COLUMBIA, S.C. — Many times we hear less is more, but if you want to pack in a lot of plants in a small space, a big variety will keep your garden interesting and could protect your plants too. In Gandy’s Garden at News 19, I plant several types of plants in each garden bed to bring a level of protection to plants (more on that below!).

Planting a species of plants next to each other may seem like the most logical approach because it’s how we see many farms operate. Those vast fields of one type of crop are called monocultures which don’t have a great reputation in the backyard gardening community. Planting a single type of plant near each other is easier for large framing operations to plant and harvest, but it also makes it easier for a pest or problem to have a full out feast.

Many pests in the garden are “species specific”. Squash borers for example will destroy a squash crop, but the insects won’t touch tomatoes. It turns out “social distancing” is a good practice to keep our plants safe too which is why we plant multiple types of plants in the same garden bed in Gandy’s Garden.

Choosing Companion Plants

Not every plant makes a good companion plant. Choose companion plants based on their growing requirements and habits. Spinach and Broccoli prefer cooler temperatures, full sun, and have a similar growth rate. That makes them a perfect pair.

Peas and leafy greens like arugula have a great partnership despite their completely different growth habits. Peas grow tall and arugula grow short; however, pea roots encourage the growth of a soil bacteria that improves nitrogen levels in the soil. Plants grow faster with nitrogen available so it’s a perfect relationship. Both Peas and Arugula are cool season plants so we planted tomatoes in the same garden bed to bring something perfect to look forward to during the summertime.