It’s almost winter, and gardening winter vegetables means planting frost-lovers like brassicas, garlic, leeks, and peas. Cabbage is a lovely winter crop that enjoys a kiss from the frost. And what better to plant with it but cabbage companion plants?
Companion planting is a great way to keep your garden plentiful, and safe from common pests. It also provides a lot of variety to what could otherwise be a monoculture. Cabbages have so many companions, too. We’re talking flowers, herbs, and other vegetables.
So what are the best companions for cabbage plants? And what are the benefits of companion planting? Let’s talk about it! We’ll cover some of the best companion herbs and flowers for your cabbage-centric garden. And we’ll explain why each of these plants works well when planted together with cabbage.
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is an age-old practice that functions in multiple ways. Most of all, companion planting creates a beneficial system of reciprocity between living organisms in your garden. The practice adds variety to your yield and protects your crops.
Some companion plants repel insects that may want to snack on nearby plants. They might also attract and trap problem insects, or attract beneficial ones. Good companions might provide micronutrients to the soil that support all the other plants there. A good profile of micronutrients helps other plants grow, and improves the flavor of nearby crops.
Ground cover plants can provide protection from weeds. Some legumes offer a nitrogen-fixing element to the soil which helps vegetable roots grow stronger. Many plants grow quickly, indicating where other plants will soon make an appearance. Tall plants offer shade to lower-lying plants that enjoy less sunlight, too.
The best possible outcome of companion planting is how it promotes biodiversity and in turn a healthy garden. Because you’re planting a large variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, you won’t exhaust the garden bed.
Topsoil loss (a result of monocultural garden practices) is a huge concern moving into the future. We as gardeners can choose easy to grow plants that love to be near one another, which helps us to practice gardening eco-consciousness.
Good Cabbage Companion Plants
Companion planting for cabbage is fairly easy. Figure out which of these can be planted near your cabbage, and which work best for your garden design, and then you’re set. You’ll have tons of cabbage come harvest time.
Cabbage Family Companions
Because other brassicas need the same kinds of nutrients as cabbage, they can be planted near your cabbage crop. Brussels sprouts, kale, swiss chard, broccoli, and cauliflower are all suitable companions for your cabbage garden. Even Napa cabbage, a close relative, can grow nearby.
Not only are members of the cabbage family easy to grow, but they also enjoy the same climate and conditions that cabbage does. In the winter a garden of greens is a lovely respite from bare trees and brown leaves. Vegetables in the brassica family are highly nutritious. Add them to stews, stir-fries, and your favorite cozy hot dishes to keep you warm.
A word on this, though: an overabundant amount of brassicas can out-compete each other. We’ll talk about this more in a later section.
Peas and Beans
First off, brassicas need sun, but cabbage enjoys shade in the hard afternoon sun. One of the best ways to provide some shade is by planting beans. Plant them on the south side of your garden to block out some of that hard afternoon sun that can scorch cabbage leaves.
Bush beans and pea plants provide nitrogen to the soil as well. This is the key reason they’re a great companion plant for cabbage. All members of the cabbage family consume lots of nitrogen that help them grow lush leafy greens.
Plant them for a harvest, or use them as a cover crop. Either way you choose, you’ll have success with your cabbage plants.
Tons of herbs grow well near cabbage. Many either repel or attract and trap garden pests. Some grow well alongside cabbage and also taste great in a cabbage dish.
One herb, in particular – rosemary – not only repels cabbage moths, it improves the flavor of each head of cabbage nearby. This is because rosemary provides potassium, calcium, and sulfur to the soil, which gives the cabbage a little help in the flavor and nutrition departments.
Another companion for cabbage that deters cabbage moths is sage. Sage also repels other pests like flea beetles and carrot flies. Yarrow and dill repel the cabbage moth, and also provide for the gardener’s favorite insect, the lacewing. Both yarrow and dill are perennial and produce showy flowers. Dill is a great attractant for giant swallowtail butterfly caterpillars too.
Chives and wormwood are great insect repellants. Both keep away cabbage maggots, cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, snails, flea beetles, and other beetles. All of these are insects that can devastate a crop pretty quickly. And the silvery leaves and wormwood planted with chives, dill, and cabbage make for a lovely garden design.
There are more herbs that cabbage is great friends with, but there are too many to cover here. Try planning a garden design with rosemary, sage, dill, and wormwood interspersed with your cabbage plants. Aromatic herbs will give you a great deal of visual and palette variety.
