As a superfood, it is safe to say that kale is one of those veggies that are so rich in nutrients and can provide several health benefits. The good news is that it is easy and fun to grow kale, which means that you can have this planted in your own vegetable garden and have easy access to it.
You can grow its different varieties with ease, including the taller kale plants named the lacinato kale as well as the frizzy and loosely bunched varieties. It is also possible to grow this veggie whether the environment is extremely cold or hot. This is especially true if you grow it along with the best kale companion plants.
Let’s get to know more about kale and how to stimulate its healthy and successful growth in your garden through companion planting.
Related: Growing Kale in the Garden Guide
What Makes Companion Planting Beneficial?
Companion planting can be defined as a natural gardening technique that a lot of gardeners use not only to support pollination but also in lowering the number of pests and insects present in their garden. This gardening technique is also effective in maintaining your garden’s natural balance.
The whole premise behind the companion planting technique is that if you plant some plants close to each other, they will be beneficial for each other’s growth. You can grow some companion plants together, specifically those with traits and qualities that complement each other.
Basically, companion planting can benefit your vegetable garden and plants in a lot of ways, including the following:
- Drive away unwanted pests and insects while attracting pollinators and beneficial insects
- Provide support and shade for each other, especially those on the underground
- Prevents weeds from growing, thereby preventing anything from competing with the nutrients in the soil
- Some companion plants work effectively and naturally in improving soil quality
- Supports the growth of your plants and improves their overall health
The kale growing in your garden will, therefore, be able to maximize its growth potential with the presence of some companion plants. Note that as part of the Brassica family (Brassicaceae) or Cole crops, it is also prone to pesky bugs, pests, and insects that damage and feed on them.
It is the same case with the plants related to it namely Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage that are also prone to the mentioned pests. With the best companion plants for kale crops, you can prevent such problems.
Best Companion Plants for Kale
Here are your top choices if you are in search of the best kale companion plants:
Marigold is a beautiful flower, which you can see being planted often because of its ornamental benefits. It is part of the most beneficial companion plants for kale since aside from beautifying your garden, it also has the ability to attract beneficial insects that drive away and feed on unwanted pests and insects.
With that, it is safe to say that marigold flowers can help keep the area where you plant and grow kale free of pests. Some marigold species, like the French and African marigolds, are also capable of suppressing nematodes that tend to attack the roots of plants.
Pole beans are among the most fascinating and beneficial kale companion plants because of their ability to provide the latter from partial shade. They are, therefore, effective in providing kale sufficient protection from being overexposed to the harsh sun.
Pole beans also have the ability to improve soil health by providing it with some nitrogen. Your kale can benefit consume this nitrogen to improve its growth. Pole beans are effective in supplying nitrogen since they fall under leguminous plants known for their nitrogen-fixing ability.
Sweet alyssum are impressive companion plants as they can benefit not just kale but also the other vegetables growing in your garden. One thing that it can do is that it attracts plenty of predatory insects that can benefit your plants, including parasitic wasps and lacewings.
It is also one of the best companion plants that are effective in attracting essential pollinators, such as butterflies and bees. Sweet alyssum also has this nice, sweet honey scent. Growing it is good for your garden as it is also capable of blooming small but beautiful white flowers during the entire fall, spring, and summer seasons.
Make dill a part of your garden and your kale will definitely thank you. A lot of beneficial predatory insects will definitely be attracted by the dill flowers in your garden.
Aside from its ability to attract beneficial insects, growing this plant also allows you to enjoy its flavorful seeds and dills that you can use for summer picking. It can encourage the healthy growth of kale, too.
This type of beans can be classified as legumes capable of boosting the growth of kale. Bush beans do so by increasing the availability of certain soil nutrients to your crop. This will allow kale to utilize plenty of nutrition during its entire growing season, which is kind of long.
It was also discovered that slow-release organic fertilizers, such as the ones provided by legumes, manure, and compost, can significantly lower aphid infestation. It is one of the major reasons why bush beans benefit kale the most. These beans utilize the natural cycle of the earth to increase the availability of nutrients to the plants.
