When utilizing containers to grow vegetables, it’s helpful to know which plants will grow well together. With this knowledge, you can increase yields and have an overall more successful crop.
Commonly known as companion planting, this refers to the method of pairing plants together in a way that causes a mutually beneficial environment for each plant. Some vegetables that grow well together include corn and beans, carrots and onions, lettuce and tomatoes, and cabbage and garlic. Another group of beneficial pairings include beets and lettuce, tomatoes and radish, and peas and spinach.
With some basic knowledge on which vegetables grow well together, you can have a thriving garden. Knowing which pairings are beneficial can make gardening easier, make plants healthier and more productive, and keep pests away naturally.
Related: Easiest Vegetables to Grow
Companion Planting Beneficial Pairings
Pairing up vegetables that grow well together can increase yields, deter pests naturally, and keep your plants overall more healthy.
Lets take a look at some vegetables that will help each other out when grown together. With this information, you can take a look at all the vegetables you want to plant, and get them paired up correctly.
Corn and Beans
Corn and beans have been grown together traditionally for centuries.
Corn grows tall with strong stalks and beans are a vining plant. The corn acts as a natural trellis for the beans to grow up. Note that it’s best to plant beans around corn plants that are at least 4-6 inches tall, so that by the time the beans start vining, the corn stalk is tall and strong enough to support it.
In addition, beans fix nitrogen into the soil, which is very beneficial to the corn plants. Other vining vegetables such as cucumbers are also a good companion for corn.
These two crops do well in containers because they grow up as opposed to sprawling out, making them good for smaller spaces.
Carrots and Onions
Carrots and onions make a great pair. Onions are known to repel the carrot fly. Carrot flies lay eggs near the roots of carrots. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feeds on the roots of the carrots, eventually boring into the main part of the carrot. To avoid this mess, onions are here to help!
These two also do well in containers because they both thrive in very well-worked, fine, and loamy soil. This is an environment more readily achieved in a container, where you can control the quality of the soil more easily.
Also, as the carrots will develop 4-8 inches beneath the soil, the onions develop closer to the surface of the soil, so there’s no chance of them disturbing each other.
Lettuce and Beets
Planting lettuce and beats together is a great way to maximize space in your container garden. Lettuce has very shallow roots, while beets grow several inches under the soil’s surface. This makes it safe to plant them side by side.
Lettuce can be planted between rows of beets to cover the soil that would otherwise be bare, helping with water retention by shading the ground. Also, if beets are planted a couple of weeks before lettuce, their taller and broader leaves will help to shade the lettuce in strong afternoon heat.
Lettuce and Tomatoes
Lettuce and tomatoes are two of the most widely grown crops in the US, so it’s likely if you have a container garden, you’ll want to grow these crops.
Tomatoes grow tall, generally 3-4ft, and lettuce is low growing. Lettuce doesn’t like strong heat like tomatoes do, so planting lettuce between tomato plants gives them a chance to be shaded by tomatoes in hot afternoon sun.
Also, the lettuce acts as a ground cover to keep the soil around the tomatoes moist. This is helpful because tomatoes like a lot of water. This is also a pairing that will help to maximize space in your containers.
Tomatoes and Radish
One pest that can affect tomato plants is the flea beetle. A crop they like even more than tomatoes are radish.
Flea beetles stay in a concentrated area, so its advised to plant radish right around the base of your tomato plant. This will attract the pest to the radish, instead of your tomatoes. So, be aware that you likely won’t harvest any radish, in this case they are used purely as a pest trap and decoy.
Aditionally, since tomatoes grow vertically on a trellis or cage, and radish are low-growing, this pair will help t maximize space in your container.
Cabbage and Garlic
Cabbage is a popular crop to grow, but they are often affected by pests. Garlic has long been known as a deterrent for a variety of pests. Garlic has been known to repel cabbage worms, cabbage maggots, and Japanese beetles.
Cabbage and Cauliflower
Cabbage and Cauliflower are both in the Brassica family. It’s agreed upon by many gardeners that planting vegetables from the same family together is often helpful.
If the plants are in the same family, that means they will have similar nutrient, pH and sunlight needs. So, planting them side by side is a good way to create a good environment for them , where there is no competition for resources.
Spinach and Peas
Peas are great for containers and small spaces. A trellis at the back of the container will provide plenty of room for the peas to grow up on. This will leave space in the rest of your container for the pea plants friend, spinach.
Spinach can help keep the soil moist with its low growing leaves. Also, the tall pea trellis can provide shade in hot afternoon sun, something spinach will need to survive warmer weather.
Companion Planting: Eggplant and Peppers
Eggplant and Peppers are both in the nightshade family. Being a part of the same family, they have similar nutrient, pH and sunlight requirements. Planting them together can be helpful and you won’t need to worry about them competing for nutrients or resources.
Cucumber and Radish
These two veggies go well together in a salad, and also in your container garden.
Cucumbers will vine up a trellis, leaving room at the bottom for another crop. Radish are very fast growing. They can also help keep your cucumber safe from the cucumber beetle.
Companion Planting: Pairings to Avoid
While many pairings are beneficial, some can actually be harmful. Having the knowledge on which plant combinations to avoid can be helpful when planning your container garden.
Corn and Tomatoes
Corn and tomatoes are good crops to grow, just not in the same container.
