Companion planting for a healthy garden | Finding Solutions | 2013 | Spring | Publications | David Suzuki Foundation

(Credit:Net_Efekt via Flickr)

Planting season is upon us (or nearly so, in most of Canada). Whether you're a seasoned gardener or growing your own food for the first time, companion planting will help you cultivate a healthy, veggie-filled garden. It involves pairing plants that grow well together and distancing those that don't.

Here are a few favourite tried and tested combinations for the spring:

Basil and tomatoes: Planted side by side, basil will improve tomatoes' vigour and flavour. A variety of herbs alongside tomatoes helps deter pests, but be sure to keep dill at a distance. Plant it instead near the brassicas (like cabbage or broccoli), where it will attract predatory wasps to eat garden caterpillars.

Corn, beans and squash: Known as the three sisters, corn, beans and squash have been planted together throughout history. The age-old technique benefits the plants and the soil. Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Beans help stabilize the corn plants and provide nitrogen for the following year's corn. Shallow-rooted squash vines become living mulch.

Cucumbers and nasturtium: A good trap crop for aphids, nasturtiums also deter whiteflies and cucumber beetles while attracting both predatory insects and pollinators. They improve the flavour and growth of cucumbers.

Peas and spinach: Avoid having spinach go to seed too quickly by planting it in the afternoon shadow of trellised peas.