Different types of spicy and hot peppers, including those that belong to the capsicum species, such as jalapenos, habaneros, cayenne, and Thai chili, complement the mild nature of kale. These spicy peppers come with a substance that has a strong smell known as capsaicin.
This substance can deter pests, insects, and other hungry animals, thereby driving them away from your garden. What’s even better about pepper plants is that they can’t be classified as competition for soil nutrients.
Most allium family companion plants can also be considered favorable additions to any garden. Also called green onions, scallions grow fast plus you can easily tuck them into the garden beds of your young kale.
What’s great about these companion plants is that they have this kind of oil and scent that can repel insects and pests, including cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, cabbage moths, aphids, and flea beetles.
Scallions will not also consume too much space in your garden, which is a good thing if you want to have an additional harvestable crop in the garden bed where the kale is.
Another favorable companion plant for kale is cilantro. It is ideal for companion planting as it has properties that can be attractive to beneficial insects, such as hoverflies. Cilantro attracts beneficial insects with the tendency of preying on common pests in the garden, including aphids.
It is also a good idea to plant lemongrass in the same place as kale. These are good companion plants that can benefit kale in the sense that they act as effective solutions in repelling pests and other harmful insects. With that said, the presence of lemongrass can make your garden flourish, giving you at least two valuable plants that can give you a bountiful harvest.
Calendula is a flower that is not that popular, but you can often see it being used as a useful herb and pest repellant. These companion plants are good additions to your garden with kale in it. The reason is that it has resinous blooms that produce a strong smell that magnetizes and attracts beneficial insects.
Leeks are also among the best buddies of kale. This long-season plant is cold-hardy and tends to handle even harsh winter seasons well. One thing that makes it a good companion for kale is its pungent smell that can be likened to onion a bit.
This scent is helpful in repelling pests, including flea beetles and kale aphids, and act as an effective natural insecticide. It also has a root zone and bulky base, which can help aerate your soil, resulting in better drainage.
Kale companion planting with leeks is, therefore, a good thing if you want to prevent diseases affecting the Brassica or cabbage family, such as black rot.
Your kale can also benefit from being planted along buckwheat. One reason is that this crop serves as an effective ground cover, which stimulates better retention of water while preventing the soil from being degraded.
It may not be a legume but you can also expect it to work as an effective nitrogen fixer. This means it can nourish your whole garden. One more thing that buckwheat can do is attract beneficial insects capable of helping kale in driving away pests.
You can expect it to specifically attract minute pirate bugs, a beneficial insect that feeds on damaging insects and pests, like thrips, caterpillars, and aphids.
This plant can do a lot of good things for your kale. For one, it works effectively in fixing nitrogen in the soil. It is also an effective and strong ground cover for your kale. Moreover, it entices and attracts beneficial insects, making them come to your garden.
Of course, this list of the best kale companion plants will not be complete without garlic, which is considered to be the most favorable for kale. Garlic has this extremely strong scent guaranteed to deter common pests that you do not want to stay in your garden.
Companion planting garlic along with kale will not also consume a lot of space. The fact that it tends to spend most of its lifecycle underground means you will be able to enjoy a bountiful harvest even if the area is small.
Growing cucumbers is a delightful companion for kale that helps in keeping weeds away, especially when the plant is still in its early growth phase. You can also expect some cucumbers to vine and rumble beneath tall kale plants when the season is warm.
This is a beneficial plant for companion planting as it can maintain the coolness of the soil when planning to plant and grow kale in the summer.
Nasturtiums serve as incredible companion plants for kale in the sense that they attract aphids, flea beetles, and caterpillars. You may first think that this makes nasturtium flowers bad for your kale since those are unwanted pests.
Note, though, that this attraction is actually a good thing as the presence of this companion plant means that you will have something like a trap crop or a sacrifice. Most garden pests like to come close to the leaves of these plants.
The good news is that these flowers grow very fast plus they can easily withstand pests. This means that they will be the ones sacrificed, instead of your kale.
