Yesterday I found a bee on the bright yellow flowers of a Chinese asparagus plant that had gone prematurely senile in it’s pot after our unexpected January heat wave. I whispered to the bee that we have lots more interesting delights coming for it this spring.
We’re growing Blue Borage to have a companion for tomatoes, strawberries and squash that is also edible. It really does taste like cucumber. I’ve already eaten some leaves. Seedaholic.com has a detailed, interesting entry on Borage, which includes this in the “Companion Plants” section:
Borage is good companion plant to have in the vegetable garden as the insects it attracts make good pollinators for crops. It is a very useful companion plant to strawberries, as they are believed to stimulate each other’s growth.
As a companion plant to tomatoes, it is believed that borage deters tomato worm, and is thus a natural form of pest control. Borage is attractive to blackfly, this can be used to advantage by planting it as a decoy close to one’s fruits and vegetables to prevent them being blighted – an excellent companion plant for beans and peas.
Borage is also good as a green manure. Its long taproot brings up nutrients from the subsoil that remain in the leaves. Before the plant flowers the plants can be dug back into the ground to release the nutrients back into the topsoil.
We’ve also had good germination with our Calendula, a good companion for our cabbage family plants. The ‘Pacific Beauty‘ Calendula we’re growing is a culinary marigold, though I understand only the petals of the flowers are really edible. They are also supposed to soothe bee stings if you rub the fresh flowers into the spot that was stung. I’m wondering if I should be planting the Calendula away from where I want to attract pollinators though. Some of the listings I’ve seen say they repel insects (and deer). Louise Riotte (Carrots Love Tomatoes) doesn’t mention Calendula by name, though she does mention marigolds in general for nematodes and other uses. In Great Garden Companions, Sally Jean Cunningham reports Calendula attracts beneficials and may repel Asparagus beetles.
OK, this whole companion thing gets complicated quickly, doesn’t it?
We have also started a nice planting of ‘Pesche’s Gold’ marigolds, which are apparently ‘French’ marigolds. And we are getting ready to start ‘Tangerine Gem‘, which apparently also have edible petals. Rosalind Creasy mentions them in the latest edition of Edible Landscaping. The ‘Sunrise’ Cosmos are coming along nicely. I have to pot them up again or decide where they are going in the garden fast. They will be almost the same colors as the marigolds on taller, frillier plants. We’re using the cosmos to attract bees, parasitic wasps and other beneficial insects on the theory that pretty much anything that’s good for the bees is good for the garden.
Mexican sunflowers, Echinacea and Yarrow, as well as Sweet Alyssum (to shelter ground beetles and spiders), are also part of the garden plan for this year. We are also trying Tarragon as a Nurse Plant for our eggplants who often don’t quite get the warmth they need in our climate and take a long time to fruit. Hopefully they will grow better with a little help from their new friend.
If you have tried and true companions you use in your garden, please let us know which combinations and varieties work well and which Zone you are in.