Companion planting for cucumbers

© MrBrownThumb

Companion planting is part science and folklore. Grouping friendly plants together in the garden is suppose to help enhance growth, flavor and protect plants from pests. As an urban gardener with a small garden, my interest in companion planting is mostly centered on maximizing space. If my tomatoes actually benefit from growing alongside these plants, well, that’s a bonus.

Here are 12 companion plants I grow with my tomatoes in containers.

1. Borage
Borage is suppose to protect tomatoes from tomato hornworms, but the science behind that has yet to be proven. Although, last year I didn’t grow borage alongside my tomatoes and I caught my first tomato hornworms in the garden. So maybe there’s something to be said for its repelling properties. Grow borage for the leaves and flowers that have a fresh, cucumber-like flavor. Add the young leaves and blooms to salads, soups, and summer drinks.
2. Chives
3. Marigolds
The genus Tagetes is well known for it’s qualities to repel garden pests. They produce a substance called alpha-terthienyl, which helps reduce root-knot nematodes in the soil.
4. Nasturtiums
5. Basil
6. Calendula
Sometimes called pot marigold, but the Calendula genus should not be confused with marigolds listed as number 3. They’re completely different plants. Calendula leaves and blooms are edible and make a nice addition to salads.
7. Carrots
I’ll plant a crop of carrots early in the season with my tomatoes before the tomatoes take off. Then plant another crop towards the end of the season when the tomato plants are on their last leg. Any time in between and I grow stunted–but still flavorful–carrots as they compete with the roots of mature tomatoes for space in the soil.
8. Peppers
I grow both hot and sweet peppers alongside my container tomatoes every year. The drought and heat this year is reportedly the cause of some really hot peppers showing up in markets. If you’re growing peppers for heat, growing them alongside tomatoes may not be the best choice. My peppers have been spared the effects of the heat and drought because they’re growing in self-watering containers alongside the tomatoes.
9. Sage
10. Onions
11. Garlic
12. Leaf lettuce
Growing leaf lettuce (and other leafy greens) in the same container as my tomatoes acts as a living mulch which helps keep the soil cooler, and reduces the chances of spreading diseases from water and soil splashing on the leaves.

How effective companion planting is in the garden is up for debate. But what isn’t up for debate is that many of the recommended plants are easy to grow. Growing these and other recommended plants alongside your tomatoes increase your overall garden harvest.

What do you pair up with tomatoes in your garden?

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Through the many centuries that humans have cultivated gardens, people have noticed which vegetables grow well together, and which plants seem to stunt each other’s growth. Some vegetables, herbs and flowers benefit each other by improving soil, while others deter pests from one another. Companion planting provides a fascinating blueprint for a higher garden yield.

Companion Planting

Companion planting is the art and science of laying out a vegetable garden so that complementary types of vegetables are planted in the same bed. Unlike crop rotation, which means successively planting vegetables from different plant families in the same garden area season after season or year after year to minimize insect and disease problems, companion planting aims to create a harmonious garden by allowing nature to share her strengths.

Rules of a Green Thumb

The rule of (green) thumb for companion planting is to note which family the vegetables come from, and think about planting vegetables from complementary families together. Vegetables from the cabbage family, for example, like to be planted with beets and members of the green leafy vegetable family. Certain herbs will help them by deterring pests. Mint will also improve the flavor of cabbages. You could plant any member of the cabbage family such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, and others alongside these plants and see a higher yield and improved disease resistance.

Avoid Planting Some Vegetables Near Each Other

Just like people have likes and dislikes, vegetables actually have likes and dislikes as well, particularly for their “next door neighbors” planted alongside them in the garden. Some vegetables will stunt the growth and yield from other vegetables. Consult a companion planting chart, such as the one provided below, to make sure you plant vegetables next to each other that do well together.

Easy Reference of Which Vegetables Grow Well Together

The chart below provides quick and easy references for not only which vegetables grow well together, but which to avoid planting together.

