Companion planting is a gardening technique that has been in use since ancient times, and one that often offers unique benefits to both the garden and gardener.
Depending on the combination of plants chosen, companion planting can not only help when it comes to increasing the diversity of your harvest but also assist in attracting a variety of useful pollinators and even deter troublesome pests; in some cases, companion planting can help prevent or mitigate diseases that might otherwise damage your plants.
That being said, it can sometimes be difficult to understand the intricacies of companion planting, specifically when it comes to pairing up plants in ways that are effective and beneficial.
With that in mind, this article shall discuss companion planting zucchini, and offer up information that relates to what should be planted with zucchini, what should not be planted with zucchini, and whether or not zucchini should be planted together with tomatoes or cucumbers.
What To Plant Next To Zucchini
Zucchini, as a squash plant, is traditionally a member of a group that is commonly referred to as “The Three Sisters”. Comprised of squash, beans, and corn, this trio of plants has been viewed as one of the most effective examples of companion planting for centuries, ever since its initial use by various Native American tribes of North America.
That being said, corn and beans are not the only plants that can be planted together with zucchini; there are several other potential choices when it comes to beneficially companion planting zucchini. With that in mind, some options for what to plant with zucchini are as follows:
- Beans: As previously mentioned, beans are a good choice for companion planting with zucchini. Beans and zucchini work well together because beans can help stabilize the pH balance of your garden by naturally adding nitrogen to the soil, something that can be very beneficial since zucchini plants typically absorb large amounts of nutrients and minerals (such as nitrogen) from the soil as they grow.
Borage: This plant can help attract pollinators like bees to your garden, which in turn helps to ensure that the flowers of your zucchini plants get successfully pollinated and therefore actually produce fruit.
Corn: The third member of the Three Sisters does best in the aforementioned trio when it comes to companion planting (particularly since it benefits greatly from the nitrogen-producing capabilities of legumes likes beans and peas while also providing those plants with a firm structure for vine growth) but can be a good companion plant for zucchini on its own as well, although in this particular pairing the corn reaps the most benefits of the partnership.
This is because the large leaves of zucchini plants provide additional shade on the ground which in turn can help the soil to retain greater moisture (which is particularly beneficial to corn plants, since they need a considerable amount of water to grow properly).
This extra shade provided by the leaves of zucchini plants can also help deter the growth of weeds.
Marigolds: While it might not occur to most people to combine squash and flowers in the same garden, marigolds are actually an excellent choice when it comes to companion planting because of the way they provide a unique form of protection for other plants.
Marigolds are attractive to a wide variety of pests, and while this might not seem like a good thing at first glance, planting marigolds a safe distance away from your zucchini plants can help lure potentially harmful insects (such as aphids, squash bugs, and white-flies) away from your crop.
Ideally, these pests will be so focused on the marigolds that they will leave your zucchini plants alone (making marigolds what is often referred to as a “trap crop”, a crop planted specifically to draw pests away from the primary crop).
Marigolds can also help attract pollinators like bees and butterflies to your garden, which is always a benefit.
Mint: This herb can be a good companion plant for zucchini because when planted in a perimeter around your garden bed it can help deter certain animals (such as deer) from eating your plants thanks to the distinct aroma it gives off.
This makes it a popular choice for gardeners in rural areas who struggle to ward off grazing animals that would otherwise decimate their crop. (That being said, mint can grow in a very aggressive manner, so it’s important to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t spread unchecked and take over a garden bed.)
Peas: Pea plants are a beneficial companion plant for zucchini for the same reasons beans are. They help balance the pH level of the soil while providing additional nitrogen that helps fuel plant growth.
Radishes: These root vegetables are another good choice for companion planting with zucchini because not only are they generally small and therefore easy to plant interspersed between squash plants helping to maximize space and in some cases shown to help repel certain insects (such as squash bugs and aphids).
Since squash bugs in particular can devastate an entire zucchini crop, companion planting something like radishes that wards off these pests can be very beneficial.
What Not To Plant Next To Zucchini
Just as there are good choices for companion planting zucchini, there are bad choices as well. The following plants are examples of what not to plant with zucchini, because doing so can lead to poor results in the garden.
Fennel: Also known as anise, this plant is a poor choice when it comes to companion planting because it secretes a special substance from its root system that will actually inhibit the growth of most vegetables, including zucchini plants.
