Companionable plants

Calendula outshining bell peppers

During the miserable spring and early summer, I decided to cheer myself up by planting a few apparently frivolous things: ie things I probably won’t sell, but will look pretty and be good for wildlife. However, as every organic gardener/grower knows, sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate; what’s good for wildlife is usually good for growing (if kept in balance). Plus some plants cheer you up on their own, so are worth the time and few pence it costs for seeds and compost.

I tried out Butterfly Weed (got eaten by slugs in the module tunnel), African mariagold (eaten by slugs), sweet peas (saved seed from last year), pot mariagold (calendula), borage (bees favourite) and summer savoury (one plant survived the slugs). The sweet peas are doing well now; I planted them in the tunnel where my climbing beans should have been (eaten by slugs), and their sweet scent makes that tunnel a happy place. They have a bit of greenfly now, but the ladybirds have moved in and I’m happy to build up these helpful critters.

Summer savoury by cucumbers and beetroot

The lone summer savoury plant is in a spare spot in the new tunnel, near the cucumbers, and looks very happy. There is a surprising amount of wildlife interest in it; not only honey and bumble bees, but hoverflies and others seem to enjoy hanging around. I’m sure it’s helping attract pollinators in to do their job with the cucumber flowers.

Perhaps the most spectacular companion plant is the calendula however; the module-sown plants are round the edges inside the tunnel with the tomatoes and peppers, as they are supposed to help deter (or decoy?) pests such as aphid, which can reek havoc on peppers and destroy a whole crop. There are also some self-sown mixed calendula outside among the borage. Their colour is incredible; you can hardly believe that such a vivid shade can exist in nature. Touch wood, they seem to be doing their job so far anyway…

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