What is Companion Planting? (a.k.a. Why Good Neighbors Matter)

companion planting
iStock/zocchi2

Who did you invite to your last dinner party? I think of my garden as a big dinner party where I want to invite as many fun and interesting guests as possible. However, as any good hostess knows, some guests just don’t mix well. So, a carefully planned invite list and seating chart can help a lot. That’s why companion planting is so important–it’s a guide to who should be invited and where they should sit in your garden.

In an ideal world using companion planting reduces, or even eliminates, the need for pesticides and non-organic plant food. How? By planting vegetables that are good companions together they support each other’s growth. Conversely, by keeping plants that don’t grow well together apart you proactively avoid garden disasters.

“Some plants, especially herbs, act as repellents, confusing insects with their strong odors that mask the scent of the intended host plants,” explains the Farmer’s Almanac.

Native Americans knew the importance of companion planting. They followed the “Three Sister Planting” rule. This means growing corn, beans, and squash –often pumpkin–in the same area. As the corn stalks grow, beans naturally find support by climbing up the stalk. Beans, like all legumes, fix nitrogen in the soil, which supports the large nutritional needs of corn. Squash grows rapidly and the large squash leaves shade weeds and serve as natural weed block.

10 common vegetables and their garden BFFs:

1. Asparagus likes basil, parsley, and tomatoes.

2. Cabbage wants to be near sage.

3. Carrots like beans, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, radish, and tomatoes.

4. Lettuce should be near beets, cabbage family members, carrots, onions, radish, or strawberries.

5. Melons and winter squash like lettuce, radish, and other fast growers.

6. Spinach, Swiss chard, and bush beans will grow well in the shadow of tall corn stalks.

7. Tomatoes like dill and basil as neighbors.

8. Turnips and peas are good companions.

9. Peppers like carrot, eggplant, onion, and tomatoes.

10. Pumpkins want to be close to corn, melon, or squash.

Note: Marigolds not only get along with every plant, but they are beneficial to them all. I think of them as the Mister Rogers of the garden–they really want to be your neighbor. Sprinkle their seeds liberally throughout your garden.

10 members of the enemies list:

Just as some plants fare best when planted with friendly companions, others simply do not get along. At all. Some gardeners refer to these plants as combatants.

1. Cabbage and cauliflower do not like to be neighbors. Cabbage also isn’t a good friend of strawberries.

2. Carrots do not like dill.

3. Cucumbers should be far away from sage.

4. Garlic and onion do not like beans and peas.

5. Kohlrabi and tomatoes stunt each other’s growth.

6. Pole beans should be far from beets.

7. Potatoes and beans do not like sunflowers.

8. Radishes hate hyssop, which is a member of the mint family.

9. Tomatoes and corn are vulnerable to the same worm, so separate them.

10. Tomatoes and potatoes are attacked by the same (super annoying) blight, so keep them far apart.

Related on Organic Authority
Planning a Garden: The Benefits of Companion Planting
5 Secrets to Vegetable Garden, Companion Planting Revealed
Everything You Need to Know About Growing Tomatoes

Chris Hull

Chris is a gardener living in southern Maine.