Companion Planting: Grouping Vegetables in Your Garden
1.0 What is Companion Planting
In practice, it means pairing or grouping the plants, that help and benefit each other, due to specific properties they offer to one another.
For example, to partially protect your potatoes from disease, planting it together with horseradish will help. There are many beneficial combinations of veggies, herbs, and other plants, that work together very well, and we will try to inform you about the many possibilities of pairing or grouping.
1.1 The Advantages of Companion Planting
There are quite a few benefits of companion planting, such as;
The fact that certain herbs or plants can repel pests, has been known for centuries. Some plants might repel pests with their strong smell, others, will attract them, and distract them from their neighbors. In any case, they will be helpful. There are many good neighbors when it comes to this practice, and we will discuss many combinations.
Some plants will grow tall, and others need support to grow. Corn can make a good companion for plants, such as climbing beans, that can use corn for growth and support.
The Three Sisters
If you are planning to grow squash, you can change this duo into a trio, because this beneficial combination was named “the three sisters”, due to their good compatibility.
Improving the Flavor
Improving soil fertility
Some plants can make your soil more fertile. For example, planting peas or beans will give the soil more nitrogen, which can help the growth of certain other crops.
Improving appeal – with bonuses
Nasturtiums, for example, are beautiful flowers that repel many pests. They bloom in different beautiful colors, (shades of yellow, orange and red ) and are also edible! You can eat the flowers and leaves. Marigolds are known for their beauty and are widely known to repel pests. Planting useful and beautiful flowers is a win-win. We will talk about more variations later.
There are many combinations of plants that pair together well, and will “nurse” each other, due to specific benefits. For example, planting garlic with beets or other veggies such as cabbage, carrots, spinach, cauliflower and more, will protect the plants from different pests (Japanese beetles, snails, moths, aphids, ants and more).
The practicality itself, of planting crops together, to maximize and save your gardening space. Companion planting will give you a beautiful looking garden, save you lots of space, and some money on fertilizers and pesticides, as good companions might help one another thrive. Companion plants can usually be watered together and complement one another.
1.2 The Disadvantages of Companion Planting
Much of the data on companion planting is generations or even centuries old. Some data is scientifically supported, and other parts belong to the folklore. The already tested combinations, might not work every single time, depending on the quality of soil in your garden, the number of pests, etc.
A certain plant might repel some pests but might even attract others. Nevertheless, companion planting is a very old and tested practice, and even if it doesn’t go 100 % to plan, you have nothing to lose if you try it.
Incompatibility of certain plants
Some crops are not particularly fond of each other. While many plants grow and prosper together, some plants can even be harmful to each other. For this reason, we will also provide you with a list of “incompatible combinations”.
Different plant needs
Despite being good companions, different plants might require diverse growing temperatures, pH, the amount of sunlight, nutrients and more. When you are not completely sure of the plant’s compatibility, or you are dealing with weak plants that might not survive to pair, take all these factors into consideration
1.3 Should I have Different Sections with Borders?
When you are companion planting, you won’t need any borders. On the other hand, if you are trying to separate the unwanted neighbors, you can separate them with plants and borders, and keep them away from each other. The whole point of companion planting is to plant together those plants, that can benefit each other.
1.4 Which Vegetables Grow Better on Their Own?
Luckily, most of the vegetables, pair with someone. As most of the veggies have good and bad neighbors, the ones that should be left alone, are very rare. But some plants are better on their own, including walnut (very acidic) and fennel (doesn’t like any neighbors). There are of course bad neighbors for some veggies, that we will discuss later.
1.5 Do Some Plants Grow Better in Raised Beds Together?
Growing veggies in raised beds will give you better control over growing, as you avoid rocks and clay. You can combine radishes with carrots in your raised beds. Planting a combination of spinach, kale, and lettuce it’s another good option. Potatoes will grow best in raised beds and can be combined with spinach, borage, and parsley
1.6 Will I Still Need to Rotate my Crops?
You will still have to rotate your crops. Now you will have to find combinations that you can rotate together.
Beans and peas will improve your soil with nitrogen, so they are always good when it comes to crop rotation. Companion planting might improve the quality of your soil, which can reduce the time you will have to rotate your crops.
When you group together plants, they are companions because they don’t compete too much, therefore the soil will not be depleted as quickly as an unorganized yard. Once you have arranged the companions, you can then rotate the groups together – keeping companions.
2.0 Soil Types
There are roughly 5 different soil types, and these include; clay, sandy, silty, peaty and saline.
Clay type of soil can storage water well. Its particles are small and compressed together, that’s why it is not very airy. It doesn’t provide fast drainage and it holds the nutrients for longer. It requires more time to warm up in the spring. When clay soil gets harder and drier, it can be very difficult to work with.
Sandy soil consists of larger particles, and it’s very bad withholding water. The nutrients and the water do not get retained for long, and it’s hard for plants to use them. It does get warm fast in the spring, and it’s easier to work with.