Potatoes: Planting potato plants together with zucchini (or any sort of squash) can be a recipe for disaster. This is because both potato plants and zucchini plants are prone to blight and planting them in close proximity to each other increases the risk of losing all your plants at once. Blight is a plant disease spread by fungal spores that thrives on moisture and can ruin an entire crop.
Potatoes also absorb large amounts of nutrients from the soil, just like zucchini plants themselves do, which makes them a poor choice for the companion planting in the same garden bed since it could result in one or both crops being deprived of key nutrients needed to flourish. Therefore, it is best to not attempt companion planting with zucchini and potatoes.
Other types of Squash: While it might be tempting to plant a variety of different squash plants in your garden along with your zucchini plants, it’s often best to avoid companion planting different breeds of squash together in the same garden bed.
This is because not only is there a risk of detrimental cross-pollination and because when companion planted they will be competing for nutrients and the soil may b
Can I Plant Zucchini and Cucumbers Together?
Zucchini and tomatoes can indeed be planted together, and can actually grow quite well together if taken care of properly. Both plants do best during the warmer seasons of the year, particularly summer, and both plants also prefer rich soil.
It’s also worth noting that a triple combination of zucchini, tomatoes, and borage is reportedly very effective; the borage attracts pollinators to the benefit of both the tomatoes and the zucchini.
Essentially, while there aren’t any other tremendously significant benefits to planting zucchini and tomatoes together the way there are for other companion plant pairings, these two plants are not detrimental to each other and will in all likelihood grow very well together as long as they’re cared for properly.
Should I Plant Zucchini and Tomatoes Together?
Zucchini and cucumbers are both members of the same plant Family (Cucurbitaceae, also known as cucurbits), making them distant cousins in a botanical sense. This close relation means that there are both significant benefits to companion planting zucchini and cucumbers together as well as significant drawbacks.
One of the benefits to planting these two vegetables together is that they share similar needs when it comes to lighting and moisture; both plants prefer full sun during the day and require generous amounts of water in order to grow.
Additionally, unlike with some members of Cucurbitaceae, you don’t have to worry about zucchini and cucumbers cross-pollinating and creating strangely colored, misshapen, or oddly flavored vegetables.
That being said, while there are definitely benefits to growing zucchini and cucumbers together because of their similarities, there are also some serious risks and potential drawbacks that must be carefully considered as well.
First of all, zucchini and cucumber plants that are growing in close proximity to each other will be competing for resources. This means that if there is not enough water or key nutrients, some plants may end up with stunted growth.
Secondly, since zucchini and cucumbers are both cucurbit plants they are more often than not vulnerable to the same pests and diseases; when companion planting this means that if one or more plants becomes infected with something harmful, there is a considerable risk of losing the entire crop if the danger spreads between the plants and is not addressed in time.
Potential diseases to watch out for include but are not limited to: bacterial wilt (a disease that typically affects cucumbers more severely than squash like zucchini but which can still spread easily between plants of both types by cucumber beetles), powdery mildew (which can stunt the overall growth of the plant, resulting in misshapen leaves and fruit), downy mildew, gummy stem blight, anthracnose, alternaria leaf spot (which can spread very easily between plants via wind, water, and even touch), and fusarium wilt (which attacks the roots of the plants before moving to the stems, eventually culminating in the death of the entire plant).
There are also some viruses (usually spread by insects) that can negatively impact vegetables like zucchini and cucumbers, so it’s important that all plants in the garden bed be monitored for any discoloration or wilting.
All in all, while there are benefits to companion planting zucchini with cucumbers, there are many gardeners who believe that these benefits (simplified care due to similar needs) do not outweigh the possible drawbacks (such as the high risk of botanical diseases spreading from plant to plant, although some of the aforementioned plant illnesses can be treated or stopped using pesticides and/or fungicides).
This means that, generally speaking, it is not recommended to plant zucchini and cucumbers together (although, ultimately, the decision of whether or not to do so is up to the individual gardener).
In the end, whether or not you choose to utilize companion planting in your garden is up to you, but we sincerely hope that you’ve found the information in this article useful for understanding the benefits of companion planting zucchini and what the best choices are if you do decide to plant other vegetables or herbs together with zucchini in your garden.
Please comment below with any ideas that you have about companion planting!