Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting – Book Review

I have written about companion planting several times and have concluded that most recommended companions, either don’t work, or there is no scientific support for them. When the book, “Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting Strategies for the Vegetable Garden” was released I was definitely intrigued because all prior books on the subject are mostly myths and definitely not based on science.

Jessica Walliser, the author, was kind enough to provide a copy for review. Does this book finally provide a sound set of recommendations for companion planting?

Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting - Book Review
Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting – Book Review

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Are Marigolds Good for Companion Planting?

There is a lot of talk about companion planting, especially for the vegetable garden, and marigolds seem to be at the top of most plant lists. They make other plants grow better and their strong smell keeps pests away. They even stop root knot nematodes.

Much of this information is anecdotal and I suspect some of it is just made up to sell some popular books. What do marigolds actually do in the garden?

Are Marigolds a Good Companion Plant?
Are Marigolds a Good Companion Plant?

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Companion Planting – Are Scented Plants the Best Choice?

A common quote on the internet, “It’s best to use strongly scented plants for companion planting because they confuse pests looking for their host plant.” This is a commonly voiced opinion, and it usually follows with a list of fragrant plants that make good companion plants, such as marigold, onion, mint, chives, lavender, wormwood and many other herbs.

This seems to makes perfect sense. Insects looking to lay eggs on a cabbage, might be confused when they smell a marigold and leave the area thinking there are no cabbages.

Read any of the thousands of web sites and books about companion planting and they all agree; strongly scented plants are your best option. The only problem is that none of these suggestions are based on science. ………. The facts are going to surprise you.

Companion Planting - Are Strongly Scented Plants the Best Choice? Marigolds with cabbage, photo source: Well Done landscaping
Companion Planting – Are Strongly Scented Plants the Best Choice? Marigolds with cabbage, photo source: Well Done Landscaping

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Garlic – the King of Companion Planting

Garlic is one of the most popular companion plants. It can be grown next to most plants as a natural pest and fungus deterrent. It takes up little space, is not fussy about soil and can grow in most conditions.

I am sure that its pungent flavor is what convinces people that it keeps pests and diseases away. If it keeps vampires away, surely a few bugs are not a problem for it.

Garlic - the King of Companion Planting
Garlic – the King of Companion Planting

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Three Sisters Agriculture – an Example of Companion Planting

I’d like to talk about the Three Sisters. No, not the play written by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, and not the three mountain peaks near Canmore, Alberta , Canada. I am talking about Three Sisters Agriculture used by Native Americans; corn, beans and squash.

If you have read anything about companion planting you will have come across a description of the Three Sisters as one of the best examples of companion planting that works. But have you ever seen any data to show that this system works? Did the Native Americans actually use this system?

The Three Sisters are the corner stone of the companion planting movement and if it is all a myth, is there any validity to the whole idea?

Iroquois family growing beans, corn, and squash using three sisters agricultural companion planting
Iroquois family growing beans, corn, and squash using Three Sisters agricultural companion planting

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Companion Planting: Truth or Myth?

I have wanted to do some posts on companion planting for quite some time. There is certainly a lot of nonsense out there about companion planting, but some of the advice seems to make sense. The problem with this topic is that it is vast and complex. So I have ignored it – until now.

This post is an overview of the topic. I will look at some general concepts and try to gain some basic understanding of companion planting. Future posts will look at specific combinations of plants.

Companion Planting: Truth or Myth?
Companion Planting: Truth or Myth?

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Will Marigolds Stop Root Knot Nematodes?

Companion planting is a standard recommendation for growing vegetables. One of the most commonly recommended plants for this is the marigold, which is supposed to be good for preventing various pests from eating the vegetables. I will limit the discussion in this post to using marigolds to reduce or eliminate nematodes in the garden.

nematodes and marigolds - Root knot nematodes on carrots
Root knot nematodes on carrots

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