What to plant together?

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10 Veggies That Should Grow Together

Companion planting is a great way to maximize the efficiency of your garden. For almost every vegetable you grow, there is likely to be a beneficial companion plant that will help increase soil nutrients, chase away pests, or provide some other benefit. To get the most out of your hard work, we’ve provided the 10 most popular vegetables grown in the United States and their friends (and enemies) in the garden.

Companion Planting For These Top 10 Veggies:

Basil and tomatoes were made to go together, not only in sauces but in the garden, too. This herb helps tomatoes produce greater yields and it repels both flies and mosquitoes. Marigolds are another good companion, repelling nematodes and other garden pests. Other friends to tomatoes include asparagus, carrots, celery, the onion family, lettuce, parsley, and spinach.
Keep tomatoes away from: Cabbage, beets, peas, fennel, dill, and rosemary. Corn and tomatoes both suffer from the corn earworm, and tomatoes and potatoes are affected by the same blight, so keep these plants separate to prevent the spread of pests or disease.

2. Peppers

Basil is a good friend to peppers, helping repel aphids, spider mites, mosquitoes, and flies. It’s also thought that basil improves the pepper’s flavor. Other good companions include onions, spinach, and tomatoes.
Keep peppers away from: Beans so the vines don’t spread among the pepper plants.

3. Green Beans

Corn and beans grow well together because beans will grow up the cornstalks, which means you won’t have to build them a trellis. Beans also fix nitrogen in the soil, which is good for the corn. Marigolds, nasturtiums, rosemary, and summer savory repel bean beetles, and summer savory improves growth rate and flavor. Other companions include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other members of the cabbage family along with cucumbers, peas, potatoes, and radishes.
Keep green beans away from: Beets or anything from the onion family. Onions, in particular, impede the growth of bean plants.

4. Cucumbers

To repel aphids and beetles, plant marigolds and nasturtiums among your cucumbers. Beans, celery, corn, lettuce, dill, peas, and radishes are also good companion plants.
Keep cucumbers away from: Aromatic herbs such as sage which will stunt the growth of cucumbers.

5. Onions

Carrots should be planted near onions because onions will repel the carrot fly. Onions will also chase away the aphids, so plant them near aphid-prone (but onion-friendly) veggies. Other good friends of onions include beets, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, parsnips (which also suffer from carrot fly), tomatoes, and spices like marjoram, savory, and rosemary.
Keep onions away from: Asparagus, beans, and peas.

6. Lettuce

Plant mint among your lettuce to keep away the slugs that feed on lettuce leaves, or plant chives and garlic to repel aphids. Beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, corn, peas, radishes, and marigolds also work as good companion plants.
Keep lettuce away from: Parsley, because it tends to grow into a small yet bushy plant and can crowd your lettuce.

7. Zucchini/Summer Squash

Corn and squash make good garden friends since the cornstalks give squash vines a place to grow. Squash also does well planted alongside beans, peas, radishes, dill, and marigolds.
Keep summer squash away from: Potatoes, as both plants are prone to blight.

8. Carrots

Carrots are heat sensitive, which is why they go well with tomato plants that can provide them a bit of shade. Tomatoes are also known to produce solanine, which is a natural insecticide that targets pests affecting carrot plants. Tomatoes benefit from carrots, too. Carrots aerate the soil around the roots of the tomato plants, allowing more air and water to reach the roots. Leeks and carrots are also good companions since leeks repel carrot flies and carrots repel leek moths and onion flies. Rosemary, sage, and chive also help repel carrot flies.
Keep carrots away from: Coriander and dill, as they both produce compounds that can harm carrot plants, and parsnips suffer from the same diseases and pests as carrots, so keep them apart to minimize a potential infestation.

9. Radishes

Radishes can be planted among cucumbers to attract cucumber beetles away from the cukes. They also do well among carrots because they are harvested before the carrots and they loosen the soil as the carrots start to take off. Onions, beets, cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach, and squash are also good friends for radishes.
Keep radish away from: Hyssop.

10. Sweet Corn

Corn loves veggies that fix nitrogen in the soil—like green beans. Cornstalks also make a great trellis for vining or trailing plants including beans, cucumbers, peas, pumpkins, and melons. Zucchini also does well planted among corn.
Keep corn away from: Tomatoes, as they and corn are attacked by corn earworms. Plant these two far apart to minimize the spread of these pests.

Follow these companion planting guidelines to boost yields, minimize pest or disease problems and make garden management easier.

Incompatible Garden Plants: Learn About Plants That Don’t Like Each Other

Gardeners do all they can to keep their plants happy and healthy, but sometimes, no matter what you do, certain plants just don’t go together. Plants that don’t like each other may be responding to different environmental needs, could be in direct competition with one another for major resources or one may attract insects that severely harm the other. Determining plant incompatibility can be a guess and check situation since soil types also have an influence on what plants should not be planted together.

Incompatible Garden Plants

There are a few basic rules of thumb when it comes to plants to avoid near one another. First, check that your garden plants are all about the same size and have the same light requirements. Planting very tall plants like tomato next to bush beans, for example, is a very bad idea since the tomatoes will very likely shade out the beans.

When planting taller and shorter plants together, make sure that the shorter plants are spaced far enough away and orientated so the sun will shine on them during the day. Many gardeners solve this problem by putting the shortest plants in their own row on the edge of the garden or planted as a border planting.

Plants that need a lot of water will cause those water haters nearby a great deal of discomfort; the same goes for fertilizer. It’s always a good idea to plant things with similar nutritional and water needs together, unless they’re fiercely competitive. Even then, you can often compensate by spacing them extra wide and providing enough fertilizer and water for both types of plants.

Last but not least are the plants that are allelopathic. Allelopathic plants have the capability to chemically impede the vital systems of competing plants. These plants are usually weeds, but many landscape and crop plants have been observed leaving behind allelopathic chemicals. Plant scientists are using these observations to develop better methods of weed control for farms and gardens alike.

What Plants Should Not Be Planted Together?

Many plants are believed to have allelopathic behaviors, but many remain in the realm of garden lore and lack substantial scientific documentation. Research in this area is sparse, but the list of plants believed to have allelopathic properties include:

  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas
  • Soybeans
  • Sunflowers
  • Tomatoes

Black walnuts have long been known to interfere with garden plants like tomatoes, eggplants and corn.

When planting broccoli in your garden, make sure that you practice good crop rotation since broccoli can leave behind residue that other cruciferous crops can’t tolerate.

Some plants, like alfalfa, seem to exhibit a remarkable type of allelopathy that interferes with the germination of their own seeds.

Garlic and onions are believed to interfere with the growth of beans and peas, but seem to be compatible with most other garden denizens.

Other commonly believed plant incompatibilities include the following plants to avoid near one another:

  • Mint and onions where asparagus is growing
  • Pole beans and mustard near beets
  • Anise and dill neighboring carrots
  • Cucumber, pumpkin, radish, sunflower, squash or tomatoes close to potato hills
  • Any member of the cabbage family near strawberries
  • Cabbage, cauliflower, corn, dill and potatoes near tomatoes

Grow These Plants Side-By-Side For A Thriving Garden

Who knew plants in the garden had best friends? Just like your BFF in middle school who knew how to scare away the “mean girls,” some plants have their “friends’” backs (er, sides). Strategically growing certain plants side-by-side is called companion planting, and it’s a way to help all your veggies “graduate” to harvest.

Here are seven dynamic duos to plant next to one another in your garden. With proper care, both plants in each pair should be thriving in no time.

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What To Plant Side-By-Side

1. Cabbage And Marigolds

Take those cabbages that you’re ready to put into the ground, and plant them next to some lovely marigolds. Why? Cabbageworms, cabbage moths and other pests will want to start chomping on the cabbage. Not to worry, though — marigolds help to repel those crawling menaces.

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2. Cucumbers And Radishes

Love you some cukes? Plant radishes nearby and make those cucumber beetles skedaddle. (Tansy and nasturtium will also work!) Once you have a cucumber crop, you can use the fruits of your labor to mix up a batch of this cucumber melon sangria!

Flickr | Jim, the Photographer

3. Cucumbers And Sunflowers

Here’s something else you can do for your cucumber pals: Keep them cool by planting sunflowers nearby to provide shade and let them vine up the stalk. We knew sunflowers were pretty, but now it turns out they are practical as well!

