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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, flea 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 as natural pest control. Other companion plants (like calendula and nasturtiums) attract certain pests and can be planted a short distance away from your garden to lure those pests away from your vegetables.
- Attract beneficial insects. Pollinators like honey 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.
- Encourage faster growth and 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.
- 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 benefit from lower temperatures.
- 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.
13 Companion Plants to Grow Alongside Potatoes
Here’s a quick companion planting guide to help you decide what to plant alongside your potatoes—from veggies to flowers to aromatic herbs:
- Alyssum. Alyssum is a ground-cover flower that attracts beneficial insects and serves as a natural mulch to retain soil moisture and deter weeds.
- Cabbage family plants. Potatoes are a great choice for planting near plants in the cabbage (brassicas) family—including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, and kohlrabi—because these plants have shallow root systems that won’t compete for the space or nutrients that potatoes need. It’s a great way to maximize the space of your garden.
- Corn. While potatoes grow mostly underground and require very little above-ground surface area, corn is the opposite—it grows tall and has shallow roots. Planting potato plants among your corn stalks will take advantage of their different needs and maximize space in your garden.
- Chives. Chives are a shallow-rooted herb that attract beneficial insects and don’t use the same space that potatoes do in the garden. As a bonus, chives are a popular herb to top potato dishes like baked potatoes and roasted potato skins.
- Cilantro. Cilantro (also called coriander) is considered one of the best companion plants to potatoes. It’s an herb with umbrella-shaped flowers that are excellent at attracting beneficial insects (like ladybugs, hoverflies, parasitoid wasps, and lacewings) that will prey on harmful pests, including Colorado potato beetles.
- Flax. The tannins and linseed oils in the flax plant help deter Colorado potato beetles.
- Horseradish. Not only does horseradish repel Colorado potato beetles, it also can improve potato plants’ disease resistance
- Leeks. Leeks are a shallow-rooted allium that don’t use the same space that potatoes do in the garden. As a bonus, leeks are a popular addition to potato dishes like scalloped potatoes.
- Legumes. From sugar snap peas to green beans, legumes are a great choice to grow with potato plants because they provide much-needed nitrogen in the soil. In addition, potato plants deter the Mexican bean beetle, a pest of many legumes.
- Marigolds. Marigolds are one of the most popular companion plants because they repel a wide variety of pests, including potato beetles—a common pest of potato plants.
- Nasturtiums. Nasturtiums are pretty flowers that attract harmful insects like aphids and potato beetles. While this may seem counterintuitive, many gardeners plant nasturtiums a short distance away from their vegetable garden to attract pests away from their crops.
- Petunias. Petunias are flowers that attract beneficial insects to help with natural pest control.
- Tansy. Tansy is a lesser-known herb with flowers that attract beneficial insects.
Plants to Avoid Growing With Potatoes
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Just as there are good companion plants to grow beside potatoes, there are also plants that won’t work well. Potatoes don’t grow well alongside many plants, so take care when planning out your vegetable garden. When you plant potatoes, avoid planting them near:
- Apple, peach, and cherry trees. Fruit trees like peach, apple, and cherry often attract blight, a disease that can decimate a potato crop. If you have peach, apple, or cherry trees in your yard, plant your potatoes far away.
- Cucumbers. Cucumbers are heavy feeders that take up a lot of water, so if planted right next to potatoes they will compete viciously for the nutrients. In addition, cucumbers may increase the chances of your potatoes becoming diseased with blight. If you want to plant both cucumbers and potatoes in your garden, plant them far away from one another.
- Eggplants. Eggplants and potatoes are both in the nightshade family, and they crave the same soil nutrients and are susceptible to the same diseases. If you plant eggplants near potatoes, both plants will compete for nutrients and are more susceptible to blight.
- Pumpkins. Pumpkins and potatoes are both susceptible to blight.
- Fennel. Fennel is a garden crop that doesn’t play well with most other vegetable garden plants. While it can attract beneficial insects, it can also serve as an inhibitor to the growth of most other plants—stunting them or even killing them completely.
- Raspberries. If planted near potatoes, raspberries are more susceptible to blight.
- Root vegetables. Since root crops like turnips, parsnips, and carrots use the same underground space in the garden that potatoes use, growing them together will inhibit the growth of both plants.
- Tomatoes. Tomatoes and potatoes are both in the nightshade family, and they crave the same soil nutrients and are susceptible to the same diseases. If you plant tomatoes near potatoes, both plants will compete for nutrients and are more susceptible to blight.
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