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Companion Plants for Your Garden

Updated on November 8, 2017
tritrain profile image

Tritrain is an avid gardener and aspires to have a homestead of several acres in the USA.

What Is a Companion Plant?

Although there may be as many definitions as there are actual plants, I will attempt to summarize them in one statement. A companion plant is any plant that benefits other plants by providing nutrients, discourages pests, or is otherwise beneficial to the garden.

The list of plants and what to plant or not plant near one another seems to be growing constantly. The most common garden plants are included here, for the most part. I will expand the list with time (ha! You almost thought I'd write 'thyme').

The Three Sisters Story

There is a Iroquois story that describes a companion planting method that I will share. It describes a perfect example of what companion planting is, and as well it shows that the native Americans were aware of it for many hundreds of years.

In the legend, the plants, corn, beans, and squash, were given as a gift from the gods. They were always to be grown, eaten, and celebrated together. Each of the sisters contributes to the planting. The older sister, the corn, offers support for the beans. The beans, the "giving sister", provides nutrients to the other two plants. The squash wound its way through and around the corn and beans, pulling the family together.

The benefits are many. The corn provides a structure to the pole beans, and the squash leaves provide ground cover. The squash lessens the number of weeds that are able to grow under their big leaves, discourages animals from stepping on the prickly leaves, and keeps the soil moist.

If you are wondering how to plant the three sisters, here it is:

  1. Make a mound of soil about one foot high and four feet around.
  2. First, once there is no longer much of a chance of frost, plant about five or six kernels of the corn in the center of the mound, about one inch deep. Plant them a about a foot apart from one another in a circle.
  3. Next, you will plant the beans. Wait until the corn is about six inches tall before planting the beans. Plant four beans around each stalk of corn. The green pole beans will crawl up the corn stalk.
  4. Last, you will plant six squash seeds. You should wait about a week before planting the squash. Plant the squash, evenly spaced, around the perimeter of the mound.

Provides Nutrients to Other Plants

Legumes (beans) - Beans are able to pull nitrogen from the air and make it available to other plants via the soil. The beans have a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria called Rhizobia within the bean root nodules. The bacteria are able to "fix" nitrogen and convert it into a usable format for the legumes. Also, beans are very rich in plant protein, with respect to human consumption.

Okra and Sweet Potato - When planted nearby one another they are mutually beneficial.

Beets - Adds minerals to soil by composting the leaves, which have a lot of magnesium.

Common Marigold
Common Marigold | Source

Discourages Pests

Pepper - Many insect prefer to avoid pepper plants. In fact, you can make a spray by grinding a few pieces of spicy pepper in a blender with some water. Filter the chunks out. Spray on plants that you mean to discourage insects from pestering.

Garlic - Similar to pepper, garlic has a strong odor and bugs don't like it. However, don't plant these or onions near any beans or pees, as they will be stunted in growth.

Rhubarb - Rhubarb is said to discourage deer, probably in a similar way to spicy plants.

Alliums - This is a family of plants which include onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives. They tend to discourage a wide range of pests, including rabbits, slugs, aphids, and Japanese beetles

Marigolds - Well-known for being dreaded by insects, many people will plant these in and around their garden. Besides it adds a bit of color.

Dill and Basil - Planted near tomatoes, they discourage tomato hornworms. Ironically, these plants go well with tomato when eaten by humans.

Sage - Protects cabbage from cabbage moths.

Nasturtiums - They are widely known for being a tasty treat for aphids. Planted somewhat away from your garden, they will attract the aphids away from the rest of the garden. You may see a lot of ladybugs there too, since they love to eat aphids. Yeah, ladybugs!

Carrots, dill, parsley, and parsnip - These tasty vegetables attract beneficial insects, such as praying mantises, ladybugs, and spiders, who all like to eat garden insect pests.

Legumes - Known to discourage slugs and snails.

Radish - Repels cucumber beetles.

Cucumber - Gets rid of raccoons and ants.

Tomato and Basil
Tomato and Basil | Source

Provides Some Other Benefit

Purslane - It provides ground cover for other plants, creating a humid, moist micro-climate.

Make a Spray

Blend the leaves of pepper, filter the pulp, then spray on other plants to discourage insects

Plants to Avoid Planting Near One Another

The reasons to avoid planting near one another are often because the plants compete for resources, nutrients and/or water. However, sometimes they attract the same pests and can be counter-productive to plant near one another.

Avoid Planting:
Tomatoes, dill, radish
Carrots become stunted, while tomatoes grow well
Bush Beans
Pole Beans
Beets or brassicas
Beans or peas
Potatoes, onion, or garlic

More Reading

Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden
Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden

I like this book a lot for its information and layout. It really is a wealth of great info. I did not care for the frequent self-serving references to the author throughout the book.


© 2017 And Drewson


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    • tritrain profile image

      And Drewson 2 months ago from United States

      Thank you

    • Deborah Minter profile image

      Deborah Minter 2 months ago from U.S, California

      Helpful article!