QUESTION: What should not be planted near cabbage? I’m just getting into companion planting and have seen lots of information on what should be planted near cabbage, but none on what should not. — Jay A.
ANSWER: Welcome to the wonderful world of companion planting! We’ve got the breakdown of exactly what you should not grow next to cabbage. Just keep reading to find out which plants to keep away from your cabbages.
Do Not Grow These Plants Near Cabbage
The following plants can cause problems near cabbages ranging from stunted growth to increased risk of disease or pest problems. Some, like corn, pumpkins, and squash, throw too much shade onto the cabbages and prevent them from flourishing. Make sure to keep the plants listed here away from the cabbages in your garden.
- Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris): Beans fix nitrogen into the soil, making them a great partner for lots of plants—just not cabbages. The excess nitrogen can actually be detrimental to the growth of your cabbage plants if beans are grown near cabbages.
- Corn (Zea mays convar. saccharata): The problems that exist between cabbages and corn are a matter of space and shade. Both plants are space hoggers, and whether you plant them so the cabbages or the corn matures first, one plant will throw too much shade on the other. And both crops pull lots of nutrients from the soil, which means they may compete with one another too much for nutrition.
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): Fennel should be kept away from most other plants in the garden and as a result is often grown by itself.
- Grapes (Vitis vinifera): Grapes should not be grown near cabbage plants because the grapes will actually stunt the cabbages’ growth.
- Lettuce (Lactuca sativa): Lettuce plants tend to attract the insects that plague cabbages. Also, cabbage growing near lettuce can be detrimental to the lettuce’s growth and quality.
- Peppers (Capsicum annuum): Peppers and cabbages have different soil needs, making it impossible to properly care for both when they are grown together.
- Pumpkins (Cucurbita): Between the large leaves of pumpkin plants and the large leaves of cabbages, there’s altogether too much shade to keep the plants happy if you grow these two together.
- Rue (Ruta graveolens): Rue will draw in whiteflies and other pests that plague spinach. It also feeds heavily on calcium and will compete with cabbages for the calcium they need to thrive.
- Squash (Cucurbita), both summer squash and winter squash: Planting squash and cabbages together means some plants won’t get enough sunshine, as both of these have large leaves.
- Strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa): Strawberries aren’t recommended for growing with cabbages because the roots will fight for space and become intertwined. The two plants also have similar nutrient needs and will compete for nutrients with one another. Finally, strawberries can draw in slugs, which you don’t want to move on to your cabbages.
- Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.): Cabbages and tomatoes are bad flowerbed-fellows for a few reasons. One is that the root systems fight for space, and as a result the tomatoes will have stunted growth. But the tomatoes will beat out cabbages in the fight for nutrients. Tomatoes also draw in hornworms, a pest that will munch on cabbages as well as the tomatoes.
- Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo): As with pumpkins and squash, the large leaves of cabbages and zucchini plants would create too much shade if the two were grown together.
You should also leave plenty of room between your cabbages and any member of the Brassica family. All members of the Brassica family have the same nutrient needs and pest problems, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies or increased risk of infestation. For these reasons, you shouldn’t grow members of the Brassica family together, even though it can be tempting because they have the same care requirements. Members of the Brassica family to avoid growing next to cabbages include the following.
- Arugula (Eruca sativa)
- Bok Choy (Brassica Rapa)
- Brown Mustard (Brassica juncea)
- Broccoli (Brassica oleracea, variety gemmifera)
- Broccoli Raab (Brassica napus, variety napus)
- Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea, variety gemmifera)
- Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea, variety botrytis)
- Collard Greens (Brassica oleracea, variety acephala)
- Honesty (genus Lunaria)
- Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
- Kale (Brassica oleracea, variety acephala)
- Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea, variety gongylodes)
- Napa cabbage (Brassica rapa, variety pekinensis)
- Radish (Raphanus sativus)
- Rocket (genus Sisymbrium)
- Rutabaga (Brassica napus, variety napobrassica)
- Stock (genus Matthiola)
- Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
- Turnip (Brassica rapa, variety rapa)
- Wasabi (Eutrema japonicum)
- Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)
- Woad (Isatis tinctoria)
Plants We Recommend Growing Next to Cabbage
Whew! After such an extensive list, you may be left wondering what you can plant next to your cabbages. These companion planting pairs have benefits like repelling pests that like to prey on cabbages or attracting beneficial insects that prey on pests. Here’s a list of recommended companion plantings for cabbage.
