7 Favorite Companion Planting Combinations + Why We Love Them

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Understanding companion planting combinations is a very sought-after topic in gardening circles. But can one plant can actually help another plant? While the science is mixed, gardeners themselves say “yes.” Experienced gardeners love to employ companion planting to help repel harmful pests and avoid pesticides. But beginning gardeners find that it’s a great way to utilize a small planting space.

Let’s explore companion planting combinations that work well in a small space and I’ll even share my favorites that have become staples in my garden year after year. 

Before we begin, if you’d like to watch a podcast episode instead about 7 Favorite Companion Planting Combinations + Why We Love Them, you can listen here:

Companion Planting Combinations

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companion planting combinations

Exploring Companion Planting Combinations

As we begin, keep in mind, what works well in your garden may differ from mine. You’ll need to test out these combinations and after a few growing seasons, you’ll be better able to determine the best companion planting combinations for your space.  

Companion Planting Combo #1: Cucumbers and Climbing Nasturtiums

My first companion planting combination that works really well in my garden is planting cucumbers and climbing nasturtiums together to grow up the same trellis. If you are not familiar with nasturtium, it’s a beautiful flower whose leaves and flowers are also edible!

There are two types of nasturtiums–bush and climbing. The bush type of nasturtium won’t climb, and while this is a lovely plant and looks beautiful in your garden, I prefer to plant the climbing type to grow alongside cucumbers on a trellis.  

Also called trailing nasturtium, it’s going to climb just like a cucumber will. There are a couple reasons I love this companion planting combination. First of all, the nasturtium flowers are gorgeous and having them climb a trellis alongside an edible crop is stunning to look at. 

cucumbers and Nasturtiums

The other reason I love this planting combination is they aid in pollination. Pollination can be a problem with cucumbers, especially in the early season, and the nasturtium flowers help draw the bees to pollinate your cucumber flowers. 

Attracting pollinating insects is a great way to help your crops flourish. When you combine a crop you want to grow for your family with a beautiful flower that will attract the cross pollinating bees you can be sure you are helping your garden get off to a great start.

Companion Planting Combo #2: Tomatoes and Calendula or Alyssum

The next really successful companion planting combination is tomatoes and a flower such as calendula or alyssum. The reason this is such a great combination is because of the early blooms that attract beneficial insects. 

Calendula and alyssum will attract many beneficial hover flies (also known as syrphid flies) and lady beetles to your tomato crops. Hover flies will lay their eggs near areas where you’ve got an aphid issue, which tends to be a common problem with young tomato plants. Those larvae, once they hatch, devour aphids in short order.

tomatoes alyssum

The same is also true for lady beetles. The adults of these beneficial insects benefit from the nectar of the flowers, while the aphids provide their progeny a great food source. For this reason, I never spray aphids in my garden. I plant these flowers instead!

Both alyssum and calendula flowers are beautiful, too, and because they are compact plants they won’t overwhelm your garden space. 

Over the years I have experimented with many different companion plants for tomatoes and if you want to see these different varieties as well as what calendula and alyssum look like next to my tomatoes you can watch that in this video.

Companion Planting Combo #3: Peppers and Carrots

Our next companion planting combination is peppers and carrots. Carrots are planted 6-8 weeks before the peppers and while this may seem like a confusing pairing, there are a couple reasons why peppers and carrots make a fantastic companion planting combination. 

First of all, carrots love full sun to grow well and if they are planted in the early spring they will get plenty of sun. A couple of months later when it’s time to plant peppers with them, the day length has increased considerably. By the time the peppers get really tall it’s about the time in the growing season — aka when it gets hot — when carrots would benefit from some shade. 

carrots and peppers companion planted

By that point, carrots should be at full maturity and ready to harvest. Peppers and carrots are an excellent companion planting pairing because the peppers help extend the harvest of the carrots. In turn, the carrots benefit the peppers because they attract the lady beetles which will lay their eggs near any aphid issue your peppers might have. 

