Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages and disadvantages of complementary planting

There are so many good reasons to plant and so many benefits for your garden that it’s hard to imagine why you wouldn’t do it. From natural pest control to improving the quality of the soil and the appearance of your flowerbeds, supplemental planting is the answer. And while all this is nice, sometimes planting problems do arise. That’s why it’s important to know the disadvantages of complementary planting, as well as its advantages, before practicing this common gardening technique.

The pros of complementary planting

Natural Pest Control . The practice of planting companion plants to reduce the damage caused by pests, called «crop trapping», is centuries old. Of all the benefits of planting, it is one of the most practical and profitable. Examples include marigolds, which help to suppress nematodes, and nasturtiums, which keep aphids away from tomato plants. You can also use mates to attract beneficial insects, such as dill or fennel to attract ladybugs, predators that feed on parasites.
Flowers throughout the season . The additional benefits of planting can also be purely aesthetic. Plant perennials with correct flowering in a flowerbed and you will get continuous flowers from spring to autumn.
A natural scaffolding . Some plants go well together because one plant is tall, strong and upright, while the other needs scaffolding to support itself. For example, you plant maize next to beans, and the beans have a natural support system.
Better soil fertility . Some companion plants work to enrich their soil. For example, including legumes such as clover or peas in a bed will add nitrogen to the soil to enrich it and benefit the other plants in the bed.
Nurse trimming . Growing two crops together that benefit each other is called nurse cropping. An example is growing lettuce with broccoli. Broccoli grows early and quickly, and provides shade leaves for slower growing lettuce. The shade protects the lettuce and keeps it from overflowing.

Contrasts of complementary planting

Not an exact science . As mentioned before, complementary planting is not supported by any proven scientific fact. Most requests are just that, based on information transmitted over the years. This is why the results differ from place to place and from gardener to gardener. While some people claim that certain plants are good and useful, for others these same plants can turn out to be sacred nightmares. Take these nasturtiums, for example. They are said to protect against many insect pests, but they attract aphids. So if you plan to add them to the garden at the same time as your crops, plan to lose your crop to aphid infestations. Marigolds, too, are not always a sure thing. I planted them for years with my tomatoes and other vegetable crops in the hope of avoiding potential criminals, but the plants fell victim to the same insects that the flowers were supposed to grow back.
Environmental variables . Temperature, soil moisture, pH, sunlight and nutrient availability differ for each plant and these variables can also change continuously in the garden. Therefore, even if you think your plants can grow together, less adapted species may not survive. These variables can also influence the growth of other plants that are better equipped to grow in areas where they were not previously – also known as weeds.
Not all plants are compatible . Most plants that share similar growing conditions are considered good companions. When you take the companion planting, the plants must be compatible and, frankly, there are a number of plants that do not like each other. They should have similar growing conditions and share the same nutritional needs. Not everyone does. Without taking the time to investigate beforehand, it can be difficult to know which plants work well together before it is too late.
There are other factors to consider as well. For example, some plants, such as sunflowers, release toxic compounds that can affect other plants growing nearby. These allelopatic toxins can inhibit seed germination and growth, which can be good for reducing overactive weeds, but not good if you plan to grow seeds or seedlings.

How is the companion plantation doing?

Why plant certain plants together? Why not? There are many reasons to accompany plants in the garden, and these far outweigh any disadvantages you might encounter. That said, you need to keep in mind that it may or may not work for everyone. It may take a little more time and thought, but extra planting will help you get the most out of your garden IF you do your homework to make sure that each plant in the garden «plays well» with its neighbours. As long as you don’t expect perfect results every time, let the plants do what they do and hopefully give benefits to their partners in the garden.

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