One of the easiest things you can do as a gardener to help your vegetable garden thrive is to incorporate companion planting. It’s a great strategy for so many reasons, like repelling pests and preventing diseases.
There are plants that thrive together and then there are others that should never be planted near each other. So throughout this article I’ll give examples of both.
Vegetable Garden Companion Planting
The easiest way to begin companion planting is to just group crop families together. This is beneficial because crop families require similar needs and are prone to similar pests and diseases.
Other than grouping crop families together there are a few reasons why you would want to companion plant.
First, for saving garden space. For example you could plant short season crops in the same garden bed as longer season crops, that way you’ll be harvesting the short season crop before it competes with the long season crop.
Learn more about short and long season crops in my article about Succession Planting.
Second, for deterring garden pests. Certain crops planted near each other can help keep pests away and then there are certain plants that attract beneficial insects, which is just as helpful!
Third, to help each other grow. The third reason why companion plants do well together is because they provide added benefits. For example, plants in the Fabaceae family are able to fix nitrogen into the soil.
The History of Companion Planting
Companion planting has been used for thousands of years to grow healthier plants and to produce greater harvests.
One of the most interesting stories I’ve read about, regarding companion planting, is the Three Sisters Garden which originated from the Native Americans.
The method involves planting beans, corn, and squash together.
You plant rows of a tall sturdy variety of corn, plant pole beans around each corn plant which will grow up the stalks of the corn, and then plant winter squash or a pumpkin plant variety that will sprawl out throughout the corn and beans.
So whether you try out the Native American method or just plant vegetables together that benefit from one another, you can take your garden to the next level!
Tomato Companion Plants
Tomatoes and Carrots – Carrots aerate the soil around tomato roots helping the tomato plants grow healthier roots.
Tomatoes and Basil – Basil is a great companion because it helps repel flies, mosquitoes, spider mites, and aphids.
Other Tomato Companions – Lettuce, spinach, celery, and onions.
Keep tomatoes away from: Corn and potatoes.
Corn and tomatoes are both susceptible to the corn earworm, and potatoes and tomatoes can both be affected by blight. So keeping these crops separate from each other will help lessen the chance of pests and disease.
Carrot Companion Plants
Carrots and Trellised Cucumbers – Carrots are heat sensitive so they do well being shaded.
In my garden I have my cucumbers in a garden bed with an over arching trellis, then I plant the carrots in a couple rows down the middle of the garden box so that the trellised cucumbers end up shading the tops of the carrots.
Carrots also benefit near tomatoes since the much taller tomato plants help to shade them.
Carrots and Onions – The onions help keep away the carrot fly which is a common pest. Onions will also help with repelling aphids.
Carrots and Radishes – These are great companions for saving space in your garden bed.
Radishes are ready to harvest much quicker than carrots so you can plant them in between rows of carrots and they should be ready to harvest a couple weeks after the tops of the carrots start coming up.
Once they are harvested it gives your carrots the space they need to keep on growing.
Carrots and Leeks – Leeks repel carrot flies and carrots keep away leek moths and onion flies.
Keep carrots separate from: Coriander and dill because they each produce compounds that are bad for carrot plants.
Parsnips should also be kept separate from carrots because they are susceptible to the same pests and diseases.
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Cucumber Companion Plants
Cucumbers and Radishes or Lettuce – You can plant lettuce or radishes in between your cucumbers and plan to harvest before they get overtaken by the larger crop.
Keep cucumbers away from: Aromatic herbs. For example, sage can stunt the growth of the cucumber plants.
Onion Companion Plants
Onions are beneficial for deterring pests when planted near many crops. Good companions include:
Onions should to be kept away from: Peas, asparagus, and beans.
Okra Companion Plants
Okra and Radishes – Radishes are known for loosening the soil around the okra plants which helps the okra grow deeper and stronger roots.
Okra and Baby Lettuce mix – The okra can help provide some shade for the lettuce and since lettuce has a shallow root system, they won’t be competing for root space.
Okra and Basil – The basil will repel flies, spider mites, and aphids which are all problem pests for okra.
Squash Companion Plants
Winter Squash and Corn – These two crops do well together because corn grows vertically and winter squash sprawls out.
Summer Squash and Lettuce or Arugula – You can plant lettuce, arugula, or both along the outer edges of your summer squash garden bed to help use up space more efficiently.
You should end up harvesting the lettuce and arugula before the squash plants get really big.
Other squash companions include:
Keep summer squash away from: Potatoes, they are both prone to blight.
Other Vegetable Companions
Corn & Green Beans – You can plant your green beans so that they grow up the corn stalks instead of a trellis.
Mint & Lettuce – Planting mint amongst your lettuce plants helps to keep slugs away. But be sure to keep your mint in pots because it spreads like crazy.
Cilantro and Beans or Vegetables from the Brassicaceae family – Cilantro helps repel aphids so it is a great herb to plant near any vegetables with aphid problems.
Keep green beans away from beets and anything in the onion family. Onions are known for interfering with the growth of the green bean plants.
So as you plant your garden this year, try to incorporate some of the above planting strategies. You’ll be amazed at what the companion plants can do for each other!
And… if you’re interested in growing a weed free, bug free, productive vegetable garden that pretty much runs on autopilot, I have just what you need!
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