Companion Planting 101 – Why What You Plant Where Matters!

Practicing the age-old art of companion planting really does create a healthier and more productive vegetable garden!

At it’s very core, companion planting is about relationships.

companion planting
Tomatoes and basil go well together in the kitchen. And in the garden!

As in the relationships that exist between different types of vegetables, herbs and flowers that are grown in close proximity to one another.

Companion Planting – The Basics

Some plants flourish when grown near other types of vegetables. While others can actually diminish another plant’s success. 

The key to successfully employing companion planting is knowing which relationships work, and which don’t. (We include a basic plant guide at the end of the article.)

Some plants benefit by being cultivated with others because of the nutrients they provide. 

companion planting
Cabbage and onions are a prefect match when grown together

A great example of this is with the bean family of plants.

Beans aid in corn’s growth because they help fix nitrogen levels in the soil.  And corn loves nitrogen! 

When planted in the same area – the corn has much more access to available nitrogen. The result – a better corn crop!

In fact, this bean and corn marriage has been around for centuries. 

One of the most practiced companion plantings of all time was known as the Three Sisters. 

It dates back to the Iroquois, and consisted of planting of corn, beans and squash together. 

The Three Sisters Method

The Iroquois knew this trio worked in perfect harmony. They practiced this method as a way to increase yields.

companion planting
Beans are perfect for planting with corn and squash.

The beans fix the nitrogen in the soil, which corn needs and uses to thrive.

The corn provides a natural trellis system for the beans to grow up on. And the bean vines provides extra strength to the corn stalks which prevents them from blowing over in the wind.

The squash vines play a vital role as well. They act as a living mulch for the soil.

It not only helping to hold in moisture and repel weeds, but makes it hard for animals like raccoon to get at the corn.

It is a perfect example of companion plants helping one another!

Helping With Insect Control

Companion planting can also help immensely with controlling insects.

Certain plants, when planted near others, can help deter pests and insects.

A wonderful example of this is the Marigold plant.

companion planting
Marigolds are a great example of companion planting. They are perfect for flowerbeds – and in vegetable gardens!

Marigolds, with their pungent smell, help repel whiteflies and other plant-harming insects.

The also deter rabbits when planted as a border around the vegetable garden. See : The Benefits of Flowers In The Garden

And, marigolds are even known to be toxic and kill nematodes. It’s hard to get more beneficial than that!

Additional Benefits of Campanion Planting

Beyond pest control and helping with nutrients, companion plants can help support or provide much needed shade for different varieties grown nearby.

companion planting
Lettuce and Tomatoes. Good in a salad, and in a garden!

A great example of this helpful relationship is leaf lettuce inserted around tomatoes.

As the tomatoes grow, they provide valuable shade to the lettuce crop.

Meanwhile, the lettuce provides a living mulch to the soil around the tomatoes. It helps to conserve moisture the tomatoes need, and keeps weeds at bay.

Keeping Bad Relationships Away

Some plants can actually hinder the growth of other vegetable plants that are growing too close.

Case in point – the walnut tree. Although a beautiful species – it can wreak havoc when planted nearby tomato plants.

companion planting
Walnut trees adversely affect the growth of tomato plants.

The roots of this tree growing into a garden render the soil useless for growing tomatoes.

So if you have walnut trees in your yard – locate your garden as far from them as possible!

Here is a look at a few great examples of companion plants for common vegetable crops. 

For more a more in-depth look, check out this great book dedicated to the subject: Carrots Love Tomatoes – The Secrets of Companion Planting

Great Example of Companion Planting

Broccoli : Plant near beans, carrots, cucumbers and lettuce.

Avoid planting near peppers and tomatoes.

Cucumbers : Plant near beans, corn and radishes.

The corn works really well as it provides some shade protection for the cucumbers and allows for the vines to grow up and have support.

Avoid planting cucumbers around potatoes. They can encourage blight in potato crops.

Garlic : Plant Garlic near tomatoes and cabbage.

Avoid planting near peas and beans

companion planting
Garlic naturally repels aphids.

Onions :  Plant near: beets, cabbage, carrots, and lettuce.

Avoid planting near beans and peas

Peas : Plant peas with corn , carrots, celery, cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes and turnips.

Avoid planting with Onions, Garlic and Shallots

Peppers : Peppers do well with tomatoes, cabbage, carrots and onions. Avoid planting near potatoes.

companion planting
Hot pepper plants can help repel rabbits and more.

Potatoes : Plant near beans, cabbage, corn, peas, squash and eggplant. Avoid cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers and tomatoes

Tomatoes : Tomatoes do well when planted around cabbage, carrots, basil and onion and garlic.

Keep tomatoes away from potatoes and from the root zone of walnut trees.

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