Who doesn’t love a good maize crop? But, what if we told you that it is possible to grow healthy corn plants at home. All you need to do is plant some other plants with corn to help them grow better. Also known as companion planting, this cropping method is used by gardeners worldwide.
Are you confused about what plants to grow along with corn? We’ve got you covered. This planting guide will cover the best partner crops for your corn produce. Further, we have also discussed the plants that you must avoid planting with corn, which can be harmful to its growth.
Let’s begin by understanding what exactly is companion planting and how can you practice it. We will also look into the benefits that it will reap for your crop.
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting, as the name suggests, is planting crops together. These crops mutually benefit from each other. This time-tested planting method improves and protects crops. Farmers and home-gardeners grow specific crops in close proximity to each other to deter pests, invite beneficial insects, and improve health.
With corn, companion planting will not only benefit your maize but be useful to other crops too. Maize can be a perfect trellis for cucumber vines or beans, also acts as a shade for low-growing crops.
Advantages For Companion Planting
Companion plants stimulate overall plant health. Some of the benefits are –
- Helps repel pests and harmful insects: Your corn plan is susceptible to all kinds of insects and pests – Cucumber beetles, cabbage worms, Mexican bean beetles, cabbage moths, carrot flies, etc. Several companion plants, such as catnip, rue, and marigold, can repel certain pests, making them beneficial to be planted near your corn plant.
- Attract useful insects: To attract bees, ladybugs, and other such pollinators to your gardens and crops, you may need some added incentive. Farmers use attractive plants such as borage flowers so that pollinators visit their gardens.
- Enrich soil nutrients: Growing crops on the same soil, time and again, can exhaust valuable nutrients present in the soil. This increases the gardener’s work at the end of the cropping season when he has to renew the soil’s nutrients. You can avoid this by planting companion plants such as pole beans and bush beans that enrich the soil with nitrogen, allowing healthy and well-fed plants to grow.
- Boost growth or enrich taste: Specific companion plants such as chamomile, marjoram, and summer savory release certain chemicals which can encourage faster plant growth or enhance their taste, resulting in faster and better harvests for you.
- Helps in ground cover: You can use plants like oregano that spread low on the floor, acting as a blanket to protect the soil from the sun and help keep it cooler.
- Give shade: Tall and leafy plants such as asparagus and zucchini can help provide cool shade to help grow the sun-sensitive plants.
- Helps in marking: It is common to lose track of where you have planted your slow-growing crops. One method used to deal with this is planting fast-growing plants such as radishes in combination with slow-growing ones in their rows. This will help you delineate and locate your slow-growing plants.
Best Companion Plants for Corn
Fancy yourself some home-grown corn? Try companion planting to grow a stronger and healthy crop. Interestingly, corn is among the first plants used in companion planting in the North American region—corn, winter squash, and climbing beans were grown together by North American tribes in an attempt to optimally grow each crop from this famous trio or “the Three Sisters.”
Following is the list of best companion plants for corn, from flowering plants to herbs and veggies –
Dill is a type of aromatic herb which is beneficial in attracting useful insects such as parasitic wasps and pollinators, which helps avoid other pests and pollinates corn, respectively. Also know as Anethum graveolens, the flowers of the dill plant play a major role in attracting these beneficial insects. Parasitic worms can kill garden insects in general and even those specific to corn plants, such as corn earworms, aphids, and cutworms.
Dill plant grows well in the summer, spring, and fall seasons. Only plant your companion dills once your corn grows at least four inches in height. This will ensure that they do not block corn from getting adequate sunlight. If you want a flowering Dill, which is the most beneficial for corns, you must plant your dills in early spring.
Borage is another herb plant that can be easily grown along with corns. It provides several benefits for farmers and home gardeners. Its beautiful star-shaped flowers are a treat to watch, and it makes for an excellent companion plant. Planting borage helps nearby plants to thrive by attracting not only beneficial insects but also detering worms and pests from destroying your corn.
In fact, borage is commonly known as a great companion plant for cabbage, strawberries, strawberries, tomatoes, and other leafy crops. The plant helps reduce leaf-eating caterpillars likehornworms and cabbage worms.
Being a vine plant, cucumbers spread across the ground, which helps provide soil cover for corn. This helps gardeners prevent weeds and keep the soil beneath moist and suitable for corns.
Both the plants benefit each other. While corns provide cucumbers with the necessary shade and cover, cucumber offers nutritional aid and pest protection. If you manage your timing and spacing, you will successfully grow these warm-season veggies together.
Melon is another vine type crop that spreads across the ground, providing cover for corn, and helps keep the soil moist while preventing weeds. So, if you want weed-less and healthy corn produce, just plant some melons with your maize.
These super compatible plants do well with a number of plants apart from corns, which makes them a good choice for your home garden. They also go with peas, onions, chives, leeks, carrots, okra, bush beans, among other crops.
Marigolds are among the most widely planted companion plants by farmers and home growers alike. This is primarily because of their pest repellant characteristic. They can help your crop avoid aphids, which commonly infest corn stalks. French Marigolds are also known to repel whitefly.
Apart from corns, planting Marigolds also helps in the growth of cucumbers, kale, basil, squash, potatoes, and tomatoes, among other plants. Chemicals found inside them can even deter beetles.
