Companion Planting

100 herbs, food and medicinal plants and their companions, how, when and where to plant, harvest and use them
Roberts, Margaret
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Companion Planting

Author: Margaret Roberts
Briza Publications
Pretoria, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-875093-48-9
Soft cover, 16x22 cm, 144 pages, throughout colour photos

Companion Planting Auch im südafrikanischen Gemüse- und Nutzpflanzenanbau hat man das Potential einander begünstigender Pflanzen wiederentdeckt und pflanzt diese - zur weitgehenden Vermeidung künstlicher Gartenchemie - planmäßig nebeneinander.


Companion planting is the age-old practice of planting different plants in close proximity so that they can help one another in some way.

These plants complement each other by giving off scent or chemicals that repel harmful insects, or they may attract beneficial insects that are plant pollinators or predators to harmful insects.

Some plants return micro-nutrients to the soil that can be used by other plants. This book describes more than 100 herbs, food plants and medicinal plants and their companions, with information on how, when and where to plant, harvest and use them.

Interspersed with the text are recipes for natural fertilisers and insect sprays and information on how to use plants medicinally and in the home.

Separate sections deal with useful weeds, natural sprays, mulches, natural fertilisers and other methods to improve the soil.

About the author:

Margaret Roberts was probably one of the first organic farmers in Southern Africa. She has been growing vegetables since the age of seven, using only natural compost and sprays, and in this extraordinary book she shares her superb recipes, her pioneering ideas, and her hands-on fascinating experiences with the reader.

Author of well over 30 books, Margaret Roberts introduced herbs to South Africans in her television and radio programmes. She imported the first herbs into South Africa over 40 years ago and has trialled and tested unusual medicinal and food plants at her Herbal Centre at De Wildt ever since.

Did you know:

• Nasturtiums planted with pumpkins, squash and cucumbers deter beetles, aphids and other insects that attack the plants. And what's more, they are edible!

• Carrots and leeks are excellent companions. Leeks repel carrot fly and carrots repel onion fly and leek moth. The confusion of scents chases the insects away.

• Asparagus prevents nematodes from attacking the roots of tomato plants.

• Coriander repels insects and can be made into a natural spray to use against red spider mite.

• Garlic deters aphids and is a particularly good choice to plant with roses.


The companion plants - descriptions of more than 100 of the best companion plants for the South African garden
Beneficial weeds
Natural pest control
Soil improvers
Our changing world - global warming
Companion plants at a glance


Companion planting. Two ordinary words with so much power and so much passion in them, so much to think about, so much to do about the concept and so much to gain from it. We should be using them every day to everyone, to make, without doubt, our little bit of world a better place! It's time for action. We cannot delay any longer.

Linked to these two words is another even more powerful word - organic. If you grow companion plants you will not need harmful sprays, dangerous chemical poisons or chemical fertilisers. With catch crops and green manure crops, you'll be growing and making your own natural composts and fertilisers that will be so inexpensive and fascinating to put in place, you'll be farming or gardening organically!

In my full and busy long life I have been passionate about a few things (besides my children and grandchildren!). Plants are one of my greatest interests, but my passion is growing plants that have a purpose, a use, to perfection. The second, all-absorbing passion is never to use chemicals or sprays that could harm my other passions - health and the environment.

I have practised these enduring passions for my whole life. My dream is to make it all exciting enough, interesting enough and inspiring enough to have everyone growing organic vegetables, vines and even flowers, and never using harmful sprays.

I first learnt about companion planting from my grandmother and her sister, who lived at Gordon's Bay, when I was about seven years old. My sister and I spent several months of the year with them, as my father was in parliament for the session. Then we would return home to Pretoria for the rest of the year. We had "home schooling" for those months we spent in the Cape and I loved it!

Among the things we were taught in the afternoons was to make vegetable and flower gardens in the terraces overlooking the sea. The winter rain watered our plantings, and we made charts and notes and pressed flowers to remember what plant enjoyed the proximity of another, and how we could let nasturtiums trail over the rocky walls to "catch" the aphids so that they did not eat the new cabbages and broccoli.

We learned that slugs will creep under the grapefruit skin shells that we saved from breakfast. The next morning we could lift the shells up and crush several slugs. We also learned that if you made a blanket of oak leaves, no snails or slugs would come near the lettuces. So we circled the lettuce plantings with a thick mulch of oak leaves.