Which Vegetables Grow Well Together

Vegetable Companion Plant Don’t Plant Together
Asparagus Tomatoes None
Beans (Bush or Pole) Celery, corn, cucumbers, radish, strawberries and summer savory Garlic and onion
Beets Bush beans (not pole beans), cabbage, broccoli, kale, lettuce, onions, garlic Pole beans
Cabbage Family (cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts) Beets, celery, dill, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes Pole beans
Carrots Beans, tomatoes None
Celery Beans, tomatoes, cabbages None
Corn Cucumber, melons, squash, peas, beans, pumpkin Tomatoes
Cucumber Beans, corn, peas, cabbage None
Eggplant Beans, pepper None
Melons Corn, pumpkin, radish, squash None
Onions Beets, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, peppers All beans and peas
Peas Beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, radish, turnip Garlic, onions
Potatoes Beans, corn, peas Tomatoes
Squash Corn, melons, pumpkins None
Tomatoes Carrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, peppers Corn, potatoes, kohlrabi

Other Companions for Vegetables

Many old-fashioned vegetable gardens, which are also called kitchen gardens, mixed vegetables, herbs and flowers together. Not only does this type of garden look beautiful, but it also harnesses the power of nature to create an organic garden that naturally repels pests.

Marigolds

Marigolds repel many species of insects. You can plant marigolds around tomatoes to inhibit the ugly green hornworms. These big insects can devour an entire tomato plant in one night. Plant marigolds around your entire vegetable garden to add bright color and keep the insect predators at bay.

Herbs

Herbs add flavor to foods, and they can also discourage harmful insects.

  • Nasturtium and rosemary deter beetles that attack beans.
  • Thyme repels the cabbage worm.
  • Chives and garlic deter aphids.
  • Oregano, like marigolds, is a good all-purpose plant for the organic gardener who wants to deter most insect pests.

Plant herbs freely among vegetables, tucking basil, oregano, rosemary and chives in among the tomato and pepper plants. You can harvest the entire crop and make one great tasting dinner.

Reap the Benefits

Companion planting offers every gardener the chance to harness the power of nature for higher yields as well as natural, organic insect control. By tucking a few carefully chosen extra plants among the vegetables, you increase the garden yield and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

The Best Companion Plants for Cucumbers in the Backyard Garden

Companion planting with your cucumbers can help your garden grow better, taste better, and have less problems with pests. So how does companion planting work? What can you grow with your cucumbers and what should be kept far away?

Below you will find a list of cucumber companion plants that you can grow alongside your cucumber to prevent pests and disease. And a list of what you should keep separate from your cucumber bed.

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If you are just getting started growing cucumbers check out my posts on Tips for Growing Great Cucumbers and Cucumber Varieties to Grow first!

? In a Hurry? Get Started With Companion Planting Right NOW!
Pick up a copy of my Companion Planting Guide and Binder to help you design the perfect garden beds with companion planting in mind. Everything you need to know about companion planting in an easy to read format so you can start companion planting sooner!

Cucumber Companion Plants For a Better Cucumber Harvest

Corn: Corn is one of the best companion plants for cucumber. The cucumber benefits from the shade and protects the corn from raccoons who don’t like to wade through the vines. Corn also provides some protection from the virus that causes wilt in cucumbers

Beans: Beans are legumes that help enrich the soil and fix nitrogen making them perfect for growing along with cucumbers.

Peas– Like beans, peas are legumes and help enrich the soil. I like to plant my peas and cucumbers successively so that pea plants are dying out right as the cucumbers are starting to take off.

Lamb’s Quarter: While Lamb’s Quarter is sometimes seen as a weed, it should be allowed to grow in the garden. Not only is it edible (similar to spinach) it helps the growth many crops including cucumbers. Don’t know what lamb’s quarter is? Read this for more info: How to Use and Dry Lamb’ s Quarter

Sunflowers: The tall stalks of sunflowers help shade cucumber plants in the hot summer sun, and their strong stems give the cucumber vines something to grow up!

