QUESTION: What grows well with spinach? Which plants will help repel bugs from my spinach plants? -Kevin B.
ANSWER: Using the practice of companion planting to arrange plants in your garden so each species benefits its neighbors in some way is a great method to help gardeners make the most of their garden space, naturally repel insects and fight diseases, enhance the flavor of homegrown vegetables, and protect tender young plants from heat. Lots of plants can be paired up with spinach in your garden to provide these and other benefits. We’ve listed the best plants to serve as neighbors for spinach below so you can plan your garden layout using companion planting and take advantage of all these benefits.
- Beans: Both bush beans and pole beans make excellent companions for spinach. As the beans grow, they’ll provide shade to protect the tender spinach plants from the heat of the summer.
- Brassica plants: Plants in the Brassica family (also referred to as the mustard family) include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, broccolini, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, honesty, horseradish, kale, kalettes, kohlrabi, napa cabbage, radishes, rutabaga, sweet alyssum, turnips, wasabi, watercress, and woad. Any of these plants—or the other less common members of the Brassica family that we haven’t listed here—make good companions for spinach in the garden because they don’t compete for nutrients with one another due to differing preferences. That means you can intersperse the spinach with the brassica crops without worrying about the plants vying for the resources they need. Most of the time, the root systems of spinach and brassica plants are even pulling nutrients from different levels of the soil.
- Dill: Timing is important here—you’ll need to add the dill plants once the spinach is about a third of the way to maturity. Don’t let your spinach end up sharing space with mature dill plants, though, as dill is thought to stunt the growth of its neighbors once it matures.
- Eggplants: Be careful not to position your eggplants too near to fennel in the garden.
- Leeks: Leeks will deter carrot rust flies from the area where they’re planted. Just don’t plant leeks too close to beans or peas.
- Nasturtium: Lots of garden pests, like beetles and aphids, are repelled by the presence of nasturtium.
- Peas: Partnering your spinach up with peas helps to save time and space in the garden. Spinach loves nitrogen, and it won’t have to fight the peas for this nutrient, as peas get their nitrogen from the air. Keep peas away from where onions grow in the garden.
- Radishes: Radishes planted near your spinach function as a trap crop for the leafminer insects that would otherwise pose a problem, and the leafminers will focus their attack on the foliage of the radishes, not the roots gardeners raise radishes for. Don’t position your radishes near potatoes or agastache.
- Strawberries: Strawberries make excellent neighbors for spinach because the two plants derive their nutrients from different levels of the soil, so they won’t be in competition with one another. As the spinach gains height, it will give the strawberries a bit of shade as a bonus. Strawberries also benefit from the saponin produced by spinach, which serves as a natural antifungal and antibacterial. However, keep them away from the brassicas that we also recommend as a companion plant for spinach in the garden.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes love the sun, while spinach prefers cooler temperatures. Set up your spinach in between rows of tomatoes, and the spinach will be harvested and out of the garden before the tomato plants begin to spread out and cramp the spinach’s style.