, trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses. Just about everything a gardener may need this season, including herbs.

I don’t consider myself an expert in herbs, so I did a little research on companion planting herbs with veggies to see what the effects may be. Keep in mind most of what I read has never been through scientific analysis. It’s just gardeners reporting on their efforts.

  • Consider planting basil with your tomatoes. Sure, basil and tomatoes make a good combo in the kitchen for meal preparation, but gardeners report added benefits when grown together.
  • Basil enhances the flavor of the tomato by flavoring the soil, and it’s the soil that gives tomatoes their flavor. Besides being a flavoring agent, basil in the garden also repels mosquitoes and flies and is deer-resistant.
  • Mint should be grown in a container in the ground, as it can be quite invasive. That said, the volatile oils of the mint plant serves as a deterrent to the cabbage moth, so this makes a great companion planting with cabbage. Mint also repels mice, deer and flies.
  • Grown as an edible flower, the nasturtium plant is noted to repel aphids, squash bugs and striped pumpkin beetles, so plant near your pumpkin patch or zucchini bed.
  • Lavender is an all-around herb. Its biggest contribution is that it attracts pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, to the garden like nobody’s business but repels such critters as rabbits, mice, ticks and moths.

So if you’re not getting the production out of your garden you think you should, it may be for lack of pollinators. Plant lavender and get the bounty you wanted.

Here are few more herbs and their effects with companion plantings:

  • Caraway reportedly improves the flavor and growth of peas when the two plants are grown next to each other.
  • Chives and carrots produce a symbiotic effect. Apparently, carrots make chives grow faster and taste better when those two things grown together.
  • Don’t plant rosemary and basil together. Rosemary has been known to kill basil.

Even though there’s not much scientific evidence to really support companion plantings, I just love the thought process and record-keeping that gardeners do and then share with others.

If you want to learn more about companion plantings, there’s a bevy of information on the Internet.

For those wishing to get a book or two on the subject, consider “Great Gardening Companions” by Sally Jean Cunningham (Rodale Press, 1998) and “Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Plantings for Successful Gardens” by Louise Riotte (Storey Publishing, 1998).

Originally published in the Casper Star-Tribune, February 8, 2015