Grow Better Veggies With Companion Plants

Companion-Planting-susiejDo your cucumbers wilt on the vine before they even start to grow? Do your tomatoes get big wormholes before you get a chance to put a slice on top of your freshly grilled hamburger? Then your veggies need some friends, or companions, as gardeners like to call them. Here you’ll find a list of 13 plants, with their beneficial combinations.

Why? When you combine certain combinations of plants, they attract beneficial insects and birds, which keep pests from eating your seedlings down to nubs. This is why planting chives around your roses keeps the roses from getting diseases.

As I began researching “happy” plant combinations, I soon realized I had opened a can of worms. Companion planting is really “enemy science,” and creating a garden plan this way is like creating seating arrangements for a forced holiday family dinner that includes two volatile guests that “must be separated.” To truly understand a plant’s companion, you also have to understand the plant’s enemy – not just bugs, but actual plants. For example, I learned that Dill repels the squash bug that has killed my pumpkins for the last five years. Yet, be careful where you plant it, as dill will attract the tomato hornworm. Here are a few more “beware” combinations:

  • Mint and parsley are enemies.
  • Keep onions away from peas.
  • Keep potatoes and tomatoes apart as they both can get early and late blight contaminating each other.

Companion planting was beginning to sound more like the very bickering and sibling rivalry I had hoped that my future 20-foot green bean fort would help me avoid all summer. The seeds may be called, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” but there was no magic in the packet, so to ensure their vital growth, I’ve figured out my summer fort’s companions here. I will not be growing corn, but I’ve included it here, just in case you may want to try it – because it seems to be very important garden friend.

  1. Beans: My prize plant; the foundation and roof of our fort. Beans help all the other plants by enriching the soil with nitrogen. There is a summer trio that makes a great combination: beans, sweet corn and melons. The three plants like the same conditions warmth, rich soil and plenty of moisture. Peas, and carrots, and Basil are also good companion plants. The herb summer savory is important to keep away bean beetles, while improving the growth and flavor of the beans. However, keep the onion, chives – all the alliums away from the beans. (See, I told you this was kind of complicated.)
  2. Tomatoes: Basil is not only the perfect friend to your antipasto platter, but it’s also the perfect pest-deterrent herb to plant alongside your tomato plant. But, keep the corn away from the tomato plants.
  3. Carrots: Plant with pole beans, radishes and onions and tomatoes. However, if you are planting the carrots with the beans, you must keep the onions away from the beans. Also, keep the dill away from the carrots.
  4. Cucumbers: Plant with beans, cucumber, corn, nasturtiums but no strong herbs. Farmers will sometimes let the cucumbers grow up and over your corn plants, so they need no staking. Cukes also do well with peas, beets and carrots. Dill planted with cucumbers will attract beneficial predators. (But once, again, keep the Dill away from the carrots and the tomatoes!) Nasturtium improves growth and flavor. Keep Sage away from the cucumbers.
  5. Chives: A workhouse in the garden that is known to prevent apple tree scab, and black spot on roses. (Give it 3 years to complete its work.) In the vegetable garden, chives will help carrot and tomatoes taste better, and will keep away aphids, Japanese beetles and carrot rust fly. Every year, my cucumbers are ruined by powdery mildew. This year, I’ll make a chive tea to prevent powdery mildew from taking over my cukes. (Cover chopped chives with boiling water. Cool, strain and put in a spray bottle and spray plants two or three times a week.)
  6. Watermelon: Grow with corn, nasturtiums, peas, sunflowers, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins and radishes. Nasturtium deters bugs and beetles. Oregano provides general pest protection.
  7. Dill: Dill repels the squash bug that will kill your pumpkin vine. You can always scatter dill leaves on your squash plants. However, dill does ATTRACT the tomato hornworm; so keep it far AWAY from your tomatoes.
  8. Garlic: Garlic, like chives, is also the friend to the rose plant, as it repels aphids. The garlic plant accumulates sulfur, a naturally occurring fungicide that keeps your garden soil from preventing disease. Time-released garlic campuses, planted at the bases of fruit trees, supposedly kept deer away… so I may have to try this one for the garden.
  9. Nasturtiums: An edible flower that is one of the best at attracting predatory insects. Expert gardeners plant nasturtiums as a barrier around tomatoes, radishes, cabbage, cucumbers, and under fruit trees. The leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible.
  10. Petunias: I’m including this here, because this is my favorite summer annual, (I also love their smell) so I might as well put it to work. Petunias repel the asparagus beetle (nope, not growing it, but just thought I should know) and tomato worms. Apparently the Petunia also repels Mexican bean beetles, and the leaves can be used as a tea to make a potent bug spray.
  11. Pumpkins: Pumpkin pals are corn, melon and squash. Marigold deters beetles. Nasturtium deters bugs, beetles. Oregano also provides general pest protection. As noted above, Dill can help me get rid of that squash bug… yet, once again; I have to make sure the pumpkins are far away from the tomatoes to do that.
  12. Soybeans: They add nitrogen to the soil making them a good companion to corn. They repel chinch bugs and Japanese beetles. Plus, my kids love them!!!
  13. Confuse the pests: I learned this from a wise gardening friend: Mix up your plants, flowers with the vegetables. The mingling scents will confuse the pests, and make the garden much nicer for you to look at.

