It’s time to plan your garden. Today, I’ll take a stab at some of the things that have or haven’t worked for me.

It’s time to plan your garden. Today, I’ll take a stab at some of the things that have or haven’t worked for me.
Companion planting is shrouded in many truths, half-truths, and flat out untruths. My parents used it before it was called that. Tomatoes planted to the south of lettuce works; but only if the soil is enriched with manures. Simply cut the corn near the ground when harvested and the lettuce will flourish in the cooler temperatures. Sunflowers interspersed with tomatoes? Not in my garden. Of course, I leave dandelions growing near the tomato to help pull minerals from deep in the soil to the roots of the tomato and control disease.
I found I have better luck adding dill, hyssop, fennel, coriander, or bee phacelia to draw in beneficial insects. They are planted throughout the garden and allowed to flower. Except for corn, I try to mix my plants up to help make it a tiny bit harder for the pest to find their target.
I sparingly plant amaranthus (acts as a trap crop) with the bell peppers to keep the leaf miner at bay. Onions, leeks, and garlic helps with carrot rust flies. My fall crop was infested, so the alliums will go back in this spring. On the other hand, I tried garlic years ago with the rose bush before putting my brain in gear. The damage to the rose roots when I dug the garlic almost devastated my rose.
My tomatoes do poorly if planted with any of the brassica family members, even if they do repel flea beetles from collards. I’ve planted borage among broccoli and tomatoes and found the true help was the beneficial insects borage drew in. I did find the best control for all brassica insects is anti-insect netting.
I have had some success planting vining nasturtiums among cucurbits to control squash bugs and cucumber beetles. The more enriched the soil, the better the control. Growing cucumbers up sunflowers have never worked for me, nor has allowing pole beans to climb my sweet corn. On the other side is the strange fact that the pole bean climbed the two weeks older ‘Bloody Butcher’ corn plants. I left the ‘Tiger Eye’ bean to dry and harvested them along with the dark red corn.
When growing companion plants, remember this includes making your garden attractive to spiders, frogs, lizards, snakes, and birds. Birds consume a huge amount of insects feeding themselves and their young. Plants that help them hide, give them nesting material, and nectar required for their high-energy needs are sometimes considered weeds.
One companion planting I feel works is to place flowers all about the garden. I use the old-fashioned type flowers. Zinnias, pot marigolds, violas, coneflowers, jewelweed, salvia, any annual mint, coreopsis, and cosmos are just a few that will make your crops happy, give beneficials a place to stay until needed, and make ground dwelling critters a good home.
I believe mulching is probably more important than trying to make sure one plant is friendly with its neighbor. Improving the soil, making a habitat for all beneficials, and mixing up the plants is true companion planting.
Make sure you have a way to sit and enjoy your garden. That, too, is companion planting.
Happy gardening!  

Linda Simmons writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.