Dill: Dill is one herb that cucumbers love, making it a perfect companion plant. Dill improves the flavor of the fruit as it matures.

Other Cucumber Companion Plants to Try:

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Beets

Plan your garden using my Yearly Garden Planner- it will help you keep track of everything, including all of your companion planting ideas!

Cucumber Companion Plants for Pest Control

Radishes– Plant a few radishes around the base of the cucumber plant and allow them to grow without harvesting to protect from cucumber beetles.

Tansy– Tansy is another cucumber companion plant that helps repel the striped cucumber beetle.

Nasturtium: Nasturtium can be allowed to grow alongside your cucumber vines and repel a variety of insects that may try and feed on your cucumber plants.

Marigold: Marigolds should be planted throughout your garden since they help with a variety of pests. Marigold is a good cucumber companion plant since it helps to repel cucumber beetles and other beetles that may feed on your cucumber vines.

Pro Gardener Tip: Cucumbers planted in the late summer and fall tend to have less trouble with cucumber beetles and other pests.

Check out 16 Ways to Use Companion Planting to Prevent Pests Naturally to get more ideas on how to use companion planting in the garden!

What Not to Plant with Cucumbers

Potatoes: Cucumbers and potatoes have similar soil needs and will compete for nutrients if grown together. In general cucumbers don’t grow well with potatoes and potatoes can be more likely to be affected by blight when cucumbers are near.

Sage, and other aromatic herbs: The aromatic scents of these herbs can attract pests and they also can affect the taste of the cucumber fruits.

Melons and Squash– Melons and squash are in the same family as cucumbers and have the same feeding needs. Their vines will compete for space in the garden. You cucumber plants could be weakened by diseases and pests shared between the plant family. Don’t plant them together- or rotate them after one another.

Related: How to Tell the Difference Between Cucumber, Watermelon, and Cantaloupe Vines

Once you’ve harvested your cucumbers, check out these articles on how to use them:

For Eating Fresh Cucumbers: 30+ Fresh Ways to Use Cucumbers (includes how to store them)

For Preservation: 10 Ways to Preserve Cucumbers That Every Home Gardener Should Know!

More Companion Planting Articles:

Best Corn Companion Plants
Best Companion Plants for Squash
Companion Plants to Keep Aphids Away
Best Garlic Companion Plants

Knowing the soil, light, and watering conditions each plant prefers is the most basic way to practice effective companion planting. It is also useful to know the eventual size of your plants, the number of days until harvest, and which diseases affect certain crops. Plant combinations can help improve conditions for neighboring or future plants or, in some cases, impede their growth!

Grow plants that prefer similar conditions together

Peppers and basil, for example, have similar care requirements and grow well when planted together. However, the Nightshade family and the Mustard family prefer different soil acidities and do best when planted separately.

Plant fast growers with slow growers to maximize space

Radishes and baby lettuces mature quickly and will be ready to harvest when crops like squash or melons are just starting to grow large enough to take over their spaces. Radishes are also excellent at marking rows of seeds since they germinate more quickly than most other vegetables. Try sowing radishes to mark rows of carrots, beets, and spinach.

Keep plants prone to similar diseases apart

Tomatoes and potatoes are affected by the same blight, which can spread quickly among them, so avoid planting together. Peppers and beans should not be planted near each other as they are both susceptible to anthracnose.

Grow taller plants to provide shade for leafy greens

It’s always a good idea to leave some asparagus to continue to grow in the garden throughout the summer, in order to provide the plant the energy it needs for next year’s crop (a good rule of thumb is to stop harvesting when the diameter of the spears decreases to the size of a pencil). Each asparagus left in the garden can grow quite tall (up to 6′!) and will “leaf out” into what are called “ferns,” which provide excellent summer shade for plants such as lettuce, Swiss chard, arugula, and spinach.

