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Companion Planting: Why You Should Grow These Plants Side-by-Side

Part science and part folklore, companion planting has long been used by gardeners, who pair specific plants for their mutual benefit. Sometimes it's about confusing or discouraging pests, other times it's about attracting beneficial insects to deal with the pests. Here are 10 companion plantings to try in your edible garden.

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Tomatoes and Marigolds

Marigolds aren’t just ornamental, they also chase away destructive root-knot nematodes, microscopic worms in the soil that attack the roots of tomato plants. While you’re at it, add in some basil to this companion planting. It is well behaved and thought to improve the flavor of tomatoes. It can also be harvested simultaneously for salads.

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carrots jaroslava V/Shutterstock

Radishes and Carrots

These two vegetables work well together in a companion planting because they’re on different schedules. Radishes are the hare, going from start to finish in just 25 to 30 days. Carrots are the tortoise, taking 60 to 80 days to mature. Sow the seeds of both of these vegetables together. When you harvest the radishes, it opens up space for the later-maturing carrots.

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Lettuce and Basil

This is another pairing that works efficiently because the plants are on different schedules. The cool-season lettuce peters out around the time the basil is ready to soak up the heat of summer.

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corn igorsm8/Shutterstock

Green Beans and Corn

These two make a good combination because the beans can climb the cornstalks for support without impeding its growth. Beans also fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere, meaning they can create their own nitrogen (with the help of soil bacteria) rather than needing nutrients from the soil. The extra nitrogen improves the soil for surrounding plants, in this case nitrogen-hungry corn. Native Americans added a third plant—a sprawling squash vine that shaded out weeds beneath the corn and beans—and called the trio The Three Sisters.

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Roses and Garlic

The shorter garlic fills in nicely around the bare stems of rosebushes. More important to the success of this companion planting, garlic is said to chase away aphids, spider mites and most importantly, Japanese beetles.

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Cabbage1: Niferure/Shutterstock 2:Peter Turner Photography/Shutterstock

Rosemary and Cabbage

Rosemary is a strong-smelling herb (fortunately, it’s a good aroma!) that may help confuse or distract cabbage moths from cabbage, kale or other cole crops. Sage and mint are also reported to have the ability to ward off cabbage moths. (Mint can be a garden bully, by taking over in a hurry, so plant it in a container and bury the container to keep the roots from spreading.)

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pumpkin sanddebeautheil/Shutterstock

Nasturtium and Squash

Just like marigolds, colorful nasturtiums can bring an ornamental flourish to the garden while doing the heavy lifting on pest control. In this case, nasturtium’s job is to guard against aphids and squash bugs. Bonus: Edible nasturtium flowers can be added as a salad topper.

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OnionWako Megumi/Shutterstock

Carrots and Onions

This is another good pairing for a companion planting because the onions repel carrot flies and aphids. Leeks, rosemary and sage are also reputed to turn away carrot flies. It makes sense then why elephant garlic—a cross between garlic and a leek—also repels carrot flies. Both carrots and onions grow better in a raised bed full of rich, well-drained soil.

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floral1:vandame/Shutterstock 2: yakonstant/Shutterstock

Mums and Beans

Intersperse chrysanthemums among bean plants to deter Mexican bean beetles. At the end of the season, when the beans are done, you’ll have something ornamental to look at. Summer annuals such as cosmos and marigold are also said to be helpful at controlling Mexican bean beetles.

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flowersHildaWeges Photography/Shutterstock

Zinnias and Vegetables

When used to rim the outskirts of the garden, tall zinnias block the view of the vegetables, creating a prettier view for people. They also serve as a barrier to deer, who don’t see the vegetables or don’t want to move through the zinnias to get to them. Jerusalem artichoke, cleome and other tall plants can also serve this purpose.

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.