Growing potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) in your vegetable garden is especially beneficial. These deep-rooted, starchy tubers can be grown in several varieties, which will last much longer in your pantry. Companion planting will maximize the productivity and overall health of your home garden potato plant.
Not only will companion planting your potatoes will allow your potatoes to grow faster and taste better, but it will also help them become pest-resistant. So, what actually is companion planting? We are here to help you figure that out, along with the best and worst companion plants for potatoes.
Companion Planting – What is it?
Companion planting, as a gardening practice, has been in use since the very beginning of agriculture. In layman’s language, companion planting is simply those plants together which are beneficial for each other’s growth.
Companion plants may repel pests, including insects from otherwise vulnerable companions. Some companions may as well reduce the chance of bacterial, fungal, and even viral infections. Plus, companion planting may also be better the flavor, scent, taste, appearance, and growth of your plants.
Before getting to all the possible companion plants for potatoes, let’s have a look at some advantages of companion planting.
Benefits of Companion Planting
Companion plants have two primary benefits; they will either aid the chosen crop to grow better or will flourish better beside your target crop. In doing so, it does many supporting roles in your home garden.
These are as follows:
1. Keep away insects and pests
Your vegetable garden can easily fall prey to almost all kinds of pests – Flea beetles, cabbage worms, carrot flies, cucumber beetles, Mexican bean beetles, cabbage moths. You can pair your garden crops with pest repelling companion plants such as catnip, marigold flowers, and rue for natural pest control.
Alternatively, you can also plant certain companion plants such as nasturtiums and calendula that attract some pests at a distance from your vegetables and flowers. This will help lure the planet-destroying pests away from your main crops.
2. Invite useful insects
To attract pollinators such as ladybugs and honey bees, gardeners often plant borage flowers or other attractive plants. This, in turn, encourages active pollination by encouraging pollinating agents to visit your crops.
3. Enhance soil nutrients
Crops extract nutrients from the soil for their growth. This makes it crucial for the gardener to actively renew the nutrients of the soil at the end of the cropping season. You can make your work easy by planting certain companion plants like pole beans and bush beans. These companions add nitrogen and other valuable nutrients back to the soil, which promotes plant health.
4. Better growth and improved taste
Several companion plants such as summer savory, chamomile, and marjoram release the chemicals responsible for quick growth and enriching the taste in their surrounding plants.
5. Act as ground cover
Some plants require lower temperatures and sheltered soil to grow optimally. You can plant companions like oregano which spread low on the ground and function as a blanket cover for the soil. These protect the soil from direct sunlight and keep it cooler.
6. Give necessary shade
Tall and leafy plants such as asparagus and zucchini act like shade for sun-sensitive crops growing beneath them. This promotes the plant health of your target crops.
7. Used as plant identifiers or markers
You can often lose track of where you have planted your slow-growing plant seeds. Gardeners thus make use of certain fast-growing plants such as radishes to intersperse along with the slow growers. By planting fast-growing varieties next to them, you will be able to identify your slow-growers.
We have researched the best companion plants for you to grow with your potato plants for better growth, taste, and pest prevention. You can also find a list of plants to avoid growing alongside your potatoes.
What Makes a Plant a Good Companion Plant?
Several factors come to play in making plants good companions. These include the following:
Non-competitive growth habits: Plants with different yet complementary growth habits do not compete for resources with each other. For instance, you can pair tall, straight plants with ground-clinging vines to efficiently utilize your garden space. Similarly, you can pair deep-rooted crops with shallow-rooted ones for maximum efficiency.
Complimentary growth needs: If two or more plants have similar needs with reference to fertilizing, sunlight, or watering, caring for them becomes a lot easier.
Pest deterrent character: Good companion plants are often known to repel certain insect pests that attack specific plants. Alternatively, other plants may be responsible for drawing in beneficial insects for pollination.
Soil balance: Plants with different nutrient requirements prevent overconsumption of soil nutrients. They help maintain a balanced soil and reduce the need for frequent soil replenishment.
Nutrient-rich plant: Certain plants like legumes are famous for their nitrogen tapping capacities. You can plant them along with other species to aid their growth from nitrogen-rich soil.
Flavor enhancer: Who doesn’t love tastier fruits and vegetables? You can actually pair your edible crops with certain other plants to improve their flavor and taste.
Best Companion Plants for Potatoes
Whether you want to have the best potato harvest or are looking for ways to repel pests away, this guide has got you covered.
1. Companion Plants for Best Potato Harvest
Corn: If you are looking to improve your potatoes’ taste and flavor, grow them alongside a corn crop.
Beans: In addition to not consuming nitrogen from your potatoes’ soil, beans fix nitrogen. The additional nitrogen helps your potatoes to grow healthier and stronger. For the best results, plant your potatoes with bush beans variety.
Cabbage: Another crop that can help enhance the flavor of your potatoes is cabbage.
Lettuce: The shallow-rooted lettuce plant grows well with potatoes, for they do not fight for the same soil nutrients. Plus, potatoes can benefit from the shade of lettuce leaves, especially during hot summer afternoons.
