A way to successfully grow vegetables is to grow a "companion" garden. As Ed Hume Seeds states, "Vegetables will yield up to twice as much when they are surrounded with companion plants." Companion planting works because the vegetables benefit from each other in several ways. They support rather than deplete the soil nutrients required for each plant, or they may provide structural support---a rigid plant such as corn can support a climbing plant such as pole beans. One vegetable may provide shade for another or act as a deterrent to pests.
Prepare the Soil
Amend your soil's composition to support the variety of companion plantings in your garden. Mix compost, manure, peat moss, top soil, bone meal and other fertilizers into your soil to enrich it and balance its pH. General soil amendments work well for a wide variety of companion vegetables.
Divide the garden area into sections for each companion planting group. Form rows or square sections for your vegetable plantings.
Moisten your garden's soil with a garden hose---4 to 6 inches deep---to help release and blend the amendments into the soil.
Sort Vegetables into Companion Groupings
Plant tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, celery and onions together in the garden.
Plant beans with carrots, corn, eggplant, lettuce, cucumbers, peas and radishes.
Plant melons and squashes with corn and radish.
Plant peppers with onions.
Plant strawberries with lettuce, onion, beans and spinach. Spinach also grows well with celery and eggplant.
Vegetable and Herb Companions
Plant marigolds--especially for their aroma and color--with beans, cabbage, cucumbers, strawberries and tomatoes and throughout the garden.
Plant basil, mint and borage with tomatoes.
Plant chamomile, mint, summer savory, rosemary, sage, thyme and dill with onions and cabbage.
Plant tansy near roses, fruit trees and berries.
Plant caraway in different areas of the garden to loosen the soil.
Group According to Growing Periods
Plan your companion vegetable garden also according to when the vegetables grow.
Plant your early-maturing vegetables first that will be ready to harvest from early to mid summer. These include early-maturing beets, cabbage, radishes, lettuce, peas, turnips and spinach.
Plant the vegetables that grow throughout most of the growing season together. These are planted in early spring but are not ready for harvest until mid to late summer. These include your beans, celery, cabbage, corn, eggplants, tomatoes and squashes including pumpkin.
Group your late-crop vegetables together that you can plant in mid summer and that will grow through the fall for a fall harvest. These include beets, broccoli, carrots, spinach, collard greens, kale, radishes, cauliflower and kohlrabi.
About this Author
Naima Manal's articles on health, diet, nutrition, alternative medicine, education, parenting, crafts, travel, home and garden and home improvement have appeared on eHow, Garden Guides, Trails, ConnectED, Helium and others. Manal received her B.S. degree in biology/pre-medical studies from Molloy College in 1994 and has been a freelance writer, teacher and homeschooling mom since 1993.