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25 comments on “Grow Better Veggies With Companion Plants
  1. Happy Dance Susie!! We are putting in double dug French Intensive gardens this spring. We have one done and are adding the other. I love the book How to grow more vegetables! We’ve had these gardens for years – just never at this house. Now’s the time! Great post – so helpful! 🙂

    yea!!

    Happy TT!

  2. How is it that I grew up on a farm and have no clue how to plant my own garden? The “city” life has got the best of me….*sigh*

  3. Thank you for this! I am not a gardener at ALL but am trying to overcome my black thumb this year with a small container garden. Thankfully I have tomatoes and basil together – yay!

  4. Many years ago my parents renovated an old Victorian farmhouse in the mts. of NC. One year my grandparents hired some locals who were true hillbilly mountaineers to plant a garden for the family.

    One evening they were out working the garden. My mother was sitting on the front porch of the house, reading. She heard one of them make the comment that “Them ther Florryda (FL) people waar so stupit that them ‘ud think beans gro on corn (stalks)”.

    A few days later my mother was out in the garden walking when the family came over to work. She went over to one of the corn stalks and pointed to the string bean vines they’d wrapped around the stalks (like stakes). My mother mentioned that she did not know string bean vines grew on corn!

    One of the boys turned to his mother, “Tolt you they waz that stupit!”

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

  5. I grew up watching my parents slave and till and weed and worry over the most elaborate series of gardens. And all to great effect…we had fresh vegetables and fruit all summer. But the sheer amount of work and will necessary to pull off a successful harvest makes me want to stick to perennials though I will plant some herbs and patio tomatoes in pots beneath my rose arch. Good luck with the veggies!

  6. “confuse the pests” after reading all that I’d be confused when I get to the garden as to who “likes” who – I’d have to draw up a diagram before I even stepped out the door to garden – I guess it’s good I don’t have one (lol)

  7. Nifty T-13! I love the tip about planting chives around roses. Methinks I’ll do that TODAY. I’ve made a copy of the other tips for future reference. Interestingly, Nasturtiums grow like WEEDS in my yard. I’m definitely going to remember #13!
    Hugs and blessings,

  8. Holy smoke, I never knew ANY of this. I’m not a huge gardener; mostly, I grow stuff in containers on my deck. I just might need to find a way to try some of this — I really like the idea of food and flowers mixed together.

  9. Wow, that was a lot of research! My granddad had a big beautiful garden when they lived out in the country, with all of those things, not sure if he knew some of that stuff or not, he may have accomplished some of it accidentally! LOL!

    Very interesting! Happy TT!

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  11. These are just great, great tips!!! Especially for our monoculture food agribusiness economy. Will we forget these things, culturally?


    I hope not, Motherpie, but we are headed that way. The chemical companies have done a great job or “weeding” out heirloom plants, so I feel it’s our duty to keep these varieties alive.

  12. Thanks for the info! I was specifically searching for info about companion plants to watermelon, and I think I will use a couple of your suggestions: naturtiums (the seeds of which I am NEVER without) , and radishes. But are you sure about the squash? You don’t think they will cross pollinate and make the melon bitter? And what do you think of swiss chard as a companion?

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  14. I just found your article. I have read many companion planting guides/charts but yours is the one that I can understand, remember and put to use. Thanks.

    My question is, when you say to keep Dill far away from Tomatoes — how do you define far away (in feet) ?

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