by Matt Gibson
Which garden plants do well together? When putting together a blueprint for a vegetable garden, it’s a good idea to research the different types of plants that improve the growth of other plants and which plants need their own space. This is the concept of companion planting and as the name suggests some species are good companions with beneficial effects and some plants inhibit the growth of their neighbors. There are tremendous benefits of companion planting, not the least of which is increased crop yield. In your own garden you need to learn what to plant where and what combinations to avoid. Well, we’ve done the work for you. The following pairings of vegetables complement each other perfectly in the garden.
Corn, Beans, and Squash (The Three Sisters)
Native Americans believed that these three plants were meant to grow together and couldn’t possibly thrive without one another. Not only are they great garden pals, corn, beans and squash also complement each other nutritionally.
When planted next to corn, bean vines grow and climb up the tall corn stalks as they intertwine.
Beans attract insects that prey upon the enemies of the corn plant. The beans keep harmful pests away from the corn, and the corn supports and provides a framework for the flimsy bean vines, allowing them to stretch out toward the sun and get plenty of soil nutrients.
In turn, the bean vines add stability to the structure, keeping the corn from blowing over in harsh winds. Beans also naturally produce and add enough nitrogen to the soil to feed the crops for the next growing cycle.
The squash plant thrives in the shade of its corn and bean vine neighbors. The squash plant’s shallow roots mulch the top layer of the soil and the sharp, spiny leaves do their part to discourage pests.
Go deeper: 14 Great Companion Plants for Growing Corn
Radishes with Spinach (and Squash, Too)
If you grow it, they will come. By “it,” we mean spinach, and by “they,” we mean leafminers. However, if you plant your spinach next to radishes, the radish plants will attract the leafminers to itself instead of the spinach. This group of plants works out for the gardener because the radishes grow well underground with the leafminers chewing away at their leaves, while the spinach plant is allowed to grow to its full capacity without being harmed by its archnemesis, the leafminer.
Radishes also help to repel the archnemesis of the squash plant, squash vine borers. Squash vine borers feast on the stem of the plant itself, suffocating the plant at its water source and killing it quickly. Plant rows of radishes in between rows of spinach and squash to keep garden pests at bay and have a productive garden.
Tomatoes with Cabbage
This one is a bit tricky. Tomatoes and cabbage are good for each other, but they are not exactly good neighbors. When planting out your vegetable garden, keep tomatoes away from cabbage and other brassicas, but you don’t need to put the tomatoes too far away from the cabbage. As long as the tomatoes are in the same garden bed—but not directly next to the cabbage—the tomatoes will play an important role in repelling diamondback moth larvae, caterpillars that are known to eat large holes through cabbage plants.
So, don’t snuggle tomato and cabbage rows up in close proximity, but don’t relegate them to the far corners of your garden either. Put another type of plant between these two, and give them at least two to four feet of space, as their root systems will compete with each other if they are drawing from the same soil.
Beans and Cauliflower
Cauliflower and beans are good friends in the garden because both plants attract beneficial insects while shunning pests. Celery, onion and dill also have a mutual benefit with cauliflower, but each have their drawbacks.
Celery helps to enrich the soil for its cauliflower plant neighbors, but it tends to bogart all the water. Onions help to deter pests from the cauliflower but are not a good companion to beans, which are the best choice to team up with cauliflower.
Instead of onions and celery, beans and cauliflower are a great companion with dill or maybe some zinnia flowers. The odor of dill provides natural pest control, while the zinnia blooms attract ladybugs, which prey on cauliflower pests. Whatever you do, keep your strawberries far away from cauliflower. Strawberries attract slugs that love munching on cauliflower heads.
Go deeper: 9 Green Bean Companion Plants to Consider
Peppers with Spinach, Lettuce, and Radishes (and more)
Pepper plants have a lot of friends in the garden. Their height provides much-needed shade to spinach, lettuce, and radish plants. Spinach, lettuce, and radish deter weeds from taking up space and vital nutrients from the flower bed, allowing the pepper plants to thrive.
