My Favorite Companion Planting Combos0
One of the most popular pages on the Arcadia Farms website is my guide to Square Foot Gardening plant spacing. Maybe as far back as a year ago a reader suggested that I also create a guide to companion planting. Companion planting is the practice of growing crops in close proximity to take advantage of beneficial relationships between specific plants… and it is one of the cornerstones of health in my garden. Some of the known companion planting relationships can be scientifically explained while others are simply time-proven, somewhat unexplainable relationships handed down through generations. I’ve decided to get started on creating an Arcadia Farms Companion Planting Guide. Realistically, who knows when it will be done? (I’ll let you know.) Meanwhile, I want to devote today’s blog post to sharing some of my most favorite companion planting combinations.
Our garden (consistently mainly of large raised beds) is setup to facilitate no-fuss crop rotation and companion planting. In general, each bed contains two crops that are mutually beneficial (or at least, not harmful). Succession planting and crop rotation are planned so that a crop from any particular plant family will not be planted in the same place two years in a row. For a more detailed explanation of this (along with a visual representation) click here.
Potatoes & Kale
Potatoes are so rewarding to grow! It could be a coincidence, but my potatoes planted with kale have been healthier and more abundant for two years in a row. Potatoes are finicky neighbors when it comes to companion planting. What I mean is, there are several common garden plants that should never be planted with potatoes. However potatoes get along well with members of the cabbage family. I love the taste of kale, as well as the cut-and-come-again nature of the plant. Kale grows in our garden well after the first frost. However, the potatoes (ours are red “new” potatoes) will have been long-since harvested. That means the space previously filled by potatoes can be planted with something else that kale grows well with. In our garden, that will be beets.
Radishes & Squash
In previous years I have experienced horrible vine borer infestations. During our first CSA season I read that radishes can be used as a trap crop for vine borers. Last year was the first year I tried this combination and I’m thrilled to tell you I had zero observable vine borer damage! Now I plant a handful of radishes with all of my squash, pumpkins and melons. You must leave the radishes all summer long for this to be effective. That means you won’t be harvesting the spicy roots, but you will get to enjoy the edible greens (I use them in quiche and salad), the spicy blossoms(great in a salad) and the edible seedpods (lovely in stir frys).
Borage & Melons
Borage is considered a “silver bullet” when it comes to companion planting. It is a favorite of pollinators and has both leaves and blossoms that are edible. Borage is also a dynamic accumulator which means its taproot reaches deep into the earth to pull up trace nutrients that many other plants do not. Those nutrients are deposited into the abundant leaves which also makes borage a great plant for cultivating nutrient-rich mulch. I read in Carrots Love Tomatoes (a preeminent book on companion planting) that borage is a great companion for melons. I’ve tried the combination with great success and plan to continue planting four or five borage plants with my watermelons for as long as I grow them.
Beans & Cucumbers
I’ve grown a lot of beans. I’ve grown a lot of cucumbers. And they’ve been just fine. But the beans and cucumbers I’ve grown together have been fabulous. And by fabulous I mean prolific, healthy and flavorful. Both plants come in climbing and bush varieties. My current arrangement is to grow pole beans on a tee-pee with cucumbers sprawled around on the ground below.
Eggplants & Peppers
Eggplants and peppers grow well together because they require similar humid conditions for growth. My Japanese Eggplants and California Wonder Peppers were super happy (and productive) growing together last year. As an added bonus, planting these with a dense, low-growing crop could help to retain soil heat and moisture. Oregano is a great option and its scent may also help to deter pests.
Of course there are countless other companion planting arrangements that can be made, but these are my staples. Do you use companion planting in your garden? What are some of your favorite combinations?