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Companion planting involves strategically placing plants close to one another to create a mutually beneficial relationship.
The best companion plants for olive trees are the ones to improve the health of your olive tree, meet the same water needs, and aren’t fragile for dropping olive fruits. They can help to repel pests that might harm your precious trees. Also, the right companion plants can promote better root growth, improve soil quality, and even attract pollinators.
You can balance and harmonize your landscape’s colors, sizes, and leaf shapes by selecting the right plant combinations for your olive trees. Indeed, combining plants in a garden is an art that rewards you with a magical view. Sounds pretty amazing, right?
In this ultimate guide, I’ll share my top picks for the best companion plants for olive trees that benefit your tree, grow along nicely, and ensure prosperous thriving. Stick around, and let’s dive into companion planting together!
- I. The Science Behind Companion Planting
- II. Best Companion Plants for Olive Trees:
- 1. Repellents
- 2. Attractors
- 3. Nitrogen-fixing Plants
- 4. Classic Mediterranean Herbs
- 5. Other Companion Plants Ideas
- III. Olive Tree Guild
- IV. Tips for Succesful Companion Planting
- V. Common Mistakes to Avoid in Companion Planting
- VI. Frequently Asked Questions
- VII. Final Thoughts
I. The Science Behind Companion Planting
Companion planting is a fantastic, natural, and sustainable way to help your olive trees – and the rest of your garden – thrive. It’s the practice of planting different species close together, with the idea that they’ll provide mutual benefits. It’s like setting up your plants on the perfect playdate, where they’ll work together and support each other in growing strong and healthy.
How Companion Planting Works?
Here’s the scoop on how companion planting works:
- Mutual Benefits: When plants are good companions, they help each other. For example, some plants provide shade or support for their neighbors, while others release substances that stimulate growth. It’s a win-win situation where each plant contributes to the success of the other.
- Pest Control: Some plants have the unique ability to repel pests naturally. Planting these pest fighters near your olive trees allows you to keep unwanted critters at bay without resorting to harsh chemicals. Plus, certain plants attract beneficial insects that prey on the bad bugs, giving your olive trees an extra layer of protection.
- Soil Improvement: Companion plants can also work wonders for your soil. Some plants, like legumes, are excellent nitrogen-fixers, which means they take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that plants can use. Other plants have deep roots that break up compacted soil, allowing for better water penetration and aeration. Planting these soil improvers near your olive trees will create a healthier environment for your trees to grow.
- Pollination Boost: Many plants, especially those with brightly colored flowers, are great at attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies. Planting these near your olive trees can help increase pollination rates, ensuring a bountiful harvest of olives each season.
II. Best Companion Plants for Olive Trees:
Olive trees growing inside or outdoors are vulnerable to pests such as scale insects, aphids, and other bugs. So First, let’s look into the best companion plants for olive trees that either deter or lure away harmful unwanted bugs. These are the most popular and easy to grow, the perfect combination for olive trees:
Marigolds are an excellent combination for olive trees because they easy adaptable, low maintenance, and can withstand hot summers. Moreover, marigolds smell drives away so many unwanted insects, so they not only protect but prize beautiful yellow or orange flowers.
Marigolds provide multiple benefits for your olive trees, including repelling nematodes, attracting pollinators, and adding a pop of color to your garden.
Plant marigolds about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) apart from your olive trees in a sunny location. Moderate watering is sufficient for these vibrant flowers.
Petunias are one of the most popular companion plants for olive trees. You can find petunias in every color; their care is simple and easy. Petunias are not only beautiful, but they also help repel various pests, such as aphids and whiteflies.
Plant petunias about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) away from your olive trees in a sunny spot. Moderate watering will keep petunias healthy and thriving.
This olive tree in a container looks gorgeous – it is planted next to different colored flowers with pink color petunias.
Borage is another similar herb plant that prevents olive trees from pests and attracts pollinating bees, and adds trace minerals to the soil.
It is an easy-growing annual herb. Space borage plants about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) apart from your olive trees, providing full sun exposure. Borage prefers moderate watering.
The best thing about borage is that all parts of this herb are tasty and have culinary use: you can use vivid blue starry flowers to decorate salads, and you can add cucumber-flavored leaves to your tea or other beverages.
Nasturtium plants are also easy to grow, maybe climbing, cascading, or bushy. These unique editable plants can lure aphids and whiteflies away from your olive tree growing next to them and also attracts pollinators.
