As we plan our garden every year, we always like to include a big garden experiment.

In past years, it has led to quite a few innovations. And, of course, a few failures as well.

To a garden lover, taking chances and trying new things is all part of the fun.

It is, after all, how we discovered the ease of growing potatoes and sweet potatoes in crates. Not only is it simple, but its a great way to a huge, low-maintenance harvest. See : How To Grow Your Best Potato / Sweet Potato Crop Ever  

big garden experiment
Growing potatoes in crates. A simple way to a big harvest!

And it is also where we learned to never again till by simply planting through a cover crop. See : Our Best Garden Experiment Ever

So what is on tap for this year?

Our Big Garden Experiment For 2019 – Companion Planting To The MAX!

With a full growing season on tap before leaving on our big much-anticipated 50 state cross-country trip in the fall, we wanted to try something big for the garden.

And this year it’s all about companion planting – and the power of the flower.

We love using companion planting in our garden. Companion planting is all about the relationships plants have to each when grown beside each other. (see Companion Planting Basics)

For instance, growing basil beside tomatoes is highly beneficial. Basil is a natural deterrent against aphids, beetles and the dreaded tomato hornworm. Growing basil near tomatoes is also thought to improve a tomato’s flavor.


big garden experiment
Basil can be grown near tomatoes to help deter tomato hornworms.

But in addition to planting co-beneficial vegetable plants and herbs together, there are many flowers that can seriously aid in a vegetable garden’s overall health and vitality.

Many annual flowers are big in helping to repel pests and disease. They are also great in keeping away insects harmful to the gardener – like mosquitoes!

Even more, flowers can aid in keeping unwanted animals out of the garden. Animals that can be highly destructive to a garden. Like rabbits, squirrels, and even deer.

So we decided this year to try the power of flowers in our garden. In a very big, colorful way!

A Garden Filled With Color And Beauty – For A Big Reason!

This year, we are going to fill our garden with 4 extremely beneficial annual flowers and herbs. And I mean a lot of them!

big garden experiment
Marigolds are an incredible companion plant in the garden. They will play a huge part of our Big Garden Experiment.

Hopefully, it will create an explosion full of color in the garden. It should also be wonderful for our honey bees – and attract many additional pollinators.

And of course, big help with above mentioned repelling of pests, disease and critters.

The Plan For The Big Garden Experiment

In each and every growing row around our vegetable plants, we will plant 3 varieties of annual flowers that are extremely helpful to a garden. Marigolds, Nasturtiums, and Sweet Alyssum.

We will also be planting a large quantity of basil as well. Especially in our tomato rows.

We will still use straw in the rows to cover the soil. But planted through the straw will be all of the flowers and herbs.

big garden experiment
Nasturtiums provide beautiful color. And big protection for plants!

And we don’t mean a few plants here and there. We intend to crowd the growing space around the veggie plants with flowers.

In fact, hopefully, by season’s end, you will only be able to see the vegetable plants and blooms. Not only should it look beautiful, the foliage will help conserve moisture in the soil.

In addition, the outer edges of the garden fence will be seeded thick with marigolds. This will help serve as a natural first barrier to animals as well. Plus -we think it will look pretty darn colorful too!

Here is a quick look at the four annuals we will be using, and why.

The Four Annuals and Herbs With True Flower Power


Marigolds are amazing at attracting beneficial insects, and repelling bad ones.

Parasitic wasps that help control cabbage and tomato worms love marigolds. So do ladybugs. And they feast on aphids and mealy bugs.

Their aromatic flowers help keep away damaging insects and animals too. Squirrels, rabbits and even chipmunks are not especially fond of them.

Seed Link: Marigold Seed Mix


Nasturtiums are super-easy to grow from seed. And they are one of the best natural insect repellents around. They produce a chemical in the air that keeps away white flies, aphids and squash bugs.

And mosquitoes absolutely hate them! Seed Link: Nasturtium Seed Mix

big garden experiment
Basil is an amazing herb. And it grows easily from seed.


As stated above – basil is simply a wonder plant.

Not only does it help tomatoes and repel insects – it is wonderful as a culinary herb. I cannot wait to see and smell it growing all over our garden.  Seed Link : Basil Seed

Sweet Alyssum

The tiny blooms of sweet alyssum are mighty helpful in the garden.

