Tips for Vegetable Companion Planting

Tips for Vegetable Companion Planting

A few tips that can help you create vegetable companion plantings give you a gardening advantage, such as soil enrichment, providing nutrients to companion plants and pest control. Mother Nature has all these inner connections worked out as a perfect growing mechanism.

Helpful Frugal Tips for Vegetable Companion Planting

Companion planting works great with square foot raised bed gardening. However, you can also use this technique for row gardening.  

Three Sisters: Corn, Pole Beans and Squash

An ancient farming technique Native Americans taught European settlers was companion gardening known as the Three Sisters. This trio planting is the epitome of companion planting. You can choose whatever varieties of the three vegetables that your family prefers.

  • Sweet corn, dent corn and even popcorn can be planted, although some popcorn varieties grow shorter than sweet or grain corns.
  • To avoid cross pollination of different corn species you need to wait two-weeks between plantings. 
  • Some people plant winter squash, zucchini or summer squash. All will work. Some people plant all types of squash.
  • The most common pole bean grown is green beans, but you can certainly plant other pole beans (not peas).

How Three Sisters Works

There is a very scientific reason why these three vegetables are excellent companion plants. The Iroquois understood how the three vegetables work dependently upon each other.

  • The beans provide nitrogen loving corn with lots of this nutrient.
  • In turn the corn stalks give the beans a natural pole to climb.
  • The squash is a low growing plant and provides a natural mulch effect while serving as a great weed barrier.

Pest Control with Squash

In addition to helping the ground retain moisture to nourish the corn and beans, the squash plants impede pests from traveling through the field to the corn and beans. That’s because the prickly large leaves repel some of the most destructive four-legged pests.

Raccoon Pest Control

One of those pests is the raccoon. These critters love corn and are often a big problem for gardeners. There’s nothing more frustrating that nurturing your plants from seed to bloom and watching them produce vegetables only to have your garden bounty raided by animals. Many growers attest to the defense mechanism of prickly squash leaves against marauding corn-loving raccoons.

Deer Don’t Eat Squash

Even if squash isn’t a favorite vegetable, you should plant a few seeds, since it doesn’t take many to produce an abundant crop. You may be surprised how effective planting squash can be in protecting your corn and bean crops. These two vegetables are deer favorites when these nocturnal grazers come out to appease their endless need for munchies. 

How to Plant Three Sisters

If you want to be true to the Native American way of planting Three Sisters, then follow their farming technique. You will create circles of plantings.

  1. Create a mound about a foot high with a four-foot diameter.
  2. Go two feet inside the circle mound.
  3. Plant six corn kernels one-inch deep spaced 10” apart within this two-foot inner diameter.
  4. Once the corn stalks are one to two feet tall it’s time to plant the beans and squash.
  5. Plant four to five beans per stalk. Be sure the beans are evenly planted around each stalk.
  6. Seven days later, plant six squash seeds along the four-feet mark of the mound along the outer perimeter.

Other Deer Resistant Vegetables

There are many vegetables that are said to be deer resistant. These include things like rhubarb. This vegetable is toxic to deer and they won’t venture near this plant. Only in extreme instances will deer dig up root crops.As grazers, deep root crops aren’t favored, although they have been known to eat the above ground leaves and stems that can end up killing the root crops. This is especially true when deer eat young plants manage to uproot the entire plant.

  • You should be safe from deer when planting potatoes, onions or garlic.
  • In addition to the squash prickly leaves discouraging deer from trespassing into the area where the squash plants are growing, cucumbers are another prickly leaf plant.
  • Some herbs, such as sage, thyme, and dill are also safe from becoming dinner for deer.

Defensive Crop Plantings

Some gardeners practice planting a wide swath of deer resistant veggies and herbs as the first line of defense to keep deer out of the garden. . Deer love beans, corn, lettuce and tomatoes. If you’re planting these crops and have deer wandering about your property, don’t be surprised when they venture deeper into your yard to raid your garden. It won’t hurt to try planting a perimeter of these veggies to dissuade the deer from moving deeper into your garden. You’ll end up with more veggies to store or give away to family and friends.

Square Foot Gardening Companion Plants

Companion plantings for raised beds offer several advantages over row plantings. Many people do a combination of row gardening and raised bed gardening. It depends on the space you have for vegetable gardening and how much time you can devote to your garden. Suffice it to say that raised beds, especially companion plantings require less attention than large row gardens.