Separate plants that impede each other’s growth

You might have heard not to plant beans next to onions. But why? Beans are sensitive to the chemical compounds secreted by members of the Lily family: onions, chives, garlic, and shallots. These secretions are called “root exudates” and sensitivity is not limited to planting the two groups together at the same time. Even planting beans in the same area where onions have previously grown can hinder their growth.

The root exudates of broccoli, which stays in the soil where it has recently grown, may hinder the germination of lettuce seeds.

Plant to improve the soil for future crops

Amaranth (also called pigweed) is known as a “dynamic accumulator,” meaning it pulls nutrients from deep within the soil through its long taproot up to its leaves. When the leaves drop and decay (or are composted), the nutrients become available to future plants. Amaranth’s taproot also helps to loosen the soil, providing better growing conditions for root vegetables that are planted in the spot later.

Beans and peas are “nitrogen fixers,” meaning they leave nitrogen in the soil where they were grown or composted. After growing beans, plant nitrogen-lovers, including most leafy greens, leeks, garlic, and scallions.

10 companion plants to grow

Companion planting is an organic method of maintaining a natural balance in your garden, aiding pollination and keeping pest numbers down.

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Common plant combinations include growing nasturtiums to deter aphids from attacking your beans, and planting alliums around carrots to ward off carrot root fly.

Most companion plants are strongly scented and confuse pests looking for their host plant. Others attract beneficial insects, such as ladybirds and lacewings, which prey on aphids.

Discover 10 companion plants to grow.

Most companion plants are strongly scented and confuse pests looking for their host plant.
1

Mint

The strongly scented leaves of mint, Mentha spicata, confuse pests of carrots, tomatoes, alliums and brassicas, and deter flea beetles. But grow it in a pot, or it could smother your crop.

Bronze and green mint foliage 2

Garlic chives

The garlic chive, Allium tuberosum, is a hardy perennial with white star-shaped flowers. When planted alongside carrots, its strong scent confuses and deters the carrot root fly, which can normally smell carrots from up to a mile away.

Star-shaped, white garlic chive flowers 3

Lavender

Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia attracts a range of pollinators, including bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Its strong scent can also deter aphids. Plant with carrots and leeks to confuse pests.

A mass of mauve lavender blooms 4

Wormwood

Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, is a strongly scented herb that can deter aphids and flea beetles from attacking neighbouring plants. Its yellow flowers attract hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds, which prey on aphids.

Silver foliage and yellow flowers of artemisia 5

Calendula

The marigold, Calendula officinalis, repels whitefly from tomatoes and can lure aphids away from beans. It also attracts beneficial insects, including ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies, which prey on aphids.

Lemon yellow calendula flowers 6

Sage, Salvia officinalis, is strongly scented and will confuse pests of brassicas if planted alongside them. Its blue flowers attract bees and hoverflies, which also pollinate crops.

Purple and green sage shoots 7

Borage

Borage, Borago officinalis is an attractive plant with hairy leaves that have a slight cucumber flavour. Its delicate blue flowers are a magnet for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which pollinate crops. If planted nearby, borage can prevent attack from tomato hornworm and is said to improve the flavour of strawberries.

A blue borage bloom 8

Thyme, Thymus vulgaris makes a good companion plant for roses, as its strong scent deters blackfly. A tea made from soaking thyme leaves and sprayed on cabbages can prevent whitefly.

Tiny mauve thyme flowers 9

When planted with French and runner beans, the nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus, acts as a sacrificial crop, luring aphids away from the beans. Its attractive flowers help attract beneficial insects, which prey on aphids.

Advertisement A yellow nasturtium bloom 10

Fennel

If left to flower, fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, produces attractive yellow blooms that attract hoverflies, which prey on aphids.

Yellow fennel flowers

Kate Bradbury says

Borage is a particularly useful plant for wildlife. Studies have shown that its flowers refill with nectar every two minutes, making it a great choice for a small wildlife-friendly garden.