Flickr | fw190a8

4. Onions And Carrots

That stinky onion that you wish you didn’t eat for lunch? It can guard your carrots by taking care of nasty interlopers, like the carrot fly. Other plants from the allium family, such as chives and leeks, will also help.

Flickr | ripplestone garden

RELATED: Once you’ve picked your fruits and vegetables, here are some tips to keep them fresher for longer:

5. Herbs And Just About Anything!

One good thing to know is that herbs are generally your friends in the garden — and the home! Basil repels flies. Peppermint scares away mice (!), mosquitoes and ants. Rosemary helps shoo away bean beetles, cabbage moths and carrot flies. Lavender repels fleas, moths, flies and mosquitoes.

Flickr | KathrynW1

RELATED: The Best Air-Purifying Houseplants According To NASA

6. Lettuce And Carrots

Companion planting isn’t just about scaring away insects — it also works to beef up your vegetable harvest. Plant lettuce between rows of carrots and onions, as it will help to suppress weeds by creating shade. When the carrots and onions start to need more space, simply pull out the lettuce and make yourself a beautiful spring salad.

Getty Images | Sean Gallup

7. Corn, Squash And Beans

The best-known complementary plants are the “three sisters”: corn, squash and beans, which were all grown by Native Americans for centuries. Beans grow up the cornstalks, but they also fix nitrogen in the soil to nurture the corn and squash. The large squash leaves suppress weeds that would compete for nutrients. Like a family, these three nurture each other and work together in perfect harmony!

Flickr | Rob.Bertholf

If abundance is what you seek in your garden, grow plants that get along. They will return the favor with a bounty of healthy vegetables, herbs and flowers!

Flickr | National Garden Clubs

Easy Container Gardening Kits

If you’re interested in going the container gardening route, here are three kits that take most of the work out of the process. They range in price, but most will cost you at least $100.

1. Cedar Wedge Garden Bed

This little wedge is the perfect garden bed to put on your deck. Made out of cedar, this wedge design allows for roots to go deep into the soil without taking up too much space. Best of all, it doesn’t require the use of any tools for installation.

Amazon

Eco Modular Rustic Garden Wedge and Extension Kit, $266.27

2. Rustic Elevated Garden Bed

If you’re looking for something that’s raised up a bit so it’s easier to work with, then this elevated bed is perfect. This is one of the most popular models at Home Depot and has a 4.6 / 5 rating.

Home Depot

D Rustic Elevated Garden Bed, $165.37

RELATED: 10 Vegetables You Can Grow In Containers

3. Garden Bed With Critter Guard Fence

If critters are a problem for you, this kit provides an extra barrier between your delicious fruits and veggies and those pesky animals.

Home Depot

Cedar Raised Garden with CritterGuard Fence System, $144.19

What are your favorite vegetables and herbs to grow each summer? Or are you more of a flower garden sort?

Companion Planting With Flowers: Which Flowers Grow Well Together

Companion planting is a great way to give your vegetable garden a completely organic boost. Simply by positioning certain plants together, you can deter pests and create a good balance of nutrients. Companion planting with flowers is another great method, though often the reasons are more aesthetic. Read on to learn more about using flowers for companion plants in garden beds and which flowers grow well together.

Companion Planting with Flowers

Flowers tend to have specific blooming times – planting something that blossoms in the spring next to something that blossoms in high summer will ensure bright color in that spot the whole time.

Also, the foliage and flowers of the later blooming plants will help disguise the fading foliage of perennials that have already passed. That being said, some flowers just look good together with their complementary colors and heights.

When companion planting with flowers, there are a few more things to keep in mind. What are your flowers’ growing conditions? Make sure to pair flowers that require the same amount of moisture and sunlight. Don’t accidentally pair a short, sun-loving plant with a taller one that will cast a shadow over it.

When pairing flowers that will bloom at the same time, consider their colors and shapes. A wash of the same color is nice, but the individual flowers might get lost. Try combining complementary colors, like yellow and purple, to make the colors pop.

Flowers That Look Good Together

So which flowers grow well together? Use the following flowers for companion plants in garden beds as a guide to get you started:

The Black eyed Susan pairs well in the garden with:

  • Cosmos
  • Globe amaranth
  • Daylilies
  • Shasta daisy
  • Phlox

And Daylilies looks great in a Flowerbed with:

  • Coneflower
  • Yarrow
  • Taro
  • Black eyed Susan
  • Lavender

Bee balm gets along with nearly any plant but particularly enjoys the company of globe thistle, columbine and silver sage.

Tulip flowers like fellow spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils and grape hyacinth but also enjoy the company of perennials like asters and hosta.

Daffodils, like tulips, also prefer the company of other flower bulbs in addition to asters, hosta and iris.

Shasta daisy is a perennial plant that gets along well with a number of other flowers including Algerian iris, germander sage, rudbeckia and coneflowers.

This list, by no means, is all inclusive. As long as you keep growing conditions, heights, bloom times and colors under consideration, just about any flowering plant can make an excellent neighbor to another one. As the saying goes, “A flower does not think of competing to the other flower next to it. It just blooms.”

12 Best Herbs and Flowers for Companion Planting With Vegetables

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, so, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through one and make a purchase. This in no way influences my opinions or recommendations.

Two of the main challenges we face when we grow our own food organically are controlling pests and maximizing our crop yield. Knowing the best companion planting combinations helps you solve both problems without resorting to nasty chemical solutions. You can of course further optimize your crop yield by using any of our homemade organic fertilizer recipes, too. It’s not just about mixing plants to deter pests – in fact, many combinations attract beneficial insects as well as birds to eat any invading pests and encourage pollination. Companion planting also helps you get the most from whatever growing space you have available and is equally useful in tiny urban spaces and sprawling rural properties. We’ve put together a list of our favorite companion planting herbs and flowers to help you get larger amounts of healthy crops from your organic garden, whether you have several acres, a square foot garden, or a vertical garden.

1. Marigolds

All varieties of marigolds, including pot marigolds (Calendula), French and Mexican (Tagates) are among the best companion plants for vegetable gardens as well as ornamental gardens. The only vegetables you shouldn’t plant marigolds near are beans and brassicas (the cabbage family). Plant marigolds to repel whiteflies and ward off nematodes. As companion plants, marigolds are an organic gardener’s best friend, because they help keep slugs off your food crops. We all know slugs are a total menace, munching their way through masses of young vegetable crops and causing devastation. But slugs have a weakness: They adore marigolds. Instead of chomping on your veggies, they’ll head to the marigolds and feast there. so plant multiple patches all over the garden – just not too close to beans and brassicas.

TIP:

Sink containers, like disposable cups, into the ground and add a couple of inches of cheap beer. The slugs can’t resist. They climb in, gorge themselves, and drown. It’s not pretty – but it’s definitely an effective way to control slugs naturally!

2. Chives

Chives, along with onions, are the ideal carrot companion planting choice. They repel the insanely annoying carrot fly. As an added bonus, chives also deter whitefly and aphids, they’re easy to grow, and they taste great. Just remember to keep them away from peas and beans.

3. Sweet Alyssum

The primary function of companion planting sweet alyssum is natural, organic weed control. It grows quickly, creating thick, low-growing mats that help to prevent weeds, and you can use it as a green manure, too. Plant sweet alyssum on bare earth or in between crop rows, or anywhere else you don’t want to see weeds. When the growing season finishes, just dig the mats back into the ground to help replenish the nutrients in the soil. When they bloom, the fragrant flowers attract bees to the garden to help with pollination of your vegetable crops.

4. Nasturtiums

Nasturtium companion planting has multiple benefits. Firstly, they act as decoy companion plants for pests like aphids. This means that nasturtiums attract aphids to themselves and away from neighboring crops. Acting as both decoy and trap, the bright flowers of the nasturtium attract larger predatory insects that feast on tiny insect pests. Nasturtium companion planting also repels a long list of other insects. Brilliant for planting near members of the squash family, nasturtiums repel squash bugs, pumpkin beetles, and vine borers. Their ability to deter common cabbage family pests like white fly is another reason for their popularity among organic growers. And, the flowers have a strong, peppery flavor that makes a fabulous addition to salads.

