Do 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Watermelon: Grow with corn, nasturtiums, peas, sunflowers, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins and radishes. Nasturtium deters bugs and beetles. Oregano provides general pest protection.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!!!
- 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.