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What Are the Benefits of Companion Planting?
Companion plants will either help a specific crop grow or will grow better beside a specific crop, and can do many support jobs in the garden:
- Repel insect pests. Cabbage worms, cucumber beetles, Mexican bean beetles, carrot flies, cabbage moths—all kinds of pests can plague vegetable gardens. Many companion plants (like marigold flowers, catnip, and rue) repel specific pests and should be planted near certain crops to keep them pest-free.
- Attract beneficial insects. Pollinators like bees and ladybugs can use a little encouragement to visit vegetable gardens and pollinate the crops. Gardeners often plant attractive plants like borage flowers to encourage pollinators to visit.
- Improve soil nutrients. When crops grow, they take up valuable nutrients from the soil—leaving the gardener to do a lot of work at the end of the season to renew the soil’s nutrients. However, there are many companion plants (like bush beans and pole beans) that add nutrients like nitrogen back into the soil, helping keep other plants healthy and well-fed.
- Encourage faster growth or better taste. Many companion plants (like marjoram, chamomile, and summer savory) release specific chemicals that encourage faster growth or better taste in the plants around them, leading to quicker and better harvests for home gardeners.
- Provide ground cover. Plants that spread low across the ground (like oregano) serve as a blanket over the soil, protecting it from the sun and keeping it cooler for plants that need it.
- Provide necessary shade. Plants that grow tall and leafy (like zucchini and asparagus) can provide welcome shade for sun-sensitive plants beneath them.
- Serve as markers. When growing slow-growing plants, it can be difficult to tell where the rows will be while you’re waiting for the seeds to sprout. Gardeners often use fast-growing plants (like radishes) interspersed with the slow growers in their rows to delineate where the slow growers will be.
6 Plants to Grow With Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprout plants—straight columns of exposed sprouts topped with big, chard-like leaves for protection—are vulnerable to a variety of pests. Companion planting can deter the aphids, small green caterpillars called cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, maggots, Japanese beetles, and flea beetles that wreak havoc on the leaves as well. Here are just a few examples of good companions for Brussels sprouts:
- Dill and other aromatic herbs, like rosemary, sage, oregano, and mint, lure leaf-chewing cabbage worms—which mature into white cabbage moths. Plant these herbs away from Brussels sprouts to attract the pests far from your crop.
- Basil repels thrips, which suck out of the juices of young sprout leaves. You should also plant basil away from Brussel sprouts.
- Chamomile is known as a flavor-enhancing companion plant, but be mindful when dispersing it near the rows of Brussels sprouts: it spreads quickly. Only aim for one plant approximately every 150 feet.
- Garlic and other alliums like leeks, shallots, and onions also enhance the sweetness of mature Brussels sprouts. Alliums have anti-fungal properties that work as a natural insect repellent within the soil.
- Geraniums and nasturtiums repel all things that harm brassicas—cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and flea beetles among them—with their peppery, astringent scent. They also attract pests like aphids away, which feed on Brussels sprouts.
- Beets add a boost of fertilization to the soil, namely magnesium, which is a crucial component of growing successful Brussels sprouts.
Plants to Avoid Growing With Brussels Sprouts
Some plants do not grow well with Brussels sprouts, either by attracting the pests or competing for the same nutrients.
- Strawberries stunt the growth of all cabbage plants, including Brussels sprouts, as they compete for the same space.
- Other cabbages, like cauliflower or broccoli, shouldn’t be planted near Brussels sprouts as they are in direct competition for many of the same nutrients and resources—and their proximity would make them twice as vulnerable to the same diseases and pests.
- Tomatoes and other nightshades, like eggplants, need a lot of nutrients to grow. Brussels sprouts are also heavy feeders, so two should not be planted next to each other as they will compete for the same nutrients.
Think Like a Pro
Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.View Class
Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass All-Access Pass and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.