5. Dill

For many organic vegetable gardeners, dill is their staple companion plant, particularly in when used in close proximity to members of the cabbage family. Dill firstly improves the growth, health, and flavor of these crops. When in bloom, it also attracts large, predatory wasps that feast on the pests that commonly attack squash and cabbage crops. It’s important to note that dill is irresistible to tomato hornworms, so can be used as a trap crop, but shouldn’t be planted too close to tomatoes.

6. Sage

Sage has a strong scent and makes an outstanding companion to the cabbage family, carrots, and tomatoes. This herb wards off the dreaded cabbage moth, along with whitefly and carrot fly. Companion planting sage with tomatoes invigorates the tomato crop, deepens the flavor and repels troublesome pests like hornworm.

7. Catnip

Yep, companion planting catnip is a genuine “thing” practiced by organic growers all over the globe. We all know that catnip is irresistible to cats, and growing catnip gives your cats a healthy, organic supply. Yes, it does attract cats to your garden, but they’re so entranced by the catnip that they forget all about having a poop or digging up your crops. Plus, having cats around helps to keep rodent populations down. Planting catnip as a border around crops that are vulnerable to rats, mice, and other rodent pests does wonders, as these little critters loathe the scent of catnip. While we’re not certain, we assume it’s because they associate the scent with their natural predators. Companion planting catnip also deters a long list of insect pests, including ants, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, weevils, aphids, and squash beetles.

8. Yarrow

Yarrow has multiple benefits in the vegetable garden. It attracts bees to aid pollination and predatory insects that consume large volumes of pests like aphids. It also acts as an organic fertilizer, returning large amounts of nutrients to the soil Yarrow has clusters of tiny blooms that draw predatory and parasitic wasps that attack pests like tomato hornworm.

9. Chrysanthemums

There are a huge number of chrysanthemum varieties, and quite a few of those prove very useful in the vegetable garden. C. coccineum, for example, repels root nematodes, as does C. cinerariaefolium. Both of these varieties, commonly known as painted ladies or painted daisies, contain high concentrations of pyrethrum. This natural insecticide contains six distinct pyrethrins which make up a very effective form of natural pest control. While live chrysanthemums will repel a whole host of bugs, including Japanese beetles, without doing them much harm, the plants don’t discriminate. Not being sentient, they can’t distinguish between an insect pest and a bee going around pollinating, for example.

Create a general purpose organic insecticide by drying chrysanthemum flowers, then grinding them with a mortar and pestle. Simply sprinkle the powder all over the garden. You can also steep the powder in some hot water to create a pyrethrum tea. Once it cools, pour the liquid straight onto the insects or the infested area. Pyrethrum, when it dust or tea form acts as a double-action insecticide, killing a variety of insects on contact and with ingestion. It’s particularly effective against small, soft-bodied beasties like aphids. It’s non-residual, too, so it doesn’t hang around and is non-toxic, so is safe for humans and pets alike.

10. Dahlias

Another awesome nematode-repelling choice, dahlias also have large, bright blooms that attract pollinators. When companion planting dahlias, remember that earwigs cannot resist them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as most earwig species devour pests like aphids. The drawback is that they’re omnivorous, and are partial to certain vegetable crops, too. So we advise keeping dahlias away from crops like corn that earwigs love.

11. Geraniums

Geraniums make a beautiful addition to the vegetable garden, and they’re a great choice for attracting pollinators. Companion planting geraniums with cabbage repels troublesome cabbage worms. White geraniums are particularly effective against Japanese beetles and beet leafhoppers.

12. Basil

Companion planting basil with tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, and other herbs (apart from oregano and rue), improves their flavor, health, and vigor. It’s exceptionally useful to tomatoes, peppers, and asparagus because it repels nematodes, aphids, asparagus beetles, white fly, black fly, mosquitoes and tomato hornworm. Beets, potatoes, pole and bush beans also benefit from being planted near basil. Because basil attracts butterflies, unless your cabbages and other brassicas are particularly well netted, it’s not a good idea to plant them in close proximity.

Now, we know there’s an array of other flowers and herbs that belong in the vegetable garden as companion plants, but these are a few of our favorites. We also love garlic, but we’re covering that in a separate post, so watch this space! What are some of your favorite companion herbs and flowers?

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Do you follow the principles of companion planting in your garden? See our tips on what plants to plant next to each other—and which to plant far apart—including popular crops like tomatoes, basil, potatoes, beans, and more.

What is Companion Planting?

It takes more than good soil, sun, and nutrients to ensure success in a garden. Time-honored gardening wisdom says that certain plants, when grown together, improve each other’s health and yields. For instance, some plants attract beneficial insects that help to protect a companion, while other plants (particularly herbs) act as repellents. Additionally, plants that require a lot of the same nutrients as their neighbors may struggle to get enough for themselves, producing lackluster crops.

Which vegetables should you plant next to each other? Which shouldn’t you plant together? Let’s take a look at the benefits of companion planting, then a list of the best companion plants.

Benefits of Companion Planting

There are plenty of reasons to plant certain crops together. For example…

  • Shade regulation: Large plants provide shade for smaller plants in need of sun protection.
  • Natural supports: Tall plants like corn and sunflowers can support lower-growing, sprawling crops such as cucumbers and peas.
  • Improved plant health: When one plant absorbs certain substances from the soil, it may change the soil biochemistry in favor of nearby plants.
  • Healthy soil: Some crops, such as bean and peas, help to make nitrogen available. Similarly, plants with long taproots, like burdock, bring up nutrients from deep in the soil, enriching the topsoil to the benefit of shallow-rooted plants.
  • Weed suppression: Planting sprawling crops like potatoes with upright plants minimizes open areas, where weeds typically take hold.

Companion Plants for Vegetables

Some plants, especially herbs, act as natural insect repellents. They confuse insects with strong odors that mask the scent of the intended host plants.

  • Dill and basil planted among tomatoes can protect from tomato hornworms.
  • Sage scattered about the cabbage patch reduces injury from cabbage moths.
  • Marigolds are as good as gold when grown with just about any garden plant, repelling nematodes which attack vegetable roots, especially tomatoes.
  • Some companions act as trap plants, luring insects to themselves. Nasturtiums, for example, are so favored by aphids that the devastating insects will flock to them instead of other plants.
  • Carrots, dill, parsley, and parsnip attract beneficial insects—praying mantises, ladybugs, and spiders—that dine on insect pests.
  • Much of companion planting is common sense: Lettuce, radishes, and other quick-growing plants sown between hills of melons or winter squash will mature and be harvested long before these vines need more leg room.
  • Leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard grow in the shadow of corn.
  • Bush beans tolerate the dapple shade that corn casts and, since their roots occupy different levels in the soil, don’t compete for water and nutrients.
  • Tansy discourages cutworm, which attacks asparagus, bean, cabbage, carrot, celery, corn, lettuce, pea, pepper, potato, and tomato plants.
  • Catnip, hyssop, rosemary, and sage deter cabbage moth, which is detrimental to a host of edible crops, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnip, and radish.
  • Mint wards off cabbage moth and ants.
  • Thyme thwarts cabbageworm, which munches broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard, horseradish, kale, and kohlrabi.
  • Lavender is known to deter codling moths, which wreak havoc on apple trees.
  • Zinnias attract ladybugs, so when planted near cauliflower, which is susceptible to cabbage flies, the ladybugs are there to control the pest population.

See our companion planting chart for advice on popular vegetables.

Incompatible Edibles

Plants that are not compatible with each other are sometimes called combatants. Here are a few:

  • White garlic and onions repel a plethora of pests and make excellent neighbors for most garden plants, but the growth of beans and peas is stunted in their presence.
  • Potatoes and beans grow poorly in the company of sunflowers, and although cabbage and cauliflower are closely related, they don’t like each other at all.


Sunflowers

One of the keys to successful companion planting is observation. Record your plant combinations and the results from year to year, and share this information with other gardening friends. Companionship is just as important for gardeners as it is for gardens.

More Companion Plantings

Even plants in the woodlands are companions:

  • Blueberries, mountain laurel, azaleas, and other ericaceous (heath family) plants thrive in the acidic soils created by pines and oaks.
  • Shade-loving plants seek the shelter provided by a wooded grove. The shade-lovers in return protect the forest floor from erosion with their thick tangle of shallow roots.
  • Legumes and some trees, such as alders, have symbiotic relationships with bacteria in the soil that help them to capture nitrogen from the air and convert it to fertilizer, enriching the soil so plants can prosper in their presence.

