By Katherine Morba
Like people, plants relate to one another differently. Unique characteristics such as fragrance, stature, and ability to attract pollinators and repel pests make a plant more or less compatible with its neighbors.
Companion planting, or paying attention to beneficial relationships that exist between species of plants, give way to healthier crops, increased yields, and even enhanced flavor in harvests. Herbs are especially companionable when mindfully placed in a garden bed.
Herbs also possess healing properties to soothe the ailments of the gardeners who tend them. For centuries herbs have been exalted as medicinal remedies, offering relief for sore throats, anxiety, stomachaches, and other health concerns.
Rather than planting rows of single crops this season, try intermingling herbs for a garden that is both plentiful and curative.
Basil and tomatoes have heightened flavors when grown in proximity. Basil also compliments asparagus, beans, beets, cabbage, and bell peppers. Basil tea alleviates an upset stomach and is a natural skin cleanser. Place wet leaves under eyes to reduce puffiness and dark circles.
Thyme repels pests like cabbage worms, corn earworms, and tomato hornworms. It will strengthen the flavor of most plants it borders while attracting honey bees and predatory insects. Thyme relieves congestion from colds and seasonal allergies.
Dill is a companion to broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, and kale. It attracts honey bees and butterflies while deterring cabbage loppers and spider mites. Dill should not be planted near carrots, as the two may cross-pollinate. Steeping two tablespoons of crushed dill seed in one cup of boiling water creates a dill tea for cold and flu symptom relief.
Rosemary pairs well with broccoli, beans, cabbage, and hot peppers. Aromatically it improves cognitive function and memory. A rosemary tea or essential oil can be used on hair to strengthen and condition.
Lavender compliments cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and rose bushes. Adding a few drops of lavender oil in a bath reduces stress, insomnia, and anxiety. Fragrant dried flowers can be sewn into pillows or sleep masks for a calming effect.
Calendula, or the pot marigold, is a must grow for its bright yellow and orange flowers, pest prevention, and medicinal qualities. Calendula acts as a trap plant, attracting aphids to a sticky stem and away from garden vegetables. The flowers are harvested and used to make oils, teas, and ointments that have antiseptic and wound healing properties.