- Alliums (like chives, garlic, green onions, or bulb onions): Alliums have a strong scent that repels lots of cabbage pests, including aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbage moths, cabbage worms, flea beetles, snails, and even rabbits. You can grow chives, garlic, scallions, or onions around the edge of a cabbage row for maximum space saving.
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum): Basil has a pungent aroma that repels many of the pests cabbages can fall victim to. Plant basil around cabbages in spring after the threat of frost has passed in your area. When you harvest the cabbages (soon after planting the basil), cut the plant at its base below the soil line. The roots you leave behind will become nutritious organic material in the soil to help keep the basil plants healthy.
- Beets (Beta vulgaris): Beets and cabbages share space well, also attracting different pests and having different nutritional needs, so they won’t compete with one another as they grow. On the contrary, beets will draw nutrients up higher in the soil where it is accessible for the cabbages’ shallow roots. Harvest the beet greens before you harvest the beets to give the cabbages room to expand.
- Borage (Borago officinalis): Borage is known for attracting beneficial pollinator insects to the garden. While attracting these garden helpers, borage also deters cabbage worms and tomato worms.
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Calendula produces a scent that repels lots of the pests that can infest cabbages. Best of all, the leaves have a strong aroma, not just the flowers. That means you can cut the flowers to add to arrangements, and the foliage left behind will keep defending the cabbages in the flowers’ absence.
- Carrots (Daucus carota): Carrots attract completely different pests than cabbages, and they have different nutritional requirements as well, making these two a natural choice when it comes to sharing space. The long tubers of the carrots draw nutrients up into the soil where it feeds into the shallower roots of the cabbages.
When you plant cabbages, carrot sprouts will be a few inches tall. The growing cabbage will offer the carrots some shade as they grow. Harvest next to the cabbage for baby carrots, and move farther out as the carrots mature.
- Catnip (Nepeta cataria): Catnip repels the flea beetles that can be such a problem for cabbage plants. However, the catnip will really spread and multiply more than you want it to if it’s planted directly in the ground near your cabbages. The best way to incorporate some catnip among your cabbages is to plant them in a container and situate the container next to your cabbage plants.
- Celery (Apium graveolens): Celery makes a good partner for cabbage because it’s known for repelling cabbage moths. The two plants also share a lot of characteristics, making it possible to move the transplants into the garden at the same time, grow them together, and remove them together as the weather gets too hot for them. That means you’ll have room to move a summer crop into their space. The two plants also have very similar watering needs, making it simple to care for the two planted side by side. Best of all, cabbage moths don’t like the aroma of celery and will avoid the area where it is planted.
- Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla): Chamomile fixes nutrients in the soil that actually improve the flavor of your cabbages along with their health. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, and sulfur.
- Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum): Cilantro repels some of the pests that can infest the cabbage patch, and it grows well alongside potential cabbage companions basil, mint, tansy, and yarrow. Cilantro won’t fight with cabbages for nutrients in the soil, either, like some plants will.
- Geranium (Pelargonium): Geranium plants growing nearby will defend your cabbages against beetles and act as a trap crop for cabbage worms.
- Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis): Hyssop works to repel cabbage moth larva and cabbage butterflies. It also pulls in beneficial pollinator insects such as bees and butterflies. Some gardeners say they’ve also had success repelling slugs using hyssop.