Plant nasturtiums about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) away from your olive trees and provide full sun exposure. Nasturtium is drought-tolerant and requires moderate watering.
Other pest-repelling plants:
By incorporating these pest-repelling plants into your garden, you can help protect your plants from unwanted pests without the need for harmful chemical pesticides. Plus, many of these plants are easy to grow and can simultaneously add beauty and fragrance to your garden!
Secondly, you can pick an exceptional companion for planting under olive trees with more to do with attracting beneficial insects and bugs.
They play a crucial role in pollinating olive trees – essential for producing fruit – and can also help control pests that can damage olives. This means that having a healthy population of beneficial insects in your garden can help to ensure a bountiful harvest and protect your plants from harm.
For example, these good insects eat other bugs, such as aphids that love to eat olive tree leaves.
Yarrow is a lovely addition next to your olive tree. It is a carefree plant with little need.
Yarrow is a medical herb that treats minor wounds, reduces fever, and attracts lacewings and ladybugs, which feed on aphids. Yarrow offers multiple benefits for your olive trees, including improving soil fertility, attracting pollinators, and repelling pests.
Space yarrow about 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) apart from your olive trees, and ensure it has full sun exposure. Yarrow is drought-tolerant and requires moderate watering.
Dill or Fennel
Dill is a popular herb in your kitchen and can be a great companion to your olive tree.
So if you grow your fresh dill, you get another benefit from it since it helps to charm ladybugs or lacewings, which eat aphids.
Fennel offers numerous benefits, including attracting beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings. However, be cautious when planting fennel, as it can inhibit the growth of some plants.
Plant dill or fennel about 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120 cm) away from your olive trees and provide full sun exposure. They prefer moderate watering.
Lemon balm creates a bushy and leafy impression for your landscape. This herb has a pleasant lemon smell and small white flowers that attract tachinid flies and wasps, which kill harmful caterpillars from your olive trees. This fragrant herb repels pests and attracts pollinators.
Plant lemon balm about 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) away from your olive trees in a sunny or partially shaded location. Moderate watering will keep lemon balm healthy.
Parsley and tansy
Another excellent companion plant for olive trees can be parsley, known for its nutritional value and fantastic flavor added to the dishes.
Moreover, growing parsley also makes a lovely edging herb with its curly foliage that invites good flies and wasps, killing harmful predators for your olive trees and other plants. Parsley attracts beneficial insects and provides a good ground cover, making it a great companion plant for olive trees.
Plant parsley about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) away from your olive trees, in a location with full sun to partial shade. Parsley prefers moderate watering to stay healthy and vigorous.
Other attractors plants: edible herbs like Coriander or flowers like Salvia and Sunflowers.
- Bee balm (also known as monarda)
- Clover (especially sweet clover)
- Mint (including spearmint and peppermint)
To create a thriving garden ecosystem, look no further than these insect-friendly plants! They can attract many beneficial insects, from busy bees and beautiful butterflies to helpful ladybugs and lacewings.
Bees and butterflies are crucial pollinators that play a vital role in helping plants produce fruit and seeds. Meanwhile, ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators that can help control pesky garden pests like aphids. And let’s not forget about hoverflies – they may look like bees or wasps, but they’re beneficial insects that can help to keep your garden pest-free by feasting on aphids, thrips, and whiteflies.
3. Nitrogen-fixing Plants
Some nitrogen-fixing plants that can be used as companion plants for olive trees include clover, alfalfa, vetch, and beans. These plants can convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be used by other plants in the soil, which can help to improve soil fertility and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.
Peas and Alfalfa
Peas look beautiful as a plant and leak nitrogen into the ground, benefiting hungry olive trees. Plant peas about 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) away from your olive trees in a spot with full sun to partial shade. Peas require regular watering to thrive, so ensure they receive adequate moisture.
Let your legumes nurture to build nitrogen for a while, then collect peas and cut them back to the ground to release them into the soil.
Other nitrogen-fixing plants:
- Beans (including bush beans, pole beans, and lima beans)
- Peas (including garden peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas)
- Clover (including red clover and white clover)
- Fava beans
- Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans)
These amazing plants are called nitrogen fixers, and they play a crucial role in boosting soil fertity and reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers.
4. Classic Mediterranean Herbs
Finally, an excellent classic combination for olive trees is Mediterranean herbs, including basil, bay leaf, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, fenugreek, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, saﬀron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme and much more.
They grow well with olive trees and have similar watering and soil nutrition needs. And most importantly, you can use them for culinary and decorative purposes.
