Companion planting refers to a famous gardening practice or technique, which makes use of different crops and plants grown and cultivated together. The main goal of companion planting is to enhance the production of crops by growing different plant combinations close to each other.
What’s great about this organic gardening technique is that it provides numerous benefits to vegetable gardens – one of which is that it improves the productivity and health of the crops. It also makes gardens more productive even if they only have limited space and prevent diseases and pest infestations.
Among the vegetable crops that can benefit from companion planting are potatoes. In this article, you will get to know more about companion planting with potatoes, so you can improve their growth using the right plant combinations.
By learning about the best potato companion plants, you have an assurance that your potato plant will grow while enriched with the right nourishment. You also have an assurance that the soil where your potatoes grow retains proper soil nutrients and moisture through good companion plants.
Benefits of Planting Companion Plants with Potatoes
As mentioned a while ago, one of the crops and plants that can gain favorable benefits from having good companion plants is the potato. Just make sure that your chosen companion plants for tomatoes are highly diverse. This means that the plant combinations should be different and widely varied to make the most out of the gardening technique.
With diversity in companion planting, potato plants will be able to enjoy these benefits:
Improves soil fertility
You can grow potatoes with companion plants guaranteed to help improve the fertility in the soil. Legumes, such as clover, peas, and beans, are among those that can make the soil fertile because of their nitrogen-fixing nature.
By planting potatoes with nitrogen-fixing plants, you can enrich the soil with nitrogen, which is one of the most essential soil nutrients that garden plants need for their healthy growth. This ingredient is also essential for the growth of the roots, canopies, and leaves of most plants. It is, therefore, helpful when it comes to improving soil fertility.
Helps attract beneficial insects
You can count on the best potato companion plants to invite a lot of pollinators like butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to visit your garden and vegetable patch. A lot of these beneficial predatory insects and pests are attracted to the scent and color of flowers but you can also expect bees to sense the electric fields surrounding the flowers.
What’s great about attracting beneficial pests and insects is that they guarantee the successful reproduction of plants while providing new territories for their growth. Among the best companions for potatoes that can efficiently attract beneficial insects are marigolds, nasturtiums, chives, and cilantro.
Effective for pest control
Some potato companion plants, like petunias, cilantro, catmint, basil, and thyme, are also effective for pest control. The reason is that they are capable of repelling destructive insect, pests and even diseases.
These potato companion plants do so as they release a strong smell or certain chemical through their deep roots, flowers, and leaves that tend to drive harmful insects and pests away. In other words, a good companion plant serves a dual purpose – attracts beneficial insects and resolves damaging ones.
Serves as a ground cover
A lot of good potato companion plants also serve another function in the form of ground covers. They serve as ground covers because they grow low. They are also effective in conserving soil moisture, providing a habitat for beneficial insects and pests, and suppressing weeds.
Predatory beneficial beetles are actually among the best solutions when it comes to dealing with Colorado potato beetles. You can take advantage of them through companion planting as they tend to prefer hiding in crops that serve as ground covers.
Another great advantage of this gardening technique is that it aids in maximizing the yields of your crop. The amount of yield may vary based on the specific plant combinations you use. For example, cornstalks are known for providing a living trellis used by beans in climbing and thriving even without a trellis or artificial structure.
Best Companion Plants for Potatoes
For you to receive an even more comprehensive guide regarding the best companion plants for potatoes, here are your top choices:
Beans and Legumes
All legumes, especially green beans and bush beans, serve as highly effective companion plants for potatoes because of their ability to release nitrogen into the soil. If you are seeking a nitrogen-fixing plant, you can always seek the help of these beans.
Their ability to release sufficient amounts of nitrogen into the soil makes them effective in improving yields and the quality of your crops. Planting potatoes and legumes together can also benefit the latter. The reason is that potato plants can deter pests and beetles, specifically the Mexican bean beetles, that attack a lot of legumes.
How to Plant?
Both pole and bush beans can benefit your potatoes if you plant them together. It tends to work better through the interplanting combination. In case you have chosen to grow the pole beans, ensure that the trellis for them is exactly on the northern side of the mounds of potatoes. This is important in preventing them from being shaded out.