We rubbed handfuls of the leaves from our tomato plants on the windowsills to chase the flies, and we went for long walks into the mountain to collect pelargonium sprigs, those beautiful Cape scented geraniums, to plant in our gardens so that we could crush them and rub them on our blankets and pillows to chase mosquitoes. One very lemony-scented one which I grow so far from the sea, I still use today.

We planted radishes near cucumbers and around the peas, and ate radish sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise for tea every day - thick slices of homemade brown bread, so soft and moist we never got tired of that teatime break.

In the evenings my grandmother sat in front of the fire knitting us socks (in fine white crochet cotton on four needles - I was so impressed!). Outside the southeaster howled. My great aunt told us stories of the allotment garden she had worked in in England, and how people were able to rent little pieces of land in a large communal garden so they could grow their salads, vegetables and flowers for the house.

She told us how they shared companion plants. She had a neighbour who loved roses, so my great aunt grew parsley in a long row at the edge of her allotment to accompany the roses that marked the border between her and her neighbour.

On the other side, her neighbour grew three long rows of sweetcorn, so my great aunt grew pumpkins in their shade. No one was allowed to grow gladiolus, as strawberries hated the tall flowers and would die if there ever was a plant even at the opposite end of the allotment - and everyone grew strawberries! They planted pennyroyal under them to keep the worms and the beetles away.

I was enthralled. It was like plant warfare! Pennyroyal sounded such a grand word, but in those days there were very few herbs in our hot, sunny South Africa. Twenty-five years later I managed to import the first pennyroyal into South Africa - to grow under my own strawberries - and when the parcel finally arrived it was very pathetic and half dead, as it had been held in customs so long.

Of those sad little black sprigs only about fifteen grew, and so pennyroyal began its life journey in a very different country far from its cool, moist and green native land. I like to think that the pennyroyal we buy today from nurseries everywhere are the little offspring from my fifteen brave little cuttings!

Our sea gardens at Cordon's Bay enthralled me. I was beside myself with joy pulling the first carrots, picking the first spinach and harvesting the Cape gooseberries creeping carefully under and between those smooth velvety stems, tiny basket in hand to reach the dry little lantern-like fruits, such golden globes, succulent and flavour-filled, for the gooseberry tart my grandmother baked.

I loved the peeling of those papery husks and how the marble-sized fruit just popped in your mouth while grandmother was not looking, and I will always remember how we planted a row of yarrow near the gooseberry bushes "to give the gooseberries protection and to make many fruits".

The yarrow was used as a cut flower then, that lovely old-fashioned pink and white one, and it was good as a border around the vegetable garden, and it didn't mind if you walked on it. Those were never-to-be-forgotten days, and the world revolved around plants, and the girls who helped in the house with the washing and the cleaning brought me a wild flower every day as they walked to the village from their home in the mountain.

They were the first ones to teach me about pelargoniums and the other indigenous healing plants, and I kept the flowers on my dressing table in fish paste and Marmite jars, and learned all their common names.

My parents grew beautiful cottage garden flowers - my mother painted flowers in watercolours and pastels, and embroidered them. My father and I made compost and we had superb vegetable gardens. We grew rows of lettuce with radishes, and larkspur for my mother's flower arrangements in rows next to the spinach. We edged the beds with catnip and used sprigs of it to sweep onto the kitchen floor to chase ants, and spread it into the dogs' baskets to chase the fleas, with marigold leaves. We didn't think about it - we just did it. That was the way it was.

Catmint circled tomato plantings and thrived under the quince tree, and lemon verbena was planted in the corners of the vegetable garden because its leaves chased horseflies! And so it went on - all the time as I was growing up I was aware that you could interplant flowers and vegetables, and a trellis of peas with pansies at their feet looked beautiful. The peas were so tender you could cook them in their pods.

My grandmother sent me a letter full of fennel seeds. The fennel grew wild along the harbour road. (We picked the fennel leaves to cover the fresh fish we often bought from the fishing boats.) She reminded me to be careful where I planted it as quite a few plants didn't like fennel near them, like beans and tomatoes and even lemon verbena. So I planted it near the gem squashes and the spring onions, and it thrived and so did they. I added those notes to my little gardening notebook.

I grew up and left school and went to the university to study physiotherapy. I walked to lectures through the university gardens every day. I got to know an old Zulu gardener and he told me that nasturtiums should be planted near potatoes, and beetroot should be planted with spring onions.

He had a patch of mealies near the kitchens, and I brought him tomato plants and mustard seed, pumpkin seed and spinach plants from our garden. He loved roses and showed me how to plant catnip under them to keep aphids away. He also taught me to look at the weeds.

