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Whether you’re new to growing your own fruit and veg and are making a start on being more self-sufficient, or looking for a way to improve your current fruit and veg growing practices, companion planting could be a great way to go.

A technique that involves creating a community of mutually beneficial plants, companion planting can improve pollination and provide an organic method of pest reduction. Also known as a polyculture, planting different species side-by-side can offer a range of other benefits, including improving soil structure, boosting nutrients and reducing disease.

However, selecting the wrong pairings can inhibit growth, so if you’re considering companion planting, it’s vital to make sure you group the right plants together. To help you, we’ve put together this companion planting guide for three of the UK’s most popular plants: tomatoes, strawberries and carrots.

Tomato Companion Plants

Generally considered as an easy-to-grow plant, beginners often opt for tomatoes as one of their first home-grown foods. However, just like any other produce, in the wrong conditions tomato plants can perish. To prevent this, consider growing tomato-friendly plants nearby.

Tomato Friendly Plants

  1. Carrots: their roots penetrate deeper into the soil, helping to bring more nutrients and water to the surface, benefitting tomato growth.
  2. Basil: the scent of basil is known to repel a range of pests, attract bees to improve pollination and enhance the flavour of nearby tomatoes.
  3. Garlic: the smell of garlic deters spider mites which would otherwise damage tomatoes.

Additionally, parsley, lettuce and onion may also work as tomato companion plants.

Plants Benefitted by Tomatoes

  1. Asparagus: tomatoes produce a chemical that repels the asparagus beetle.
  2. Gooseberries: the scent produced by tomatoes deters pests that prey on gooseberries.

Plants to Avoid

  1. Fennel: this can limit the growth of tomatoes.
  2. Potatoes: planting potatoes nearby may increase the risk of tomato blight.
  3. Cabbage family: this includes plants like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, which are known to inhibit tomato growth.

Strawberry Companion Plants

A delicious fruit and a favourite home-grown option, with the right neighbours, strawberries can flourish in any garden. To assist yours, here are the strawberry companion plants that can help, as well as the ones that can hinder.

Strawberry Friendly Plants

  1. Onions and garlic: the scents produced help to repel common strawberry pests.
  2. Beans: legumes boost soil nutrition, helping strawberries to flourish.
  3. Thyme: planting thyme next to a strawberry patch can be an effective worm deterrent – one of the biggest strawberry pests.

Plants Benefitted by Strawberries

  1. Lettuce and spinach: mutually beneficial, planting lettuce and spinach in close proximity to strawberries can help all three flourish.

Plants to Avoid

  1. Cabbage family: including kale, cabbage and broccoli, the cabbage family can inhibit the growth of strawberries.

Carrot Companion Plants

Carrots are another popular option and can be a great choice for companion planting in the UK. This is because they work well with a variety of plants, although there are a few you should avoid.

Carrot Friendly Plants

  1. Tomatoes: they provide lots of shade to help carrots stay cool while also producing a chemical called solanine that repels carrot flies.
  2. Onions and leeks: their scent works as a deterrent to carrot flies and pests.
  3. Chives: their fragrance can help to enhance the flavour of your carrots.

In addition, sage, rosemary and lettuce are popular carrot companion plants.

Plants to Avoid

  1. Parsnips and celery: while these belong to the same family as carrots, they are vulnerable to the same pests, so it’s best to avoid planting them together.
  2. Coriander and dill: damaging chemicals released by these herbs can stunt growth.

Additional Companion Planting Tips

Take a look at our yearly sowing, planting and harvesting planner, invest in a polytunnel for year-long growth, and consider these additional companion planting tips:

  1. Plant herbs across your vegetable patch (being careful to avoid harmful pairings like carrot and coriander), as their scent can deter insects.
  2. Add insect and bird friendly varieties to your garden to enhance pollination and attract friendly predators.
  3. Avoid grouping the same plant together (known as a monoculture), as this can expose your fruits and vegetables to disease and pests.
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With the arrival of autumn, you may think that your vegetable growing season is over. However, with a little preparation, the help of our yearly guide and a polytunnel, you can still sow and grow fresh produce during the colder months. This is because while many associate gardening with spring, autumn can provide a plentiful harvest while winter months are the perfect time for planning and sowing.