As for the bush beans, note that their height as well as their maturity days are the same as those of potatoes. With that, it would benefit you to plant and grow these plants simultaneously while keeping the same space of around 18” to 24” in between each crop.
Peas also have the advantage of increasing the bioavailability of nitrogen in the soil. The reason behind this is their symbiotic relationship with rhizobium, which is a nitrogen-fixing bacteria. With that, hungry potatoes can absorb the additional nutrients.
The presence of peas in your garden can also prevent potatoes from being infested with the Colorado potato beetles. This is a good thing as these pesky and unwanted potato bugs have the tendency of wiping out your supposedly sturdy plants.
How to Plant?
You can plant shelling peas or sugar snap peas as companions for your potatoes. Regardless of what type of pea you choose, ensure that you grow it with a trellis facing the north side. It should also be away from the potato mounds. Direct sowing peas during the spring, which is a similar time to potatoes, is also an important tip.
Many gardeners plant nasturtiums and potatoes together because the two benefit each other. Nasturtiums refer to fun rainbow flowers that belong to the morning glory family. What makes it one of the most effective potato companion plants is the fact that it can suppress aphids.
Nasturtiums can do so with the help of the chemical they emit that aids in repelling harmful insects. This can help protect potatoes and other plants growing in the garden. In addition, they are capable of attracting plenty of ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and hoverflies that prevent pesky and hungry bugs from staying on your potato foliage.
How to Plant?
To plant nasturtiums, take note that they are vigorous flowers with the ability to vine up to ten feet tall while spreading far. With that in mind, it is advisable to confine them in a perimeter or fence close by that is not also in direct contact with the potato bed.
If you notice your growing nasturtium starting to attract pests, like potato beetles, you can use it as a trap crop. This means you can let it get destroyed by the pests first, thereby ensuring that the unwanted bugs do not come close to your growing potatoes.
Also called green onions, scallions are part of the allium family that are extremely useful if you grow and cultivate them alongside potatoes. This is especially helpful if you are growing potatoes at home. The reason is that these scallions or green onions are small enough that you can easily incorporate them in between each potato row.
You can earth them up traditionally as well as along the edges of areas where your plants grow. You will not also experience any difficulty sneaking in the scallions in any part of your potato patch, especially if your goal is to increase the area’s pest-repellent capabilities.
The fact that scallions have shallow roots also means that they do not need a lot of garden space for them to grow healthily. This means that your potatoes will continue to have more than enough space for their growth.
How to Plant?
Planting scallions alongside potatoes is also not that hard. All you have to do is to plant scallion transplants or onion sets in groups of three to five, around ten to twelve inches away from young potato plants.
Potatoes and corn also tend to complement each other when grown together. In fact, their good relationship started thousands of years ago. Corn is also a fantastic potato companion plant because it enhances the flavor and vigor of your potato tubers.
Combining the two can also help in maximizing your space. Your potatoes boast of their underground growth, and they only have fairly stout roots. This means that they only require a bit of space over the ground.
Meanwhile, this excellent companion plant also has tall growth and shallow roots. This means that growing these two plants together will allow both to provide their opposite needs.
How to Plant?
When planting corn and potatoes together, you should remind yourself that the two have the same days to mature. In other words, you can choose to seed corn similar to the time when you plan and cultivate the seed potatoes.
Make it a point to leave around one to two feet in between the potato and corn. You may also choose to grow corn in a row along your potato plants. By doing that, you have an assurance that there will be no interference with the mounding and hilling of spuds.
Spinach is a leafy green that features shallow roots. One thing that leafy greens, like spinach, can do when grown together with young potatoes is that they serve as good ground cover.
Spinach that you decide to grow alongside potatoes can lower the possibility of losing moisture. In addition, this useful companion plant can help lower the risk of weeds that tend to compete for the nutrients that are supposed to be for your potatoes.
How to Plant?
You can sow them around your potato crops or plants early during the growing season. You can sow spinach as well as other leafy greens, like lettuce, to ensure that you get to use the available space.
Thyme is an incredible potato companion plant as it is effective in attracting hoverflies that help in lowering the number of aphids infesting a garden. One more thing that thyme can do for your potato crop is that it spreads, thereby forming a nice ground cover.
How to Plant?