Pea pods

Strange Plant Pairings

Sometimes plants may be helpful to one another only at a certain stage of their growth. The number and ratio of different plants growing together is often a factor in their compatibility, and sometimes plants make good companions for no apparent reason.

  • You would assume that keeping a garden weed-free would be a good thing, but this is not always the case. Certain weeds pull nutrients from deep in the soil and bring them close to the surface. When the weeds die and decompose, nutrients become available in the surface soil and are more easily accessed by shallow-rooted plants.

Stinging nettle

  • Perhaps one of the most intriguing examples of strange garden bedfellows is the relationship between the weed stinging nettle and several vegetable varieties. For reasons that are unclear, plants grown in the presence of stinging nettle display exceptional vigor and resist spoiling.

Learn More

Want to learn more about companion planting? Watch our companion planting video about why vegetables need flower friends!

Collard Greens (Brassica Oleracea)

Collard greens grow best in zone 6. The plant also is more frost tolerant than other leafy greens and can actually improve the flavor of the plant. Plant collard greens in the late summer for a winter harvest. Collard greens grow best in moist, fertile soil, in full sun. Plants should be at least 3 feet apart. For mature leaves, allow 60-75 days until harvest; however the leaves are edible and can be harvested at any time during this growth cycle (1). Collard greens are in the same plant family as cabbage, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, so they should not be planted together. If planted in large quantities together, they will use the same nutrients in the soil, resulting in generally less nutrients that the plants need. Plant collard greens with hysop, thyme, and artemesia. These plants are also known as cabbage moth repellers. Dill is also a beneficial companion plant to collard greens, as it attracts wasps that prey on cabbage worms. Potatoes and onions are also good companion vegetables because they draw different types of nutrients in the soil than collard greens, which prevents the need for additional fertilizer for the collards (2).
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Collards can be eaten raw in a salad or as a wrap. These greens can be steamed, sauteed, or cooked in a broth. Cooked in broth, all the nutrients and minerals from the collards’ leaves leaches into the broth. Collard greens, known as couve, are popular in many Brazilian dishes, often as a side vegetable for a fish or meat dish. Collards were thought to have been brought to Brazil from Portugal, where it is also a popular ingredient. The plant is a key ingredient in the popular soup, caldo verde (3). In the United States, collard greens are a staple in the southeastern region, particularly in southern African-American Communities. It is believed that methods of cooking collard greens came from practices rooted in African cultures, dating back to the time of slavery in the U.S. A popular dish in Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya is called sukuma wiki, of which collards are a main ingredient. Recent research studies have shown that steamed collards have particularly strong bile acid binding abilities, compared to kale, mustard greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage. Since bile acids are made from cholesterol, the net impact of this process ends up lowering cholesterol levels overall. Collards also support the body’s detox, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory systems. Imbalances of these systems increase the risk of developing cancer (4).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Collard greens have strong ties with southern African-American communities in the United States. The practice of cooking collard greens stemmed from the time of slavery in the U.S. and the necessity of providing food for their families. Collard greens used to considered kitchen scraps along with turnip greens, when they are in fact extremely nutrient dense foods. Collard greens were cooked with other leftovers – ham hocks and pig’s feet, and the remaining juices, called pot likker, was also consumed; a traditional practice from Africa. Collard greens have been passed down through the generations as a traditional southern food. One superstition is that cooking and eating collard greens with black eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring a year of good luck and finances (5). In the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, the food culture of the people living there, the Mineiros, is based on a small farmhouse. Many of the dishes are prepared with a style of serving fresh vegetables with meat, one of those vegetables being collard greens, also known as couve. In Kenya, collard greens are a popular ingredient in many dishes, as it is cheap and also plentiful. The popular dish, sukuma wiki translates to “stretch the week” which points to the resourcefulness of the plant (6).
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1. Badgett, Becca. “Tips On How To Grow Collard Greens.” Gardening Know How. February 6, 2014. http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/greens/growing-collard-greens.htm
2. Beal, Janet. “Companion Planting With Collards.” Garden Guides. http://www.gardenguides.com/129562-companion-planting-collards.html#ixzz2xVseFuPm
3. Crandall, Russ. “Couve a Mineira Brazilian Collard Greens.” The Domestic Man. August 27, 2013. http://thedomesticman.com/2013/08/27/brazilian-collard-greens-couve-a-mineira/
4. “Collard greens.” The World’s Healthiest Foods. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=138
5. http://voices.yahoo.com/the-history-collard-greens-popular-southern-delicacy-582551.html
6. “Sukuma Wiki (Collard Greens).” Kenya Culture – Recipes. http://www.blissites.com/kenya/culture/recipes/sukuma.html

Seasoned gardeners know that a diverse mix of plants makes for a healthy and beautiful garden. Many believe that certain plant combinations have extraordinary (even mysterious) powers to help each other grow. Scientific study of the process, called companion planting, has confirmed that some combinations have real benefits unique to those pairings.

Companions help each other grow and use garden space efficiently. Tall plants, for example, provide shade for sun-sensitive shorter plants. Vines can cover the ground while tall stalks grow skywards, allowing two plants to occupy the same patch.

Some couplings also prevent pest problems. Plants can repel harmful organisms or lure the bad bugs away from more delicate species.

Here are 26 plants that do way better, together:

Roses and Garlic

Oleksandr Berezko/ ; Denis and Yulia Pogostins/

Gardeners have been planting garlic with roses for eons since the bulbs can help to repel rose pests. Garlic chives are probably just as repellent, and their small purple or white flowers in late spring look great with rose flowers and foliage.

Marigolds and Melons

Irina Zholudeva/; tchara/

Certain marigold varieties control nematodes in the roots of melon without using chemical treatments.

Tomatoes and Cabbage

eugenegurkov/ ; thanom/

Tomatoes repel diamondback moth larvae, which can chew large holes in cabbage leaves.

Cucumbers and Nasturtiums

Africa Studio/ ; Nadya N/

The nasturtium’s vining stems make them a great companion rambling among your growing cucumbers and squash plants, suggests Sally Jean Cunningham, master gardener and author of Great Garden Companions. Nasturtiums reputedly repel cucumber beetles, but they can also serve as a habitat for predatory insects like spiders and ground beetles.

Peppers and Pigweed

Yatra/ ; pangcom/

Leafminers preferred both pigweed (also called amaranthus) and ragweed to pepper plants in a study at the Coastal Plains Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia. Just be careful to remove the flowers before the weeds set seed.

Cabbage and Dill

thanom/ ; Oksana Alekseeva/

“Dill is a great companion for cabbage family plants, such as broccoli and brussels sprouts,” Cunningham says. The cabbages support the floppy dill, while the dill attracts the helpful wasps that control cabbage worms and other pests.

Corn and Beans

Aedka Studio/ ; Thomas Soellner/

The beans attract beneficial insects that prey on corn pests such as leafhoppers, fall armyworms, and leaf beetles. The vines can also climb up the corn stalks.

Lettuce and Tall Flowers

januszt/ ; tecphotoMaine/

Nicotiana (flowering tobacco) and cleome (spider flower) give lettuce the light shade it grows best in.

Radishes and Spinach

Vitamin/ ; Sarah Clark/

Planting radishes among your spinach will draw leafminers away from the healthy greens. The damage the leafminers do to radish leaves doesn’t prevent the radishes from growing nicely underground.

Potatoes and Sweet Alyssum

nednapa/ ; Thirteen/

The sweet alyssum has tiny flowers that attract delicate beneficial insects, such as predatory wasps. Plant sweet alyssum alongside bushy crops like potatoes, or let it spread to form a living ground cover under arching plants like broccoli. Bonus: The alyssum’s sweet fragrance will scent your garden all summe longr.

Cauliflower and Dwarf Zinnias

Esin Deniz/ ; Armei studio/

The nectar from the dwarf zinnias lures ladybugs and other predators that help protect cauliflower.

Collards and Catnip

Elizabeth O. Weller/ ; Katarzyna Mazurowska/

Studies have found that planting catnip alongside collards reduces flea-beetle damage on the collards. The fragrant plant may also help repel mosquitoes.