Cucumber Plant Companions: Plants That Grow Well With Cucumbers

Just as humans are social creatures and drawn to each other for a variety of reasons, many garden crops benefit from companion planting. Take cucumbers, for instance. Choosing the right cucumber plant companions will help the plant thrive much like human companionship. While there are some plants that grow well with cucumbers, there are also others that can impede development. They may crowd the plant or hog water, sun and nutrients, so knowing the most suitable companions for cucumbers is important.

Why Cucumber Companion Planting?

Cucumber companion planting is beneficial for a number of reasons. Companion plants for cucumbers create diversity in the garden. Generally, we tend to plant tidy rows of just a few plant species, which isn’t how nature is designed. These groupings of similar plants are called monocultures.

Monocultures are far more susceptible to insect pests and disease. By increasing the diversity of the garden, you are mimicking nature’s way of minimizing disease and pest attacks. Utilizing cucumber plant companions will not only lessen potential attack, but also shelter beneficial insects.

Some plants that grow well with cucumbers, such as legumes, can also help enrich the soil. Legumes (such as peas, beans and clover) have root systems that colonize Rhizobium bacteria and fix atmospheric nitrogen, which is then turned into nitrates. Some of this goes towards nurturing the legume, and some is released into the surrounding soil as the plant decomposes and is available to any companion plants that are growing nearby.

Plants That Grow Well with Cucumbers

Plants that grow well with cucumbers include legumes, as mentioned, but also the following:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Lettuce
  • Peas – legume
  • Beans – legume
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Sunflowers

Other flowers, besides sunflowers, may also be beneficial planted near your cukes. Marigold deters beetles, while nasturtiums thwart aphids and other bugs. Tansy also discourages ants, beetles, flying insects and other bugs.

Two plants to avoid planting near cucumbers are melons and potatoes. Sage is not recommended as a companion plant near cucumbers either. While sage shouldn’t be planted near cucumbers, oregano is a popular pest control herb and will do well as a companion plant.

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Cucumber’s anti-inflammatory benefits have earned the vegetable a starring role in practically every “woman at a spa” image ever made.

And pretty much everyone knows the satisfying crunch cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) add to salads and sandwiches. They’re also most enjoyable in sushi or even simply sliced and seasoned.

And while, yes, there’s pickled okra, pickled peppers and pickled carrots, when the patty hits the bun, it’s pickled cucumbers we crave on our big, juicy burgers.

So let’s learn how to grow this oblong green edible, which is technically a fruit since it bears seeds, but is used in the kitchen as a vegetable.

From India to Spain to the US

According to the University of Arizona, cucumbers are believed to have originated in India, which possibly explains raita, the cooling condiment served up from that nation, in which cucumber is a primary ingredient.

Perhaps ironically, Christopher Columbus, in his search for India and the East Indies, instead found Haiti. Many sources credit him as the first to share cucumbers with this part of the world.

From Hispaniola, the green fruit traveled north, where we have enjoyed them ever since (except for a regrettable period in the late 1600s when consuming raw fruits and vegetables was deemed to be dangerous!).

Long and Green, Round and Yellow

Two main types of cucumber tempt our taste buds:

Slicing

These are the table cukes, the ones we enjoy in a salad or even a soup.

Of the slicers, you’ll find varieties containing seeds, and types that don’t. These are often called “burpless” because they don’t contain the burp-causing compound cucurbitacin.

Pickling

These are the shorter, stubbier fruits whose thin skins allow pickling liquid to be better absorbed by the cucumber.

Of the slicers, gardeners have had good luck with ‘Burpless #26 Hybrid,’ and ‘Spacemaster 80,’ which has been adapted to a variety of climates.

If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, consider adding ‘Lemon’ to your garden; you’ll get baseball-sized yellow cucumbers.