Silty soil is somewhat similar to the touch of sandy soil, but the size of particles is smaller. Silty soil lets marks on your skin when wet. Its water retaining properties are better than the sandy ones. The soil does not retain too many nutrients, making it less fertile. Its drainage properties are not too good, and it’s not very airy either. If you apply pressure (stomping), it can become compact and hard to work with.
Peaty soil is dark in color, soft to the touch and rich with organic matter. It was slowly formed for hundreds or thousands of years, after the period of melting glaciers. It has good water-retaining properties. Peat soil is used to regulate the soil pH, as it holds acidic water.
Saline soil, like the name implies, contains high amounts of soluble salts. It can damage the growth of plants, and delay or prevent germination. It’s fairly easy to see if your soil is saline, as you will notice a white layer on the surface. If you have plants, they are probably barely growing and not many of them germinated.
The perfect soil – loamy
Loamy soil consists of silt, clay, and sand with additional humus. The pH is higher and it contains more calcium. Loamy soil is darker, soft and crumbly. It has good drainage properties, holds nutrients and it’s airy.
2.1 Testing Soil pH Level
When testing the pH level of the soil, you can decide to hire a lab. They will take samples of your soil and also measure other parameters such as;
- The pH of the soil
- Levels of calcium, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, and phosphorus
- Organic content
- Soil texture
- Levels of nitrogen and possibly more
You can always do it yourself if you only require the pH of the soil.
Buy a pH test
The pH test strips are the easiest way to measure your soil’s pH. You can simply order them online or get them in specialized gardening stores.
Prepare the soil
Mix a cup of soil with distilled water (room temperature). Place the soil into a bowl and add distilled water, mix until you get a thicker but still liquid consistency.
Follow the instructions on your pH test and measure the pH with the strips. Usually, you will need to dip the pH strips inside the mixture for half a minute.
Compare your result of the pH strip to the test’s key. Often the pH will be marked with different colors. That’s it, you’ve measured your soil’s pH level.
2.2 Changing Soil pH Level
If your soil has a pH below 7 (acidic), you can add a cup of quick lime or dolomite. Mix it with the soil well and retest your soil. This can gradually help you to change your soil pH. You can repeat the treatment if needed. You can also use smaller amounts of wood ash. If you are not completely sure, that you are doing everything right, you can always ask a gardening professional.
If your soil pH is above 7 (alkaline), you can add few cups of peat moss, pine needles or dry tree leaves. An additional option is adding sulfur. Retest the soil and repeat until you get the levels you want.
Target specific areas
Different plants might require different pH, so you can change the pH on different parts of your soil, according to their needs.
3.0 What Should I Group Together? + Example Companion Groups
Asparagus Companion Plants
Asparagus grows better surrounded by nasturtiums, marigolds, parsley, and basil.
You could say, that asparagus doesn’t have any particular problem with other crops, as long as the soil is well-drained (but moist), rich in nutrients and there is enough light.
It might not be too happy, close to garlic and onion, as they need similar nutrients to thrive, and might “steal” from each other.
Beans Companion Plants
Beans will work well with corn and squash (as mentioned before), and also with; potatoes, cucumbers, soybeans and celery. Beans and peas enrich the soil with nitrogen. Separate them from onion and garlic.
Broccoli Companion Plants
If you plant onions close to your broccoli, you might improve its flavor. Broccoli will do fine next to onions, potatoes, cabbage, and beets.
Cabbage Companion Plants
Cabbage will do well, with tomatoes, kale, spinach, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts. Tomatoes will help to repel the caterpillars, which attack cabbage heads.
Carrots Companion Plants
Carrots don’t thrive in strong sun, so tomatoes can help them providing some shade. Tomatoes and carrots help each other, as tomatoes can repel some pests that attack carrots, and the carrots can improve the soil quality for tomatoes. As you can see, onions, carrots, and tomatoes all make good neighbors for each other.
Corn Companion Plants
As mentioned before, corn is very friendly with beans and squash, having a nickname of “three sisters”. While corn gives support to the beans, they will enrich the soil with nitrogen, helping corn and other neighbors to thrive. This will make the corn grow bigger and tastier! The third “sister”, Mrs squash, will prevent the growth of weeds, due to its big leaves, helping the beans and corn to grow.
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Corn also provides support for cucumbers, peas, melons, and squash.
Cucumber Companion Plants
Marigolds and nasturtiums will repel pests off your cucumbers when planted near. Beans and peas will enrich the soil with nitrogen, helping the cucumbers to thrive.
Good neighbors for the cucumber are; peas, beans, corn, lettuce, and celery.
Kale Companion Plants
Kale is fairly undemanding and can grow with everything, except with tomatoes. Actually, there are some reports that in some cases can even grow well with tomatoes.
Some examples are; hyssop, marigolds and nasturtium, Artichokes, beets, celery, cucumber, lettuce, and onion.
Lettuce Companion Plants
Lettuce will happily grow almost next to everything. So we will list the “bad” neighbor list for lettuce, as it’s much shorter. Lettuce will grow with almost everything, however, there are some unfavorable combinations with broccoli, Brussel sprouts, parsley, potatoes, and lavender.