Lavender is a top choice for companion planting with olive trees. Its fragrant and beautiful blooms repel pests while attracting pollinators, and it even enhances the flavor of olives.
Plant lavender about 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) from your olive trees, in a spot with full sun exposure. Both lavender and olive trees are drought-tolerant, so moderate watering is sufficient.
Lavender is an excellent herb for building variety in your backyard and creating a magical landscape.
Thyme is a great companion plant for olive trees, repelling pests, attracting pollinators, and enhancing the flavor of your olives. Well, thyme is used for both culinary and decorative uses.
Growing and flourishing thyme well under olive trees and other plants is easy. Space thyme about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) apart from your olive trees, ensuring both plants have full sun exposure. Like olive trees, thyme requires moderate watering.
If you are looking for a Mediterranean native herb plant, then oregano must be your choice. There is no authentic Greek dish without oregano, so this herb is valued by every Greek family and grows everywhere: under the olive tree, in pots indoors, or the kitchen.
Due to its strong aroma and spicy, intense flavor, you will never regret introducing oregano to your seasoning set.
Oregano is another fragrant herb that complements the flavor of olives, repels pests and attracts pollinators. Plant oregano about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) away from your olive trees, ensuring it has full sun exposure. Like most herbs, oregano prefers moderate watering to maintain healthy growth.
5. Other Companion Plants Ideas
Bulbs are annual plants that bloom during spring and summer, whereas they become dormant in winter. The good thing about bulbs is that they use collected space and have huge stunning flowers.
Succulents are remarkably adaptable and can be one of the favorite options as companion plants for olive trees. They are tiny plants so you can mix and match wide varieties.
Santolina is one of the Mediterranean evergreen subshrubs suitable for hot, dry summer and full sun. It grows easily, suits various soils, and is an excellent addition to any landscape. In terms of color match, Santolina looks very similar and fits perfectly with the silver-green olive oil leaves color.
Germander comes from the Mediterranean and is drought, soil, and exposure tolerant. It is an evergreen subshrub that blooms lavender-like flowers.
Tussock grasses or bunch grasses grow in clumps or tufts and have a decorative purpose for your landscape. For this reason, it can be one of the best options for a companion plant for your olive tree growing outdoors or in a large pot.
III. Olive Tree Guild
An olive tree guild is a permaculture technique that involves planting a combination of plants and herbs around an olive tree to create a self-sustaining ecosystem. The guild consists of companion plants that benefit the olive tree by improving soil fertility, attracting beneficial insects, and deterring pests.
Nitrogen fixers are an essential group of plants to include in an olive tree guild. These plants, such as legumes like beans and peas, can take nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that plants in the soil can use. By planting nitrogen fixers in your olive tree guild, you can increase the amount of nitrogen available to the olive tree and other plants in the guild.
Another critical element of an olive tree guild is the use of suppressor plants. These plants can suppress weeds and prevent soil erosion, helping to protect the soil and keep it healthy. Examples of suppressor plants include clover, comfrey, and groundcovers like thyme and oregano. By planting suppressor plants in your olive tree guild, you can help to create a more stable and productive ecosystem.
Other plants that can be included in an olive tree guild include herbs like rosemary, which can deter pests and provide *a habitat for beneficial insects like bees and ladybugs. Fennel is another herb that can attract beneficial insects, while marigolds can repel pests and add a splash of color to the garden. Nasturtiums are also an excellent addition to an olive tree guild, as they can repel pests and attract pollinators.
In addition to these companion plants, you can include fruit trees like apples and pears in your olive tree guild. These trees provide additional food and habitat for beneficial insects and can also help create a more diverse and resilient ecosystem.
By creating an olive tree guild with a variety of companion plants, you can enhance your olive tree’s health and productivity while promoting biodiversity and creating a more sustainable garden.
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IV. Tips for Succesful Companion Planting
Creating a harmonious garden with companion plants is an art and a science. Pay attention to your plants’ proper spacing and arrangement to get the most out of your companion planting efforts. Here are some tips to help you succeed:
1. Proper Spacing
Spacing is crucial when it comes to companion planting. Giving your plants enough room to grow ensures they can access the nutrients, sunlight, and water they need. Each plant has different spacing requirements, so be sure to research the specific needs of the plants you’re working with.
In general, it’s a good idea to space smaller plants like herbs and flowers about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) away from your olive trees. Larger plants, such as shrubs and other trees, may need 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120 cm) or more to grow and develop properly.
