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Homesteading Secrets: Companion Planting to Reduce Pests

When you set out to increase your self-sufficiency by gardening, you probably want to do it organically. But when the pest pressure starts, you suddenly realize why organic foods often cost more. Those who are homesteading know a trick that can make garden pests easier to manage.

With companion planting, you strategically plant certain plants near each other to promote the well-being of the plants.

1. The 3 Sisters (Tres Hermanas)

Native Americans (across the American continents) have long planted squash, beans, and corn together.

Corn provides shade to squash and support for beans. Beans increase the nutrient-availability in the soil for corn — a very nutrient-demanding crop. Squash runs along the ground, keeping the soil cool and moist.

All the plants are healthier. Harmful insects and plant diseases target unhealthy plants.  

Here, you have a prime example of a permaculture system. You’ve created an ecosystem that can essentially take care of itself.

Just add water.

2. Basil & Nightshades

Nightshades include tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

Basil with these doesn’t only make an amazing pasta sauce. Basil planted with tomatoes can both increase the yield and ward off many pests.

3. Herbs & Any Edibles

Planting fragrant herbs next to your vegetables deters pests.

Most insects have a plant of choice.  Often, insects find the plants by scent.

They can’t find them if the air is filled with parsley and cilantro. Similar to basil, these like some shade during mid-summer. 

But be careful with some herbs. Dill and sage, for example, make a great herb companion if they’re kept in a separate pot. Their roots release chemicals that damage anything planted too close.

4. Marigolds & Carrots

Many long-time homesteaders swear by marigolds. Some say the flowers can reduce cabbage worms, squash beetles, and white flies. 

But the real power of the marigold appears to be happening under the dirt.

The root produces a natural pesticide, which can kill bugs that attack root vegetables like beets and carrots.

It may also reduce the underground larvae that become next year’s pests.

So the pest-prevention of marigold gets stronger year over year.

Till them directly into the soil each fall to boost the effect. But don’t add them to your unfinished compost.

They will slow the process by killing microorganisms that break compost down.

5. Garlic & Beets 

Aliums like garlic, onions or leeks planted near beets will improve the beets’ flavor. The allium family also repels many garden pests. They don’t like the strong odor or natural pesticides these plants produce. 

Aliums can help tomatoes and peppers too. But since garlic and onions are usually harvested in early summer, you’d need to plant garlic and onion out of season to get the effects. Many people who are homesteading do. 

Honorable Mention: Sunflowers, a Homesteading Must

Sunflowers attract a variety of pollinating insects to the garden. More flowers turn into vegetables.

Sunflowers also draw pests away from nearby plants. Squash beetles, stink bugs, and grasshoppers will choose sunflower over your other edibles.

Homesteaders plant enough to enjoy seeds. They then sacrifice the rest to save their garden from pests.