Nasturtiums are beautiful flowers that are often used in companion planting. These are known to attract aphids. While this in itself is not a favorable thing, farmers have used it to their own benefit. They plant it at some distance from their vegetable garden to direct aphids away from their crops.
Aphids find nasturtiums tastier than corn and, in all likelihood, will leave your corn silks, stalks, and kernels by themselves. However, be careful to strategically plant these flowers at a considerable distance from your corn.
For the best result, try planting both nasturtiums and dill along with your maize. Herein, your nasturtiums will invite aphids, whereas dills will call parasitic wasps. These wasps will consume and destroy the aphids, ensuring double protection for your maize crop.
7. Pole beans
Pole beans are part of the famous “Three Sisters” that grow best when planted together. Just like green beans, pole beans offer the required nitrogen to the soil. This makes them a great companion plant for corn. On the other hand, beans make use of the corn stalks in place of trellis, which acts as their support system.
This, in turn, stabilizes the maize and prevent it from stalk lodging. In other words, it helps keep the corn stalks from falling as the ears mature.
Solanum tuberosum or potatoes can also be used in companion planting with corn. Growing potatoes along with corn are more beneficial to potatoes.
As per a 2010 study discussed in the American Journal of Potato Research, it was found that when corn is used as green manure for potatoes, it reduces their risk of developing verticillium wilt up to 60-70%. Fungi Verticillium dahlias and V. albo-atrium are responsible for causing Verticillium wilt, responsible for destroying the crop before it reaches maturity. Plus, corn can also increase the potato yield by manifold.
If you want to grow maize as green manure for a potato crop, you must plant corn in alternate rows at a distance of about six inches from your potato tubers. After young ears are developed on the corn, cut half of the produce and break it down into tiny pieces. Next, you need to mix them with the soil surrounding the potatoes.
In addition to disease prevention and improved yield, this method will also enrich the taste and flavor of your potatoes. Even if you do not cut half the corn production and mix it with the soil, interplanting corns and potatoes will still mean better growth.
Pumpkins, squash, and other cucurbits form the other elements of the historic three sisters. You can use the vining cucurbits like a living mulch for your garden’s maize and beans. This helps minimize weeds while also ensuring moist soil.
Radishes and other root vegetables help your crop avoid corn borers. Plant them with the Three Sisters, and they will help you prevent squash borers and cucumber beetles from feeding off your crops.
However, since radishes grow quickly, maturing in less than 30 days, it’s better that you use the succession planting technique. This will help you maintain them as a companion crop for your corn.
Sunflowers or the Helianthus annulus grow well with a number of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Farmers often grow them along with beans, corn, and pumpkins, for better produce.
In fact, as per a 2012 study discussed in the Journal of the Kentucky Academy of Science, the usefulness of sunflowers was further understood. Researchers observed that planting dwarf sunflowers with sweet corn helped attract several beneficial pest-killing and pollinating ladybugs.
12. White Cloves
White cloves are sweet-smelling legumes, and they make for a great cover crop for corn. This is because their thick spread deters harmful weeds and reduces the weeding requirements for you. Plus, it grows a maximum of six inches in height and won’t block sunlight for your corn crop.
Being a legume, clover can also fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and enrich the soil. This is especially beneficial for a crop like corn that consumes a lot of nitrogen from the soil.
Moreover, when the corn plant acts as a shade for clover, the falling clover leaves decompose and add nutrients into the soil while the corn grows. White clovers are beneficial in attracting bees and other pollinators to your garden, which means more corn crops.
Another aromatic herb, thyme, can help you prevent your maize from common pest found in cornfields such as corn earworms. Since they enjoy a sunny environment and are even resistant to drought, thyme grows relatively easily. You can plant them with your corn crop and have a worry and pest-free harvest.
Plants To Avoid Planting With Corn
Just like some plants help corns grow better, some plants can, in fact, deter its growth and health when planted next to corns. Avoid planting these plants next to your corn crop –
1. Crops From The Cabbage Family
Do not plant corn next to broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, or kohlrabi. This is because corn offers considerable shade, which does not go well with these sun-loving plants. Moreover, since all of these are heavy feeders, cabbage-family plants will compete with corn to get maximum nutrients from the soil.
Both eggplant and corn are susceptible to tomato hornworms. If you plant them together in your garden, they will attract even more such pests, which will be harmful to both corn and eggplant.
Similarly, tomatoes and corn attract common pests – the tomato hornworm and the corn earworm. Consequently, planting them together will attract such pests in even greater numbers. Moreover, being heavy feeders, both tomatoes and corn will compete to absorb nutrients from the soil.
Fennel is one garden plant that should not be planted with most other vegetable crops. Even though it may attract beneficial insects, fennels can inhibit the growth of these plants by either stunting their growth or killing the crop completely.
To Sum Up
You can now grow pest-free, healthy, and taller corn crop, that too without using additional pesticides and fertilizers. Just practice companion planting! You can easily plant your corn with beneficial crops such as marigold, cucumbers, radishes, dills, and many more. Each of these come with their unique benefits, some help in better growth, some enhance taste, while others help you avoid pests and insects.
Also, take care to avoid planting certain crops with your corn. These form the worst companion crops for corn and include tomatoes, fennels, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, and other cabbage family members.
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.