Raised Bed Companion Plantings for Higher Yields

Once you understand the best companion vegetables to plant together, you’ll never go back to traditional row plantings. Companion plantings in a square foot raised bed provide you with higher yields. How is that possible with fewer plants than row planting? Based on yields per square foot, a raised bed compared to row plantings drains better, holds water better and retains more nutrients.

Companion Planting Guideline

A simple guideline for companion planting also includes the plants you should never plant together for various reasons. Some plants deplete the necessary nutrients, while others produce too many nutrients. Other plants attract pests that are harmful to other vegetables. Review the table below when planting different squares in your garden.

Beans Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Squash, Tomatoes Garlic, Onions, Peppers Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Summer Savory, Tarragon

Beans, Carrots, Celery, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers, Radishes, Spinach, (Melons-fruit)

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Tomatoes

Dill, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, Thyme 
Carrots Beans, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Radishes, Rosemary, Sage, Tomatoes Anise, Dill,
Chives, Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage,Tarragon
Corn Beans, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Melons, Peas, Potatoes, Squash Tomatoes Marjoram, Oregano. Parsley, Tarragon
Cucumbers Beans, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Corn, Lettuce, Peas, Radishes Most herbs, Melons, Potatoes Marjoram, Oregano, Tarragon
Lettuce Asparagus, Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Onions, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Spinach, Tomatoes Broccoli Marjoram, Oregan, Tarragon 
Onions Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Lettuce, Peppers, Potatoes, Spinach, Tomatoes Beans, Peas, Sage Marjoram, Oregano, Summer Savory, Tarragon 
Peppers Onions, Spinach, Tomatoes Beans, Kohlrabi Basil, Coriander/Cilantro, Marjoram,Oregano, Tarragon 
Radishes Onions, Spinach, Tomatoes Kohlrabi Chervil, Marjoram, Oregano, Tarragon
Tomatoes Asparagus, Beans, Carrots, Celery, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers, 
Radishes, Spinach, Melons
Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Corn, Kale, Potatoes Basil, Borage, Dill, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Tarragon, Thyme 

Tips for Creating and Planting Squares

Measure for Creating Squares

You can use any type of measuring tool to create 12″ x 12″ squares. Use double point fencing staples to secure cord or twine. You will measure 12″ along each long side of the raised bed. Start at one end of the raised bed and measure 12″ along the short side of the bed. At the 12″ point, hammer a fencing staple into the top of the board. Measure the next 12″ and repeat. Continue around the bed until all four sides have been measured and a staple secured.

Tie Off String Lengths

Measure the bed width for a string length and add four inches to this number. For example, if your bed is two feet wide, you will measure 24″ + 4″= 28″. Cut a 28″ length from a roll of cord or twine. You need one for each width. If your bed is 2′ x 10′, you’ll need 10 lengths of 28″ cord or twine. Next measure 124″ (10’4″) for the 2 lengths needed for the 2′ x 10′ bed. String the cord/twine through the eyelets created by the staples. Be sure to double tie since the weather will loosen the cord/twine over time. The end product will be a checkerboard pattern of cord/twine. These are the squares you’ll need to plant.


Planting the Squares

Understand how the sun tracks over your garden area. It’s always best to place raised beds the same as rows, running north to south, so the sun tracks over the rows. If you have bed that run east to west, you can successfully plant them, just keep in mind the height of the plants so plants aren’t overshadowed. The exception might be lettuce that needs a certain amount of shade. However, companion planting allows taller plants to shade others like lettuce plants. 

Herbs that Attract Pests

Some herbs can be very invasive, such as marjoram, mint, oregano and thyme. While these herbs make great ground covers for raised beds of companion vegetables, it’s best to plant in containers or in a dedicated bed. Another herb to keep a close eye on is parsley. Parsley attracts caterpillars that later turn into beautiful black swallowtail butterflies. However, once the caterpillars descend on your parsley plants, they will pick it clean, leaving only spikes that once were stems filled with lush parsley leaves. You can protect parsley plants with a row cover until the caterpillars move on to their next life as butterflies. 

Following Tips for Vegetable Companion Planting

When you follow tips for vegetable companion planting, you will decrease the need for fertilizers and various organic pest controls. You’ll be amazed how well your garden grows using this time-tested method of growing vegetables and herbs together.

photos: sallypainter, pexels


AuthorSally Painter

"Everyone can have a beautiful home decor. It just takes a little creativity," says author and freelance writer Sally Painter. This former commercial and residential designer is also a Feng Shui practitioner and believes that, "Everything you choose to put in your home should resonate with you emotionally. If it doesn't - get rid of it!"