Every year I plant potatoes because they are an excellent cash crop. Do potatoes right and you can reliably fill a wheelbarrow from each row. Companion planting can make them even more productive.
That’s right, this reliable carbohydrate-laden vegetable can be improved. Potatoes respond to companion planting really well.
If you haven’t used the concept of companion planting before, potatoes are the perfect crop to start with, so let’s look at how to do it.
Good Companion Plants to Grow With Potatoes
Potatoes suit polyculture principles where you plant a number of different plants in a garden. You can generate an amazing harvest with companion planting.
Plants in this family, which include cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and broccoli, work well with potatoes because they have shallow root systems. Potatoes have a deep, tuberous root system, so the two plants won’t compete for nutrients.
Sometimes brassicas prefer a more alkaline soil than potatoes, which prefer slightly acidic soil. I overcome this issue by mulching the potato rows with pine bark.
Legumes replace nitrogen in the soil that greedy potatoes gobble up. This improves both the quantity and quality of potato harvests. In return, potatoes deter pests like the Mexican bean beetle and others.
- Black-eyed peas
- Fava beans
You could even consider planting peanuts as a companion plant. They have similar growing needs to potatoes including soil pH and nutrients.
Just keep them sufficiently spaced in case one requires harvest before the other.
Corn is reasonably shallow rooted and provides shade to the potato plants. Just don’t let it take all the sun away, so plant while being conscious of where the sun travels through your garden.
Corn may also improve the flavor of the potato tubers and this pairing maximizes the space in the garden. For anyone who has grown corn, you know how long it takes to mature and get super sweet. It’s about the same time as potatoes, so they really are a good pair. Make sure you feed both crops well.
They are also crops where you can take a little and leave the rest. Perfect for a quick dinner.
Although not a common choice in home gardens, horseradish makes a great companion to potato plants. It is said to make the potatoes taste better and horseradish repels the dreaded Colorado potato beetle.
Horseradish may also help potato plants fight other diseases by strengthening their general resistance.
Other pests horseradish is known to repel that hurt potatoes are:
- Blister beetles
- Some species of caterpillars
Horseradish does spread quickly and if you leave any of the roots in the ground, it will regrow. I find the best way to plant horseradish and potato together is to put the horseradish in pots in between the potato rows that are in the ground.
Cilantro is to potatoes like basil is to tomato plants – a classic match. If I only ever planted one herb near potatoes, it would be cilantro. It attracts beneficial insects to the potato patch like ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and hoverflies.
These beneficial insects devour the Colorado potato beetle.
Other pests cilantro repels include:
- Spider mites
- Some moth and fly species
This is another shallow-rooted vegetable that draws nutrients from a different level of the soil than potatoes. Leeks also go perfectly with potatoes in many dishes so you might as well harvest a couple of potatoes and a leek and you have a meal. Leek and potato soup anyone?
Plant nasturtiums as a companion plant, but place them far away from the potatoes to lure pests away. We call this practice trap cropping. Aphids and potato beetles love nasturtiums, so the goal is to get them there, rather than the potato plants.
With nasturtiums, you might want to put them in containers and pick up the seeds in the fall from the ground or they will spread quickly and take over an entire area.
Chives work well in front of potatoes like a border. They are shallow-rooted and enjoy the shade the taller potato plants provide. They also go perfectly with a baked potato and butter.
If you’ve never tried planting lettuce with potato, you should. It’s shallow rooted and can fit in between the potato rows. This works for the lettuce you pick as one, or pick and come again lettuce types.
This delicious herb is said to improve the taste of your potato crop by making it more earthy. Thyme repels flea beetles, and if you let it go to flower, sage attracts bees galore.
Flea beetles eat lots of holes in potato plant leaves. Sage repels flea beetles, so plant them as close to your potato rows as possible.
Parsley attracts hoverflies. They eat a lot of the pests that can harm potato plants. Parsley is also said to improve the flavor of potatoes. It’s worth a try right?
Plant lots of chamomile in your vegetable garden, not just around potatoes. It has a strong scent that repels pests, but beneficial insects love it. Place chamomile around potatoes or in the garden near it. As a bonus, you get a hardy plant you can use to make herbal tea.
Basil goes with so many plants as a companion, including potatoes. It repels nasty pests like aphids, whitefly, and various beetles. It also attracts pollinators and butterflies to the garden.
Peas grow up high when supported well and can provide shade to potato plants. Just don’t let them grow too tall or your potatoes won’t be able to mature in time. Peas also add nitrogen to the soil.
Potato beetles hate marigolds, so make sure if you have the space, you plant them close to the potato rows, or even in the space between the rows.
Sometimes gardeners like to mix vegetables with flowers. This is especially so when you only have limited space to grow. Marigolds do double-duty because they’re edible as well as useful for repelling pests.
Yarrow improves the condition of the soil because the long, extensive roots break up the soil. Allegedly, planting them nearby as a companion plant also adds flavor to potatoes. They also attract beneficial insects.
Petunias attract beneficial insects and pollinators without interfering with the growth of the potatoes.
This is one of my favorite flowers to plant with potatoes. They are like a colorful groundcover, keeping weeds at bay and helping keep the soil moist. Alyssum attracts beneficial wasps that prey on garden pests, and I find it responds well to the potato liquid fertilizer I use.
Clover fixes nitrogen deficiencies in the soil. It’s also a great groundcover, keeping weeds at bay, and the soil moist.
Plants to Avoid Planting With Potatoes
Now that we’ve looked at those plants that are great potato companions, let’s look at those that you should avoid.
Onions have a stunting effect on potatoes. If you plant onions in the same garden, keep them at least four rows away from the potatoes.
As fennel matures, it has an effect that hinders the development of potato tubers. Fennel is also a preferred crop for swallowtail butterflies. They will lay their eggs on the fennel and the caterpillars from those eggs will move to the potato plant.
Cucumbers are very susceptible to blight, and for this reason, they are best kept away from potatoes who also suffer from it. Cucumbers will also compete with potatoes for nutrients because they are very hungry plants.
Raspberries can increase the chance of blight in the potato patch.
Both the pumpkins and the potatoes will suffer and fail to thrive when planted as companions. Given the length of time it takes for both pumpkins and potatoes to grow, you don’t want failed crops months in the making. Keep these vegetables well apart from each other.
Both potatoes and zucchini are very heavy feeders and they will compete for nutrients. Keep them both far apart.
Honey bees and bumble bees love sunflowers. Attracting them to the garden should be the goal of any gardener, but the fact is sunflowers can cause issues for potatoes if they are planted too close.
Just don’t plant them right next to each other. Plant the sunflowers at least two rows over. This is because sunflowers can cause potatoes to be small or misshapen due to the terpenes and phenolic compounds they release into the soil.
Giving them space, but having them close will remedy that, but if you’re unsure or have a small space to plant, keep them right away from each other.
5 Tips for Companion Panting With Potatoes
- Use seed potatoes from a reputable source. Potato diseases can spread through the soil and air rapidly and you don’t want to affect your whole garden because of poor seed potato health.
- Plant companions that provide shade to the roots of the potatoes and that keep the soil moist. Being heavy feeders, potatoes enjoy moist soil where the nutrients are easily accessible.
- Use comfrey fertilizer in liquid form. Potatoes love it, and so do most other plants.
- Try to include multiple different companion plants with potatoes. They produce a much better harvest than when they are on their own.
- Being heavy feeders, provide potatoes with soil full of rich, well-rotted manure and compost. This stops the potatoes from stealing all of the nutrients from their neighbors.