Most people plant their gardens with little thought as to what plants grow well together. The secret to an amazing garden, though? Companion planting!
Companion planting not only takes nutrient uptake into consideration, but it also brings into account crop protection, pest management and positive hosting (aka. increasing the population of beneficial insects that will help manage your harmful pest population).
What is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is the practice of planting two or more plants together for mutual benefit. For example, certain plants might be grown together to help each other meet their nutrient requirements, growth habits, or pest-repelling abilities.
A classic example of companion planting comes from the Three Sisters trio – maize, climbing beans, and winter squash – which were often planted together by various indigenous nations across North America.
Benefits of Companion Planting
Aside from making nutrients available to other plants (and thus making them taste better), companion planting also achieves the following:
1. Minimizes Risk
If one crop fails or is affected by harsh weather, pests or disease, the overall yield of your plot may be increased by limiting the spread. To minimize risk, you’ll want to focus on creating the best natural growth patterns and diversity in your space. Avoid large monocultures (for example, a giant plot of tomatoes in one section), and instead focus on polycultures that mimick the way plants would grow in nature.
2. Crop Protection
Companion planting can offer shelter from harsh weather (like lots of wind or too much sun) to more delicate plants. Growing delicate plants next to more heartier ones that have the foliage and strength to withstand such conditions will guarantee the growth success of your smaller plants.
3. Trap Cropping
Companion planting also offers the best organic pest management. If one crop is more susceptible to pest infestation, try planting beneficial plants next to that crop that the pests despise. This will assist in protecting the pest-vulnerable plants.
4. Positive Hosting
By planting your fruit and veggies next to plants (like certain flowers) that produce a surplus of nectar and pollen, you can increase the population of beneficial insects while helping you manage your harmful pest population.
Companion Planting Chart
Use this companion planting chart as a guide so that you can design your garden in order to have better success!
Amaranth should be planted with corn to shade the soil and retain water. It also helps attract predatory ground beetles.
Asparagus can be planted with basil, cilantro, dill, marigolds, nasturtiums, oregano, parsley, peppers, sage, thyme and tomatoes. Asparagus actually repels nematodes that attack tomato plants, and tomatoes repel asparagus beetles.
Apples and Apricots surprisingly love to be planted next to garlic, but it makes sense. Garlic helps repel pests like the fruit tree bore, aphids and mites. The tree roots also absorb sulfur produced by the garlic, making the tree more resistant to fungus, mold and black spot. Marigolds are another winner for fruit trees, as they help attract pollinators (which then pollinate the flowers of the fruit trees). These flowers also help discourage nematodes in the soil, which beneficial for fruit trees.
Basil is a great herb to plant next to tomatoes to help improve their flavor. It also helps repel aphids, asparagus beetles, mites, flies, mosquitoes and tomato horn worm. For this reason, it should also be planted next to asparagus. Basil also works good when planted next to oregano and peppers.
Beans are all nitrogen fixers of the soil, so they should be planted next to plants of the Brassica family, carrots, celery, chard, corn, cucumber, eggplant, peas, potatoes, radish and strawberries. Avoid planting near chives, garlic, leeks and onion (they don’t like them!). Beets and beans should also be avoided next to one another as they can stunt each others growth.
Beets can be planted next to bush beans, Brassicas, corn, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mint and potatoes. Avoid planting beets next to pole beans.
Borage is a wonderful flower and companion too many plants. It deters tomato hornworm and cabbage moth caterpillars – so make sure you plant them next to tomatoes and cabbages! Borage also attracts pollinators, so plant it around plants that need pollinating like squash, melons, and cucumbers. It is also great for the soil and compost.
Bok Choy may experience improved growth and health if it is planted alongside beets, bush beans, carrots, chamomile, chard, cucumbers, dill, kale, lettuce mint, nasturtiums, potatoes, sage and spinach.
Brassicas like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi and turnip all benefit from chamomile, cilantro, dill, mint, rosemary and sage. Broccoli particularly likes being planted next to potatoes for improved flavor (however, some websites note that the two prefer different soil pH – so try this combination yourself to see how it works!). Cauliflower also likes to be planted next to celery, because the strong scent of celery helps repel Brassica butterflies that can often destroy an entire cauliflower crop!
Carrots plant well with beans, Brassicas, chives, leeks, lettuce, onions, peppers, pole beans, radish, rosemary, sage, and tomatoes (quite the companion plant!). Avoid planting next to dill, parsnips and potatoes, though. Tomatoes will bring out the flavor in carrots, but your carrots might be smaller as tomatoes and carrots compete for soil nutrients.
Cherries love garlic just like apples and apricots (and for the same reasons). Garlic helps repel pests like the fruit tree bore, aphids and mites. The tree roots also absorb sulfur produced by the garlic, making the tree more resistant to fungus, mold and black spot. Marigolds also plant well with cherries, helping to attract pollinators.
Chives do great when planted next to tomatoes and carrots, as it helps bring out their flavors. Also works well when planted next to Brassicas. Chives repel aphids, carrot rust flies and Japanese beetles. They should not be planted next to beans and peas.
Cilantro repels aphids, potato beetles, and spider mites.
Corn is a companion to beans, beets, cucumber, dill, melons, parsley, peas, potato, squash and sunflower. It should not be planted next to celery or tomatoes. Amaranth can also be planted between corn rows to increase mulching (conserve soil moisture) and reduce weeds.
Cucumber loves to be planted next to asparagus, beans, Brassicas, celery, corn, dill, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion, peas, and radishes. They shouldn’t be planted next to potatoes or sage, however. Corn and sunflowers work like a trellis for cucumbers to attach on and grow upward. Dill will help cucumbers by attracting predatory insects, and nasturtiums improve the flavor and growth of cucumbers.
Dill improves the health of cabbages and other Brassicas like cauliflower and kale. It is a great companion for corn, cucumbers, lettuce and onions. Avoid planting next to carrots and tomatoes! Dill attracts ladybugs, parasitoid wasps, hoverflies, bees, and garden spiders (making it a very beneficial garden herb).
Eggplant is a good companion for amaranth, beans, marigolds, peas, peppers, spinach and thyme. Do not plant next to fennel!
Garlic is a great companion plant for roses to help repel aphids. It is high in sulfur, so it also helps get rid of pests like whiteflies, Japanese beetles, root maggots, carrot rust fly and other non-beneficial bugs. It is a great companion for beets, Brassicas, celery, fruit trees (like apricots, apples and cherries), lettuce, potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes. Do not plant next to peas.
Lettuce like arugula, radicchio, green leaf lettuce, romaine, you name it, like to be planted next to beets, Brassicas, carrots, celery, chervil, cucumbers, dill, garlic, onions, radish, spinach, squash and strawberries.
Marigolds produce chemicals that repel whiteflies, Mexican bean beetles, root knot nematodes, and root lesion nematodes. They are great for planting around fruit trees, but should not be planted around beans.