He ate purslane cooked with onion as he said it gave him energy, and it was a perfect compost maker with stinging nettles. So I then began to think about weeds and their importance. I sadly lost contact with my old gardening friend, but I never forget his wise teachings. I learned he had gone home to Zululand to retire and to make his own garden.

His new young apprentice took lots of seeds back to him when he went home for Christmas, and in return the old man sent me a calabash. I've planted calabash seeds with yarrow wherever I have lived since then, and all came from that single calabash. He told me melons and cucumbers and calabashes have the strength to climb high and bear well, when planted with yarrow.



Achillea millefolium
• Carpenter's weed
• Soldier's woundwort

Yarrow is an ancient, revered and respected plant. So important was it that it was once known as "Herba militaris", as its leaves were used to staunch battleground wounds, and Achilles reputedly used yarrow leaves to heal the warriors during the battle of troy - hence its latin name achillea.

Beautiful and very easy to grow, yarrow was found in every cottage garden, every castle garden, every public place, and the leaves and flowers were pressed into precious books and folded into embroidered robes and even sewn into the hems of brocade curtains and cloaks to keep them free of moths, fish moths, weevils and fleas.

Yarrow was used as a strewing herb in the courts and in meeting places, and the monks preserved it in vinegar to treat the sick and to heal the soldiers' wounds during the long snowbound winters. Native to Europe and Western Asia, the original varieties were white, or pink flowered fading to white as they mature. The new colourful hybrids do not have those medicinal actions - so do not substitute.

Yarrow - only that old-fashioned pink and white variety - has been used through the centuries to treat fevers, inflammation and bleeding. Just apply warmed crushed leaves - wash them in hot water first, then pat dry in a clean towel -to the affected area, and hold in place with a crepe bandage. Warmed leaves held behind an ear ease earache.

A cup of yarrow tea will help to lower high blood pressure, regulate menstrual flow and relieve premenstrual tension. Use 1/4 cup fresh leaves and pour over this 1 cup of boiling water, stand 5 minutes, strain and sip slowly. Excellent for colds and flu, and it can be used as a mouthwash to clear infections in the mouth and throat.

For chicken pox, measles, rheumatism and diabetes, yarrow is an age-old treatment, taken a cup a day for a week, then give it a break for 2 days and repeat. But even more wonderful than its tried, tested and medically approved medicinal uses, is its tremendous tonic effect on all plants growing near it. Yarrow is beneficial to everything!

All vegetables thrive near it, particularly cucumbers, calabashes, melons, mealies and tomatoes, and it increases the aromatic oils in origanums, winter savory and lemon verbena, and even roses have a stronger perfume near yarrow. So, in the herb garden yarrow is indispensable!

But here is where I am in awe of yarrow: its leaves help to break down compost and a strong tea made of yarrow leaves is a superb fertiliser. For organic growers yarrow is king, and a handful of fresh leaves dug into the compost heap will quickly activate it, and ferment even the toughest material in a matter of weeks.

Yarrow is also a beneficial host to ladybirds and parasitic wasps that prey on garden pests like aphids, and yet it also repels many pests who cannot stand its pungent scent! It's quite a herb, not only for its styptic properties, but for its tonic effects on nearby plants, and as a natural fertiliser it is remarkable and simply invaluable.

Grow it abundantly in full sun, divide the clump yearly, rooted runners can be dug off the main clump any time, and it thrives in rich moist soil.

Uses: edicinal, compost maker, fertiliser, insect repellent

Companions: Calabashes, cucumbers, lemon verbena, marjoram, mealies, melons, oregano, roses, tomatoes, winter savory


