A Guide to What Vegetables Can Be Planted Together

Most vegetables prefer full sunlight — six or more hours each day. Trouble is, vegetable gardens tend to end up in backyards, where trees, structures and other sun blockers can limit sunny exposures. To maximize your available space, it’s helpful to know what vegetables can be planted together. A ready-made solution is companion planting, which has potential benefits that go well beyond saving space.

Companion planting is a botanical buddy system of sorts. It’s intended to not only make the best use of all available space but to also put plants in the most favorable conditions possible. That includes choosing which “friends” to pair them with and which “enemies” to keep their distance from. When done correctly, companion planting can boost productivity and help fend off disease and pest damage in the garden.

Here’s how to decide which vegetables to plant together and planting strategies that can benefit your garden.

Factors That Affect How Well Plants Grow Together

Consider the following factors when planning which vegetables to plant together:

Mature Size

While they might start small, be aware of a plant’s mature size before planting. Otherwise, a plant can take over more space than you were anticipating and crowd others out. The seed packet can give you the information you need for planting. It tells you how far apart to sow seeds, and it recommends how to thin out small seedlings once they’ve sprouted so the remaining plants have enough space to mature. If you’re working with garden-ready plants instead of seeds, a plant tag will provide recommended spacing to help you decide what vegetables can be planted together.

Growth Patterns

Some plants stand upright, like corn; others climb, like pole beans; and still others sprawl, like squash. Native Americans put all three together to maximize space and reap other rewards. The beans grew up the cornstalks, making use of vertical growing space, while the squash vines utilized horizontal growing space by sprawling on the ground. The large squash leaves shaded out weeds and kept the soil from baking and cracking. Once bean plants died, their roots disintegrated and replenished the soil nitrogen the corn had used. When mixing plants, a general rule of thumb is to pair plants that have different habits or growth patterns. One example is to pair garlic, which grows mainly belowground as a bulb, with spinach, which grows primarily aboveground as a foliage plant.

Growth Rate

Putting slow- and fast-growing plants together can work as long as the fast-growing partner doesn’t crowd out its companion. One example is radishes, which are the jackrabbits of the vegetable world. Radishes mature in as little as 30 days. Carrots, on the other hand, can take 70 to 80 days to mature. You can use the fluctuating growth rates to your advantage by sowing radish and carrot seeds together. Once you harvest the radishes, the carrots have more room to grow.

Growing Season

Most vegetables come in one of two categories: cool season or warm season. One aspect of companion planting is to follow up a cool season crop with a warm season crop. For example, once cool season peas are done, there’s room for warm season beans to grow. There can be some overlap: Small pepper plants can be planted in a bed of leaf lettuce in late spring. By the heat of summer, the lettuce is ready to bolt, or go to seed, so it can be pulled, allowing the pepper plants to take over.

Vegetables That Grow Well Together

While some plants grow well together, others, like carrots and dill, do not. Some plants exude a chemical that inhibits the growth of nearby plants; others may attract more pests. On the other hand, highly fragrant plants, such as sage or rosemary, may distract insect or animal pests away from more valuable plants. Garden vegetables that grow well together include:

  • Basil and tomatoes
  • Radishes and lettuce
  • Peas and carrots
  • Pumpkins or squash and corn
  • Beets and onions
  • Potatoes and eggplants

Planting Strategies

In nature, monocultures are rare (aside from the occasional aspen grove!). Instead, a variety of plants coexist together, making it tougher for pests to locate target plants and slowing the spread of disease. Companion planting picks up on that strategy. Planting marigolds throughout a vegetable garden, for example, can stop soil nematodes from harming tomato plants. And clover can distract rabbits from feasting wholeheartedly on your vegetables while also boosting nitrogen in the soil. If you’re row planting, intersperse companion plants in each row or place them in adjacent rows. Another idea is to plant in self-contained pockets or “neighborhoods,” surrounding one type of plant with another.

Mixing Ornamentals and Edible Plants

One trend to watch is the practice of interplanting edible plants and ornamentals. One reason it’s gained popularity is that it allows you to start planting produce in your front yard. Even if zoning ordinances or homeowner association rules prohibit front-yard vegetable gardens, it’s unlikely they’ll prevent you from growing Swiss chard and kale among your flowers or chives with your rosebushes. Purple leaf lettuce varieties make nice edging plants, while a fair amount of herbs look right at home in a rock garden.

By combining vegetables that grow well together, you can optimize your garden and make the most out of your space.

Written by Luke W. Miller, Garden Ideas for Burpee©

Source: What Vegetables Can Be Planted Together – Burpee

List of Garden Vegetables to Grow for Beginner and Intermediate Gardeners

Growing fruits and vegetables in your garden can be a rewarding experience for the whole family. However, not all fruits and veggies are equally easy to master and a few can be downright difficult. Continue on for a list of garden vegetables to grow for all levels.

Some crops are considered cool season crops, while others are warm season crops. Cool season crops such as peas, broccoli and potatoes tend to grow better in the spring and fall, while warm season crops do best when planted in late spring and mature throughout the summer. Utilizing succession planting can be a huge benefit to bolster your crops.

