For many gardeners, fall can feel like the end of something great, but it doesn’t have to be. Depending on where you live, the growing season can be extended into the cooler months. Even if winter is on its way in your region, there are still seeds and bulbs that you can plant in the fall that will provide a delightful surprise when they emerge come early spring. When planning your fall vegetable garden, it is important to keep companion plants in mind.
Companion plants do not compete when planted together and may benefit the other. Companion planting can enhance plant growth and provide additional protection against pests and disease. Follow this guide to get the perfect matches for all your fall vegetables.
Beets are an excellent option for cooler weather planting if you live in an area with mild winter, as these root vegetables can withstand mild frost. Planting beets alongside vegetables in the Allium family, such as onions, can help repel pests, including sugar beet fleas, thanks to the strong smell.
Carrots are similar to beets in that they can withstand cooler temperatures, as the soil helps protect them. They can be planted alongside leeks or onions. Onions act as a natural deterrent for fall pests like carrot flies. Leeks are also in the onion family, so they will have the same beneficial effect.
Spinach is a hardy green that does well in cool fall weather. It grows quickly, making it an option for gardeners with a short fall growing season. Peas and herbs such as oregano and rosemary make good companions for spinach. Peas are “nitrogen fixers,” meaning they add nitrogen to your soil.
Meanwhile, the scent of oregano and rosemary wards off insects.
Garlic is a superb companion plant for many vegetables, as its strong scent is considered a natural pest deterrent. However, garlic does not do well with peas and beans due to the increased nitrogen these plants add to soil, which can inhibit garlic growth.
Garlic prefers soil with a specific nitrogen to potassium ratio that nitrogen-fixing plants can skew, so avoid planting garlic with any legume. Garlic should be planted in fall to harvest the following summer, so it is a perfect cool-weather companion plant.
Kale is a nutrient-dense plant that does very well alongside beets. Beet leaves are rich in iron and manganese, so tilting and falling leaves from the plants can increase these minerals in the soil, helping kale thrive.
You can also plant kale with other members of the Brassica (cabbage) family. That way, you can protect them from pests, such as cabbage worms, in one go.
Peas can fix nitrogen in the soil, making it available to other plants that need it to grow. This makes peas an excellent companion to some plants with high nitrogen requirements, such as beets, carrots, and spinach. However, it’s a plant to avoid for others that prefer lower nitrogen levels in the soil.
For example, garlic does not do well when planted with peas as it requires a balance between nitrogen and other nutrients and can absorb too much if it is present in high concentrations in the soil. Other legumes, such as beans, will have the same nitrogen-fixing effect as peas and should follow the same companion planting guidelines.
Nearly every vegetable has at least one herb that makes an excellent companion. Some evidence suggests that aromatics can help repel pests with their strong scents. Carrots, for example, benefit from growing near chives, parsley, rosemary, and sage, as their scents deter various pests.
Herbs also tend to have low nutrient requirements, so you don’t need to worry about them competing with your other plants.
Herbs also provide ground cover, which can help keep the soil moist and enhance your garden overall. Rosemary, sage, or mint are good options to add to your cool-weather garden.
Although marigolds are not vegetables, you may want to consider adding them to the edges of your vegetable garden. They are a natural deterrent for pests and, in particular, have been shown to repel certain types of plant-parasitic nematodes in the soil.
These soil-dwelling parasites can cause significant root damage to garden plants, so keeping them away from your vegetables is essential. This is especially true if you are growing root vegetables like carrots, beets, or turnips.
Companion planting is an excellent way to get the most from your fall garden. Choosing plants that benefit each other will ensure all your vegetables thrive and avoid pests. It is essential to plan your garden to know all the vegetables you want to plant ahead of time, as not everything grows well together.
With some planning, you can pick the perfect pairs for all your cool-weather garden vegetables. What will you be adding to your fall garden? Share in the comments below!