Why give your plant companions?
There are many ways growers can control and prevent pests from attacking their plants. Through the strategy of companion planting, a repellent for pests can be built into your growing environment. Companion planting, also known as permaculture, is the practice of planting beneficial plants close together to mimic the ecosystem they would have naturally grown in. It is the most eco-friendly and long-lasting way to provide a natural ‘insecticide’ and ‘fungicide’ for your garden.
To reap the benefits of companion planting, beneficial plants should be planted close to your cannabis, but not so close that the two will compete for root space or other resources. Therefore, it is important to consider these plants’ growth and rooting structure. There are many benefits of companion planting for cannabis, as the plant responds very favorably to the technique.
The immediate and long-term benefits can be vigorous growth, greater resistance to disease and pests, or heavier yields and more essential oil production. More specifically, depending on the plants you choose to surround your ladies with and the boost they provide to your garden, your plants could benefit from:
- Better overall soil quality, through greater water penetration, better water retention and greater availability of essential nutrients;
- A pest repellant through fragrance emission, chemicals released in the soil, or through attracting beneficial predatory insects;
- Potentially greater yields due to greater availability of nutrients, growth stimulation for a plethora of reasons, the potential for greater essential oil production, and increased turgor in your plants;
- And lastly, the fragrance emitted by some beneficial plants has the secondary benefit of masking the pungent smell of your cannabis.
Types of companion plants
Cannabis-friendly garden companion plants that are meant to target pests generally fall into three categories, which I will call resistance plants, repellant plants, and multi-combatant plants. Resistance plants are those plants that attract beneficial predatory insects that fend off
and snack on the baddies in your garden, riddling your plants with tiny little bodyguards. Repellant plants, on the other hand, deter pests from coming near the garden in the first place. These plants release a pungent odor or chemical compound that many pests despise, keeping them far from your garden. Multi-combatant plants offer up the benefits of both resistance and repellant plants, and can potentially provide added benefits to your garden above and beyond just pest control. Each companion plant has its benefits, most of them offering up more than just one.
If it is your first time growing outdoors, ask gardening neighbors what the biggest pest threats in the area are, or ask on your local Facebook Group.
Once you know, choose your companion plants according to the biggest local threats.
As stated previously, the first group of companion plants I’ve dubbed ‘resistance plants’ for their distinct ability to attract predator insects that then build a line of defense, or resistance, against any pests that come near or into your garden.
The first resistance plant is the long-rooted yarrow. You don’t want it competing with your cannabis for resources, so plant them at the edge of your garden far enough from your plants that they won’t be a hindrance. Yarrow attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs, aphid lions, hoverflies, and a variety of parasitic wasps. An added benefit to this plant is its believed ability to increase oil production in the plants neighboring it, though the science behind this is flimsy at best.
Secondly, alfalfa offers up the benefit of attracting insects like ladybugs, assassin beetles and predatory wasps while also keeping Lygus bugs at bay. The added benefits to alfalfa are that it is beneficial for the soil, and can be made into a great tea fertilizer. The soil perks are that alfalfa fixes nitrogen from the air and accumulates iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. The deep roots of the plant break up the soil, increasing water penetration and retention, and slowing evaporation.
When the stalks are dried and brewed into a tea it offers vitamin and mineral-rich concoction for your plants.
The second type of pest-controlling companion plant is the repellant plant. These plants scare away pests through the odor or oil they emit.
Basil is the best example of this type of companion, producing a strong smell that repels common insects like thrips, aphids, asparagus beetles, mosquitoes, tomato hornworm moths, and white flies. Basil is also said by many gardeners to increase the oil production and flavor of plants nearby, though this could just be gardening folklore. If you choose to plant basil around your garden just be careful to maintain it regularly, as basil is known to be invasive.
A second repellant plant is a garlic. Its strong odor is known to deter all forms of pests, and it can be blended into a mixture to spray on your plants as an extra level of deterrence. An added benefit of this friendly plant is that it acts as a natural fungicide, so if your climate is naturally damp and conducive to the growth of fungus, this is a great option for your garden. The third repellant plant is marigolds. These lovely flowers have been used for generations to help protect gardens. They emit a chemical in the soil that repels pests and is said to stimulate the growth of neighboring plants – similar to basil.
Additionally, marigolds are colorful and emit a great fragrance, enough to bait most pests into feasting on them instead of your prized cannabis. This way you can detect the presence of any pests before they even notice your plants are there.
Lastly, peppers are great for outdoor growers, deterring those larger pests like deer, rabbits and mice. Another great advantage to growing peppers is the chemical it exudes in the soil, protecting your roots from rotting. This is especially beneficial for those gardeners that live in areas with poor drainage, or excess amounts of rain.
The last group of pest-controlling companion plants is a hybrid of the previous two. These plants attract beneficial insects and repel the baddies. Some also have additional qualities beneficial for your garden.
The first multi-combatant plant is lemon balm, or ‘melissa’. This plant repels pests like mosquitoes and gnats, while simultaneously attracting beneficial pollinators to help protect your crop. Keep on top of maintenance for this plant though, as it is invasive and can get out of hand quite quickly.
Secondly is peppermint. Similar to basil, peppermint deters most pests- including ants, fleas, aphids, flea beetles, and mice from entering your garden simply by its pungent smell. If this weren’t enough, peppermint also attracts bees. The third benefit to this plant is that if you grow enough of it, it can help you mask the smell of your cannabis plants.
These plants work together to fend off pests like spider mites, aphids, cabbage looper, squash bugs, and potato beetles. Meanwhile, dill attracts beneficial insects like honey bees, hoverflies, and beneficial wasps. Additionally, they act as a bait and switch for caterpillars, allowing you to deal with them before they get too close to your cannabis.
Lavender is number four, attracting nectar-hunting predatory insects that will eat the larvae of most pests. Additionally, fleas, ticks, moths, and mice despise lavender.
Last, but certainly not least, is chamomile. Considered a companion plant staple, chamomile attracts honey bees and hoverflies while repelling mosquitoes, flies, and nematodes. Added benefits include being a natural fungicide, soil enricher, and is said to increase oil production and the turgor of the plants neighboring it.