Strawberries and Love-In-A-Mist

Sentelia/ ; haraldmuc/

Tall, blue-flowered love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) “looks wonderful planted in the center of a wide row of strawberries,” Cunningham says.

How to fight slugs and snails using companion planting

Slugs and snails can ravage a garden. Here are a couple of examples in my garden, where companion planting almost eliminated snail damage in swiss chard and beets.

Scientists prefer the term INTERCROPPING instead of Companion Planting to describe the benefits of plants on each other. If you do a search using “intercropping’ you’re more likely to get fact based results.

Turnips protected it’s swiss chard and beet neighbours

We had a very wet spring and early summer and the slugs and snails loved it. Everything was green and luscious. The snails prospered and multiplied.

Snails can reproduce very quickly because they are hermaphrodite and both parents can become pregnant and lay eggs. I you have 2 snails they can breed together and reproduce.

Many of my plants started looking like lace handkerchiefs in no time at all. I started patrolling and picking off the offending snails and this helped. I also noticed that some birds were carrying off adult snails.

The snails and slugs are very fond of plants in the cabbage family. Collard greens, broccoli and brussel sprouts, kale and turnip, are all favourites. They will also happily munch on beet leaves and swiss chard. A few hungry snails will devastate your greens in just a few nights.

One day as I was frantically hunting the slugs and snails, I noticed something very strange. The turnip were being shredded but right beside them, and touching, the swiss chard was practically un-munched.

In spite of the large number of snails around there was almost no damage to the chard nor to the beets one row away. A few inches beside them the turnips were disappearing as I watched.

When they first came up the turnip was blindingly fast and quickly got to the business of making lots of leaves and making the turnip. This happened before the snails had a chance to build up their populations but they slowed right down when the snails showed up. The chard quickly caught up.

I had planted the turnip more as an experiment than serious vegetable production. As it turned out the turnips came up well and quickly made tasty turnips and leaves. They then became slug magnets and kept the swiss chard and beets virtually free of snails.

Now I know, IF I WANT TO KEEP A PLANT SLUG FREE I SHOULD PLANT TURNIPS NEAR IT. Or rather plant a cabbage family vegetable. Even simple radishes will help.

The nice thing about turnips and radishes as bait plants, is that even if the leaves get eaten you still get the turnip and radish so there is not much loss of crop.

It’s much easier to check a few plants for pests than several rows so I was able to do a much better job of picking off the snails, in a much shorter time. For this to work you have to go and pick off the snails but they are concentrated in a much smaller area. Organic farmers will sometimes plant a row of bait plants. When they are full of pests these can be picked off or the plant carefully sprayed with a pesticide. This way the real crop remains intact and is not sprayed with pesticide.

Collard Greens and Swiss Chard.

Further down the garden path as it was, the collard greens were also doing a similar job for the red chard.

The collard greens are not as devastated as the turnip greens but the red chard is almost untouched by the many slugs happily sitting on the collards.

Organic farmers know this

Planting a sacrificial variety near another type of plant we want to protect is well known tactic of organic farmers. Not only does this keep the pests away from the wanted crop but it concentrates the pests in one area where they can be trapped or squished, sprayed, or removed.

I did a bit of research and found a number of references where plants were used to lure pests away. These examples are from Swanson Nursery website: Agastache, will attract cabbage moth away from the garden, Calendula also attracts slugs away from other plants, apparently Nasturtiums attract aphids away from other plants, radishes attract leaf miners which sometimes plague spinach and beet or chard leaves.

West Coast seeds has an extensive page on companion planting.

The official term used to describe the practice of planting a crop for the purpose of attracting pests from a more desirable crop, is CROP TRAPPING. Here is a They regularly go in and vacuum up the bugs from the lure crop and the strawberries are the winners.

From the University of Vermont: Controlling Pests with plants: the power of intercropping.

I think the take-away for me is this:

  • Slugs really like cruciferous vegetables.
  • Planting a cruciferous veggie near another plant will protenct this other plant from snail or slug damage.
  • Because slugs and snails will congregate on the cruciferous, they are much easier to find and eliminate.
  • Turnip seemed to be the absolute favourite, but radish, kohlrabi, collard greens, cabbage, etc, are all prey to snails. Maybe planting a few turnips with other types of cabbage will actually protect the others. I’ll try this next year.
  • You have to go and pick off the snails otherwise all you have is a snail Smorgasbord. and populations will explode.

Small Print

This information is for general knowledge. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything. The information on this page comes from personal experience.

email: Christine

Companion Plants: What To Grow With Tomatoes

Companion plants are those that work well together. Pairing them provides a benefit to one or both. At the same time, some plants should be kept apart. (Hmm… sounds a lot like people.)

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Get your free copy of “10 Must-Know Tomato Growing Tips.” This 20-page guide is filled with tips you need to know to have a successful tomato crop, whether you’re a beginning or experienced gardener.

What kinds of benefits can companion plants offer tomatoes?

When chosen carefully, companion plants can:

* deter pests and diseases

* improve tomato health

* improve tomato flavor

* act as “good neighbors”

There are several plants are considered excellent companions for tomatoes.

Tomatoes also return the favor for other plants in your garden.

And there are also some “tomato enemies” that you will want to steer clear from your tomato zone.

Best Companion Plants for Tomatoes

Plant Benefit for Tomato Extra Tips
Basil (annual herb) Repels whiteflies, mosquitoes, spider mites, aphids, hornworms
Improves pollination – attracts bees
Improves tomato health
Improves tomato flavor
Plant 3 basil per tomato for best coverage
Borage (annual herb) Repels tomato hornworm, cabbage worm
Improves tomato health
Improves tomato flavor
May self-seed from year to year
Use leaves in salads
Chives (bulbous herb) Repels aphids Tasty in salads
Garlic (bulbous herb) Repels spider mites Make your own insecticide by burying garlic cloves 1″ in the ground around tomato plants
Marigolds (annual flower) Repels nematodes, tomato worm, slugs, general garden pests Some gardeners recommend French marigolds as best deterrents
Till marigolds into the soil at season end to deter nematodes further
Mint (perennial herb) Deters white cabbage moths, ants, rodents, flea beetles, fleas, aphids Can be invasive. Plant in a submerged container to prevent mint from overtaking the garden
Nasturtium (annual flower) Deters aphids, whiteflies, squash bugs, beetles
Wards off fungal diseases
Doesn’t compete for nutrients
May self-seed year to year
Makes an excellent garden edging
Parsley (biennial herb) Attracts hoverflies (which feast on tomato pests) Dislikes heat

Mutually-Beneficial Companion Plants for Tomatoes

Plant Benefit for Tomato Benefit for Plant
Asparagus (perennial vegetable) Asparagus produces a chemical shown to kill nematodes (pests that play havoc with roots) Tomatoes repel the asparagus beetle

“Good Neighbor” Companions for Tomatoes

Plant Benefit for Tomato
Carrot (annual vegetable) Cultivation. Carrot roots break up soil around tomatoes, allowing in more nutrients, air, and water
Space saver. Carrots are ready to be harvested soon after tomatoes go in the ground
Spinach; Lettuce (annual vegetables) Space saver. Leaves are ready to be harvested soon after tomatoes are planted.

Worst Companions for Tomatoes

Plant Problem
Black Walnut (deciduous tree) Inhibits tomato growth by producing juglone, a compound that can be toxic or stunt growth in tomatoes
Generate walnut wilt
Brassicas (cabbage, cauli, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi) Inhibit tomato growth
Corn (annual vegetable) Common enemies: both corn and tomatoes attract the tomato fruitworm/corn earworm
Fennel (perennial herb) Inhibits tomato growth
Potato (tuberous vegetable) Cultivates susceptibility to early and late blight fungus

Tomato Combined Friend and Foe

Plant Benefit Problem Solution
Dill (annual herb) Young dill enhances tomato health and growth Mature dill stunts tomato growth Harvest dill before it gets too large

Tomato as a Beneficial Companion

Plant Benefit for Companion
Gooseberries (fruit shrub) Tomato scent repels insects
Roses (perennial shrub) Tomatoes protect interplanted roses from black spot

Get more ideas on our Companion Planting for Tomatoes Pinterest board

More about Planting and Growing Healthy Tomatoes

10 companion plants that protect tomatoes from pests ….

