Fasten a spray bottle attachment to the hose end with a little liquid dish soap, sprayed on plants affected by aphids and spider mites will discourage the infestation.
Use cornmeal around ant nests to discourage infestation. If you have a large population of aphids, note that ants actually protect aphids from natural predators, because they love the nectar produced by aphids, so control your ants, and you'll control the aphids. Which for those of you in the south with fire ants, cornmeal works to discourage them as well. Cornmeal won't hurt your pets, your chickens or wildlife, so it's safe to use around foundations and known ant colonies. A bonus of cornmeal is it will help prohibit weeds, but, do avoid using it around herbaceous and vegetable plants, especially before they emerge from the soil and until they are several inches tall and hardened off, as it can also prohibit them from emerging. Cornmeal is safe around woody plants, ie, trees, shrubs, roses, etc. for weed control. A known product for weed control is the environmentally safe pre-emergent, Preen(R), it is made from corn gluten.
Garlic planted around your roses works to detract insects that love your roses. The insects are repulsed by the garlic smell, but garlic tends to make the roses more fragrant, so it's a win, win situation.
Everyone knows Basil and Tomatoes make a great Caprese salad or appetizer, but they are also great companions in the garden. Bees are attracted to the basil flowers, and discourages tomato worms that would love to get at the tomatoes.
These methods can work whether you have a large family garden plot or you are growing in containers on a patio or balcony.
Marigold is often planted around the perimeter of the garden to discourage insects from invading the garden plants, but a container of marigold set in and amongst your other container plants can help to discourage pests as well. Sweet Alyssum works in the same way to encourage pollinators to visit the garden plants, and attract pests that would otherwise invade the garden or container plants.
We don't want to discourage all insects. It's important to have flowering plants near your edibles to encourage the bees and other insects to pollinate those plants for a nice crop. Without the pollination, many plants will not produce. Some, like tomatoes are self pollinating, but there are few with that special built in feature.
Companion planting is far from a new concept, the first known companion plantings were done by the Native Americans. The theory of the *three sisters*, Corn, Pumpkin/Squash and beans,. The beans provided nitrogen to the soil that the corn depleted, the corn shaded the pumpkin/squash, while the beans and pumpkin vines climbed the corn stalks, providing support for the plants for the highest yield. In addition, the mass of vines protected the corn to keep raccoons and squirrels from devouring the crops. The large leaves of the Squash shaded the ground to retain moisture for the plants to thrive.
You can use the same theory to this day for your own plantings, and is used in Pioneer gardens, such as the Pioneer interpretive center at the End of the Oregon Trail and most likely used at re-enactment villages throughout the country. This method is also a space saver and on a smaller scale will even work in container plantings. The pairing of these companion plants was the perfect nutritional balance to sustain the tribe, and the squash could be kept long term in storage, while the beans and corn could be dried for a long term storage. The squash and the corn could then be ground into flour, and all three could be cooked together to provide the proper nutritional balance to sustain life. A brilliant concept that is as fresh today in gardening as it was when it was first theorized. And what harvest stew is complete without the beans, corn and squash?
Planting your vegetables, intermingled with your landscape has it's merits, when certain flowers and vegetables are planted together. The flowering plants provide the pollinators and beneficial insects shelter and nectar, while herbs deter the non-beneficial pests, and they add fragrance as well as greenery to shade the plants to retain moisture and provide a living mulch, and add nutrients to the soil. At end of harvest, those vegetable plants can be composted to provide rich soil for replanting and for mulch to keep the ground moist, with nutrients to replenish the soil, so they need less water and fertilizer to thrive. So there is very sound reasoning in companion planting even if you don't pair certain plants together that are recommended, or have to remember that Parsley benefits Chives or Sweet Alyssum planted with potatoes encourages pollination for the potato plants; the plants will still offer texture, fragrance and ultimately many benefits, whether for the nutritional value, or to encourage pollination or to provide shade for the roots during droughts, with the bonus of deterring destructive pests.
By intermingling your vegetables with your landscape, you can likely avoid those restrictions that some home owner associations and municipalities impose; no vegetable gardens visible from the street. Many herb and vegetable plants have attractive foliage and flowers that blend seamlessly into the landscape and benefit you as well as your curb-side appeal without the HOA committee swooping down on you for a policy violation. But choose your plants wisely, I don't think an 8 foot cornstalk is going to go unnoticed, while most herbs, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes and root crops, kale, garlic, onions and zucchini will blend in.
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CREDENTIALS: Certified Oregon State Master Gardener since 1999. Horticulture degree 2001. Study of Herbs and Horticulture Therapy, heavy research and study of all plants and herbs. Gardening a lifetime