Whether you're expanding your garden or running a full-scale farming operation, knowing which plants grow well together is as important to your success as keeping them properly watered and protected from pests. There are several plants that are compatible with one another either because of the way they grow or because they help ward off pests and disease, but there are just as many that can hinder one another's progress. Our companion planting guide will give you some great starting points for successful companion gardening.
Companion gardening or planting refers to strategically laying out your garden or acreage to put complementary plants together while also separating incompatible plants. Even as you rotate crops each season, you can keep the same companion plants together to create a garden that is naturally inclined toward healthy growth, pest prevention and, in some cases, improved crop flavor.
The right companion planting garden layout all depends on the plants you're planning to grow. Simply put, plant incompatible crops far away from each other and cluster complementary ones together.
If you're using a high-tunnel greenhouse, you can also consider the size of your plants. According to the USDA, some farmers will plant their taller plants (like corn) on the north-facing side of the high tunnel and their shorter plants on the south side. In this case, you could determine which short crops and tall crops are compatible and plant them together, so long as they would also benefit from that level of sunlight.
Yes! And, in fact, it's encouraged. Flowers will not only look pretty amongst your crops, but also attract pollinators, ward off pests and, in some cases, act as a living mulch, nourishing the soil beneath larger crops.
Calendula is an annual, daisy-like flower that exudes a sticky sap, which is perfect for stopping pests like whiteflies and aphids before they get a chance to feast on your crops. The trapped pests also make a great meal for pollinators like ladybugs and hoverflies, attracting helpful insects to your crops as well. Calendula usually grows to be 18-24 inches tall and makes a great companion for peppers, chard, cucumbers and more.
Chamomile is a flowering plant with white petals and lacy foliage that pollinators love. These flowers can be planted with just about any crops, and even have their own uses — we've all heard of the aromatic, relaxing qualities of chamomile tea! On top of all that, the flowering plant has deep-reaching roots that dredge up hidden nutrients, keeping your soil well fertilized season after season.
Growing herbs with your crops can add a whole new level of meaning to companion gardening — planting herbs and crops together that would make a delicious meal when harvested! For example, tomato and basil are often planted close together.
Cilantro (or coriander) is a flowering herb that is a member of the carrot family, with deep-reaching roots that loosen the soil and dig up nutrients similar to chamomile. Its dainty white flowers and lacy foliage attract pollinators while its strong scent wards off pests. Plant it with peppers, onions and other herbs!
Another strong-scented, pest-repelling herb is nasturtium. The annual herb has yellow flowers and dense, leafy foliage that works great as a living mulch for taller crops as it dies off and returns its nutrients to the soil. It can also add extra pep to plants in the cucurbit family, like cucumbers, squash and zucchini.
Poppies are quick-blooming, perennial flowers with deep roots adept at breaking up even clayey soils to soften them for their surrounding companions. They have bright yellow flowers that are pretty amongst green foliage — not to mention they can tell you when it's going to rain by closing their petals! They grow to around 12 inches tall and have lacy foliage that pollinators love.
Marigolds are perennial, herbaceous flowers in the sunflower family with beautiful orange petals. They make great companion plants for tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers and many other crops. These flowers are great at repelling nematodes, bean beetles and other garden pests. If you are planting Mexican marigolds, which are the most potent variety for repelling pests, you may want to keep them away from more tender herbs like basil, chives and parsley.
The moment you've been waiting for! Refer to the companion planting guide below for some of the most commonly grown crops in the United States and which plants do and don't grow well with them.
|Crop||Compatible With:||Incompatible With:|
|Beans||Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, corn, cucumbers, radishes, strawberries||Beets (beet family), garlic, onions (onion family)|
|Carrots||Beans, chives, leeks, lettuce, rosemary, tomatoes||Cilantro/coriander, dill|
|Corn||Beans/legumes, cucumbers, melons, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, squash||Celery, tomatoes|
|Lettuce||Beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, chives, garlic, onions, peas, radishes||Parsley|
|Melons||Corn, pumpkins, radishes, squash||None|
|Onions||Beets, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, parsnips, peppers, rosemary, tomatoes||Asparagus, beans, carrots|
|Peppers||Basil, onion, spinach, tomatoes||Beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale|
|Potatoes||Beans, corn, peas||Tomatoes|
|Squash/Zucchini||Corn, beans, dill, peas, melons, pumpkins, radishes||Potatoes|
|Tomatoes||Asparagus, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, parsley, peppers, spinach||Beets, cabbage, corn, dill, fennel, peas, potatoes|
Now that you know which plants grow well together, you can get started on your companion planting garden layout. Bootstrap Farmer carries DIY greenhouse kits to build your own high-tunnel system and heavy duty 1020 trays for propogating seedlings and displaying your crops at farmers markets. Have questions? Contact us today for tips and tricks from seasoned bootstrappers!