Top 5 Companion Plants for Your Garden

Companion planting is planting different plant types with each other to benefit one or both plants.

Plants are planted together for many reasons including boosting the flavors of vegetable plants, improving soil conditions, attracting pollinators, and repelling pests. 

One of the original companion planting methods was the Three Sisters Garden implemented by the Iroquois tribe, who planted corn, squash, and pole beans together. The corn acted as a trellis for the beans, the squash provided ground shade to keep the roots of the corn cool, and the beans provided nitrogen back into the soil. These three vegetables interplanted together formed a symbiotic relationship and provided important food sources to the people.

Companion planting today

Companion planting has expanded to include flowers, herbs, and vegetables to create a harmonious, diverse space, bursting with pollinators, predator insects, healthy soil, and flavorful harvests.

Here are five must-grow companion plants for your vegetable garden.

1. Basil

With varieties in many colors, shapes, and sizes, basil is an herbal powerhouse that is easy to grow in the summer, growing well in containers, raised beds, and in the ground.

This tasty flowering herb is a fantastic companion for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, and its edible leaves are used fresh, dried, in teas, flavored oils, and more.

It repels hornworms and attracts pollinators once the basil begins to flower. The Tulsi variety, also known as holy basil, is a medicinal variety that can improve breathing, reduce the duration of colds and flu, reduce anxiety and depression, reduce plaque, and reduce the risk of cancer.

Varieties like lemon, lime, and blue spice basil are all wonderful as tea, while the better-known Genovese basil is most popular in pizza, pasta, and other Italian dishes. Cardinal basil is a variety with red flowers that is a pollinator magnet, so no matter your reasons for growing basil, there is a variety to suit your needs.

Holy basil beginning to flower

2. Marigolds

Most seen in shades of yellow or orange, this annual flower is possibly the most popular companion plant within the garden, and for good reason.

A powerhouse at repelling pests, the mighty marigold contains a toxin that eliminates root-eating nematodes and attracts beneficial insects like ladybugs and parasitic wasps.

The French varieties have edible petals, making them a colorful addition to salads.

Marigolds are easy to grow from seed, and grow well in containers, raised beds, and in the ground. Marigolds make a wonderful companion plant for most vegetables, attracting pollinators and providing a beautiful pop of color.

Marigolds nestled between tomato plants and nasturtium

3. Nasturtiums

This pretty, cascading annual flower has vining, dwarf, variegated, and solid varieties with bright, beautiful flowers that will lend texture, height, and color to your garden.

Nasturtiums attract beneficial insects like pollinators and hoverflies, who prey on aphids. They are often used as a trap crop for aphids and squash bugs. Once those bugs are preying on the plant, pull it out and throw it away, leaving a space to grow something else, while protecting your vegetables.

The leaves, flowers, and seeds are all edible, lending a peppery punch to salads and pesto. The young seeds can be brined like capers, giving a salty touch to your sauces.

Nasturtium has some medicinal properties, like being an anti-fungal and providing vitamin C. The plant also contributes to soil health because as it dies off, it adds calcium, nitrogen, potassium, and other minerals back into the soil.

Nasturtium trailing over the side of a Vego Garden raised bed

4. Calendula

Calendula is a cold-hardy annual flower grown for its medicinal properties and beauty.

This bright, colorful flower is part of the marigold family, but the flowers are more daisy-like. Calendula blossoms are edible but can taste bitter or spicy. It is often referred to as the poor man’s saffron.

The most common use for calendula is as a healing medicinal herb for skin ailments like sunburn, chapped lips, and eczema.

As a companion plant, calendula attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies, while repelling pests like hornworms and whiteflies.

Calendula is relatively easy to grow from seed and can be planted with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, basil, salad greens, and more.

Calendula blooming in December

5. Beans

This fast-growing crop not only provides food but is a nitrogen-fixing crop.

As the bean plants grow, they pull nitrogen out of the air and store it in their roots. Once the plant dies off, the nitrogen is deposited in the soil, giving a nutrient boost to plants growing around it.

There are pole beans, which are long vines that keep producing beans until the plant dies, and short bush beans, compact bush types that produce all their beans at the same time and then die off.

Bush beans can be planted with almost any vegetable in your garden, but pole beans may stunt the growth of beets, onions, and garlic. There are many varieties of beans, offering a spectrum of colors, flavors, and sizes, providing a beautiful contrast in your garden amongst all of the greenery.

Bush beans fill raised garden beds in late spring

Final thoughts

Although the varieties mentioned are noted as must-grow, there are many other notable companion plants including dill, cilantro, radishes, celery, carrots, squash, borage, okra, and sweet alyssum.

Companion planting is important for all of the reasons mentioned, so try to squeeze them anywhere you have space.

 


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