- Lamb’s Lettuce (Valerianella locusta): Sow lamb’s lettuce as soon as you can work the soil in spring, and soon you’ll be harvesting it. In fact, you should be harvesting lamb’s lettuce once it’s time to move your cabbage transplants into the garden. Harvest the lamb’s lettuce from around the cabbages, taking leaves cut-and-come-again fashion from the plants closest to the cabbages first. As the cabbages get bigger and cast a larger shadow, the lamb’s lettuce plants will get shaded out.
- Marigolds (Tagetes): Grow marigolds around cabbages in the spring and fall. Their aroma repels many pests, including aphids, cabbage moths, Japanese beetles, nematodes, and whiteflies. Even better, the cheerful flowers draw in beneficial insects, too. These range from pollinators to species that parasitize pest insects, like parasitic wasps.
- Mint (Mentha): Mint helps to deter many garden pests that can be a problem in the cabbage patch. But it multiplies so readily it’s almost an invasive plant. Keep your mint under control by planting it in a container instead of directly in the ground, then place the container near your cabbages.
- Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum): Nasturtiums work as a trap crop to draw in caterpillars that would otherwise make their way to your cabbages. At the same time, they attract beneficial insects like pollinators.
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare): Oregano and cabbage both thrive in chilly fall weather, and the oregano’s strong scent repels some of the pests that would otherwise plague cabbage crops.
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum): Parsley attracts beneficial insects that prey on some of the garden pests that can be a problem for cabbage plants.
- Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa): Like carrots, parsnips pull nutrients from deep in the soil up to the top where it feeds the cabbages with their more shallow roots.
- Peas (Pisum sativum): Pea plants will provide cabbages with some welcome shade from the afternoon sun. Peas also fix nitrogen into the soil, an ingredient the cabbage plants need to flourish. You can plant the peas for harvesting or use them as a cover crop, and your cabbages will get the beneficial nitrogen either way.
- Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum): When potatoes are grown near cabbages, the flavor of the harvested potato is improved.
- Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum): Rhubarb fights off whiteflies and cabbage worms, so grow it next to cabbages for relief from these garden pests.
- Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus): Rosemary deters cabbage moths as well as actually improving the flavor of cabbages that grow as companions. That’s because the calcium, potassium, and sulfur that the rosemary adds to the soil makes the cabbages healthier and tastier.
- Sage (Salvia officinalis): Like a few of the other aromatic herbs on this list, sage has an aroma that repels cabbage moths, carrot flies, and flea beetles.
- Spinach (Spinacia oleracea): Growing spinach and cabbage together will let you get a few cut-and-come-again harvests out of your spinach before even planting your cabbages. The plants also grow quite close together, making these companions a real space-saver in the garden. As the cabbages grow, the spinach becomes more established and continues to offer cut-and-come-again harvests. Harvest spinach closest to the cabbages first, as it will get too shady for nearby spinach plants as the cabbages expand to throw more shade.
- Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris): Swiss chard and cabbages won’t compete for space either above the ground, where plants are growing, or below the ground, where roots quest for nutrition. The combination saves space in the garden without introducing competition for either plant.
- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare): Tansy isn’t especially good for your cabbages, but the reverse is true. Growing next to cabbages is good for your tansy.
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): The scent of thyme is known for repelling cabbage moths, making it a great companion for cabbage in the garden. Grow thyme around the edges of garden beds, setting cabbages down in the center. The thyme has lots of growing time left when the cabbages have been harvested and are gone.
- Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium): Wormwood is an excellent natural insect repellent that will keep away cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, cabbage worms, flea beetles, and snails.
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow’s scent repels cabbage moths. Simultaneously, it attracts beneficial insects like lacewings.
Of course, every possible plant pairing isn’t listed here. Remember that the plants we do recommend you grow near cabbages are giving some kind of benefit, from pest control to providing afternoon shade. Plants that can grow well next to cabbage but don’t provide any certain benefit are not listed. Just make sure to avoid the plants we listed as bad companions for cabbage, and you’ll soon be harvesting lots of those handsome heads.
Learn More About Plants to Grow Near Cabbage
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