This famous aromatic herb is in favor of drier conditions compared to potatoes. However, it can perform its intended function if it is elevated, specifically on the Southern part of your potato mounds. It could be in a spot where it will be able to enjoy its required drier and sunnier conditions.
As a member of the allium family, you will notice the strong sulfurous scent of garlic can deter potato beetles, flea beetles, and pests, like aphids. You will also surely like the elongated stems and shallow roots of this plant as they positively complement the growth habits of the potatoes.
One nice thing if you intercrop potatoes and garlic is that it can prevent late blight. Some gardeners even say that garlic is more effective compared to fungicides. You will also love garlic as you can easily and quickly grow it.
How to Plant?
You can traditionally sow garlic during the fall. If you do that, you can expect it to start sprouting during the spring, specifically around the time when you can safely plant potatoes. Harvest some garlic in the form of green garlic.
After that, sow potatoes in between each space. You may also plant one potato mound together with a row of garlic. There should be a minimum space of six to twelve inches between each crop.
With the fragrant and spicy nature of oregano, it is safe to say that it grows well along with potatoes. It has a strong smell, which can help confuse potato pests, thereby driving them away.
Another nice thing about oregano is that it is deer resistant. In addition, it acts as an incredible ground cover. Once oregano begins flowering, it will also have blossoms that serve as vital sources of nectar that contribute to attracting beneficial insects and predators, such as lacewings.
The oregano herb is also famous for its anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. With all these positive things, it is safe to say that oregano is a great plant to use if you want to inter-crop nightshade plants, like potatoes and Brassica.
How to Plant?
When it comes to planting oregano, take note that you can do so in a potato’s raised bed’s four corners. You can also plant it along with potatoes, specifically in an herbal bed.
One thing to note about oregano is that it tends to become woody in case you decide to sow it as a perennial. You should remember that once you decide on the location of the plant and the frequency of pruning.
This is one of those perennial root vegetables famous for its fiery taste and flavor also acts as a good potato companion plant. Horseradish is also one of those plants that can repel potato beetles, bugs, caterpillars, aphids, and whiteflies. Integrating the organic material derived from horseradish around the soil where potatoes grow can also boost the plant’s pest-controlling traits.
This plant also emits oil compounds underground. The specific part of the plant that emits such oil compounds is the root, increasing the plant’s disease resistance while loosening the soil. Moreover, it boasts of its strong anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that serve as the primary reasons why it is one of the most popular companion plants for gardens.
How to Plant?
You can choose to grow horseradish in such a way that it surrounds the edges of the specific growing area of your potato. By doing that, your potato plants will have more disease resistance.
If you grow chamomile with potatoes along with other companion herbs, you can expect an increase in the production of oil. The presence of chamomile in your vegetable garden with potato tubers also helps attract beneficial insects, such as predatory wasps and hoverflies.
How to Plant?
What’s great about chamomile is that it is not difficult to plant and grow. All it takes is for you to start from chamomile seeds. This means it can greatly benefit you if you sow seeds directly or start them indoors around four to six weeks prior to the last frost.
Once the last frost date is over, you can transplant them in your garden, specifically in herbal border beds. You can also do so at the end of each row of potatoes.
Marigolds also serve as essential and beneficial companion plants if you grow them along with potatoes or any other plants in your garden. Each crop in your garden can greatly benefit from the pest-repelling scent or fragrance of marigolds, as well as the compounds it releases coming from the roots. The reason is that these compounds work in suppressing root-knot nematodes.
With that, you will notice a significant decrease, sometimes complete elimination, in the number of pests that feed on your potato foliage. It can also lower the risk of your potato tubers getting damaged or blemished. One more thing regarding marigolds is they come in vibrant colors, making them thrive even in the intense summer heat.
How to Plant?
If you wish to grow marigolds together with potatoes, do so every few feet once it is already in your potato patch. The best time to do the planting is when you are also burying the potato seeds.
Leave around 12” to 18” space to prevent your potatoes from overgrowing the marigolds. There are actually different variations of marigolds but the most compact that is often used as a companion in gardens is the French marigold. However, if you still like growing the Mexican marigold, avoid shading out your crop by keeping the marigold inside row ends or margins.