2. Arrangement of Plants
When arranging your companion plants, consider their growth habits and how they’ll interact with one another. For example, planting taller plants on the north side of your garden will ensure they don’t cast shade on the smaller plants to their south.
Also, mix plants with different root depths. Some plants have shallow roots, while others have deep root systems. Combining plants with different root depths helps them access nutrients at varying soil levels, reducing competition and promoting overall garden health.
Grouping plants with similar water and sunlight needs is another smart strategy. This makes it easier to provide the right growing conditions for your plants without causing stress to any of them.
Different plants have varying water requirements. In general, olive trees are drought-tolerant and require moderate watering. However, some companion plants may need more or less water.
To make watering more efficient, group plants with similar water needs together. This will help you provide the right amount of moisture to each plant without overwatering or underwatering. Be sure to monitor the soil moisture and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
Fertilization is another essential aspect of maintaining a healthy companion planting setup. Some plants, like legumes, can fix nitrogen in the soil, while others may need additional nutrients to thrive.
Before applying fertilizers, test your soil to determine its nutrient levels and pH. This will help you choose the right type of fertilizer for your garden.
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Organic fertilizers, such as compost, aged manure, or worm castings, are excellent choices for maintaining soil fertility without harming your plants or the environment. Apply fertilizers according to the specific needs of your plants, and avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to nutrient imbalances and harm your plants.
Remember that some plants, like olive trees, have low nutrient requirements, so be cautious not to over-fertilize them. On the other hand, some companion plants may need more nutrients to flourish. Adjust your fertilization practices based on the specific needs of your plants.
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5. Monitoring and Maintaining the Health of Your Plants
Take the time to observe your garden regularly. This will help you identify any issues, such as pest infestations, disease, or nutrient deficiencies before they become severe problems. Look for signs of stress, such as yellowing leaves, wilting, or stunted growth, and address them promptly.
For more about signs of issues and troubleshooting, check out my article problems with olive trees in pots.
Companion planting can help reduce pest problems by attracting beneficial insects and repelling harmful ones. However, monitoring your plants for signs of pest damage is still crucial. If you notice an infestation, take action by using organic pest control methods, such as introducing beneficial insects, using insecticidal soap, or applying neem oil.
To prevent disease, promote good air circulation by properly spacing your plants and pruning your olive trees as needed. Remove any dead or diseased plant material from your garden, as it can harbor pathogens that may spread to healthy plants. If you notice signs of disease, remove the affected plant parts and treat the area with a suitable organic fungicide.
Healthy soil is the foundation of a thriving garden. Regularly test your soil to ensure it has the right pH and nutrient levels for your olive trees and companion plants. Add organic matter, such as compost, to improve soil structure and fertility. Rotate your crops to prevent nutrient depletion and discourage the buildup of pests and diseases.
Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around your plants to help retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Mulching can also encourage beneficial organisms, like earthworms, which help aerate the soil and break down organic matter.
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V. Common Mistakes to Avoid in Companion Planting
Companion planting can bring numerous benefits to your garden, but you should avoid some common mistakes to ensure success. Let’s dive into these pitfalls and learn how to steer clear of them:
1. Overcrowding Plants
While it may be tempting to pack your garden full of beautiful and beneficial plants, doing so can actually be counterproductive.
When plants are placed too closely together, they compete for valuable resources such as sunlight, water, and nutrients. This competition can lead to stunted growth, reduced yields, and even unhealthy plants more susceptible to pests and diseases.
To avoid overcrowding, consider the spacing requirements for each plant species. Ensure you provide enough room for your olive trees and companion plants to grow and thrive without competing with each other. Proper spacing also promotes better air circulation, reducing the risk of fungal diseases and creating a more comfortable environment for beneficial insects.
When planning your garden, take the time to research each plant’s specific needs and adjust your layout accordingly.
2. Incompatible Plant Pairings
Another mistake to watch out for in companion planting is selecting incompatible plant pairings. While some plants work wonderfully together, offering mutual benefits and support, others can adversely affect each other, resulting in decreased growth or even harm.
Incompatible plant pairings can increase resource competition, pest issues, or other garden problems. Before planting, research each plant’s specific needs and characteristics to ensure compatibility. This will help you choose complementary plants and create a harmonious and thriving garden environment.
For instance, some plants may release chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants, while others may attract pests that are harmful to their neighbors. To prevent these issues, it’s crucial to understand the unique relationships between your olive trees and their companion plants.
