Gardening is often seen as a solitary activity, with each plant growing independently. However, in reality, plants interact with their neighbouring plants in various ways, affecting each other’s growth, health, and productivity.
This phenomenon is the basis of companion planting, an age-old gardening technique that utilizes beneficial plant relationships to enhance growth, reduce pest problems, and maximize space.
But when it comes to growing potatoes, what plants make good companions?
Understanding Companion Planting
Companion planting is all about creating plant communities which mutually benefit each other. It can be a sustainable way to improve your garden’s health and productivity. Some combinations of plants can deter pests, improve soil structure and nutrients, or provide physical benefits such as shading or support.
Good Companions for Potatoes
When it comes to potatoes, some plants make particularly good companions. Here are a few to consider:
- Beans: Beans are excellent companions for potatoes. They help to fix nitrogen in the soil, which can benefit the potato plants. Additionally, beans can help to deter Colorado potato beetles, a common pest of potato plants.
- Cabbage Family (Brassicas): Plants in the cabbage family, including cabbage, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts, are good companions for potatoes. They don’t compete heavily for nutrients and can help deter pests that affect potatoes.
- Horseradish: Some gardeners swear by planting horseradish near their potatoes to deter the Colorado potato beetle. Planting horseradish at the corners of the potato plot is an old-time practice for this purpose.
- Marigolds: Marigolds are widely used in companion planting due to their ability to repel various pests. They can deter nematodes, microscopic worms that can damage potato roots, making them a good companion for potatoes.
- Corn: Corn and potatoes are compatible because they use the garden’s nutrients at different rates and times, reducing competition. Also, corn’s tall stalks can provide some shade to potato plants, which can be beneficial in hotter climates.
Plants to Avoid Near Potatoes
Just as some plants make good companions for potatoes, others should be avoided:
- Carrots: Both carrots and potatoes are root crops, and they can compete for nutrients and space in the soil, hindering each other’s growth.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes and potatoes are part of the nightshade family and are susceptible to similar diseases. Growing them close together can increase the risk of disease spread.
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers and potatoes are not typically good companions, mainly because they can attract similar pests.
In conclusion, companion planting can be a beneficial practice in your potato garden, but it requires careful consideration of each plant’s needs and characteristics. You can create a healthier and more productive garden by choosing compatible companions for your potatoes. It’s all about balance and harmony – just as in any other community!
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!