This plant that belongs to the allium family has shallow roots and it tends to complement well with potatoes. One advantage of growing leeks along with potatoes is that you are assured that the two will not compete for nutrients and water.
Leeks are also good potato companion plants as they have this strong scent that aids in repelling pests. In addition, this particular aroma aids in boosting the disease-resistant ability of the other vegetable plants in your garden.
How to Plant?
The fact that leeks are long-season crops means you need to seed them during the early spring. This should be long before the potatoes in your garden reach the ground. Ensure that the leeks also have a minimum 12-inch space from the neighboring potatoes.
Vetch is also an incredible addition to your garden if you have potatoes as it is a famous green manure and cover crop with the ability to improve the quality of soil and fix nitrogen. This is a good thing as potatoes are famous for being moderate to heavy feeders. This means that they will enjoy the extra boost provided by the vetch.
One more thing about vetch that you have to know is that it is an excellent ground cover. This particular purpose means you can make them grow low to the ground, preventing other plants, especially the unwanted ones, from sprouting. This makes it helpful in suppressing weeds.
How to Plant?
Sow seeds in a potato bed during the fall prior to planting. This should help in accumulating plenty of biomass and nitrogen. You also have the option of growing vetch along with spuds when the primary season comes but ensure that you keep on mowing it or keep it away from the rows of potatoes.
What Not to Grow with Potatoes
While there are good potato companion plants, there are also certain plants that are bad for them. Avoid planting potatoes with the following as they may only produce unfavorable results on your crops:
It is not recommended to grow potatoes and brassicas in a similar growing area because the conditions and environments they need for growth are different. They may have the same nutrient and water requirements, but brassica tends to grow better in an alkaline environment while potatoes like to be in soil that is slightly acidic.
Your chosen mulches for both plants are useful in influencing this factor. These would also help in preventing certain issues, like a scab in potatoes and root-knot that often affects the brassica plant family. Growing them together, though, would cause difficulties in meeting their different requirements and needs.
Tomatoes and the Nightshade Family
You should not also grow potatoes along with tomatoes and other plants in the nightshade family, like aubergines, peppers, and tomatoes. The reason is that growing them together may cause damaging pests and the same diseases to spread quickly and easily in between each one.
Avoid planting and growing them together or planting them in a similar bed next to each other. It would be best to implement an effective crop rotation system when dealing with the nightshade family.
Carrots should not also be grown alongside potatoes. One reason why you should never plant them together is that they have different environmental requirements. Carrots tend to fare better in drier conditions and environments compared to potatoes.
Carrots may also cause stunted growth on potatoes. Harvesting potatoes may also cause damage and disruption to your carrot crops if you grow them together. This may also happen if you grow other root crops together with potatoes. Aside from carrots, other root crops to avoid growing with potatoes are parsnips and turnips.
Squash and Cucumbers
Avoid growing squash and cucumbers, as well as other plants that belong to the cucurbit family, along with potatoes. It is because these plants can cause your potatoes to be more prone to developing potato blight. The fact that they are also classified as hungry plants means that they may compete with your potatoes for nutrients and water.
Never grow potatoes together with fruit trees, such as apples, cherries, and peaches. It is not a good idea to grow these plants together because your potatoes will also become more vulnerable to developing blight.
Fennel is also a poor companion plant for potatoes. The reason is that it tends to inhibit and disrupt the healthy growth of root crops and potatoes. The result will be stunted growth and extremely low yield.
How to Choose the Right Companion Plants for your Garden?
With the many highly impressive and beneficial companion plants for potatoes, you may encounter confusion and difficulties in choosing the right ones for your garden. One reminder is that there is no need to grow every good companion with potatoes.
Choose only those that could help you enjoy the specific benefit you wish to get from your potato plants or resolve an existing or potential problem. For instance, if you have a problem with potato beetles and Mexican bean beetles, you can interplant potatoes with marigolds. Look for companions that can help your potato plants deter such pests, too.
In case of persistent drought, you can plant and grow leafy greens and basil. Surround your potatoes with them and make them serve as living mulch to survive the drought. You may also plant nasturtiums and thyme if your goal is attracting beneficial insects and encouraging them come to your garden and deal with the harmful pests overpopulating the area.