There are many varieties of vegetables that can be sown in autumn ready for a winter harvest, while other plants can be over-wintered – these are planted in autumn and remain dormant until the spring. So, if you’re yet to start sowing or growing your seasonal veg, then fear not, as you still have time to reap the best of the winter season.

Ready to get started? If you’re wondering what to grow in a polytunnel in September, October and beyond, we’ve compiled this guide to help you extend your growing season.

What to Grow in a Polytunnel Over Winter

A polytunnel can create the ideal sowing and growing conditions for winter vegetables, shielding them from cold, frost and wind. However, winter growing can be daunting. To help, here’s what to grow in a polytunnel in winter.

Autumn and Winter Vegetables

In addition to herbs like coriander, salad leaves and lettuce, which can be grown all year, there are a couple of other delicious crops that can be sown in autumn and enjoyed during winter.

Polytunnel Growing in WinterRadish

These are a popular choice for growing during the winter, due largely to their fast four-week harvesting period and can be sown as late as October. To enjoy in November and December, plant in your polytunnel 20cm apart for optimal growth.

Turnip

Turnip can be sown and planted during early autumn, ready to be picked in winter. A relatively easy plant to grow, these can be sown directly into the ground when using a polytunnel. To produce the best crop, it’s recommended to space plants 25cm apart.

Carrots

Carrots are an ideal late-season choice, particularly because they are a hardy vegetable and can thrive in colder temperatures, even in frosty conditions. Plant in the early autumn with a minimum of 10cm between them and keep the soil moist for the best harvest.

Over-Winter Vegetables

Winter provides green-thumbed individuals with the opportunity to get a head start for spring. This is referred to as overwintering, as plants can be sown and stay in the ground during winter, ready to harvest in spring. However, due to cold temperatures, only certain crops can be over-wintered. This includes the examples below.

Garlic

A low maintenance plant, garlic is an ideal choice for over-wintering. It also thrives in colder weather, with temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius boosting growth. Space approximately 15cm apart and harvest in the summer for fragrant garlic.

Broad Beans

Ideal for later in the season, broad beans can be planted up until November and will be ready to pick in the spring. For best results, sow indoors to protect seedlings from the elements, then plant in your polytunnel with a 15cm gap. 

Kale

Easy to grow and weather hardy, kale is an ideal choice for over-wintering. To start the kale off, use indoor trays or propagators for sowing before transferring to your polytunnel. If you’re lucky, you may get a small winter harvest, but expect to see your kale sprout in the spring.

In addition to garlic, broad beans and kale, onions and peas are also ideal for over-wintering, providing a plentiful harvest in early spring.

Getting Your Polytunnel Ready for Winter

Getting Your Polytunnel Ready for WinterWhile you may now have more of an idea of what to grow in a polytunnel over winter, it’s also important to prep your polytunnel, to provide the optimum conditions for autumn growth and over-wintering plants.

  1. Clean up your polytunnel. With fewer hours of sunlight, making sure your polytunnel is clean allows your crops to get as much light as possible during the day.
  2. Check for damage. If there are any tears in your polytunnel cover, this will allow the cold and wind to enter, which could damage plants and put the cover under stress in windy weather. As such, check for damage and carry out any necessary repairs. Repair tape is ideal for repairing tears in the polythene. Alternatively, it may be time to get a replacement polytunnel cover or invest in a new polytunnel.
  3. Get the temperature right. Although heating a polytunnel can be expensive, you could boost the internal temperature with an additional insulating layer such as bubble wrap or a protective fleece blanket.
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