Leafy Green Vegetables
There are several leafy green vegetables that you can plant along with kale. Among them are celery, lettuce, Swiss chard, and lettuce – all of which come from different families. This means that they will not attract similar or the same pests that are fond of kale, specifically the ones that also belong to the Brassica family.
Otherwise called broom corn, sorghum is also a nice addition to your garden if you want to make your kale grow bountifully. One thing that it can do for you is attract parasitic wasps, the predators of common pests infesting kale.
In addition to that benefit, sorghum is also good for kale as it can give it a bit of shade when necessary. This is actually a good thing if your garden is in a place with a kind of climate that makes it hard for kale to thrive under the full sun.
Growing onions together with kale can also produce several benefits. One benefit is that onions boast of their very strong scent upon maturity. You can, therefore, intercrop with onions, so you can repel unwanted pests and insects. It is advisable to plant onions between rows of cabbage or kale to maximize its pest-repellant benefits.
Another impressive kale companion plant is chamomile. What it does is it prevents unwanted pests and insects from coming close to your kale plant. In addition, it can offer a partial shade whenever necessary.
Catnip will not also put your kale down if you plan to plant and grow the two together. In fact, catnip can also benefit other flowers and vegetables in your garden, not just kale, as it can repel pests while inviting beneficial insects and predators to your garden. You can plant and grow catnip to give your kale adequate protection from pests.
Chives also offer the advantage of deterring pests that infest your kale plants. As they can deter pests, they can bravely guard kale and other plants, so it is definitely worthwhile to make it a part of your garden. The good news is that it is very easy and quick to grow.
What Can You Not Plant with Kale?
While there are indeed numerous plants that you can plant and grow along with kale, there are also those considered as their bad companions. In that case, here are some of the plants you should never grow along with kale.
Do not plant and grow kale very close to plants classified as Brassica. These include cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. The reason is that growing these plants together may only encourage unwanted pests to attack every plant in the garden.
You can still plant them together but proper spacing is necessary. It would also be best to rotate the crops belonging to the Brassica and cabbage family. Enough spacing when growing them together is necessary to prevent a major invasion of pests that may only destroy everything in your garden.
It is not also a good idea to grow kale together with sunflowers. The reason behind this is that sunflower leaves have what we call allelochemicals that may prevent the seeds planted close to them from germinating successfully. This is because they can disrupt cellular metabolism.
It is also advisable not to plant tomatoes close to kale. The reason is that tomatoes have this tendency to grow larger compared to other nightshade family members. This means that they will need additional nutrients for proper and successful growth.
Some tomatoes even have the ability to grow more than four feet tall and wide. This may cause them to shade out kale plants excessively while also severely depleting the nutrients in the soil. To guarantee the safety of your kale, plant tomatoes away from them, thereby preventing competition for nutrients, sunlight, and space for growth.
You should not also plant and grow kale with black walnut since the latter produces juglone, a chemical that may cause plants exposed to it to show unwanted symptoms, like leaf yellowing, wilting, and stunted growth.
There are even severe instances when the chemical can cause the death of the plants. Kale is specifically sensitive to the mentioned chemical, so you should never plant it close to black walnut.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Where should you not plant kale?
Most kale plants can be expected to grow well in any type of garden, provided you give them what they need for proper growth. However, you should never grow kale close to plants considered as their bad companions. Among them are sunflowers, black walnuts, and brassicas.
Can I plant kale next to peppers?
Yes. Peppers are among those plants that truly serve as excellent companions to kale. Companion planting them together can benefit each other.
Can I plant cucumbers next to kale plants?
Yes. Cucumbers can benefit kale in the sense that it promotes weed prevention. This makes it one of your top choices when looking for a good companion plant for your kale.
Companion planting is indeed one of the most effective ways to make your kale plants grow healthily and bountifully. Just learn about the different plants that act as their best buddies so you can start growing them together in your garden.
Expect a bountiful harvest and a beautiful garden from making them grow together and mutually benefit from each other.