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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.
What Do Companion Plants Do?
- Amend the soil: 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.
- Repel garden pests: 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.
- Improve production/growing conditions: 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
Some plants offer soil amendments that other plants need.
Some plants naturally repel pests of other plants.
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 them 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 compete for nutrients in the soil, the impact on a cucumber right next to it will be noticeable.
- Aromatic herbs (e.g., sage, peppermint)
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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can you plant garlic next to cucumbers?
Answer: It's best to keep herbs away from cucumbers, and garlic can be pretty aggressive in the garden. I would keep them separate.
© 2013 landocheese
landocheese (author) on September 06, 2019:
Jack Solaris on August 17, 2019:
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on July 17, 2015:
Great hub for all vegetable gardeners on companion plants. What a great idea to have other veggies to grow cucumbers with in your garden. Voted up!
Muhammad Zeeshan from Karachi, Pakistan on February 13, 2013:
useful article, my parents love gardening i am sure they will like this.
KA Hanna from America's Finest City on February 11, 2013:
Interesting hub! I've never had much luck planting cucumbers, but I am newly inspired to try again!
toomuchmint on February 08, 2013:
Companion plants are a great way to keep away pests. Radishes are delicious on their own. Keeping away pests is an added bonus! After a bout with harlequin bugs last year, I'm looking forward to using companion plants to keep the garden under control. Thanks for sharing!
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on February 08, 2013:
Very informative hub. I love gardening and I'll show this hub to my mom. Well done and voted up!
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on February 08, 2013:
Fantastic hub on companion planting. I found the information very useful. All I have done is plant some marigolds to attract pollinators. I am excited because you have given me some new ideas for spring. Thanks!
Audrey Howitt from California on February 08, 2013:
Such a great article! We will be planting cukes again this year--and I will try your suggestions! Thank you!
daisyjae from Canada on February 08, 2013:
I have had much luck growing cukes - maybe if i try your tips i may have success this year.
Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on February 08, 2013:
Interesting hub, cucumbers are one of my favourite foods but I've never had success growing them.
Ben Zoltak from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA on February 08, 2013:
Voted up and awesome, can't wait to try radishes and sunflower. Surprised you wouldn't eat/harvest the commingled radishes? I eat everything including the dandelion and wood sorrel! Haha. I used nasturtium, marigold (bloomed way to late) and mixed tiny cherry tomatoes with my cukes, they did well. Now if only there was a way to counteract the leftover black walnut residual in my soil...
Hui (蕙) on February 08, 2013:
I always feel that plants have their own thinking way to make their own lives, which is not supported by my professors. But they are amazing! The cucumber in the picture is the best!
Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on February 08, 2013:
Companion Plant, who knew? Never occurred to me that a plant may need another plant in other to thrive better. There's never an end to learning new things here on HP.
I haven't planted in a while, but when I do start, I'll give this a try. Thanks for a great hub, and congrats on the HOTD award!
NCBIer on February 08, 2013:
I had never heard of companion plants before but it makes perfect sense. I am going to try some of these tips this year and hopefully get a better harvest than in years past. Thanks for the hub!
Mr Archer from Missouri on February 08, 2013:
Very informative hub! I tried my hand a couple of years ago at planting a garden. I went overboard with different plants and didn't get all of what I desired. But the green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and especially cucumbers for pickles did great. Last year I doubled the size but halved the types. Then came the infestation of groundhogs. As a result, I got almost nothing. Lessons learned will tell me this year how I do. It is such fun, and the benefits are wonderful. I will try some of your tips this year for sure. Thanks.
Leah Lefler from Western New York on February 08, 2013:
I may plant cucumbers in our raised beds this year... I'll definitely think about adding some beans to the same bed for the nitrogen fixation! Great hub, and congratulations on HOTD!
RTalloni on February 08, 2013:
Interesting to learn more about growing cukes! I think ladybugs eat the cucumber beetles' eggs. Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for timely info re planning for the coming garden season!
DemiT on February 08, 2013:
Great information!! I am planning to plant cucumbers this year and this is exactly the kind of information I need.
Thanks for the info!
CZCZCZ from Oregon on February 08, 2013:
This is a very informative hub about companion plants. We love to grow cucumbers in our backyard garden and will take some of these suggestions to heart in order to maximize our efforts. Thanks for the great detail!