Friend or Foe: A Quick Overview About Companion Planting

Did you know that plants have friends? It’s true! While they may not be sending Facebook friend requests anytime soon, certain plants paired with others actually help promote each other's growth. The technical term for these plant friendships is companion planting and it has been used by farmers and gardeners for thousands of years, from ancient China to the Americas.

Just like your friend that’s more detailed oriented, who reminds you of your appointments, or the one friend who’s always smiling and cheering you up, plants help each other out. For instance, did you know sage spread about a cabbage patch can deter cabbage moths from damaging the crop? Or that herbs do an excellent job acting as a pest repellent due to their strong odor? How about the fact that tomatoes are protected by dill, and parsley from hungry hornworms?

Image courtesy of The Old Farmer's Almanac

Image courtesy of The Old Farmer's Almanac

We all know the qualities of a good friendship between people, but check out some of the qualities of a good plant friendship:

Benefits of Companion Planting

  • Provides Shelter – larger plants can offer protection from rough winds or shade from the harsh sun.
  • Offers Support – certain vegetables are used by other plants as a physical support system.
  • Attracts Helpful Insects – some types of plants can attract pollinators such as bees.
  • Delivers Better Soil – a few kinds of vegetables will improve the soil for other plants around them.
  • Adds Variety – this helps diversify your crop yield, in case one crop fails.
  • Increases Level Interaction – the overall harvest of a garden will increase when crops are grown on different heights in the area.
  • Prevents Pests – there are friendly plants that will help prevent pest insects or pathogenic fungi from hurting the crop.
  •  Induces Trap Cropping – some companion plants will act as decoys and lure pests away.

We’ve covered the benefits, so now let’s learn which plants get along with each other. Below are some beautiful charts that highlight companion plants for some popular vegetables and herbs.

Charts courtesy of Garden 365
Charts courtesy of Garden 365

Charts courtesy of Garden 365

Now that you know plants have other plants they’re friends with, you’re probably wondering if they have other plants they don’t like? Well, seems us humans have more in common with plants than we may realize, because certain plants don’t work well with others, too. For example, sunflowers stunt the growth of beans and potatoes. Also, despite cauliflower and cabbage being closely related, they don’t get along at all. Onions and beans are another pair that are foes. If you intend to plant these antagonists in your garden, it’s suggested to keep them about four feet away from each other.

For more comprehensive charts about plants and their friends and foes, check out the links below:

Farmer’s Almanac Top 10 Vegetable Friends and Foes

Urban Farmer’s Vegetable Companion Chart

Vegetable Gardening Life’s Companion Planting Chart for Vegetables

It’s important for any healthy garden to have a wide variety of plants. This growing season, please remember to plant your seeds near their buddies and away from their enemies.