For pickles, ‘Boston Pickling’ is wildly popular, while ‘Bush Pickle’ is a bush-type fruit with a shorter growing season of just 50 days to maturity.

Mountain Valley Seed Co. is a great resource for all of these cucumber varieties, and more.

When and Where?

Cucumbers like warm soil, no cooler than 70°F, according to the Oregon State Extension service, so when springtime warms your soil all all danger of frost is past, it’s time to get planting.

Put them in a spot that gets eight to 10 hours of full sun a day.

Although they prefer sandy soil, cucumbers can be grown in any well-drained soil. This plant grows best in slightly acidic soils with a pH range of 5.8-6.5.

A sprawling, viney plant, cucumbers need space to spread out, or a trellis to climb.

These plants send down a very deep tap root, so make sure there aren’t tree roots competing for resources 3-4 feet down.

Squirrels Like ‘Em, Too

While you can buy starts from garden centers, planting cucumbers from seed is so easy, there’s no reason not to.

Well, unless your resident squirrels dig up and eat the seeds. Repeatedly. Grrrrrrr.

In rows or hills, plant seeds 1” deep; they’ll germinate in five to 10 days. Thin seedlings to every two feet.

Plant transplants two feet apart in rows four feet apart. The Utah State University Cooperative Extension cautions against damaging the roots when transplanting, because this can slow establishment and growth. Transplants should have one or two true leaves and no runners.

As always, apply a thick layer of organic mulch to aid in moisture retention and weed reduction.

Cuke Care

In addition to the aforementioned deep tap root, cucumber plants have many shallow roots, so they require ample soil moisture at all stages of growth. Water weekly, and give the plants about 1-2 inches of water using drip irrigation if possible.

Inconsistent watering can stress plants and cause bitter, misshapen fruits.

Keep the growing area as weed-free as possible, but don’t hoe, as you might damage the shallow roots.

USU recommends applying a side dressing after the vines develop runners, but before the plant starts to flower. They recommend a “nitrogen fertilizer (21-0-0) using 1/4 cup per 10 feet of row.”

What do Kids and Aphids have in Common?

In addition to seed-stealing squirrels, you’ll want to watch out for aphids, which can be controlled by insecticidal soaps or a strong stream of water, and for cucumber beetles, which often require chemical treatment.

Powdery mildew — identified by white patches on older leaves — is a pesky problem in cucumbers. If this disease is common in your area, select varieties that are resistant.

Also look out for wilt diseases, and treat as applicable to the particular type of disease.

Cucumber plants with light green, mottled, malformed, dwarfed, or curled leaves may be victims of a virus. You’ll have to destroy any severely affected plants.

Like kids who don’t wash their hands, aphids are often the culprit, spreading viruses from plant to plant. So be sure to control those little buggers. Both types.

Time to Enjoy

Cucumbers are usually ready for harvest in 50 to 70 days. This fruit develops quickly, and is ready for harvest eight to 10 days after the female flowers open.

Cut the fruits from the vine when they are crisp, green, and tender. Check individual varieties for desired length; if cukes grow too large, they can become bitter. If normally green varieties are allowed to go yellow, they will have an overly strong flavor.

Experts recommend picking cucumbers early in the day to help prevent bitterness, and suggest plucking them regularly to encourage continual production.

Store slicing cukes in the crisper area of your fridge for up to three days. Pickling cucumbers will keep a bit longer and don’t necessarily need to be refrigerated.

A Worthy Addition

The humble cucumber — puffy eye reducer, hamburger perfector, and gazpacho must-have — is a worthy addition to any summer garden. Dazzle friends and family not only with your tasty cooking, but also with your youthful appearance — all from this versatile plant.

How cukey are you? Got some growing in your garden? Tell us what zone you’re in and what your favorite varieties are.

If you’d like to try out your hand out out growing a few (or many) vines, be sure to check out our Top 33 Cucumber Varieties to Grow at Home to help you decide on various cultivars for pickling, fresh eating, and more!

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About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

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