Achillea millefolium 13
African marigold 5ee Marigold
Alecost 42
Allium ampeloprasm var. porrum 14
Allium cepa 15
Allium sativum 16
Allium schoenoprasum 17
Aloysia triphylla 18
Amaranth 19
Amaranthus hypochondriacus 19
Amaranthus species 19
American prairie sage 95
Ammi majus 20
Ammi visnaga 20
Anethum graveolens 21
Anethum graveolens var. vierling 21
Anise 83
Apium graveolens 22
Apple 67
Apricot 86
Armoracia rusticana 23
Artemisia 'Silver Queen' 25
Artemisia abrotanum 24
Artemisia absinthium 24
Artemisia afra 25
Artemisia dracunculoides 26
Artemisia dracunculus 25
Artemisia ludoviciana 25
Artemisia powis castle 26
Artemisia species 24-26
Artemisia vulgaris 25
Artemisias 24-26
Asparagus 27
Asparagus officinalis 27
Asthma weed 119
Avena sativa 28
Azadirachta indica 29
Barley 126
Basil 76
Bay 62
Beans 82
Beetroot 31
Bell pepper 39
Beta vulgaris var. cicla 30
Beta vulgaris var. esculenta 31
Beta vulgaris var. maritima 31
Seta vulgaris var. vulgaris 31
Betula pendula 31
Bible leaf 42
Blackberry 93
Borage 33
Borago officinalis 33
Borecole 34
Brassica oleracea var. acephala 34
Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes 34
Brassica rapa var. rapa 35
Brassica species 36
Brassicaceae 35, 36
Bressingham thyme 108
Broad beans 126
Broccoli 36
Bronze fennel 56
Buckwheat 55, 126
Bush beans 82
Cabbage 36
Caffea lime 46
Cajanus cajan 37
Calamint 38
Calamintha ascendens 38
Calamintha officinalis 38
Calendula officinalis 106
Canadian giant solidago 104
Capsicum annuum 39
Caraway 40
Carnation 53
Carpenter's weed 13
Carrot 52
Carum carvi 40
Castor oil plant 121
Catmint 75
Catnip 75
Cauliflower 36
Cayenne 39
Celery 22
Centaurea cyanus 41
Centella asiatica 127
Chamomile 68
Cheiranthus 67
Chenopodiaceae 118
Chenopodium album 118
Chickweed 118
Chillies 39
Chives 17
Chrysanthemum balsamita 42
Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium 43
Chrysanthemum parthenium 44
Chrysanthemum vulgare 45
Citronella geranium 78
Citrullus lanatus 48
Citrus trees 46
Citrus species 46
Clover 109, 126
Collard greens 34
Colocasia esculenta 116
Comfrey 105
Common sage 95
Coneflower 54
Coriander 47
Coriandrum sativum 47
Cornflower 41
Corsican mint 72
Costmary 42
Cotton lavender 98
Country Cream oregano 77
Creeping thyme 108, 127
Cucumber 49
Cucumis melo 48
Cucumis sativus 49
Cucurbita maxima 50
Cucurbita pepo 50
Cucurbita species 50
Cumin 51
Cuminum cyminum 51
Dandelion 107
Datura stramonium 121
Daucus carota 52
Daucus visnaga 20
Derris elliptica 120
Dianthus caryophyllus 53
Dill 21
Echinacea 54
Echinacea purpurea 54
Elder 96
Emperor's mint 38
Estragon 25
Euphorbia hirta 119
Eureka lemon 46
European goldenrod 104
Fagopyrum esculentum 55
Fat hen 118
Fennel 56
Fenugreek 110
Feverfew 44
Flax 65
Florence fennel 56
Foeniculum vulgare 56
Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce 56
Foeniculum vulgare var. purpureum 56
Fragaria vesca 57
French tarragon 25
Fruit salad plant 103
Garlic 16
Ginger 116
Glechoma hederacea 127
Glycine max 58
Goldenrod 104
Grapes 115
Greek oregano 77
Ground ivy 127
Helianthus annuus 59
High Hopes basil 76
Holy basil 76
Horseradish 23
Ipomoea batatas 103
jewel mint 72
Juglans regia 60
Kale 34
Khakibos 106, 121
Khus-khus grass 113
Kohlrabi 34
Kumquat 46
Labiateae see Lamiaceae
Lactuca sativa 61
Lamiaceae 91, 95, 100
Laurus nobilis 62
Lavandula varieties 63
Lavender 63
Leek 14
Lemon 46
Lemon balm 71
Lemon thyme 108
Lemon verbena 18
Lettuce 61
Levisticum officinale 64
Lime 46
Linseed 65
Linum usitatissimum 65
Loganberry 93
Lovage 64
Lucerne 69, 126
Lupin 126
Lycospersicon esculentum 66
Madumbi 116
Makrut lime 46
Malus species 67
Marigold 106
Marjoram 77
Pennywort 127
Marrow 50