By carefully selecting compatible plants for your garden, you’ll create a balanced ecosystem that benefits your olive trees and their companions alike.
3. Neglecting Pest Control and Prevention Measures
A key aspect of successful companion planting is addressing pest control and prevention. While companion plants can help deter pests and attract beneficial insects, relying solely on them and neglecting other pest control measures is a mistake.
To maintain a healthy and thriving garden, you should proactively manage pests. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Regular Inspections: Check your plants frequently for any signs of pests or damage. Early detection and intervention are critical to preventing infestations from getting out of hand.
- Garden Cleanliness: Keep your garden clean and free of debris. Pests often hide in fallen leaves, decaying plant matter, and other clutter, so remove any potential hiding spots.
- Organic Pest Control: When dealing with pests, opt for organic pest control methods to minimize harm to your plants, beneficial insects, and the environment. Introduce beneficial insects, use insecticidal soap, or apply neem oil to address pest problems.
- Natural Barriers: Create physical barriers or use natural repellents, such as crushed eggshells or diatomaceous earth, to keep pests away from your plants.
By staying vigilant and proactive with pest control and prevention measures, your companion planting efforts will lead to a healthier and more productive garden.
VI. Frequently Asked Questions
What are companion plants for olive trees?
Companion plants for olive trees are species that can be grown together with olive trees, providing various benefits such as pest control, soil improvement, attracting pollinators, and enhancing the flavor of olives. Examples of companion plants for olive trees include lavender, rosemary, marigolds, thyme, clover, and yarrow.
Can companion plants harm olive trees?
Some companion plants can compete with olive trees for nutrients and water, so choosing companion plants with similar water and nutrient requirements is essential.
Additionally, some companion plants may attract pests that can harm olive trees, so you should choose plants known to repel pests rather than attract them. Always research each plant’s needs and characteristics to ensure compatibility before planting them near your olive trees.
How do I choose companion plants for my olive trees?
To choose companion plants for your olive trees, consider the following factors:
– Benefits: Look for plants that offer specific benefits, such as pest control, attracting pollinators, improving soil quality, or enhancing the flavor of olives.
– Compatibility: Ensure that the companion plants have similar growing requirements as your olive trees, such as sunlight, water, and soil preferences.
– Non-competition: Avoid plants that compete with your olive trees for resources or have allelopathic effects, which can inhibit the growth of other plants.
– Local climate and conditions: Choose companion plants well-suited to your area’s climate and growing conditions.
– Aesthetic appeal: Select plants that will complement the appearance of your olive trees and create a visually appealing garden.
Why should I use companion plants for my olive trees?
Companion planting provides various benefits, including pest control, attracting pollinators, soil improvement, and even enhancing the flavor of your olives. It also creates a more diverse and visually appealing garden.
Can I plant herbs near my olive trees?
Yes, many herbs make excellent companions for olive trees. Herbs like lavender, rosemary, thyme, and oregano not only repel pests but also attract pollinators and complement the flavor of olives.
How do I know if my companion plants are working?
Monitor your garden regularly for signs of improvement, such as reduced pest infestations, healthier plants, and increased pollinator activity. It may take some time to see the full benefits of companion planting, so be patient and consistent in your gardening efforts.
VII. Final Thoughts
To summarize, potential companion plants for olive trees mentioned in this article are easy to grow and adaptable. They are drought and soil tolerant and have the same soil and weather condition requirements as olive trees. So many of them can be the best combination for your tree and add charm to your landscape.
Thus, if you are unsure which companion plant to choose for your olive trees, you can mix multiple plants and herbs and place them under your olive tree.
For example, it never can go wrong if you plant lavender together with rosemary or oregano. Or red petunias in terracotta pots under the olive tree.
Alternatively, grow leaf vegetables or draft tomatoes. You would not only create a unique landscape but as well have fresh herbs for seasoning your dishes.
Don’t be afraid to try to mix different varieties of plants next to olive trees – you can always transplant them quickly into a new space next spring!
I hope this article gave you many ideas for the best plant combination to grow well with olive trees.
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Hi, I’m Vangelis Kleftogiannis, the founder of Oliviada and an established olive oil expert from Kalamata, Greece. My expertise isn’t just in producing quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but also in the cultivation and care of olive trees themselves. I am deeply committed to sharing my knowledge and know-how, helping others understand the intricacies of olive tree growing and the creation of quality olive oil.
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