Companion planting for vegetable garden

Asked March 5, 2016, 4:05 PM EST

What are the best companion plants, including herbs or flowers for each of the following vegetable crops: beets, tomatoes, potatoes, kale, lettuce, beans and peas?

Washington County Oregon horticulture vegetable gardening

1 Response

Thanks for your question concerning the best vegetable companion plants, your list included: beets, tomatoes, potatoes, kale, lettuce, beans and peas?

Gardeners have benefited from companion plants for centuries; according to Iroquois legend, corn, beans and squash were inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together. This tradition of inter-planting corn, beans and squash in the same mound is a Native American farming societies’ sophisticated, sustainable system that provided long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet.

One example of scientific research says that legumes and some trees, like 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.

Over time companion planting lists have been collected and written, with a number available online. Some compilations also list incompatible plants (combatants), a rather shorter listing.

Beets: Bush beans, lettuce, onions, kohlrabi and most members of the cabbage family are companions. Keep the pole beans and mustard away.

Tomatoes: Carrots, onions and parsley are good, but keep the cabbage and cauliflower away.

Potatoes: Plant near basil, beans, cabbage family, corn, eggplant, marigolds, peas and squash. Keep away from apples, birch, cherries, cucumbers, pumpkins, raspberries, sunflowers, tomatoes and walnuts. Basil deters potato beetles and marigolds deter nematodes.

Kale: Plant near aromatic herbs, beets, bush beans, celery, cabbage family, lettuce, peas, marigolds, nasturtiums, and spinach. Keep away from pole beans and strawberries.

Lettuce: Plant near beets, carrots, cucumbers, parsnips, radishes, strawberries and keep away from cabbage family. Lettuce tenderizes summer radishes. It grows especially well with onions.

Bush beans: Plant near beets, cabbage, carrots, catnip, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, marigolds, potatoes, savory and strawberries. Keep away from fennel, garlic leeks, onions and shallots. Potatoes and marigolds repel Mexican bean beetles. Catnip repels flea beetles.

Pole beans: Plant near carrots, corn, marigolds, potatoes, radishes and squash. Keep away from beets, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, onions and shallots. Potatoes and marigolds repel Mexican bean beetles. Catnip repels flea beetles.

Peas: Plant near carrots, cucumbers, corn, turnips and radishes plus beans, potatoes and aromatic herbs. Keep away from onions, garlic, leek and shallots.

For each plant on your list there are several companion plants so determining a “best” is a bit tricky. For me, planting pole beans my choice would be corn and squash are the best choices because I enjoy all these vegetables and using the corn as a bean climbing structure is a bonus. Your best choices may be as simple as inter-planting those plants on your list that are companionable and planting incompatibles at least 4 feet away.

Incorporating companion plantings will certainly increase your gardening success. Along with online companion planting lists, I consulted Louise Riotte’s book on the subject: Carrots Love Tomatoes, 1998.