Companion Planting Tips and Techniques for Potato Plants
To make the most out of planting potatoes with its best companions, you should consider applying the following tips and techniques:
Also called interplanting, intercropping requires you to use two to three crops in one planting area at approximately the same time to enjoy a particular benefit or serve a specific purpose. You can try interplanting, which is a popular technique, to support the growing habits of your potato plants as well as their companions.
For instance, if you want to avoid certain potato diseases and pests, you can grow specific crops in your potato vegetable patch that serves such a purpose. You can grow any of the crops mentioned here that serve as effective deterrents to the most common pests affecting your potato crop.
Use the right companions for crop rotation
Another technique that many gardeners implement is crop rotation. You just have to make sure that you use the right plants and companions for this purpose. In this case, take note that the most fantastic plants you can grow through crop rotation along with your potato plants are radish, corn, and rye.
Here’s how these three plants can help your potato crop through crop rotation:
Use corn if you are planning to do crop rotation for your potato plants as it is effective in replenishing the soil immediately after you planted and cultivated potatoes. Corn is also known for being a non-host crop that can handle wireworms. It can, therefore, naturally prevent infestations in the future.
Corn is a beneficial component in your potato rotations. Aside from the fact that both fresh potatoes and corn taste good, the latter also continues to receive recognition for its effectiveness in maintaining the quality of the soil.
You can also take advantage of rye when it comes to implementing crop rotation as it works effectively as a cover crop for potato plants. When used as a cover crop, it can help in fighting weeds.
One reason behind this is the ability of the rye to produce natural herbicides that help in suppressing weeds that you have to clear before you grow potatoes. That way, you can lower the risk of inhibiting the growth of your potato crop.
Note that you need to bury potatoes a few inches in the soil then dig them out after harvest. The presence of rye promotes ease in pulling the weed seeds into the surface of the soil.
One thing that radish can do is alleviate compaction in the soil, making it suitable for crop rotations if you are growing potatoes. The good thing about the crops is that they are capable of tolerating even under-fertilized and cold soil.
If you have compacted soil with potato plants that tend to not grow easily, make radishes a part of your crop rotation activity. This should help in naturally aerating and breaking up the soil surface.
How to Use Cover Crops and Green Manure for Companion Planting?
Cover crops can be expected to create a living mulch in several gardens because of their thick growth. You need them to lessen soil erosion and splash while keeping weeds under control.
Cover crops tend to turn into green manures once you develop them into the soil, which supplies essential nutrients and organic matter. Some of the green manures you can use for companion planting are legumes, like vetch, peas, beans, clover, and some grasses, like the winter wheat, rapeseed, and annual ryegrass.
Probably the best cover crops and green manures you can use with your potato crops are legumes, like beans, soybeans, and peas. They are effective in fixing nitrogen. You can take advantage of them by harvesting the pods then turning them under.
How to Plan and Design your Potato Companion Planting Layout?
The first thing you ought to do when planning and designing your potato companion planting layout is to figure out the specific crops and plants you should use. You can decide based on the specific purpose or goal you wish to achieve and the plants that work well with each other.
The best combination can help in optimizing the productivity of crops and repelling pests and weeds. Also, remember that various plant combinations need different spacing. As a guide, though, you should space the plants in a way that their leaves touch each other barely once they reach full growth.
Note that potatoes require proper spacing, usually a minimum of 11 inches apart so they can give you a good potato harvest. If you plant them too close to each other, there is a great possibility that they will not reach their full potential. Improper spacing can also hamper their growth and invite pests and weeds.
Also, monitor your crops upon reaching the ground. Make sure to observe how they interact among various species, too. As much as possible, record the advantages and disadvantages of every plant combination in a journal, so you can easily monitor and keep track of them.
The best companion plants can truly help you enjoy an abundant and bountiful vegetable garden. With the help of the right companion plants for your potatoes, you have an assurance that you will enjoy a better yield and potato harvest soon and a more nourished soil that can enrich your plants.
Companion planting also helps prevent the common issues affecting potatoes and crops, including pests, diseases, and weeds. In addition, your decision to plant potatoes among its best companions attracts beneficial insects.
You just have to choose the right potato companion plants and give them proper spacing as you intercrop them. By doing that, you will be able to enjoy great benefits from companion planting, which is a proven gardening technique.