Companion examples are; beets, carrots, parsnips, strawberries, radishes, onions, asparagus, and corn.
Marigold Companion Plants
Marigolds will attract bees and help them to thrive. They will protect your tomatoes by repelling nematodes, slugs, worms, and other pests. They are low maintenance and they add appeal to your yard or garden.
Companion examples are; cucumbers, melons, eggplants, squash, potatoes, lettuce, pumpkins and tomatoes.
Nasturtium Companion Plants
Nasturtiums are very easy going and will grow in many different gardens. They are somewhat drought-tolerant and they even thrive in poor soil and help to improve it. They are edible and you can also feed them to your chickens if you have a farm. They also attract bees and other pollinators. Nasturtiums are one of the best companion plants, as they repel pests from your veggies. After the blooming seasons, when the flowers are dry, you can collect their pea-sized seeds and replant them next year. Some good companion examples are; broccoli, Brussel sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, kale, pumpkins, and squash.
Onion Companion Plants
Onions and carrots help each other repel pests. Onions might repel the carrot fly, and carrots can help repel the onion fly. Onions might also help to minimize aphids, on neighboring plants. Other onion friends include; cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, beets, rosemary, and marjoram.
Peppers Companion Plants
Basil is a good companion for peppers, repelling flies, mosquitoes, mites, aphids and more. It’s believed that basil improves the flavor of peppers and tomatoes. Other good companions for peppers include; tomatoes, spinach, and onions. Peppers, tomatoes, and basil can definitely make a good trio.
Potato Companion Plants
Potatoes grow well with beans, corn, parsley, and spinach.
Radish Companion Plants
Radishes are very good for your health and for your garden. It’s super easy to grow them, and they grow well with many plants. You can plant them amongst carrots or cucumbers. When planted with cucumbers, they will protect the cucumbers from pests, when paired with carrots, they will mature faster, improving the soil for the carrots. Radishes will also attract pests, that would otherwise attack spinach. The “leaf miners” will move, and nibble on radish leaves, leaving the underground part intact. Radishes are paired well with; beets, cabbage, spinach, kale, eggplants, peas, and lettuce.
Rosemary Companion Plants
Rosemary will help many plants, by repelling cabbage moths, beetles, and carrot flies. Especially sage, beans, carrots, broccoli, and cabbage can benefit from rosemary.
Sage Companion Plants
Sage will attract butterflies and bees, it’s easy to grow and is drought tolerant. It’s beneficial for your health and makes a good companion for rosemary, radishes, and carrots. Don’t plant sage close to cucumbers.
Spinach Companion Plants
Spinach made more friends than enemies. Spinach can grow with almost everything, just like lettuce. The plants that should not be paired with spinach are; beet, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and swiss chard.
Strawberry Companion Plants
Strawberries are not too complicated, as they can grow with almost everything. The only three plants you should keep away, are cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Some examples of companions are; horseradish, rhubarb, lettuce, marigolds, onions, chives, sage, and spinach.
Tomato Companion Plants
Basil and tomatoes work together, on your pizza and pasta, but they also work together in your garden. Basil can increase the tomato yields and repels mosquitoes, flies and other pests. It might also improve its flavor. Other good tomato neighbors include; peppers, asparagus, carrots, onions, parsley, spinach, and celery.
3.1 The Bad Companions & Why
Potatoes and cucumbers compete for water and nutrients, and should not be planted together. You should avoid planting additional vining crops next to your cucumbers, as they will compete for space and nutrients. Sage somehow attracts pests to the cucumber and shouldn’t be nearby.
Corn and Tomatoes
Corn and tomatoes are not good together, as they both get attacked by the corn earworm. Potatoes, tomatoes, and squash should be separated because they all get affected by the same type of blight and they might all get sick together.
Dill and Coriander
Dill and coriander both release substances that can be harmful to carrots, so avoid planting them nearby. Carrots and parsnips both get attacked by carrot flies and other diseases, so they should be planted apart from each other.
Bean and Peppers
Beans should not be grown next to peppers, to avoid the vines spreading on the peppers.
Onions and Peas/Beans
Onion and garlic might inhibit the growth of peas and beans, so they should be apart.
Peppers and Fennel
Peppers and fennel will compete for nutrients and space, not to mention they require different conditions. Fennel, in general, is not a good neighbor, as it doesn’t get along with almost anybody and should be planted away from other plants.
Beets and Beans
Beets should be kept away from beans, as it will restrict their growth.
Turnips and Potatoes
Don’t mix turnips with potatoes, as potatoes will inhibit their growth.
There are many things about companion planting that make it worthwhile. You will be saving space, improving your soil, repelling pests and helping your garden to thrive. Including beautiful and useful flowers and herbs is a plus, to increase the appeal of your garden or yard and repel pests at the same time.
Companion Planting is Beneficial
The advantages of grouping, outweigh any potential disadvantages, which don’t really pose a threat to your garden.
We hope we gave you lots of useful information about properly pairing and grouping your crops, to help you form your garden the best you can. Enjoy making your garden happy with companions.
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