These two crops are both heavy feeders, meaning they take up a lot of nutrients from the soil. With two heavy feeders next to each other, you risk them competing for nutrients.
They are also both affected by the tomato hornworm. If planted together, they can create an unmanageable pest situation.
Lettuce and Onions
Onions are a part of the allium family, and some gardeners have reported that lettuce planted near onions, or other vegetables in the allium family don’t do well.
It’s speculated that the onions produce a chemical that end up stunting the growth of the lettuce.
Parsnips and Carrots
While both of these crops are ideal for container gardens with loamy soil, they shouldn’t be planted together.
Both parsnips and carrots are at risk for being affected by the carrot fly. If they are planted together, the pest can ruin both crops and reproduce more quickly. Plant these two crops in separate containers, so that if one gets attacked by pests, it doesn’t mean the other will as well.
Celery and Carrots
Celery and carrots both need a lot of water and may compete for resources if planted together in the same container.
They also benefit from shade in peak heat, which neither provides for the other because they grow to about the same height.
Companion Planting: A Note On Beneficial Herbs
While many vegetable plants are companions, herbs are often incorporated and can be supportive in a vegetable container garden. Lets take a look at some herbs that will help out in your vegetable containers.
Basil is a popular and effective companion to tomato plants. It is proven to repel pests and insects that often attack tomato plants. It’s also reported by many gardeners to improve the flavor and yield of the tomatoes.
Spaced correctly, they will share resources happily. They have similar light and water requirements, making them an easy pair for your container garden.
In addition to being a unique culinary herb, dill can be a beneficial companion to many plants.
Dill will deter aphids and spider mites, which are pests that can become a big problem in the garden. This herb also attracts beed, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps, which are all known to be beneficial in the garden.
Helpful when planted near brassicas, carrots and beans, rosemary is known to repel cabbage moth and carrot flies.
Rosemary will also attract pollinators and is pleasantly aromatic.
Chives are edible and effective at repelling pests. They are known to repel aphids which can be destructive to peas, lettuce and celery.
Plant them next to those veggies to keep them safe from an aphid attack. Chives also produce a beautiful and attractive purple flower that will bring pollinators to your container garden.
Flowers can help wit deterring pests and attracting beneficial pollinators. They can also be good fillers in between vegetable plants to shade the ground and keep moisture in.
Marigolds are commonly planted next tomatoes, and for good reason.
This beautiful, low-growing flower deters pests not only above ground, but under the soil as well. Marigolds deter tomato whiteflies and are also known to release a chemical that has been known to kill of root nematodes.
This flower also has a long bloom time, typically all summer, and will attract beneficial pollinators to your container garden. They are a good option for containers because they stay small and compact.
Nasturtium grow low and sprawling, making them a good plant to shade out weeds and retain moisture in the soil.
It can also be used as a decoy, or “trap crop” to lure aphids away from your vegetable plants. This plant is also effective at luring squash bugs away from squash and tomato plants.
To top it all off, nasturtium is edible! The leaves and flowers made a lovely addition to salads, with a slightly peppery flare to them.
Sunflowers are not only a joy to look at, they are beneficial to vegetable plants and can be easily incorporated into containers.
Sunflowers can act as a trellis to vining plants, such as pole beans. They also attract beneficial pollinators like bees. Also, this flower will take all the sun it can get, so it’s suitable for containers in full sun. They can also provide shade for vegetable plants that need protection from too much sun exposure.
Companion Planting: The Case For Beneficial Pairings
Some gardeners may think its easier to just give each vegetable its own container. While this is an option, pairing up your vegetables with their companions will bring so many benefits to both you and your garden. Here are some reasons why you should try to plant vegetable companions together.
Related: Easiest Vegetables to Grow
When planting in containers, you will likely be trying to maximize space. Companion planting will help you do that. Certain crops that grow up a trellis, like pole beans and cucumbers will leave room for other low-growing vegetables like lettuce and spinach.
Knowing which vegetables will grow well together, you can make use of their combinations and end up with more produce because of it. Instead of settling for one plant per container, you can likely find a way to incorporate a companion.
Save Money With Natural Trellising
Many crops will act as a natural trellis. This will save you from needing to buy a trellis, which can often be expensive. It will also allow for a more natural look in your garden.
Some crops that make good trellises are corn, sunflowers, amaranth.
Protection From the Elements
Low-growing and fragile plants like spinach and lettuce can benefit from being grown with crops that grow tall.
The tall crops will provide shade and protection from strong winds to low-growing plants that can be negatively affected by both factors.
Natural Pest Deterrent
When one plant deters a pest that commonly affects it neighboring plant, that is hugely helpful to you as a gardener.
This increases your chances of having a successfully crop and prevents you from having to spend money on potentially harmful chemicals to keep pests out.
Cut Down on Weeds
When utilizing the companion planting method you can keep weeds at bay more easily.
While maximizing space and planting vegetable plants closer together, you are smothering out weeds that would usually take advantage of the bare soil patches.
There are many beneficial vegetable pairings that you can implement in your container garden this season. By pairing low-growing veggies like lettuce with taller growing plants like tomatoes, you provide shade for the lettuce, and hold in moisture for the tomatoes.
To get an idea of some vegetables that are easy to grow check out this article, and see which ones have a good companion plant.
After familiarizing yourself with this helpful list and trying some of them out for yourself, you’ll get the hang of beneficial vegetable pairings.