Tomato, Cherry Baby Hybrid

Beginner Veggies

We’ll start with a few vegetables that just about anyone can grow — even on a porch or patio! These plants are hardy, versatile and produce an abundance of crops you can share with friends and family.

Peas

Peas love cool temperatures and do best when planted in spring or fall. These climbing plants use their tendrils to wrap around whatever they can to hold their thin vines steadfast while they grow upward. As they mature, peas produce flowers and pods relatively quickly. Because of their quick growth, they can be planted in close proximity to other garden vegetables and along fence lines. Plant cultivars such as ‘Easy Peasy’ for first picking in about 60 days and for an extended harvest, plant three rounds of seeds in one-week intervals.

Lettuce

When discussing vegetable gardening for beginners, you can’t pass up lettuces. These fast-growing plants can be sown directly in the garden and harvested in as little as 50 days. For variety, try a leafy mix such as the ‘Looseleaf Blend’ and enjoy different leaf shapes, colors and textures. While lettuce has a tendency to bolt (go to flower), keeping your plants well-watered and shielded from extreme heat can help extend the harvest of crisp leaves. You can also extend your harvest by planting successive crops every two weeks throughout the growing season.

Hybrid Tomatoes

Homegrown tomatoes can hardly be compared to store-bought fruit with their vine-ripened sweetness, juicy texture and bright colors. Hybrid cherry tomatoes such as ‘Cherry Baby’ are easy-to-grow warm season crops and will produce fruit 70 days from planting. Cherry tomatoes are particularly easy to grow because they produce many smaller fruits that ripen quickly and take less energy from the plant. Most cherry tomatoes are also indeterminate growers, meaning they continue to grow and set fruit throughout the season, ensuring a steady crop.

Squash

No list of garden vegetables to grow would be complete without summer squash. Given full sun and plenty of water, these warm season growers reach maturity in about 40 to 50 days after planting and will continue to produce until late summer. Cultivars such as ‘Burpee’s Best’ zucchini can be started outdoors in late spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Broccoli, Sun King Hybrid

Intermediate Veggies

The next five vegetables take the experience level up a notch. Although perfectly doable in the home garden, they require more planning and patience to be successful. Given a little extra attention, they’re sure to be nutritious additions to the annual vegetable garden.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a staple food item in most homes, but few people realize they take a bit more care to grow in the home garden. As with most vegetables in the cabbage family, broccoli is a cool season crop and does best when planted in spring, fall or even during the winter months in warmer climates. Also like their cabbage relatives, when stressed by heat, drought or crowded roots, they’ll “bolt” and go to flower, so you’ll have to take care to keep these plants happy. Bolt-resistant cultivars such as ‘Sun King’ should be planted in well-composted, moist soil in full sun and reach maturity at 70 to 80 days after planting. For successive plantings, sow seeds indoors before the last frost and continue for three to four weeks thereafter.

Potatoes

Native to the Andes mountains in South America, potatoes are another cool season crop that prefers rich soil and plenty of room to spread their roots. What makes potatoes a little more difficult is that they’re best grown in raised mounds above the soil line for ease of eventual harvest. Potatoes are started as “seed potatoes” — basically sliced up potatoes, each with its own “eye” or growth point — and sown in the soil as soon as it can be worked in early spring. Cultivars such as ‘Yukon Gold’ are medium-sized spuds and ready for harvest about 100 days after planting. To harvest, remove soil from around the base of the plant and gently tug at the plant, allowing for the soil to fall away. Then, gently dig out the remainder of the potato.

Winter Squash

Winter squash grows in much the same way as summer squash and can be started outdoors after the last frost. What makes winter squash more difficult to grow is that it tends to require more time to mature its thick outer skin and grows on longer sprawling vines. Selections such as ‘Burpee’s Butterbush’ can be stored for months in a cool, dark place within the home and make excellent soups long into the winter season! Be sure to choose a location within your yard where the vines can have plenty of space and full sun throughout the growing season.

Sweet Corn

Sweet corn is another crop that requires a lot of square footage for mass planting and plenty of sun, but it deserves a place on our intermediate list of garden vegetables to grow. For those with the space, plant these crops en masse for proper pollination and give them as much full sun as possible throughout the summer. While corn is drought tolerant, the ears will fill out much better when given ample moisture — especially as ears begin to appear. Because sweet corn is wind pollinated, plant cultivars such as ‘Early Sunglow’ at two- to three-week intervals with other types of corn to avoid cross-pollination.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are a sight to see in the summer garden. Bursting with flavor and with a classic old-school tomato look, cultivars such as ‘Brandywine Pink’ are the epitome of garden Americana. What sets heirlooms apart from hybrid tomatoes, however, is these plants are more difficult to grow. If you’re new to gardening, they can also be somewhat underwhelming: Heirlooms lack the vigor of hybrids and produce far fewer fruits on large, rambling vines. You’ll need to take care with their placement in the garden and keep moisture at a constant to avoid cracked tomato skins. When you meet these requirements, they’re sure to be the talk of the table and enjoyed by tomato lovers!

Written by Derek Carwood, Greenwood Horticulture

Source: List of Garden Vegetables to Grow for Beginners – Burpee