I’m so excited to talk about this today because I LOVE companion planting! It’s one of the most fun ways to experiment in the garden. In fact, literally every garden bed is an experiment for me. Today, I want to share my basic companion planting tips for beginners.
My Gardening Style
My garden beds are totally hodge podge. I grow however I want to grow. Sometimes I grow in rows and other times, I grow in patches. My rows are either horizontal or they are vertical. Sometimes I plant just one crop in a row next to another crop and other times, I plant a variety of plants by each other!
Now I’m starting to wonder why you’d want to learn about gardening from me when my style is so eclectic…but I also think this is a great way to garden. It’s a little more intuitive. When I’m planting, I think about how the plants grow, how long they take to grow, how hard it will be to harvest them from the outside of the box, if they’ll need shade or not, etc.
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My Favorite Plants for Companion Planting
For example, I always plant basil and marigolds with my tomatoes. It helps keep away pests and I love to smell the tomato plants and basil together!
I also like to play with flowers, like alyssum or nasturtium, when planting brassicas that require time to mature, like broccoli or cauliflower.
This is because these plants will take time to grow and in the meantime, I could harvest another crop or two. Plus, companion plants can often benefit the main crop by drawing in pollinators.
For example, my cauliflower is interplanted with alyssum, which invites in pollinators, with a large patch of arugula growing between the plants. The cauliflower plants will get quite large, but right now, they are small. I can certainly get two harvests of arugula out of this area before the cauliflower needs the space!
I also used companion planting to stretch the harvest of spring crops, like radishes. For example, I planted radishes by my summer squash plants and the shade of the squash plants let me grow radishes that would have bolted elsewhere from the heat.
I also planted radishes, arugula, and cilantro between broccoli and kohlrabi plants early in the season.
One of my favorite companion plantings that I did this year was plant winter squash in my onions! I enjoy growing onions but know that pretty much all plants HATE being planted near them. This spring, I had a patch of onions I grew as spring onions. I wanted something I could plant between the onions that would allow me to continue harvesting the onions until the other crop was ready. I also had winter squash plant starts I wanted to get in the ground. Thanks to Google, I learned that winter squash does not mind growing with onions! So, I planted the squashes and started to pick onions from around the squash plants first. The squash are thriving and I still managed to get all my onions! I’ll definitely be doing this one again.
When I first started gardening, I studied companion planting guides like this one religiously. I held to them really hard and fast. I had to plant X by Y and couldn’t have Z in this bed, but maybe Z could go by A over here…
It was too much.
I really recommend having a short list of plants you love to grow that you know will grow well with others.
I find that greens and lettuces tend to grow well around pretty much anything! I will almost always try to sneak a row of arugula, lettuce, or cilantro when I’m planting larger plants. These plants mature quickly and are really friendly to other plants, so they’re great to add to your companion planting arsenal. For other plants that I know can be a little fussy, I do tend to take a quick look at a companion planting guide. For example, onions and fennel tend to be off-putting to most other plants, so I only try to plant those in areas where I can choose specific companions for them.
I also try to keep curcurbits, like cucumber and watermelon, planted away from each other as they can end up tasting like each other if they get cross-pollinated.
This approach maximizes the space I can use in my garden and uses time wisely. It’s also a really fun way to grow because you feel like you’re exploring your garden to find different plants.
What are your favorite plants to grow together? Tell me below!
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