Gardening isn’t the most intuitive activity; especially in today’s age of rapid technological advancement, where the physical earth can seem more foreign than ever.

We had a garden for a few years when I was a kid, and my grandmother still maintains at least a couple of planter boxes, if not a full-blown garden, every year.

Yet somehow, be it due to a busy work schedule, living in the city, or trying to maintain a social life, I haven’t had time to discover the secret of gardening. Fortunately for me—and anyone else who wants to learn how to garden—companion planting might be the first step toward discovering that secret.

What is Companion Planting?

Companion planting is, at the simplest level, growing plants that benefit each other close together.

But what kind of benefits can plants get from other plants?

  • Maximum potential growth
  • Flavor enhancement
  • Pest control
  • Pollination
  • Soil enrichment

There are some other benefits of companion planting, but these main five mean that as the cultivator of a garden, you’ll reap the benefits as well.

Companion Planting is Practical

people in community gardenThe best thing about companion planting is that it’s convenient. You can do it pretty much anywhere—your yard, a planter box, outside, inside, a community plot, or even in a rooftop garden. Community plots and rooftop gardens are an emerging way to allow city dwellers to grow vegetables too. So really, the only thing standing in your way is you.

Note: Your harvest will be smaller if you use a container gardening method, but that might be a good start for beginners or people who don’t have much time to dig up the earth and maintain a larger garden.

History of Companion Planting

Companion planting was the norm before the advent of industrialized agriculture, which makes sense if you think about it. Most people farmed to create food for themselves and their families, and what family can eat 20 acres of corn?

Even before that period in United States history, Native Americans practiced companion planting. The most popular (or at least most well-known) form was the Three Sisters combination of beans, corn, and pumpkins. Each plant benefits the other two, whether its role is trapping nitrogen in the soil, serving as a stabilizer for beans to grow on, or providing the basis for a dense ground cover to reduce the potential of weeds.

It wasn’t long before the Farmer’s Almanac was created to guide farmers on the best times to plant and harvest different vegetables as well as what plants grow well together, and it’s still used 225 years later.

What Vegetables Grow Well Together?

marigolds in vegtable gardenIf you want to keep your vegetable garden simple, start with one or two vegetables and some marigold seeds. No matter what kind of vegetables you plant, marigolds will discourage the presence of pests, like beetles, nematodes, and other animal pests. They’re basically magic as far as I’m concerned.

  1. Beans will generally grow with almost anything. When grown with corn, the corn will provide a healthy stalk for the beans to climb up. Beans will also grow well with carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, and tomatoes.

However, beans do not play well with garlic, onions, peppers, or sunflowers. They stunt bean plant growth, so avoid planting these if you want healthy beans.

  1. Tomatoes also grow well with many vegetables, including beans, broccoli, and carrots, but they do not flourish with potatoes, kale, or corn.
  2. Corn grows well with beans, lettuce, cucumbers, peas, and squash but does not do well near tomatoes.

Tip: If you do decide to plant vegetables that don’t grow well together, planting them on opposite sides of your garden or in separate containers is recommended.

What are Plants that Repel Pests?

hands planting basilGrowing basil and dill is excellent for preventing pests and encouraging growth in most plants. They are a particularly good match when companion planting with tomatoes.

Once your garden is flourishing, deer can also be a problem. Planting strong-smelling herbs like lavender or mint will help deter deer from eating the fruits of your labor. Planting garlic will also help steer deer clear of your rose bushes and promote the growth of the flower.

Companion Planting Conclusions

Companion planting is an age-old practice and one that is far from obsolete, especially for small gardeners.

If your soil is depleted from trying to grow the same thing year after year, you’re new to gardening, or you’re looking to grow your own food, then companion planting is a good place to start. It can even help out pollinators; a plus for any garden.

Tips for Companion Planting

  • Keep it simple. Start out with only two or three vegetables.
  • Plant marigolds. They ward off pests from almost any plant.
  • Use herbs like basil and dill to keep other bugs away.
  • Plant competing vegetables on opposite sides of the garden.

Companion planting is designed to help your garden succeed. Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to enjoying fresh, healthy veggies this summer!