Herbs: Just plant your potatoes alongside some herbs like basil, yarrow, chives, chamomile, thyme, and parsley to improve the taste of your potato crop. Additionally, herbs attract beneficial insects near your potato bed that help in pollination and pest control.
Horseradish: Horseradish makes for an excellent companion plant for potatoes. These help potatoes become more disease resistant and even improve their flavor.
Alyssum: Alyssum is a good companion crop for your potatoes, for it acts as a natural mulch that helps conserve soil moisture. This ground-covering flower also helps deter weeds.
Cabbage family crops: If you are looking to make the best use of the space alongside your potato bed, plant it with crops from the cabbage/brassicas family. These include cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and kale. Being plants with shallow root systems, they won’t grow with potatoes for nutrients or space.
Leeks: Leeks are another shallow-rooted crop that does not infringe upon your potatoes’ space. Plus, they go well with many popular potato dishes, such as scalloped potatoes.
Legumes: In addition to green beans, legumes such as sugar snap peas also make for a great choice to plant with potatoes. They enrich the soil with nitrogen and also deter pests like the Mexican bean beetle.
Corn: Corn stalks are tall with shallow roots, which are in stark contrast to mostly underground potato cover. As a result, planting the two together will help you maximize your garden space by taking advantage of their varied needs.
2. Potato Companion Plants to Repel Pests
By planting the below-listed companion plants, you can immune your potato crop from pest infection, that too, without heavy chemicals.
Sage: You can secure your potatoes from flea beetles by planting sage around them.
Nasturtium: Nasturtium makes for a great companion plant for a lot of many varieties, and potatoes are no exception. Plant nasturtiums around your garden to deter the Colorado potato beetle away from your potatoes.
Tansy: This is another companion plant that will shoo away the harmful potato beetles.
Bush beans: Beans and other legumes also help in driving the potato beetles away. They also prevent the destructive Mexican bean beetles from infecting your crop.
Marigold: Marigolds are a farmer’s best friend when it comes to insect control. You can plant them to deter all types of harmful insects and viral infections that infect potatoes and other crops. For the best results, plant them in each one of your potato beds.
Cilantro: Cilantro or coriander is among the best companion herbs for potatoes. Its umbrella-shaped flowers work wonders in attracting beneficial insects such as lacewings, ladybugs, parasitoid wasps, and hoverflies. These then protect your crop by preying on harmful pests like Colorado potato beetles.
Flax: The linseed oils and tannins present in the flax plant prevents Colorado potato beetle infection.
Petunias: Petunia flowers also attract beneficial insects that serve as natural pest control.
Worst Companion Plants for Potatoes
For your companion planting technique to work, you also need to keep in mind the plants you must avoid planting alongside your potato beds. This is because some plants, when grown together, adversely impact each other. These plants may worsen the other plant’s taste, compete for nutrients, space, or sunlight, or be susceptible to similar diseases.
You must avoid planting them near any plants from the nightshade family itself when it comes to potatoes. This happens because potatoes belonging to the nightshade family are susceptible to diseases occurring among others from within the species. This includes crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Planting them with potatoes disposes of developing certain bacterial and fungal diseases.
Following are some plants you should avoid planting with potato tubers –
Carrots: Large root crops like carrots can negatively affect the growth and overall health of your potatoes. Other such crops include turnips and onions.
Asparagus: Planting Asparagus alongside your potatoes can stunt their growth. So, it is best to plant them in a separate bed altogether.
Pumpkins and Squash: Companion plants like squash and pumpkin can make your potatoes prone to blight.
Cucumber: Planting Cucumber with potatoes can also increase the risk of blight.
Melons: Aside from Squash and Cucumber, Melons are another cucurbit that should not be planted alongside potatoes.
Tomatoes: Belonging to the same family, potatoes and tomatoes compete for soil nutrients and space. Moreover, planting them together increases the risk of blight.
Sunflower: Sunflowers are responsible for stunting your potato plant’s growth and thus should be avoided.
Celery, fennel, turnips, and raspberries are some other plants that you must keep away from your potato bed.
To Sum Up
You can pair your potato crop with specific crops like corn, cabbage, beans, lettuce, and horseradish to improve its growth and flavor. Plus, you can plant your garden with pest-resistant varieties like Marigold, Sage, Nasturtiums, etc., to save on chemical pesticides.
Companion plants like Petunias and Alyssum attract beneficial insects that aid in the growth of your potatoes. At the same time, green beans and other legumes enrich the soil with nitrogen for optimal plant growth.
Equally important is to be aware of what plants to avoid while growing potatoes. Some plants form the worst companions for potatoes either because of susceptibility to similar diseases or their negative impact on flavor. These include tomatoes, peppers, melons, onion, carrots, eggplants, pumpkins, among others.
Now you know which plants to sow alongside potatoes and which ones to avoid. Keep this guide handy when you sow your next batch of potatoes. Best potatoes await you!
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.