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Promoting plant health – and repelling insects in the process – does not require chemical intervention as plants have their own best friends to perform this double job naturally.

‘Companion planting’ as it is called, hinges on knowing which plant benefits most from the company of another plant species and then putting this information into practice. This sometimes means growing flowers in the vegetable patch, herbs in a flower garden or even a balanced mixture of flowers, vegetables and herbs in one plot for naturally healthy results.

Take those popular green beans, climbing and bush varieties, for example. Beans are, all too often, plagued by attacks from various hungry beetles but if they are inter-planted with French marigolds, tagetes or petunias, beetles think twice about moving in as, apparently, they cannot stand the smell of any of these attractive flowers and, if you add aromatic celery to the mix the beetles are deterred for sure!

Likewise, planting a circle of common chives or, even better, garlic chives around rose bushes, drives away blackfly, greenfly, whitefly and lots of other nasties too. Chives have the added bonus of producing, in the case of common chives, spherical heads of edible mauve-pink flowers while garlic chives produce edible, flat heads of white blooms which are adored by hoverflies, honey bees and other beneficial insects.

Cabbage white butterflies like nothing better than a decent patch of cabbages, cauliflowers or other member of the ‘Brassica’ family on which to lay their eggs so that the resultant caterpillars can enjoy a handy feast; planting rosemary and sage in the Brassica patch drives the butterflies to seek an alternative egg-laying place.

Strong smelling sage and pungent onions, alternated with rows of sweet smelling carrots, disguises the tempting carrot smell, totally hiding the succulent roots from the delicate noses of the carrot fly thus protecting the crop from harm.

There are numerous, scientifically proven, examples of successful companion planting. Look into it and give it a try!

– B Khan

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 22, 2013.