Planting tomatoes: top tips to help your new crop succeed
Best tomato growing tips: readers share their favorites …
Planting tomato plants: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) …
How to buy tomato plants …
Watering tomatoes when planting and just afterwards …
Watering tomato plants: the basics …
Techniques for watering tomato plants …
Watering Tomatoes: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)…
How and when to mulch tomatoes …
The best mulch for growing tomatoes …
How to use tomato fertilizer to get the best production …
Kinds of tomato fertilizer …
Organic tomato fertilizer: advantages and disadvantages …
Pruning tomato plants: how and when to do it …
Weeding tomatoes …
Why staking tomatoes produces a healthier harvest …
Growing tomatoes: top 4 areas of tomato care

More about companion plants on our Pinterest board …

Return from Companion Plants to Tomato Dirt home

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Find out which vegetables should and shouldn’t be planted together with our companion planting chart. Our chart covers 10 of the most popular vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and more!

How Does Companion Planting Work?

Companion planting is the practice of growing certain plants alongside each other in order to reap the benefits of their complementary characteristics, such as their nutrient requirements, growth habits, or pest-repelling abilities.

A classic example of companion planting is the Three Sisters trio—maize, climbing beans, and winter squash—which were commonly planted together by various Native American communities due to the plants’ complementary natures: the corn grows tall, supporting the climbing beans; the squash stays low, shading the area with its big, prickly leaves to discourage weeds and pests; and the fast-growing beans provide a supply of nitrogen.

Growth habit isn’t the only characteristic to consider when companion planting—it’s also important to be aware of the nutrient needs of plants. Growing plants that require the same primary nutrients together means that they will be competing for resources, which can slow down growth for all. For this reason, it’s usually best to grow plants with complementary nutrient needs together.

Finally, companion plants help each other out when it comes to preventing damage from pests. The strong scents of plants like lavender, rosemary, and mint, for example, can discourage grazing animals from snacking on nearby vegetables, and nasturtiums, which are a favorite of aphids, can be used as bait plants to keep the pests off of your main crops.

Read our full article about companion planting to understand all the benefits!

Companion Planting Chart

Consult the chart below to see which vegetables make the best companions—and which don’t! We’d suggest separating foes and friends on opposite sides of the garden, or at least 4 feet away.

CROP NAME FRIENDS FOES
BEANS Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Peas
Potatoes
Radishes
Squash
Strawberries
Summer savory
Tomatoes
Garlic
Onions
Peppers
Sunflowers
CABBAGE Beans
Celery
Cucumbers
Dill
Kale
Lettuce
Onions
Potatoes
Sage
Spinach
Thyme
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Strawberries
Tomatoes
CARROTS Beans
Lettuce
Onions
Peas
Radishes
Rosemary
Sage
Tomatoes
Anise
Dill
Parsley
CORN Beans
Cucumbers
Lettuce
Melons
Peas
Potatoes
Squash
Sunflowers
Tomatoes
CUCUMBERS Beans
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Corn
Lettuce
Peas
Radishes
Sunflowers
Aromatic herbs
Melons
Potatoes
LETTUCE Asparagus
Beets
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Onions
Peas
Potatoes
Radishes
Spinach
Strawberries
Sunflowers
Tomatoes
Broccoli
ONIONS Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Lettuce
Peppers
Potatoes
Spinach
Tomatoes
Beans
Peas
Sage
PEPPERS Basil
Coriander
Onions
Spinach
Tomatoes
Beans
Kohlrabi
RADISHES Basil
Coriander
Onions
Spinach
Tomatoes
Kohlrabi
TOMATOES Asparagus
Basil
Beans
Borage
Carrots
Celery
Dill
Lettuce
Melons
Onions
Parsley
Peppers
Radishes
Spinach
Thyme
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Corn
Kale
Potatoes

Watch our video on Companion Planting: Why Vegetables Need Friends!

Just getting started with gardening or need a refresher course? Check out our Vegetable Gardening for Beginners how-to page.

Need plant-specific growing advice? Read through our many Growing Guides for vegetables, fruit, flowers, and herbs.

Have you tried companion planting? What’s your go-to pairing? Tell us in the comments below!

TROPAEOLUM

Bright, bold, and cheerful, nasturtiums are among the easiest flowers to grow.

‘Canary Creeper’

With only a hint of care and attention, these fast-spreading annuals put on a summer-long show of vibrant, beautiful flowers.

And they’re entirely edible! Every part of the plant, including seeds, leaves, and flowers, has a tasty, distinct flavor.

The flowers and leaves of the Tropaeolum have a refreshing, peppery taste, and pickled seeds make an excellent substitute for capers. In addition, both flowers and leaves make a gorgeous garnish on any summer plate!

One species, T. tuberosum, even produces an edible tuber, and is an important food source in the Andes mountains of South America.

Nasturtiums belong to the Tropaeolum genus of the Brassicaceae (cabbage) family, and numerous popular garden cultivars are available, including dwarf, bush, climbing, and trailing varieties.

The plant goes by various common names including Indian cress, Mexican cress, and Peru cress.

The Nasturtium genus is also a member of the Brassicas, but this botanical classification properly refers to watercress plants.

Because of its intense flavor, watercress got dibs on the name – which means “twisted nose,” originally from the Latin phrase nasus tortus. Apparently, a twisted nose was a common reaction to eating their pungent leaves!

The flowering garden annual was also given the common name “nasturtium” because it produces an oil with a similar peppery flavor to that of watercress.

Native to South and Central America, this fast-growing herbaceous annual has numerous round, green leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers, often with intense tropical colors, that sit atop long, slender stalks.

A Garden Trophy

Tropaeolum was introduced to Spain from the Americas in the mid-1500s, and was commonly used as a salad ingredient in the same way as that of garden and watercress.

Famed Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus named the genus Tropaeolum because they reminded him of a Roman custom of raising a trophy pole (or tropaeum) after a victorious battle. The round leaves made him think of military shields, while the deep red flowers conjured images of bloodstained helmets.

Flowers come in deeply intense hues of cream, yellow, orange, and red, which are set off beautifully by the sea of green leaves.

Photo by Lorna Kring

Highly useful, this annual has many attractive applications in the garden.

Nasturtiums can be grown in the landscape or containers, and they make an ideal ground cover in areas with poor soil. They also do a yeoman’s job of being a companion to other plants, and make an attractive addition to floral arrangements, with the flowers giving a light, fruity scent.

Simple and easy to grow, with over 100 varieties available, they come in cascading, climbing, and bush forms. Nasturtiums require an absolute minimum of care, and will thrive even when neglected.

Truth be told, if grown in soil that’s too rich, or after the application of fertilizer, abundant foliage will result – but with few flowers. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

The fast-growing greenery makes a good seasonal screen for hard-to-grow areas, such as under decks and in other shady spots, or for areas with poor soil.

Choose the old-fashioned climbing and trailing varieties for their long-limbed use in vertical spaces, like on trellises or fences, or as sprawling ground covers and weed barriers.

T. peregrinum gives us cultivars such the yellow ‘Canary Creeper,’ while the ‘Moonlight’ series of climbers comes from T. Lobbianum.

T. minus is a small bush species that makes an excellent aphid trap to protect beans, squash, and other plants in the veggie patch.

Plant near the crops you want to protect from the sap-sucking pests, then hose off aphids or apply a gentle and natural insecticidal soap.

To make your own safe, pest-busting soap, use a pure, additive-free brand like Castile’s, available on Amazon. Mix in a ratio of 1 tablespoon soap per 1 quart of water. Or drop a bar of Ivory into a gallon of water overnight.

Shake gently, and pour into a mister. Give the solution another good shake, then apply to infested areas.

Or, the use of a few 10-inch planted pots that can be easily moved is a good option for small spaces.

Use compact trailing varieties from T. majus – such as the fire engine red ‘Empress of India’ and the multi-colored ‘Fiesta’ blends – as spectacular spillers to trail from window boxes and hanging baskets, or over rock walls.

For the Dinner Plate

And remember to grow some for your kitchen garden – they add a fresh, peppery taste and a touch of bright beauty to the dinner table. Of course, they need to be grown naturally and without the use of chemicals!

