As anticipation grows for planting season and we’re working on our garden plans, we should take into consideration the benefits of companion planting. Pairing plant friends together will benefit the growth of both varieties, while putting the wrong plants together can cause problems like attracting pests or stunted growth.
10 Plant Friends to Grow Together
Tomatoes and Basil
Tomatoes and basil are a natural combination, they taste great together in a sauce and grow well together in your garden. Basil helps tomatoes produce greater yields and repels aphids, spider mites, mosquitoes, and flies.
Another tomato friend to consider is the radish because it can be grown at the base of the tomato plant and will attract the flea beetle that enjoys eating tomato plants. Flea beetles like radishes even more than tomatoes, so while you may not end up with many radishes, you will naturally protect your tomatoes without insecticides. Lettuce is another great option to grow with tomatoes, especially in a container garden. Since it needs little space and doesn’t like full sun, lettuce can maximize the use of your container. Marigolds are also a popular companion to tomatoes in the garden as they repel nematodes.
Corn and Beans
Native Americans have grown corn and beans together for centuries. They called the combination of corn, beans, and squash, the Three Sisters. We offer a Three Sisters seed collection that includes sweet corn, pole beans, and butternut squash, all ready for companion planting. The corn stalks provide a natural trellis for the beans and the beans provide much-needed nitrogen for the corn. The squash provides ground cover to help keep moisture in the soil.
Vining plants like cucumbers, squash, and peas are also good companions to corn. They can also use the stalks for trellises and can spread in the space between the rows.
Carrots and Onions
Carrots and onions are great garden companions. Onions repel the carrot fly that will lay its eggs near the roots of carrots. Eventually, the carrot fly larvae will feed on the carrots and bore into the core of the carrot. This pair is great for container gardens, too. Because carrots form 4-8 inches below the ground and onions form closer to the surface, you can maximize your space.
Carrots work well next to tomatoes by taking advantage of some of the shade the tomato plants provide. Plant carrots in your herb garden next to rosemary, sage, or chive, also known to repel the carrot fly.
Beets and Lettuce
Lettuce and beets work well together in your garden rows. Because the beets form several inches below the ground, they will not interfere with lettuce that grows close to the surface. Planting lettuce next to the beets helps with water retention, and the beets can provide some shade for the lettuce. Lettuce also thrives next to most root vegetables like radishes and carrots.
Cucumbers and Nasturtium
Nasturtiums and marigolds will repel aphids and beetles that would love to munch on your cucumber plants. As a bonus, both flowers are edible and will attract beneficial pollinators to your garden.
Dill is another natural companion to cucumbers for repelling insects and for use in making pickles!
Some General Rules
Plants from the same family can be safely planted together, like cabbage and cauliflower (both brassicas) or eggplant and peppers (both nightshades). They will generally need similar nutrients, pH, and sunlight and won’t compete with each other for resources.
Herbs can be great helpers in your vegetable garden. We’ve already mentioned basil and dill. Rosemary is another great choice because it can repel cabbage moths and carrot flies. It is also attractive to pollinators and has a wonderful aroma. Chives are another insect repellent as well as being edible. Chives work well next to peas, lettuce, and celery.
Sunflowers are another valuable asset to a garden. They can provide shade for heat-sensitive plants, a trellis for vining plants, and attract pollinators.
Plant Combinations to Avoid
Tomatoes, Corn, and Potatoes - Tomatoes and corn can suffer from the corn earworm. Both potatoes and tomatoes can be affected by blight, so you’ll want to plant them as far apart as possible to avoid the spread of pests and disease.
Beans, Beets, and Onions - Beets or anything from the onion family, particularly onions themselves, will impede the growth of the beans.
Carrots, Dill, and Parsnips - Dill and coriander produce compounds that can harm carrot plants. Although parsnips are a root vegetable that you would think would work well with carrots, they can both be susceptible to the carrot fly, so should be kept apart.
Lettuce and Garlic - Garlic produces a chemical that will wilt your lettuce. You’ll also want to keep lettuce away from onions, leeks, and chives.
Companion planting is something important to keep in mind when planning your garden layout, even if your garden consists of containers on your patio or deck. Pairing the right plants can help you maximize your garden space, reduce pests and disease and increase the yields of your vegetables.
For additional guidance on preparing a successful survival garden, be sure to take advantage of our Survival Garden Growing Guide.