tomatoes and marigold planted in a garden as companion plants

The Best Companion Plants to Help Your Backyard Garden Thrive

Companion planting is an age-old gardening technique that involves growing different plant species close to one another to maximize their growth, yield, and overall health. This method not only enhances the look of your garden but also offers various benefits, such as improved soil fertility, pest control, and pollinator attraction. Discover the best companion plants for your garden and create a thriving ecosystem with our comprehensive guide to companion planting.

Tomatoes and Basil

Tomatoes and basil growing in the garden as companion plants

One of the most famous companion planting duos is tomatoes and basil. Basil is known to improve the flavor of tomatoes, repel pests like aphids, and attract pollinators. The strong scent of basil helps deter pests and mask the smell of tomatoes, making it more challenging for pests to locate them. The two also pair well in in your favorite dishes.

Other great companion plants for tomatoes include marigolds, nasturtiums, and carrots. Marigolds produce a substance that repels nematodes, which can cause root damage to tomatoes. Nasturtiums help repel whiteflies, and carrots help break up the soil, improving aeration and water infiltration for your tomato plants.

Beans and Corn

beans and corn growing in a field as companion plants in a three sisters style garden

The “Three Sisters” method, a Native American planting technique, involves growing beans, corn, and squash together. Corn provides support for climbing beans, while beans fix nitrogen in the soil, benefiting corn and squash. Beans have nodules on their roots that host nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can use.

Squash acts as a ground cover, suppressing weeds and preserving moisture. Its large leaves shade the ground, reducing water evaporation and preventing the growth of unwanted plants. Additionally, the prickly surface of squash leaves can deter pests from approaching bean and corn plants.

Cucumbers and Sunflowers

cucumbers and sunflowers growing together in the garden as companion plants

Cucumbers and sunflowers make excellent companions as sunflowers provide support for cucumber vines to climb, reducing the risk of fungal infections caused by damp conditions. The tall sunflower stalks also create shade, which can be beneficial for heat-sensitive cucumber plants during hot summer days.

Sunflowers also attract pollinators, boosting cucumber yields. Their bright flowers draw in bees and other beneficial insects that aid in the pollination of cucumber flowers, leading to a higher production of fruits.

Lettuce and Chives

lettuce and chives growing in a garden as companion plants along with carrots

Chives deter aphids and other pests, protecting lettuce plants. Additionally, their strong aroma can mask the scent of lettuce, making it harder for pests to locate. The sulfur compounds found in chives are particularly effective in repelling aphids, which can cause significant damage to lettuce plants if left unchecked.

Radishes and spinach also pair well with lettuce. Radishes also make great companion plants as they can deter pests like flea beetles and cucumber beetles, while spinach provides shade for heat-sensitive lettuce plants during hot weather.

Carrots and Onions

carrots and onions growing together in a garden as companion plants

Growing carrots and onions together helps to deter pests. The strong scent of onions masks the scent of the carrots, keeping carrot flies at bay. Carrot flies are attracted by the smell of freshly disturbed carrot roots, but the presence of onions can confuse them, making it more difficult for them to locate their target.

Other members of the allium family, such as garlic and chives, are also useful companions for carrots. Garlic produces a substance called allicin, which has a strong odor that can deter carrot flies, aphids, and other pests.

Peppers and Marigolds

a large garden plot featuring companion plants like peppers, marigolds, onions, beans, carrots, etc.

Marigolds produce a substance called alpha-terthienyl, which repels nematodes, small soil-dwelling pests that can damage pepper roots. Marigolds also deter other pests like whiteflies, aphids, and thrips, while attracting beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings, which prey on common garden pests.

In addition to marigolds, other good companion plants for peppers include basil, oregano, and parsley. These herbs not only help repel pests but also attract pollinators and provide additional flavor when used in cooking.

Broccoli and Nasturtiums

photo of an orange nasturtium, a common companion plant to broccoli

Nasturtiums act as a “trap crop,” attracting aphids, cabbage worms, and other pests away from broccoli plants. They produce a strong scent that lures pests toward them and away from the main crop. By sacrificing themselves, nasturtiums help protect the more valuable broccoli plants from infestations.

Other beneficial companions for broccoli include onions, garlic, and chamomile. The strong aroma of onions and garlic can deter pests, while chamomile is known to improve the flavor of broccoli and attract beneficial insects that prey on common garden pests.

Zucchini and Borage

borrage and zucchini planted together as companion plants

Borage is a fantastic companion for zucchini, as it attracts pollinators, improves soil fertility, and repels pests like tomato hornworms. The blue flowers of borage are particularly attractive to bees, which help pollinate zucchini flowers and boost fruit production. Borage also accumulates minerals like calcium, potassium, and trace elements in its leaves, which, when decomposed, improve soil fertility.

Other good companions for zucchini include nasturtiums, marigolds, and peas. Nasturtiums and marigolds help deter pests, while peas fix nitrogen in the soil, improving its fertility and benefiting zucchini plants.

Strawberries and Thyme

strawberries and thyme growing together as companion plants

Thyme is a low-growing, aromatic herb that helps deter pests like slugs and snails from feasting on strawberry plants. It’s strong scent, and essential oils are unappealing to these pests, providing a natural barrier that helps protect strawberry plants.

Other companion plants that pair well with strawberries include borage, sage, and spinach. Borage attracts pollinators and can improve strawberry yields, while sage helps repel pests like whiteflies and spider mites. Spinach, as a low-growing plant, acts as a living mulch that helps retain moisture and suppress weeds around strawberry plants.

Eggplants and Mint

eggplants growing in a garden staked with a bamboo pole

Mint helps repel pests like aphids and flea beetles that can damage eggplants. Its strong aroma confuses pests, making it difficult for them to locate their preferred host plants. However, mint can be invasive, so it’s best to plant it in a container and place it near your eggplant plants to prevent it from taking over your garden.

Other companions for eggplants include beans and marigolds. Beans help fix nitrogen in the soil, improving its fertility and benefiting eggplant growth. Marigolds, as mentioned earlier, deter nematodes and other pests while attracting beneficial insects.

Final Thoughts

By incorporating companion planting techniques in your garden, you can create a harmonious environment that promotes plant health and increases yields. Experiment with different combinations to find the perfect pairings for your garden and enjoy the benefits of a flourishing, diverse ecosystem. Remember that the specific needs and interactions of plants can vary depending on your local climate, soil conditions, and other factors, so don’t be afraid to make adjustments as needed. With a bit of trial and error, you’ll be well on your way to a thriving, productive garden using the principles of companion planting.