If you’re eager to grow an herb garden, you may be asking yourself some questions, such as “Should I plant many herbs at the same time?” “What herbs grow well together?” “How do I choose the best combination of herbs?”
I’m here to help you with the answers.
With years of experience, gardeners have discovered that some plants grow better when coupled with certain other plants than they do on their own. That’s what we call “companion planting.”
Companion planting is used extensively in healthy organic gardening for its success in replacing pesticides.
Although the science behind companion planting is not well understood, its practical results are known to all professional gardeners.
Many herbs are cooperative when grown together, but a few don’t do well and can be invasive. We’re going to explore these concepts thoroughly in this article.
Benefits of Growing Your Herbs Together
When thinking of growing herbs together, you can only focus on plants that don’t disrupt each other’s growth.
But, you can take it a step further, and start thinking of herbs that can improve the growth and health of each other.
Consider the following benefits of planting certain herbs together:
The strong aroma of some herbs is a good repellent of pests and deviates them from their target plants.
To avoid using chemicals, organic gardeners use different varieties of herbs, such as mint, to keep pests away from their plants.
Note that the pest-repulsive capacity of herbs doesn’t appear immediately after you grow them, so you need to wait a few months before you see any results.
It’s not yet been proven scientifically, but some plants have characteristics that improve the flavor of other plants.
Basil, for example, is frequently used to enhance the flavor of tomatoes.
There isn’t a rule of thumb, however, that you can follow to decide what plants enhance the flavor of other plants, which is why you should experiment and try different combinations of compatible herbs.
With practice, you’ll end up tasting many different herbs and deciding which combination is the best to boost flavor.
The Tall Shields the Small
Herbs have different light requirements, so too much sunlight can be harsh on some of your plants.
Shade-loving herbs need less light during the day. And you can let them enjoy darkness by planting taller light-loving herbs around them.
Doing this will decrease the amount of light your smaller shade-loving herbs receive and ensure that the taller ones get most of it.
How to Choose Your Combination
You should consider these important factors to be able to choose the best combination of herbs.
Light and Temperature
You can combine full-sun herbs with shade-loving ones, but what if your herbs have similar light requirements or grow to a similar height? Or what if your garden receives extreme levels of sunlight or shade during the day?
In this case, you can grow herbs that have the same sensitivity to light. For instance, coriander is a full-sun plant; hence, you can grow it with sage, which also loves the sun.
If you’re not growing your herbs in a temperature-regulated space, combine the ones that can handle your climate.
Nutrient and Water Needs
Herbs that grow in the same pot or container should be able to thrive on the same amount of water.
As for nutrients, however, they shouldn’t be competing for them.
In general, herbs don’t need a lot of nutrients because they don’t end up fruiting. So, using rich soil and frequently amending it would usually prevent your herbs from competing for food.
If you want to play it safe, you can:
- Grow together herbs that are moderate or slow-growing
- Grow each species of fast-growing herbs with slow-growing herbs
One way to do companion planting successfully is by growing herbs of the same family.
You can grow spearmint, peppermint, and catmint all together in one container. They have the same growth requirements and would never harm each other.
The only disadvantage here is that families are usually susceptible to the same type of pests. In this case, one herb can’t protect the other.
This is absolutely important. Since companion planting is all about practice, specificity is essential.
When combining plants, I usually search for “this plant plus this plant” in books and on the Internet. Most of the time, that’s the best way to grow herbs together.
But remember although you can’t follow a scientific rule here, you need to know the temperature, nutrient, and light needs of your herbs before growing them together.
To find the best combination, you need to experiment and check other gardeners’ practices.
But what herbs grow well together according to previous practices? well, here are the best combinations:
1. Thyme with All
Thyme is known to be a good companion plant with nearly all herbs. It’s kind and harmless to its nearby neighbors.
One of its known benefits is its ability to confuse pests by its very strong scent, thus acting as a repellent.
Thyme loves light, warm temperatures, and fast-draining soil. So, it’s better if you grow it with drought-loving plants, such as sage.
2. Rosemary and Sage
Rosemary and sage not only share the same characteristics, but they also have a wonderful relationship.
They both love the sun, and they both repel harmful insects. On top of that, rosemary is known to boost the flavor of sage.
I plant sage and rosemary in the same pot with other drought-loving herbs, such as thyme.
Keep in mind, however, that sage doesn’t do well with rue or basil.
3. Mint and Stinging Nettle
Many gardeners think that stinging nettle is a weed and this is incorrect. The plant is considered an herb and it is actually quite beneficial.
It can be used to relieve arthritis, seasonal allergies, diabetes and more.
In companion planting, nettles are known to strengthen the growth of mint and they enhance its production of flavorful oils.
Mint, however, can be invasive. Except for stinging nettle, don’t plant mint with other herbs in the same container, but you should always keep it in your garden.
4. Basil and Oregano
Basil and oregano are two must-grow plants. With their fabulous flavors and health benefits, these herbs should always be in your kitchen.
When planted together, oregano and basil can grow firmly and healthy. Oregano has a very strong smell that keeps pests away and eventually protects the nearby basil.
You can plant these herbs in the same container, but you always need to prune and harvest them to prevent the plants from invading each other’s space.
5. Aloe Vera with All
Aloe vera is known for its gel that can be used as a burn remedy and skin moisturizer. This herb loves light and requires only a small amount of water to grow.
Aloe vera doesn’t attract many pests as other herbs do, so the main benefit of growing it with other herbs is to repel harmful insects.
Aloe vera is also completely harmless to other plants. You don’t have to think twice before planting it in your garden. But it is drought-loving, so make sure to grow it with herbs that have similar watering needs.
Conclusion: Practice, Practice, and Practice
Now that you know what herbs grow well together, you should start practicing.
Remember that you can be creative. As long as you keep in mind the most important principles, you can combine your herbs the way you prefer.
Most herbs can be safely grown together, with some having a unique relationship. So, don’t be afraid to start innovating!