Companion Plants for Cucumbers
Vegetable Companion Planting
Companion planting is a term used to describe a situation where beneficial results may occur if two or more different types of plants are located close to one another in the garden. This beneficial situation may occur for different reasons.
Some companion plants help each other by amending the soil with nutrients that the other plant needs. For example, planting beans next to corn has this effect. Beans deposit nitrogen into the soil where they grow, and corn needs nitrogen to reach its full potential. Pole beans will benefit by getting a nice trellis to climb by latching onto the cornstalk.
Other companion plants work well because they repel garden pests that a neighboring plant is susceptible to. For example, planting garlic near the lettuce patch can keep rabbits away.
Finally, some companion plants are there to improve production or growing conditions of another plant. One example of this that I use every year is to plant wave petunias in my pepper raised garden bed. This keeps the sun from drying out the soil and increases humidity around the peppers, which they really love. It looks awesome as well.
Top 3 Reasons for Companion Planting
1. Improve Soil
Some plants offer soil amendments that other plants need.
2. Fight Pests
Some plants naturally repel pests of other plants.
3. Improve Conditions
Some plants increase the yield or health of other plants.
Companions to Improve Soil Around Cucumbers
Like many vegetables that produce a lot of fruit, cucumbers need fertilizer for a nice yield, and nitrogen is high on the list. Luckily, there are companion plants that will do the trick.
Among the best may be common beans and peas that most people tend to plant in the garden anyway. Both will add nitrogen to the soil and boost neighbors who rely on this nitrogen to prosper.
For the best benefits, here's how to maximize nitrogen stores in the soil from your green bean or pea plantings. As soon as the harvest is complete and the peas or beans have been harvested, turn the remaining plant material into the soil. These plants will do their companions some good while growing, but when turned into the soil they will do even better. The nitrogen level will go up even more if these plants are tilled into the soil when at their prime and while still lush and green, but then you lose the yummy yield.
It's possible to plant peas next to cucumbers early in the growing season, then plant beans in that same spot during the warmer months. If you're still motivated, a final crop of peas can go in during late summer for a fall harvest.
Clover and alfalfa are other options for increasing nitrogen, but they just aren't as much fun to eat.
Plants to Control Cucumber Beetles
Cucumbers have some little enemies known as cucumber beetles, and some plants nearby may help to keep them at bay. These pesky beetles will make a home in the cucumber patch and will destroy the plants if left alone.
There are some plants that are believed to have some impact on cucumber pests. Among then are radishes, nasturtiums, marigolds, and dill, though the most widely used is the radish. To get radishes close to the plants, go ahead and sow just a few radish seeds right alongside cucumbers and let them grow together. Don't bother to harvest these radishes - they are here to protect the cucumbers only.
Companion plants for cucumber beetles may work, but they may not. Some years are just worse than others, and you never know. The best control of cucumber beetles is to prevent them from showing up in the first place. To do that, use a floating row cover over the plants until they start to bloom. This may just be enough, as the beetles tend to find plants when they are still quite young.
Improving Growing Conditions for Cucumbers
Cucumbers are often grown in full sun either on the ground or on a trellis, but the truth is that these vines prefer a slight break from the sun. The afternoon sun, in particular, can really beat down on a cucumber plant that is working to get enough water to the growing fruit.
To aid this, beneficial companions for the cucumber vine are tall plants like corn or sunflowers. If these are planted nearby, they can really help with that hot mid-summer sun. They will be even more effective if planted to the west of the cucumbers, since that will help to break up that hot afternoon sun that will otherwise cause your cucumber plant's leaves to wilt.
Since corn and sunflowers are so tall, they don't need to be planted right on top of the cucumbers, so give them a bit of space. A few feet away will do plenty of good.
What Not to Plant Near Cucumbers
Cucumbers are not very fond of herbs that have a significant smell, often called aromatic herbs, and since so many herbs have just that attribute, it's best to keep them away from the cucumber patch. This would include things like sage or peppermint.
Another common vegetable that is good to avoid as a companion for cucumbers is the potato. Since potatoes will complete for nutrients in the soil, the impact on a cucumber right next to it will be noticeable.
Planting Cucumbers Made Simple
Now that you have a good list of what to plant near cucumbers, it's time to make a plan.
When planting cucumbers from seed, plant the seed in a little hill to raise them up off the ground. This helps with watering and keeps the soil warmer. It takes heat to germinate cucumber seeds well, so don't try to plant them too early either. Wait until the soil has warmed up, or use some black fabric over the soil to catch the sun's rays.
Make sure you give the plants somewhere to go, assuming you are planting vines instead of cucumber bushes. The vines are much more productive and should normally be the choice. Include a trellis or fence for the cucumbers to grow up. This will keep fruit off the ground, avoiding yellow spots, and improve air circulation which prevents fungal diseases.
With just a little bit of care, enough water, and some friendly companions, you can look forward to a great cucumber crop this year.
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