How do you maximize the yield of your vegetable garden without expanding the garden?
Companion Planting! It takes advantage of different plant heights and growing habits to use your available space as efficiently as possible. It can also add nutrients to the soil, and encourage beneficial insects in the garden.
I’ve never been a fan of the square foot gardening method, though it does produce results. Instead I plan for the big crops in each of our raised beds, and fill in the empty spots and edges with companion plants.
Intercropping is related to companion planting in that a gardener can plant slow growing plants like potatoes with faster growing crops like spinach and lettuce. Mix the intercropping concept with companion planting and succession planting and you’ll have a garden producing from early spring through late fall.
One of the keys to companion planting is knowing what are good combinations and what are bad ones. For example, tomatoes can be grown with carrots or spinach, but not with potatoes (same family) or the brassica family.
Possible Plant Combinations
- Tomatoes with carrots or spinach
- Cabbage with bush beans or onions
- Corn with pole beans or pumpkins
- Cucumbers with green beans or lettuce
- Potatoes with green beans
- Peas with turnips
The companion planting chart at the bottom of this page at No Dig Garden lists possible combinations, along with combinations to avoid.
Use the chart and try out the combinations. Take notes as you see what works and have a plan for next year. Don’t forget to include annuals like marigolds and alyssum in your beds to encourage beneficial insects which will in turn keep the plants protected from bad bugs.