by Matt Gibson
Most gardeners are familiar with companion planting in the vegetable garden, finding combinations of compatible plants that grow well in pairs or as a group, such as the famous three sisters combo of squash, corn, and beans. There is also a science to companion planting in the herb garden, and many herbs are great complements to plants in your veggie garden as well.
The strong fragrances herbs are known for come along with lots of gardening benefits, from driving away pests that destroy your crops to enticing beneficial insects that feed on garden misfits. Some herbs can enhance the flavor of neighboring plants or increase the essential oil content of other herb specimens planted nearby.
Whether you’re plotting out your herb garden schematic or deciding what herbs to bring into your veggie garden this season, this is what you need to know.
Chives are a great all-around partner plant for most herbs and vegetables. Growing chives around rose beds has become popular with many rose gardeners. That’s because chives are known to ward off the rose bushes’ nemesis, the Japanese beetle, reduce black spot, and enhance the growth of the roses.
Chives work well with every other herb, and the pollinators they entice help boost the yields of many fruit and vegetable plants. Chives repel aphids, tiny white garden pests that destroy everything in sight. Plant them next to peas, lettuce, and celery, veggies that are highly susceptible to aphid attacks.
Growing chives is a must if you are harvesting cucumber plants. The oniony aroma chives produce deters the cucumber beetle, a little guy you do not want anywhere near your cucumber patch. Chives are also known to enhance the length and flavor of carrots as well as increasing the yield of tomato plants and deter pests from them.
Rosemary is one of the few herbs that don’t get along well with other herbs. In fact, the only herb that makes a good garden buddy for rosemary is sage. However, rosemary is a fantastic complement to many vegetables.
The best companion for rosemary in your garden is broccoli. Rosemary wards off the insects that attack broccoli heads while broccoli enriches the soil, allowing rosemary to thrive.
Rosemary also enjoys the company of beans, cabbage, and hot peppers. Keep rosemary a good distance away from carrots, potatoes, and pumpkins and away from all other herbs aside from sage.
Like rosemary, basil prefers the company of vegetables to other herbs. Like sage is the one exception when it comes to rosemary, oregano and chamomile are two exceptions when it comes to basil. Most other herbs, but especially rue and sage, should be kept far away from basil in the garden bed.
When it comes to veggie-herb combinations, tomatoes and basil go together like peas in a pod. Not only do they duet perfectly on a margherita pizzaor tossed together in balsamic with some fresh mozzarella. These two are also perfect partners in the garden, where each plant is said to enhance the flavor of the other.
Basil is also compatible with potatoes, beets, cabbage, beans, asparagus, eggplant, chili, and bell peppers. Planting marigolds near basil is a good move too, as the team works together to keep pests away from their neighbors as well as themselves.
Dill attracts a variety of beneficial insects you want to see in your garden bed, including ladybugs, butterflies, honey bees, wasps, hoverflies, and the majestic praying mantis. Dill also discourages the presence of aphids, cabbage loopers, and spider mites.
Veggies that love growing next to dill include lettuce, cucumbers, corn, asparagus, onions, and brassicas, such as brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and kohlrabi. Keep dill away from peppers, potatoes, carrots, and eggplant in the veggie garden as well as lavender in the herb garden.
Also known as mexican parsley, this flowering herb thrives in the cool season. Its favorite veggie garden buddies are tomato and spinach. The only thing you need to keep cilantro far away from is fennel, as the two are highly competitive when planted next to each other.
Cilantro also pairs well with many herbs, including basil, mint, tansy, yarrow, lavender, and dill. Throw some jalapenos and onions near your cilantro and tomatoes to have a pick-your-own salsa bar right there in your garden.
Sage is another herb that prefers growing near vegetables and fruits to most other herbs. The only herb sage enjoys bedding with is rosemary, so the best place for sage is in the vegetable garden.
Plant Sage around strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage. You might consider letting one or two of your sage plants flower. Not only are the blossoms are quite pretty, they also attract beneficial insects and pollinators that can help your whole garden.
Mint is a very invasive plant, so keep that in mind when considering adding it to your garden. If you decide plant it in beds instead of a container, be prepared to pull a lot of it up as it starts to spread where it doesn’t belong. Keep in mind that you only need so much mint, even if you’re an avid mojito connoisseur or tea drinker. However, too much of a good thing in the garden is never a bad idea, and the aroma of mint drives a lot of pests crazy, including aphids and flea beetles.
Plant mint near cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and radish. Plant mint next to carrots to ward away carrot flies—or next to onions to ward away onion flies. Try mint near your tomato plants if you are having trouble with aphids.
Other plants that work well with mint include beets, lettuce, kohlrabi, peas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, bell peppers, chili peppers, squash, and salad burnet. Mint gets along with just about everybody.
Tarragon is considered a nurse plant, meaning that its presence in the garden will enhance the flavor and increase the growth of anything it is planted next to. You literally can’t go wrong with planting tarragon in any place in your garden.
The smell of tarragon drives away most pests, and it can be used as a barrier plant to divide up sections of your garden bed. Tarragon’s favorite neighbor is eggplant, as eggplant is a very popular treat among garden pests and the odor of tarragon drives them away. Tarragon is also believed to increase the yield and flavor of eggplant crops.
Catnip is a treasure for our feline friends. Just a sprinkle of the dried herb can make cats go crazy. However, catnip is not only good for stimulating your favorite pet, it is also a fabulous addition to your garden.
Catnip plants in bloom will attract bees to your garden, helping to pollinate the rest of the plants in the vicinity. Meanwhile, the fragrance of catnip works to repel ants, aphids, cockroaches, beetles, and more. In fact, catnip will even ward off larger garden pests, such as mice, rats and weevils.
Plant catnip on the outer borders of your garden beds, along with hyssop. The plants are both highly beneficial to each other, and they create a very attractive border. The neighborhood cats will also most likely never make it past this outer edge to tear apart the rest of your garden either, as they will be too preoccupied with the catnip to care about other treats within. Catnip also pairs well with beets, pumpkins and squash.
Garlic is one of the most beneficial plants to grow, as it repels just about every type of pest that may try to step foot into your garden. Garlic’s pungent aroma can even drive away the deer and rabbits that would chew up your crops. Garlic is also a deterrent to fungus and mold, two other garden killers.
Garlic grows well with just about every plant you could put it next to, and it could be grown throughout your garden in multiple locations. It’s easier to list off the plants that you should keep away from garlic than to list the plants it works well with, so that’ss just what we’ll do. Keep garlic away from asparagus, peas, beans, sage, and parsley.
Herbs can serve as companion plants just as well as vegetables—maybe even better, as the strong odors from the essential oils that herbs produce work wonders at ridding your garden of unwanted pests. Herbs are also responsible for increasing the output and flavor of many of your garden favorites. So next time you are planning out your vegetable garden, consider adding in accompanying herbs to complete the package.
Learn more about companion plants
Gardening Know How covers companion planting.
Our Herb Garden writes about companions.