Helen Grundmann Garden Design

Beneficial Plants For Your Veggie Garden

Basil, Borage and Bugs

As many of us are pouring through seed catalogs and dreaming of snacking on sweet peas fresh out of the pod or roasting brussel sprouts on the grill to be served with reduced balsamic glaze, don’t forget the flowers. While I am strongly attracted to flowers for the beauty they bring to the garden, it is their ability to repel that earns them a place in my raised bed vegetable garden.

Garden chores may sound like a Debbie-Downer to some people, but here is a plan to make your garden do some of its own work. I find that if I use my loop hoe in the early part of the season I can stay ahead of the weeds until the garden fills in. However, hungry bugs are around all season. By including specific plants you can actually reduce the bug population and increase your harvest. This is a key benefit of companion planting. These heroes of the garden invite beneficial insects and repel the harmful pests. I don’t necessarily want to kill the pests because they may have another role I’m not aware of, but I would like them to take their act on the road.

Plan to include these herbs in your garden. Treat it like planning a party. You want all of the guests to get along but you also want everyone to contribute to the conversation. Have fun, be colorful, and let the party begin!

Basil– The aromatic oils are said to repel thrips, carrot flies and flea beetles. Basil also improves the growth and flavor of tomatoes when grown together. They’re great companions at the table too!

Hummingbird on 'Jacob Cline' Monarda (Bee Balm)

Hummingbird on ‘Jacob Cline’ Monarda (Bee Balm)

Bee Balm– All parts of this plant are fragrant and honey bees and other pollinators adore it. It, too, enhances the size and flavor of tomatoes. Be careful though because it does spread by underground stems known as rhizomes.




BorageWhile this annual herb freely seeds in your garden its wildness is soon forgiven for its vivid blue, star-like flowers. In addition to attracting honeybees, it provides potassium and calcium while repelling tomato hornworm and cabbage worms. Calcium is important in preventing blossom end rot in tomatoes. Plant it with tomatoes, and squash. Its long bloom period provides nectar and pollen for the pollinators long into the season.

Chives These diminutive members of the onion family (allium) form neat little clumps or edging in the garden.   They repel Japanese Beetles and therefore are also good companions for the fruit orchard and rose garden. They repel aphids, mites and nematodes* and are good companion plants for carrots.



DahliasThe darlings of the garden are a secret weapon against nematodes*. Don’t let their pretty faces fool you!

French MarigoldsThe roots of French Marigold contain a chemical which repels root infesting nematodes*. They also use this “chemical warfare” to compete with other species thereby deterring weeds. This chemical has been known to persist in the soil so be sure to plant it only where you do not intend to grow vegetables. Marigold companion planting enhances the growth of basil, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, gourds, kale, potatoes, squash and tomatoes. Marigold also makes a good companion plant to melons because it deters beetles.

RosemaryThis pungent Mediterranean herb repels cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies. It is also delicious dried and served with julienned carrots sautéed in olive oil.

Every year my eyes are bigger than my garden. I am seduced by another heirloom tomato or in love with another beet. I’m grateful that some veggies believe in taking their turn and making room for something new in that space. This year, I plan to incorporate more of these herbs in the garden and vow to cut back on the tomatoes! Wish me luck!





*A note on nematodes: there are good nematodes and bad nematodes (just like witches in Oz). Beneficial nematodes seek out and kill harmful soil-dwelling insect pests, like grubs, but do not harm plant roots and earthworms. These occur naturally in healthy soil and feed on bacteria, fungi, protozoan and even other nematodes. They play a very important role in nutrient cycling and release of nutrients for plant growth. The bad guys are known as plant parasitic nematodes, which feed on plant roots and can inject pathogens into plants via their saliva. The repellent plants I mention in this article are meant to deter the unwelcome nematodes.

Recommended Reading:

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte

Companion Planting Reference:

Companion Plant Chart. Excellent printable reference from Afristar


  1. Linda Thomas says:

    Thanks for this blog, Helen. I have 18 tomato seedlings under lights – want some!

    • Helen Grundmann says:

      Hi Linda,
      Do you have them tagged?
      I grew 13 different kinds of tomatoes last year.
      I’m still creating a list of my favorites.

    • Helen Grundman says:

      Thank you, Linda!
      Last year I grew 13 different kinds of tomatoes.
      I’m still creating a list of my favorites.
      This year I’m going to focus on root crops as well.
      I tend to have more time for my own garden when
      the “buried treasures” are ready for harvest!

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