For an appy (or an “app,” for the American readers), stuff flowers with softened cream or goat cheese mixed with fresh herbs. Serve on a tray scattered with nasturtium leaves.

Minced leaves and flowers are delicious when blended with lemon butter to accompany steak, seafood, veggies, or fresh artisan breads.

And to add a piquant flavor to salads and pastas, use whole or shredded leaves and flowers.

You can also pickle immature green seeds. Known as “poor man’s capers,” they make an excellent substitute for the real thing.

Plus, as a plate garnish, their bold beauty is delightful!

Care and Cultivation

Nasturtiums do best in poor to average soil, slightly on the acidic side. And good drainage is a must.

For the most abundant flowers, grow in full sun. In partial shade, the foliage will be bigger, but with fewer flowers, and plants will tend to sprawl more.

Seeds should be sown after danger of frost has passed at a depth of 1/2 inch – and they need the darkness, so make it a true 1/2 inch. They will germinate in 10-14 days.

Photo by Lorna Kring

For faster sprouting, soak the seeds in lukewarm water overnight. Plant directly in the ground, or in containers where you want them to grow.

They can also be started indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date; however, they sow and sprout so eagerly, this is usually unnecessary.

Ensure the seeds are kept moist during the germination period, and water in dry weather.

Tougher than they look, once established, nasturtiums can handle periods of drought and high temperatures – although they can suffer from scorch in excessively hot afternoon sunshine.

Nasturtiums don’t require fertilizer, and even when grown in containers, they won’t require the same amount of feeding as other annuals.

If the plants get a bit strung out or lanky, prune back to a desirable size and they’ll quickly produce new growth. The occasional grooming or deadheading of flowers will also prolong blooming.

Grown in containers, they benefit from the occasional trim to maintain a compact shape, and to keep flower production high.

Very adaptable, nasturtiums can succeed in poor soils, dry conditions, and shady areas, making them the go-to flower for those stubborn spots where other plants struggle or perish.

They also set copious amounts of seeds with abandon, and will self-seed readily. Collect ripened seedpods from the ground from late summer until winter. Store seeds in a paper envelope in a cool, dark environment until ready to plant the next spring.

Once they’ve found a happy spot (which is pretty much anywhere), nasturtiums will produce a rich supply of flowers until touched with frost.

In addition, their pretty fragrance and longevity make them a good option in a vase of cut flowers.

Largely disease free, powdery mildew may appear in wet conditions. Thin out infected areas and allow the soil to dry out before watering again.

And because of their many outstanding characteristics and quick growth, nasturtiums are always a good choice for children’s gardens.

Garden Companions

As mentioned, nasturtiums are a natural trap crop for aphids, and work well for this purpose when planted with green beans, runner beans, and squashes.

They also deter other pests like whiteflies and cucumber beetles, and attract beneficial predator insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps (teensy, non-stinging wasps).

They’re also a good garden buddy to Brassicas (such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower), cucumbers, melons, radishes, squash, and tomatoes.

Tropaeolum Plant Facts

  • Edible – leaves, flowers, and seeds can all be used in the kitchen.
  • A premier no-fuss plant!
  • Prefer poor soil and need no fertilizing
  • Will grow in sun or shade.
  • Can withstand dry spells when mature.
  • A hardworking companion plant in the veggie garden.
  • One of the easiest plants to grow from seed.
  • A must for children’s gardens!
  • Benefits from pruning to restore shape and flower production.

Where To Buy

Remember, if you plan to use nasturtiums for edible purposes, buy organic seeds like this ‘Kaleidoscope’ mix of bright reds and oranges with swirled bicolors from David’s Garden Seeds. And use natural, non-toxic pest control practices in your garden.

Organic ‘Kaleidoscope’ Mix, available on Amazon

For something that provides a unique pop of color, try ‘Baby Rose.’ This cultivar has dark green foliage and deep rose-colored flowers. Unlike other vining types that are eager to spread, this variety has a tightly mounding habit with blooms that are held upright, so it’s perfect for containers and makes a nice addition to the herb garden as well. Full spread maxes out at 10-12 inches.

Packets of 50 seeds each are available from Burpee.

For window boxes, hanging planters, rockeries, and xeriscaping, try trailing types like this open-pollinated trailing mix of red, orange, and yellow blossoms from David’s Garden Seeds, available on Amazon.

David’s Garden Seeds Nasturtium Trailing Mix

For ground covers, trellises, or fences, a climbing type such as the scarlet ‘Spitfire’ fits the bill.

Climbing ‘Spitfire’ Nasturtium Seeds

You can find it at Renee’s Seeds, also available on Amazon.

Finally, ‘Peach Melba’ is an heirloom variety that you might enjoy, marked by yellow blooms with decorative blotches toward the center of each in a darker shade that ranges from orange to maroon. Another compact variety, its spread maxes out at 10-12 inches, so it will behave in containers and small spaces.

Packets of 50 seeds each are available from Burpee.

The Twisted Nose

It’s easy to understand why nasturtiums are so highly valued in the garden – they pack a lot of versatility into their growing season!

Simple to grow from seed, hardworking and versatile, these no-fuss annuals also provide dazzling color from spring until frost.

They can be used as ground covers, as spillers from hanging pots, for climbing, as trap plants for the veggie patch, and for cut flowers. Plus, they are entirely edible with a lively, piquant flavor. Now, that’s one talented plant!

Remember to keep seeds moist while germinating, provide a sunny location for the best flower production, give them excellent drainage, and water when dry. And when the cold weather looms, see our guide on how to care for your nasturtiums during winter.

And ease up on the fertilizer! Unless you want to use the foliage as a fill-in plant for tricky spots, no feeding is required.

Do you folks have any questions or nasturtium problems we can help you with? Drop us a line in the comments below, or join us on our Facebook page!

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Photos by Lorna Kring. © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via David’s Garden Seeds and Renee’s Seeds. Uncredited photos: . Originally published on August 4, 2017. Last updated: December 29, 2019 at 20:19 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

About Lorna Kring

A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!

Nasturtiums are an extremely useful and attractive flowering plant that deserve a space in every garden.

This is the common name for Tropaeolum – the only genus in the plant family Tropaeolaceae.

These flowers gained their common name because of their similarity to watercress (Nasturtium officinale).

As you will learn in this article, there are plenty of reasons to grow nasturtiums in your garden – they are incredibly useful in the garden itself, and also when harvested for culinary use.

Read on to learn more.

How To Grow Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums can be sown inside in pots or outside where they are to grow between March and May. They will flower from summer through to the autumn.

Nasturtiums are very easy to grow from seed and are hassle free, especially if you are not in a rush and just direct sow as soon as the risk of frost has passed in your area.

If you want to get earlier blooms then you can start the seeds indoors, though to prevent transplant shock it is best to grow them in biodegradable containers (toilet roll tubes work well) so you can just pop the whole thing into the garden.

The large seeds are easy to handle and so are the perfect way to introduce children to gardening.

Nasturtium seeds will germinate in a sunny spot in 10-12 days. Remember to harden off plants grown inside before planting them out.

Where to Place Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums will prefer a sunny and relatively sheltered spot.

Nasturtiums will thrive even in relatively poor quality soil as long as they are watered regularly. Try to keep the area around them free of weeds to reduce competition, and do not over-fertilize as fertile soil can cause plants to produce fewer blooms and more foliage.

Caring for Nasturtiums

These plants are fairly hardy but make sure that you water them well during dry weather. Pay attention to watering, especially with plants in pots or window boxes, which can dry out more quickly. Let the soil dry between waterings but not too much or for too long.

Cutting off finished or faded flowers will encourage the plant to keep blooming for longer throughout the growing season. As you will learn later, however, you may wish to harvest the flowers (and leaves) for a range of culinary uses rather than allowing them to fade.

5 Reasons To Grow Nasturtiums in Your Garden

Nasturtiums are an attractive plant that can bloom abundantly. They can bring colour and visual appeal to your garden. But there are also a number of very practical reasons why growing these flowers is a good idea.

You can, for example, use nasturtiums to:

1. Attract Beneficial Insects

Nasturtiums will attract a range of beneficial insects to your garden – including bees and other pollinators.

Adding nasturtiums in your outside space is one way to help honey bees and other bee species that are under threat due to climate change and human activity.

