When gardening, you strive to provide everything your plant needs such as water, nutrients, and sunlight. However, some gardeners overlook one crucial component – companionship.
Companion Plants for Vegetable Gardens can help plants thrive, increasing yield and are especially important if you are an organic gardener.
Most gardeners learn from trial and error what works best and if you pay attention to Mother Nature you will find that certain plants compliment each other and actually help one another survive.
If you are looking to delve into companion planting in more detail, the Foodscape Revolution, by Brie Arthur is a great reference book.
Benefits of Companion Plants in the Vegetable Garden
There are many benefits to using companion plants in your garden scheme. Let’s examine a few leading reasons to pick the perfect partner plants for your veggies.
Provide Shelter for more fragile plants
If you plant larger plants beside smaller plants they will provide a natural shelter for the smaller, more fragile plants.
The larger plant affords wind protection and also absorbs excessive sunlight which can dry out the soil around your vegetables.
Provide a Natural Trellis for Support
Many vegetables function as physical support to other plants.
You can plant pole beans beside corn and the corn will function as a natural trellis for the beans.
There is no reason to invest in supports plus the companionship between the corn and pole beans not only form a beautiful symbiotic relationship (bean plants add nitrogen to the soil which benefits the corn) but the companion plants look natural together and create a harmonious relationship.
Sunflowers are also another wonderful choice to provide support in the garden, as well as, feeding the birds and providing bouquets of sunflowers for fall.
Increase Beneficial Insects and Pollinators
Companion plants such as flowers planted beside vegetables will attract bees and other pollinators to the garden.
All plants benefit when there are ample pollinators available.
Companion Planting can Improve Soil Nutrients
Many vegetable plants such as the legume family have the ability to draw nitrogen naturally from the atmosphere and then return it to the soil. All of the plants planted around legumes receive help from the added nutrients in the soil.
Provide Protection and Decoy Plants
Certain plants emit odors that mask the odor of desirable vegetable plants. Basically, they act as a decoy to harmful insects that want to eat your vegetable garden.
Avoid Bullies when Companion Planting
Not all plants make ideal companions. In fact, some act as bullies by growing too rapidly and crowding out the plants around them. They will start to hog all of the water, sunlight, and nutrients.
In addition, many even exude toxins that can effectively kill competitive plants or retard their growth. One of the most common examples of a bully is the Black Walnut tree which produces a toxin known as hydroquinone which seeps into the soil and hinders the growth of any other plant life around the tree.
Top Companion Plants for your Vegetable Garden
Let’s examine a few top companion plants that you should definitely consider adding to your garden.
Tomato Companion Plant
Who doesn’t enjoy juicy, red tomatoes?
If you plant basil alongside tomato plants then you can enjoy the lovely herb and the tomatoes in salsas, spaghetti sauce, and other dishes. In addition, basil helps repel flies and mosquitoes from the garden. Other friendly plants to cultivate alongside your tomatoes include marigolds which repel garden pets and harmful nematodes.
You might also want to consider adding a few of the following tomato companion plants:
Avoid planting beets, fennel, rosemary, dill, peas, cabbage, or corn with your tomatoes. Corn often suffers from corn earworm which will afflict the tomatoes too. The other plants have also been known to spread disease and pests to tomatoes so it’s best not to plant them nearby.
Planting alliums such as chives and garlic will repel harmful predatory insects that can eat your strawberries. Caraway attracts wasps which will protect your strawberries by killing harmful pests that can eat your berries. Also, it’s been found that planting spinach and lettuce alongside strawberries appears to enhance the plant’s productivity substantially.
Avoid planting eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, or peppers near your strawberries because the strawberries can actually inhibit their growth.
Companion Plant Chart
Below is a handy companion plant chart that will help you decide what companion plants to plant alongside your favorite veggies: