Hints, Tips, and How Tos

Does Companion Planting Work? Just Ask My Beans!

After quite a bit of reading about companion planting, last spring I decided to try it.

Exactly what is companion planting, you ask? Companion planting is simply the process of planting different plants together that mutually benefit from having each other around. Native Americans used to do this with their corn, pole beans, and squash. They would make little mounds and plant several corn in the center. As the corn grew they would plant beans and squash around it. The corn provided the poles for the beans, the beans provided the nitrogen for the soil, and the squash acted as a mulch – preventing weeds and retaining moisture.

So I decided to give it a try – though not exactly as the natives did. I planted my corn in a block about 25 feet long and six feet wide with two feet between stalks. The corn was double planted and I planted two regular bush-type beans between the corn stalks. In the end, it looked like this…

Corn & Beans Interplanted

Yesterday I picked the beans. When I compared the beans planted with the corn, they were much bigger than the same beans planted elsewhere in the garden. I was impressed. Companion planting does indeed work! So next year I thing I might try a few more combos.

Try These In Your Garden

Onion – plant with parsley to keep away onion fly
Celery – plant with cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower to deter butterflies (grows well with beans, tomatoes, and leeks)
Asparagus – plant with tomatoes, parsley, or basil
Swiss Chard – plant with cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, lettuce, or herbs – do not plant with string beans
Beets – plant with kohlrabi, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, onions, cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower – do not plant with string beans, dill, or fennel
Brussels Sprouts – plant with onions
Cabbage – plant with herbs, onion, garlic, peas, celery, potatoes, or beets
Kohlrabi – plant with beets or onions
Peppers – plant with basil, okra, or tomatoes
Cucumber – plant with corn, sunflowers, peas, beans, beets, or carrots
Pumpkin & Squash –  Plant with corn, peas, or beans
Carrot – Plant with onions, annual flowers, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, or peas – do not plant with anise and dill
Lettuce – Plant with cucumbers, onions, radishes, carrots, or dill (dill protects them from aphids)
Tomato – Plant with basil, parsley, and asparagus or French marigolds (French marigolds deter whiteflies)
Bean – plant with celery, corns, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or melons
Peas – plant with beans, root crops, potatoes, or corn
Radish –  Plant with peas or lettuce
Potato – plant with corn, cabbage, beans, or marigolds
Spinach – plant with beans, peas, corn, and strawberries
Corn – Plant with beans, peas, sunflowers, cucumbers, squash, melons, and potatoes

20 replies on “Does Companion Planting Work? Just Ask My Beans!”

We too researched companion planting and did a lot with it. We planted the “three sisters” – corn, beans and squash. This was our experiment year and boy did we learn. We planted the corn too close together, and needed to wait until it was at least 6″ high before adding two bean stalks per corn, and 1 vining pumpkin per 2 corn stalks. We planted everything too close together so by the time we could find the green beans, they were freaking huge! Zucchini and other gourds/squashes do NOT work – need something that vines like pumpkins or Mexican X-top squash. HOWever I ignored one companion planting: beans and onions don’t get along at all. So even though every soybean sprouted, not one onion did. Will teach me! Anyway, to see more info about our very first garden (yep, newbies), check out our blog at and thanks for your own postings! Vikki from near Denver, Colorado

I remember as akid we had a family garden (my grandmother, brother, mom and dad all lived in separate houses on the same large property) that we all tended and companion planted like you described. Sometimes there were a few rows of veggies that wouldn’t get something planted near and they would always come out just a little less quality than the others. Companion planting is for sure the way to go to avoid all the nasty chemicals that most use to keep away everyday pests. What a great way to learn about the plants themselves too!

Great blog! I was wondering what to plant with strawberries. Can I plant tomatoes with onion, chive or leek or do they hate eachother? Thanks!

For strawberries – plant them near beans and onions (go figure!) And they say they like to be mulched in pine needles. I mulched mine in pine saw dust this past year and that seemed to work pretty good. I plan to mulch in wood chips in the future as the wet saw dust can stick to the strawberries, requiring you to wash them before eating. I’ve also read that strawberries grow well under raspberries, gooseberries, and roses – though I couldn’t personally verify that.

As for tomatoes – I see no reason to keep them from onions, chives, or leeks.

I have a family of five and I am interested in some of your techniques. Block planting with carrots… what is your yeild? I need to be able to get enough veggies to can or freeze. So with square foot or block gardening what is your yeild? Do you just eat well in the summer and fall or do you get enough for the rest of the year as well compared to line gardening? I line garden but I space my rows about 8-10 inches apart.

Christie, I’ve never actually measured the yield for my carrots. We have no good place to store carrots over the winter, so we mostly eat carrots fresh. If you plant carrots in the block planting method, it would basically be like you space your rows the same way you space the seeds in your rows. So just imagine squishing your rows together instead of 8-10 inches apart. Your yield should not decrease with the closer rows.

Growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky my Dad always planted Kentucky Wonder beans with corn.We would place two kernels of corn and one bean about 18″ apart with fertilizer between them.I can remember jumping to reach the beans…about 8″ inches long and get a handful.The corn was Hickory Cane.This is how I plant every year and always have a bumper crop!

Gary: Actually – I don’t usually fertilize on a regular basis. Sometimes I put some general fertilizer on my garden in the spring before I till it up, but that’s it.

About keeping carrots over the winter: I bought a 25 or 30 lb. bag at the farmers market last September for $5.( they were huge and not “pretty “but smooth and clean ) and we ate them until Febuary fresh! They were in a thick clear plastic bag with little holes here and there, and were kept them in our garage all winter @ 5-10 degrees C. I’d check if they got too moist I’d open the bag a bit, then close it when they were almost dry. The same worked with potatoes! A friend stored her carrots over winter in an extra fridge in plastic bags with paper towel, to control the “too moist or too dry” problems. Hope this helps someone !

The three sisters planting myth is hyperbole. There is almost no evidence it was as common as stated. Most scientific evidence shows that yields are not improved. That being said it has potential in some cases, but each area, will be different. Here, peppers actually do better in the shade of plants. Other places not. Your bean example – for me I got very few beans that way. But it could be the variety of bean? So be careful when reading these claims – they have very little science (or common sense) behind them.

Loki: I agree that some varieties may do better than others in this system. I would disagree that there is little scientific or common sense to this system. Here is a quick quote from Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of the plot by providing nitrogen to the following years corn. Bean vines also help stabilize the corn plants, making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. Shallow-rooted squash vines become a living mulch, shading emerging weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating, thereby improving the overall crops chances of survival in dry years. Spiny squash plants also help discourage predators from approaching the corn and beans. The large amount of crop residue from this planting combination can be incorporated back into the soil at the end of the season, to build up the organic matter and improve its structure.

Corn, beans and squash also complement each other nutritionally. Corn provides carbohydrates, the dried beans are rich in protein, balancing the lack of necessary amino acids found in corn. Finally, squash yields both vitamins from the fruit and healthful, delicious oil from the seeds.

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