Other great additions to this area of the garden are basil and chives, which add layers of flavor to the peppers as their odors ward off the pests that feed on the peppers and greens. Garlic, onions and leeks also do well in the company of peppers while deterring pests and adding depth to the flavor of surrounding plants.
Eggplant with Spinach, Thyme, and Tarragon
Eggplant attracts a lot of pests, and it’s hard to harvest without having to share a bit with the critters in your garden unless serious precautionary measures are taken to offset the issue.
Plant eggplant near thyme and tarragon, whose strong scents will keep pest insects away from the eggplant. It’s a great idea to plant spinach directly next to the eggplant to keep weeds at bay as they bask in the shade of the tall eggplants.
Broccoli with Onions, Garlic, Celery, and Beets (and More)
Broccoli is very amenable to successful companion planting as it gets along with just about everyone. Pungent plants like onions, garlic, celery, basil and sage all make great neighbors to broccoli—they all deter pests that feed on broccoli heads and attract insects that eat those pests as well.
Onion and celery also help improve the flavor of broccoli when planted nearby. Broccoli requires a large amount of calcium in the soil as well, so planting beets and nasturtiums next to broccoli is a great way to increase the calcium content of the soil.
Carrots with Tomatoes (and More)
Tomatoes are great companions for carrot plants, but be sure to plant them 15 to 20 inches apart because tomato plants can stunt the growth of your carrots. The large, bushy tomato plant provides ample shade for carrots, which are super sensitive to high heat levels.
Tomato plants not only enhance the flavor of carrots, they also ooze out solanine, which will deter pest populations that feed on carrots. To reciprocate the favor, carrots aerate the soil, allowing more water and air to reach each tomato plant’s root system.
Carrots also enjoy the company of different plants such as lettuce, radishes, chives, marigolds, and leeks. Onions are also good to have around carrots—but not in the same garden bed, as they will compete against each other if they are too close together. Just make sure your carrot plants are nowhere near dill or parsnips in your garden layout. These plant types do not coexist well together.
Go deeper: 14 Companion Plants for your Carrots
Cucumbers with Legumes (and More)
Cucumbers work well with all types of beans and peas. The root systems of bean and pea plants create bacteria that works to enrich the soil with nitrogen to the perfect levels for the cucumber. A few marigolds in the vicinity of your cucumbers will help deter beetles from snacking on them, and a few nasturtiums will keep aphids and other pests at bay.
Tansy flowers will deter a plethora of pests, including ants, beetles, and flying insects that pick apart the cucumber. Other plants that enjoy the company of cucumbers include cabbage, lettuce, corn, cauliflower, radishes, oregano, sunflowers, and onions. Avoid planting melons, potatoes, or sage near the cucumber patch.
Asparagus with Tomatoes (and More)
Like carrots, asparagus and tomatoes are beneficial companions. Asparagus prefers the company of tomatoes to any other possible garden buddies, though they get along with many other plants. The solanine mentioned above as helping deter the insects that pester carrots also works its magic on asparagus beetles and another of the asparagus plant’s worst enemies, nematodes.
The culinary herbs, parsley and basil, planted alongside the tomatoes near asparagus, will also help deter pests that feed on asparagus while helping boost the growth of the tomatoes. Other herbs that enjoy the company of asparagus include dill, coriander and comfrey.
Other veggies that get along well with asparagus include beets, lettuce and spinach, but none have the relationship that tomatoes have with asparagus plants. Avoid planting garlic, onions or potatoes anywhere near your asparagus section.
Go deeper: 13 Companion Plants for Beets to Consider
Potatoes with Beans, Peas, Squash, and Cabbage
Potatoes enjoy the company of beans, peas, and any of the plants from the cabbage family, such as cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli and kale. Grow basil, marigold, and sweet alyssum near potatoes to deter pests. Avoid putting your potato crops near cucumbers or pumpkins.
Not only do companion plants help each other out and improve your garden by helping the soil, managing weeds, warding off pests, and attracting beneficial insects, planning your vegetable garden out with good companion plants will also double the output of the space you’re using.