They are incredible at attracting a huge variety of beneficial insects. And, like marigolds and nasturtiums and basil, they can be grown easily from seed.  Seed Link : Sweet Alyssum Seed

Here is to Flower Power, Companion Planting, and our Big Garden Experiment! Jim and Mary.  To receive our 3 Home, Garden, Recipe and Simple Life articles each week, sign up for our free email list.

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The Big Garden Experiment – Taking Companion Planting To A New Level!

9 thoughts on “The Big Garden Experiment – Taking Companion Planting To A New Level!

  • January 13, 2019 at 1:53 am

    Are there any plants that repel squash bugs? They are my nemesis.

  • January 12, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    Your idea is great. I add edible flowers and herbs to the block border of my raised garden every year. It definitely dresses up the look of the beds, which is great as mine are next to the street. The flowers and herbs help the vege plants and I have very few pests as a result. The garden is fully organic, and I don’t spray at all. I sometimes pick off and squish bugs, but the “bad” ones are rare.
    Also, the flowers are absolutely beautiful in salads and I use the herbs both fresh in the summer and dried in the winter.

    I recommend you add some borage to your flower list. It grows well from seed and the tiny blue star flower are set prolifically. I can go out and pick a hundred flowers from two plants in the morning and find they have a hundred more open by afternoon. The plants are too tall for your between the rows plan, but would do well at the end/corners. And they are the best bee attractant I’ve found. If you collect seeds in the fall, your total cost will be just for the initial package of seeds.

    I tried to add a pic with no luck.

    My experiment this year is to add perennial veges such as, Malta are spinach, sorrel, rhubarb, as well as kale and Swiss chard to the front common land. Last year I used a burgundy leaf lettuce and edible violas as the garden edging and received tons of compliments as well as queries on how they could grow that “plant”.

    Good luck on your 2019 garden.

  • January 7, 2019 at 7:14 am

    Looking forward to seeing the progress of this project, it should be beautiful! I plant some marigolds and nasturtiums throughout my garden but not on this scale! I’m a little confused though about the picture you have labled as Nasturtiums, aren’t they begonias?

  • January 6, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    I am curious if you were planning on trying to keep the nasturtium out of your walking paths between beds or just walk on them? They have a radish or onion smell when crushed. The flowers are edible. Try on salads. The taste resembles radishes. They are prolific reseeders. And excellent at creeping to fill in every space. My nasturtium grows nearly knee-high and keeps everything wet within its radish-y tangled mass. Good for conserving soil moisture. Less good if you’re looking for good air flow around the base of your tomatoes. I regularly gather great armfuls of extra plant material out of my paths and toss it to the goats. Best wishes. I really appreciate your blog!

  • January 6, 2019 at 6:38 pm

    The last and only time I grew nasturtium, I was inundated with flea beetles. Apparently, nasturtium and alyssum are from the same family as mustard, which flea beetles love. Consequently, I am now scared to plant them. Do you have any experience with flea beetles?

  • January 6, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    I recently read an article on bees, and how they don’t like all flowers, that some hybrids actually repel the bees. I’m sorry to say I don’t remember where I read it, maybe it was from Dave’s Garden at

    The article was talking about how some hybrid flowers don’t actually make the type of nectar that honey bees need. I know this comment is not as detailed as it should be, but hopefully this can give you a place to start to make sure your bees will get the best nectar.

    I love your blog, and even though I’m unable to garden any longer, your blog is one of the few gardening emails that I have not unsubscribed from. Keep up the good work, and I can hardly wait to see pictures of your lovely garden this summer!

  • January 6, 2019 at 11:14 am

    This is terrific. Please consider Ames Iowa on your tour. I Have a strip till for small farmers and gardeners however it is too difficult to use by hand so it works well with a two wheel tractor or any tractor. Of course the wheel s need to be spaced in the alley. Multiple units can run in the cover crop. It is open source so any one can produce it

  • January 6, 2019 at 11:07 am

    How about a little milkweed for butterflies?

  • January 6, 2019 at 9:16 am

    Oh I do like your plan it sounds gorgeous!!! And so yummy I love the peppery taste of nasturtiums in salads.
    The first I’m going to have to do some soil improvements. the garden has all the nutritional value of Styrofoam.
    I’m looking forward to seeing your new garden!?

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