First of all, it is important to note that much of the companion planting advice given online has little scientific basis. While there are undoubtedly benefits to combining certain plants, the ways in which plants interact with one another are surprisingly sketchily understood. So take advice like ‘X loves Y’ with a grain of salt. Delve a little deeper to discover why exactly certain combinations are recommended, and the truth behind those recommendations.
Work from a basic understanding of the plants themselves and their needs towards beneficial holistic schemes that integrate, rather than segregating. Remember, the most important thing in companion planting is choosing plants which like similar growing conditions, and which, due to their root form, growth habit, and water and nutrient needs, do not compete excessively with one another.
Understand that what works well in one setting, in one soil type, location and growing zone, will not necessarily work as well in another. There are a number of anecdotally ‘tried and tested’ plant combinations for kitchen gardens. And these tend to be great ways to make the most of the space. But always consider a new combination as an experiment, and observe carefully in your own garden. Over time, you will get a sense of which combinations work well for you.
From a basic understanding of plants and their needs, you can progress to develop a deeper understanding of how they can aid one another. They might improve environmental conditions by providing shade, or ground cover. They might add nutrients, repel, confuse or distract pests, or bring beneficial wildlife into the space.
Understand that there is a time component to companion planting. As well as considering space, you need to think about how the growing area and plants change over time. With thoughtful intercropping and plant combinations, you can adapt to that change and use it to your advantage.
If you need help to develop companion planting schemes and polycultures for your garden, please do get in touch.