We need bees for our very survival on this planet. So it is vitally important that as gardeners and growers, we all do our part to protect and aid them. Of course, having pollinators in your garden will also help make sure you get a great fruit harvest each year, if you grow your own food.

2. As A Companion Plant For Your Fruits & Veggies

It is not only pollinators that will be attracted to nasturtiums. These plants also attract pest insect species such as aphids, weevils and beetles making the nasturtiums a brilliant companion plant in the vegetable garden.

This might not immediately seem like a good thing – but since these pests are attracted to the nasturtiums, they will leave your fruits, vegetables or other crops alone. Nasturtiums, therefore, are known as a trap crop.

As a trap crop, they are an excellent choice for keeping pests away from beans, tomatoes, fruiting trees and brassicas (plants in the cabbage family).

Another thing to bear in mind is that by attracting their prey, and in other ways, nasturtiums are also excellent at attracting predatory insects, which will help to keep pest populations in check.

Nasturtiums act as a brilliant companion plant for squash, cucumbers and other cucurbits because their smell repels or confuses many of the common pests by which these plants are bothered.

3. For Ground Cover

Companion planting is not an exact science, and the many ways in which plants interact with one another and with garden wildlife is not entirely understood. Nonetheless, it is clear that nasturtiums can help other plants through their interactions with various insect species.

But this is not the only way in which nasturtiums can help nearby plants.

These drought-tolerant plants can also be excellent ground cover. This can be extremely beneficial – especially in drier, warmer areas, as it will reduce moisture evaporation and help to protect the fragile soil ecosystem. Their thick coverage and quick spread can also help crowd out weeds.

As ground cover, nasturtiums can also be used to feed poor soil over time. When used as a sort of green manure, these plants can improve the soil in a given area by adding nutrients when left to decompose in place at the end of the growing season, or chopped and dropped.

4. To Cover Unsightly Walls or Fences

The quick growing nasturtium can also be handy to improve the visual appeal of your garden, as it can be used to trail down unsightly walls or fences.

This can turn an unattractive and useless part of your space into a beautiful and bountiful part of the garden.

5. For Their Yield

Many people are surprised to learn that nasturtiums are edible.

These plants not only aid other plants in your kitchen garden, they can also be an incredibly useful edible crop in their own right.

As an edible crop, these plants can really justify their place in your kitchen garden.

The flowers, leaves and flower buds can all be used in a wide range of recipes. Some of the best examples are given below:

10 Edible Recipes Using Nasturtium Leaves, Flowers & Seeds

These are just some of the best ways to use nasturtiums in your kitchen:

1. Nasturtium Salads

One of the easiest and most obvious ways to eat nasturtium flowers and leaves, which have a peppery, watercress-like taste, is in salads.

Their peppery bite is perfect when paired with milder lettuce or other leaves, and you can even enliven your salad with a nasturtium vinaigrette. (This can be made, if you wish, with a nasturtium vinegar – like the one described below.)

Nasturtium Salad with Nasturtium Vinaigrette @ KitchenLane.com

2. Nasturtium & Black Pepper Vinegar

Both the flowers and leaves can also used to infuse vinegar.

This example uses white wine vinegar as the base, though you could also consider using a home-made apple cider vinegar for this purpose.

This vinegar can be added to a range of cooked dishes for peppery tang, or used to make a vinaigrette to grace a wide range of home-grown salads.

Peppery Nasturtium Vinegar @ EdibleCommunities.com

3. Nasturtium Stir Fry

Nasturtium leaves also lend themselves well to a range of stir fry recipes – so you can use them to whip up an impressive meal in next to no time.

Slightly wilted, the leaves lose a little of their fiery watercress flavour, and become a far more versatile and nicely flavoured green leaf vegetable.

4. Nasturtium Pesto

Leaves can also be used in the same way as basil and other popular herbs to make a somewhat less-traditional pesto.

You can use your pesto in sandwiches, pasta, or to add flavour to a wide range of other dishes.

Nasturtium Pesto @ GardenBetty.com

5. Nasturtium Soup

There are also plenty of soup recipes that include nasturtium.

The leaves, blended with other ingredients, can be used for their watercress pepperiness as the star of the show, or simply added to a mixed vegetable soup as a pot herb or additional leafy green. One great soup recipe can be found below.

Nasturtium Soup @ LarderLove.com

6. Nasturtium Omelette

Another idea is to add those leaves and flowers to an omelette – or, by extension, to any other egg-based dish, such as a quiche or a frittata.

An example of a delicious omelette can be found here:

Herbed Omelette with Griddled Zucchini, Halloumi & Nasturtiums @ TheSeasonalTable.co.uk

7. Nasturtium Fritters

Like so much other home-grown garden produce, nasturtiums can also be turned into delicious fritters.

Nasturtium Chickpea Batter Fritters @ Victory Gardens For Bees

8. Nasturtium Dolmades

The leaves can grow rather large later in the growing season. These can be used in the same way that you might use vine leaves or cabbage leaves – to wrap other ingredients – as in these dolmades.

Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves @ Attainable Sustainable

9. Nasturtium Pizza

Or, for a super easy family meal, you could consider simply adding some to the top of a pizza.

Nasturtium White Pizza @ Healthfully Ever After

10. Caper Substitute

Nasturtium seed pods can also be used as a caper substitute.

Nasturtium Capers @ SplendidTable.org

Make Room For Nasturtiums

Whether you grow nasturtiums for their visual beauty or benefits for your garden, or if you plan to turn your nasturtiums into one of the above delicious recipes, there’s no doubt you should make room for this versatile flower in your garden.

Get yourself this pack of 350 nasturtium seeds and enjoy growing these beautiful flowers for yourself.

Growing marigolds and nasturtiums in your vegetable garden helps control insects, adds beauty and is a tasty and healthy addition to your dinner plate.

I have used them in my food gardens for many years. Both plants are prolific seeders once their long flowering period finishes and I have noticed to my delight that as they re-seed, some different flower colours begin to appear.

Insect impact

Leaf flower and fruit eaters – The pungent smell of marigold flower and leaf discourages aphids from hanging around to feast on nearby crops. Nasturtiums repel whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids, many beetles and cabbage loopers. Nasturtiums are ideal companion for tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, collards, broccoli, cabbage and radishes. Favourite crops of those pesky insects.

Root eaters – Marigolds are particularly helpful in minimising the attack of harmful nematodes that cause bumps on your plant roots and reduce plant vitality. A past blog of mine talks about other tactics in dealing with nematodes.

Pollinators – The flowers of marigold and nasturtium attract bees to your garden, essential where you are growing crops that need pollinators such as cucumber, zuccini, capsicium and squash.

Adding to your meal

Marigold flowers and leaves can be eaten. They have strong flavour and are rather bitter. I feel its best to mix them with other plants. Here are the health benefits of eating marigolds.

The only part of the nasturtiums you can’t eat are the roots. The flowers have a delicate and spicy flavour with red flowers the hottest and pink flowers the least spicy. Flowers can be used in salads as can the leaves. I always pick a leaf or flower to taste when I am in the garden. The seeds can be pickled and are called capers. You can read about the health benefits of eating nasturtiums here.

Beauty and design

There is no doubt that having flowers in your garden impacts the feeling you have when walking around the space. I feel that flowers speak much faster to the soul because of their beauty. By growing marigolds and nasturtiums, you can also create form in the garden by placing the flowers in certain positions, for example, I tend to put them at the end of my beds to create an edge.

How to grow

Growing marigolds and nasturtiums is quite easy. They are very hardy plants, In my sub-tropical climate they grow over long periods of time during the year. Soil should be reasonable with growing marigolds and nasturtiums and I think its best to provide them similar soil to what you provide for your vegetables. Here is a past article of vegetable garden soil. If you water them too much, you will get a lot more leaf than flower.

Marigolds grow as a bush, making them easy to control, whereas nasturtiums are more of a creeper and can take over a space if you let them.

For Brisbane gardeners living on the north west side of the city, we have just released an organic garden maintenance service, check it out here. Its specifically designed for people who love the beauty and function of an organic garden but do not have the time or expertise to look after it.

Also check out our workshop schedule as we have a number of workshops in the coming weeks, with spaces still available. Love to see you at one of them.

Authored by Peter Kearney – www.myfoodgarden.com.au