Peppers 39
Matricaria recutita 68
Perovskia atriplicifolia 79
Medicago sativa 69
Persian lilac 29
Melaleuca alternifolia 70
Petroselinum crispum 80
Melia azedarach 29, 121
Petunia 81
Melissa officinalis 71
Petunia hybrida 81
Melons 48
Petunia integrifolia 81
Mentha aquatica 72
Phacelia 126
Mentha pulegium 72, 127
Phacelia tanacetifolia 126
Mentha requenii 72
Phaseolus coccineus 82
Mentha species 72
Phaseolus vulgaris 82
Mexican marigold 106
Pigeon pea 37
Meyer lemon 46
Pimpinella anisum 83
Micromeria species 38
Pine 84
Mint 72
Pinus palustris 84
Moringa 73
Pinus species 84
Moringa oleifera 73
Pinus sylvestris 84
Mugwort 25
Pisum sativum 85
Mung beans 82
Pitch pine 84
Mustard 102, 126
Portulaca oleracea 117
Myrtle 74
Potato 103
Myrtus communis 74
Prunus armeniaca 86
Myrtus communis nana 74
Prunus persica 87
Pumpkin 50
Naartjie 46
Purslane 117
Nasturtium 111
Pyrethrum 43
Neem 29
Pyrus communis 87
Nepeta cataria 75
Nepeta mussinii 75
Queen Anne's lace 20
New Zealand spinach 30
Quercus robur 88
Nicotiana 81
Radish 89
Oak 88
Raphanus sativus 89
Oats 28
Raspberry 92
Ocimum sanctum 76
Red clover 109, 126
Ocimum species 76
Rheum rhabarbarum 121
Ocimum tenuiflorum 76
Rhubarb 121
Onion 15
Ricinus communis 121
Orange 46
Rosa species 90
Ordinary fennel 56
Rose 90
Oregano 77
Rose oil pelargonium 78
Origanum aureum 77
Rosemary 91
Origanum majorana 77
Rosmarinus officinalis 91
Origanum vulgare 77
Rubus fruticosus 93
Rubus idaeus 92
Parsley 80
Rue 94
Peaches 87
Runner beans 82
Pears 87
Russian sage 79
Peas 85
Russian tarragon 26
Pelargonium 'Attar of Roses' 78
Ruta graveolens 94
Pelargonium capitatum 78
Rye 126
Pelargonium fragrans 78
Pelargonium scabrum 78
Sacred basil 76
Pelargonium species 78
Sage 95
Pennyroyal 72, 127
Salad burnet 97
Salvia clevelandii 95
Salvia leucantha 95
Salvia officinalis 95
Sambucus nigra 96
Sanguisorba minor 97
Santolina 98
Santolina chamaecyparissus 98
Saponaria officinalis 99
Satureja hortensis 100
Satureja montana 100
Savory 100
Savoy cabbage 36
Scented geraniums 78
Scented pelargoniums 78
Scots pine 84
Sea-beet 31
Seringa 29, 121
Sesame 101
Sesamum indicum 101
Silver birch 31
Silver posy thyme 108
Sinapis alba 102
Soapwort 99
Solanaceae 39
Solanum muricatum 103
Solanum tuberosum 103
Soldier's woundwort 13
Solidago canadensis 104
Solidago species 104
Solidago virgaurea 104
Sonchus oleraceus 119
Southernwood 24
Sow thistle 119
Soya bean 58
Spinacea oleracea 30
Spinach 30
Stellaria media 118
Stinging nettle 112
Stinkblaar 121
Strawberry 57
Sugar beet 31
Summer savory 100
Sunflower 59
Sweet pepper 39
Sweet potato 103
Swiss chard 30
Symphytum officinale 105
Tagetes minuta 106
Tagetes patula 106
Tagetes species 106
Tanacetum balsamita see Chrysanthemum balsamita
Tanacetum cinerariifolium see Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium
Tanacetum parthenium see Chrysanthemum parthenium
Tanacetum vulgare see Chrysanthemum vulgare
Tangerine 46
Tansy 45
Taraxacum officinale 107
Taro 116
Tarragon 25, 26
Tay berry 93
Tea tree 70
Tetragonia tetragonioides 30
Thorn apple 121
Thyme 108
Thymus alba 108
Thymus coccineus 108
Thymus serpyllum 108, 127
Thymus species 108
Thymus varigata 108
Thymus vulgaris 108
Thymus x citriodora 108
Tomato 66
Trifolium pretense 109
Trifolium species 109
Trigonella foenum-graecum 110
Tropaeolum majus 111
Tulsi 76
Turnip 35
Urtica dioica 112
Vetiver grass 113
Vetiveria zizanioides 113
Vigna radiata 82
Viola odorata 114
Violet 114
Vitis vinifera 115
Wallflower 67
Walnut 60
Watermelon 48
White mustard 102
Wild carrot 20
Wild rose pelargonium 78
Wildeals 25
Winter savory 100
Winter wheat 126
Wormwood 24
Yarrow 13
Youngberry 3
Zingiber officinale 116