You know about the birds and the bees, right? When planning a garden, it's important to think of the entire ecosystem that you'll be creating. You want to provide food for the top of the food chain (that's you), but also support the many players that give life to the whole, from plants that supply nutrients and microorganisms for soil health to blooms that provide food and support to pollinators. When we create a natural balance in the garden, we find growing organically is easier than we might imagine. As summer gets hotter and we take a break from planting vegetables and fruit, it's a great time to think about growing some of these companion plants before fall cultivation takes off. Here are three of our favorites!
- African Blue Basil - technically edible, but most often used as an ornamental, this basil variety is one that bees love. Plant some in the garden and they'll stop in often, pollinating your late season squash and melons while they're there. Bees need all the support they can get these days, and basil has the added benefit of repelling flies and mosquitoes.
- Marigolds - pretty, sunny, yellow and orange flowers repel aphids and squash beetles, important as stressed plants become more susceptible to pests.
- Hairy Vetch - a popular legume cover crop, this grassy plant returns nitrogen to the soil for fall crops. At the beginning of the fall planting season, mow it over and plant directly in the resulting mulch.