The Passionate Gardener: June 2016

June 1, 2016

Companion Planting for Vegetables

By: Ron Kushner

Some plants just naturally enjoy a relationship as they grow in close proximity to other plants. Roots growing at different levels allow for some plants to thrive together since they are not competing for nutrients or water. Light requirements are equally helpful in confirming which plants can grow together, needing similar conditions. Companion plants tend to supplement the needs of one another by other means as well, including the attraction and repelling of various insects, providing a ground cover to keep the soil moist, not to mention keeping weeds down.

Try any of the following examples in your garden to provide not only better yields but to create an aesthetic appeal throughout those times during the season when our gardens don’t look “their best”.

Asparagus is one vegetable usually contained in its own plot or area and generally planted alone. True, in the middle of the bed, other plants would tend to get lost in the thick, tall fronds of the asparagus but the borders can be planted successfully. Use any combination of annual herbs like basil, dill, coriander and parsley. Also, tall, annual flowers like cosmos and sweet Annie will work well. Edging plants like nasturtium, salad greens and pot marigolds are another nice idea. The pot marigolds tend to deter asparagus beetles. I’ve read quite a bit about tomatoes being good companion plants to asparagus, although I’ve never seen them growing together. Tomatoes also tend to repel asparagus beetles.

Beans grown together with potatoes reduce problems with Mexican bean beetles and Colorado potato beetles. Recent research studies exist on this subject through Cornell Cooperative Extension. Beans do well inter-planted with beets, cabbage, carrots and cauliflower. If you can plant goldenrod, dill or tansy nearby, their flowers attract spined soldier bugs and certain wasps that will eat bean beetles. Do not plant beans with chives, onions or shallots as they tend to inhibit growth. Pair beans with peas as they are in the same family and have similar needs. Plant also with corn, carrots, cucumber, squash and eggplant.

Beets will grow with other root crops (onions, carrots, kohlrabi) and cabbage. Also plant with salad greens as they can be harvested with the beet greens. Pots of catnip or mint nearby help to repel flea beetles.

Cabbage family plants all love to grow together: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Chinese cabbage. Borage is an excellent companion plant, protecting the plants from some common pests. Other good companions are celery, chamomile, dill, mints, parsley, rosemary, sage, zinnias, asters and marigolds. It is always a good idea to under-plant with a thick seeding of sweet alyssum to block weeds and attract beneficial insects, particularly syrphid flies. All of the cabbage family plants can be planted with beets, onions and potatoes successfully.

Carrots can be planted with onions and related crops such as chives as they tend to repel (or at least confuse) the carrot rust fly. They can also be planted with other root crops like beets and radishes. Marigolds, fennel, chamomile and herbs such as caraway and coriander are great companions. Coriander (cilantro) is a favored annual among a variety of beneficial insects including lady beetles, green lacewings and parasitic wasps.

Cucumbers can be planted with squash, cabbage, lettuce, beans and spinach. Nasturtiums provide shelter for beneficial spiders and ground beetles. Inter-plant with radishes and marigolds. The radishes repel striped cucumber beetles and squash borers. Borage is said to improve their flavor!

Tomato, eggplant and peppers all do well when grown with basil, dill, borage and parsley. Other companion flowers include asters, cleome, cosmos, marigolds and nasturtium. Do not plant fennel near tomatoes, eggplant or peppers.

Growing a diversity of companion plants that offer a succession of blooms from early spring through fall will help keep beneficial insects in your garden, not to mention the varieties of color and texture that will make your garden look great all season long.

For questions or comments: ron@primexgardencenter.com.