Companion Planting Combo #4: Okra and Celery

Next on our list of good companion planting combinations is okra and celery. Celery doesn’t like hot weather, so I like to plant it in the early spring. Okra is a warm season crop that loves the heat; their seeds don’t get planted until the soil warms up to at least 70 degrees. 

This allows for 6-8 weeks for the celery plants to get all the sun they need, just like with peppers and carrots. As soon as your okra crops are getting tall, that will be about the time you can harvest your celery. 

okra under celery

One unique finding I discovered about celery last summer was that rather than my celery crop bolting after the first harvest, it continued to grow. The reason, I surmised, was because I planted it with okra and since the okra plants were so tall, they provided necessary shade for my celery. The shade was just enough to keep my celery plants cool enough to continue producing without bolting. 

Companion Planting Combo #5: Broccoli and Cabbage

Broccoli and cabbage are our next companion planting combination. This is a planting combination that a lot of people will tell you not to do because broccoli and cabbage are both heavy feeders. In particular, they need nitrogen and ample amounts of nutrition. If you plant them together in a bed that doesn’t have adequate nutrition to support them, neither plant will grow very well. 

Also, it’s said that both cabbage and broccoli attract the same pest – the cabbage moth. The cabbage moth lays eggs that become cabbage worms and these worms can decimate your broccoli and cabbage very quickly. By planting them in different places the hope is that you won’t deal with as many pests. 

In my experience, no matter where you plant cabbage, you will still deal with these pests. Why not plant them in the same spot, so you can use the same insect netting to help cover them? This method has worked out well for me in the past. 

Just remember, if you plant them together, make sure your soil has enough nutrition to support both plants.

Companion Planting Combo #6: Tomatoes and Carrots

The next companion planting combination is tomatoes and carrots. The best type of tomato variety to plant with carrots is a determinate variety like the Roma, because of the plant’s naturally smaller size.

tomatoes and carrots companion plants

Tomatoes and carrots make a wonderful combination as long the tomato plants don’t get too big to shade the carrots. If you choose to try this combination, just make sure to plant your carrots in front of your tomatoes or on the south side of your tomatoes, so that they will get full sun during at least half of the day.

You’ll also want to consider the timing of when you plant your seeds. If you plant your carrots about 5-6 weeks before tomatoes, then by the time your tomatoes are at full maturity your carrots are mature enough to handle some shade (like when planting them next to peppers). 

Companion Planting Combo #7: Onions and Sweet Potatoes or Okra

Our final companion planting combination is onions along with two different crops that pair well with them – sweet potatoes or okra. In my southern climate, I plant your onions in March, and then I plant sweet potatoes or okra in May. That way, onions have a good two months to grow on their own with no competition, which is very important for onions. 

If you want your onion bulbs to be big, they need time in weed-free soil where they have access to lots of water and nitrogen. By the time your onions are bobbing up in your soil, it doesn’t need as much water, which is an excellent time to plant either your sweet potatoes or okra.

onions and okra companion planting

When it’s time to plant your okra or potatoes, this is the point in the growing season where a lot of gardens experience more rain. Your newly planted okra and sweet potato crops help to absorb the excess rainfall, which helps to not over-soak your onions. If your onion bulbs get too wet, they can rot. 

Not only do okra and sweet potatoes help to absorb extra water, they also help to shade the onion plants – which at this point in the growing season, your onions don’t mind. The shade that is produced helps to keep the soil temperature cool and that helps the onions at this stage of their growth. 

I harvest my onions in late June and early July. Your onions and okra or sweet potato crops will grow together in the soil for about 4-6 weeks which is why they make a great companion planting combo.  As they grow, they are helping each other. 

Importance of Understanding Your Planting Climate

Before you start planting anything in the soil, make sure that you fully understand your climate and how your climate functions. Some climates you will need to plant the above-mentioned combinations much closer together in time than I would in my climate. 

Timing is everything when it comes to planting. If you want a chart to help you know when to plant, click here to download my free When to Plant Cheat Sheet.

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