Root Vegetable Pals
Carrots, beets, onions, and parsnips make good cabbage companion plants too. That’s because they help unearth nutrients from the soil with their tubers or taproots. As they grow, they pull nutrients up to the top layer of the soil and feed them to plants with more shallow roots, like brussels sprouts and cabbage.
The leaves from beets specifically provide magnesium to the soil when they break down. So as your beet leaves expire, crush them up and leave them on the soil to nourish their cabbage companion. This in turn improves the flavor of your cabbage plants. When you harvest, put your beets, cabbage, carrots, and onions together in winter borscht!
Celery is great when planted near cabbages. They deter the dreaded cabbage moth. Along with these, you can plant other root veggies to reduce the space in the soil so cabbage worms can’t make their way to your garden.
Probably the best companion for your cabbages is marigold. Not only does it deter insect pests, but it also attracts beneficial insects too. Companion planting with marigold is a well-known, established practice.
Marigolds keep away Japanese beetles, whiteflies, aphids, nematodes, and can be used as a mosquito repellant. Beneficial insects they attract include ladybugs, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps that feed on insect pests. You may want to plant marigolds with your cabbages.
Geranium keeps cabbage worms and beetles away from cabbages. They’re also lovely in tea and baking confections. Their scent is lovely, and there are several different types of geranium to choose from: some with a peppery scent, some rose-like, and some minty, too. While you’re calling in beneficial insects and growing cabbages, why not have a little cup of tea?
As mentioned above yarrow is a great attractant for insect friends. When planted near cabbages, yarrow helps you get lacewings in your garden. Yarrow flowers are showy, and there are tons of different cultivars to choose from. Moonshine yarrow is bright yellow, common yarrow is white, and Cherise queen yarrow is pink. These are just a few of the yarrows to choose from.
Buckwheat is an excellent companion plant for cabbages. This plant is sometimes confused as an herb but is used in cooking, and for green manure. Winter is a great time in warmer climates to start growing cover crops. Right before your cover crops seed, cut them down to add manure to the soil.
When you plant buckwheat near cabbages, you also attract parasitic wasps that prey on cabbage loopers. After you cut down that cover crop, try planting another companion in its place. Maybe another brassica growing with your cabbage would suffice?
What Not To Plant With Cabbage
So what plants make bad companions when planted with cabbage? Here are a few to avoid.
Lettuce also benefits from root veggie companions but isn’t a good companion for cabbage. This is because lettuce crops may attract insect pests that can prevent good healthy growth on the heads of cabbages. So don’t plant lettuce with your cabbages.
Strawberries and cabbages will compete with one another for nutrients. They both have shallow roots that will intertwine if planted together. Put them in the same space, and you may find you get plenty of pests that feed on vegetables like cabbage and strawberries too.
It’s a lose-lose with these planted side-by-side. They don’t get along together.
Similar to strawberries, tomatoes out-compete cabbages for nutrients. Their roots don’t go well together, and cabbages will stunt the tomatoes growing nearby. Tomatoes also attract hornworms that won’t discriminate when it comes to which food to eat.
Keep your tomato plants growing away from cabbages in a separate area or garden bed. Tomatoes aren’t really of the same season as cabbages anyway.
Although a lot of aromatic herbs are great companions for cabbage, rue is not one of these. Interestingly, rue isn’t a great companion for growing with many other herbs. This is because it’s a better trap crop, attracting whiteflies and other pests.
Rue also leeches chemicals into the soil and pulls calcium (an essential for cabbage) out of the earth.
Too Many Other Brassicas
While planting a couple of brassicas together is just fine, too many planted together will make it so none can get the nutrients they need, and insects that focus on brassicas may invade. When you’re planning your garden full of winter vegetables, instead try a bed planted with segments that contain a center of one to two brassicas surrounded by root veggies, herbs, marigolds, and bush beans.
Another bad companion for cabbage: corn! Corn provides too much shade for cabbages that like the sun. Although some bushier beans can provide a little bit of shade, they don’t cover as much ground as the shadow of a tall cornstalk does. Not enough sun stunts cabbage growth. And no vegetable growth means no harvest.
Cabbages need lots of water for sufficient growth, so don’t plant them next to drought-tolerant plants. When you plant cabbage and dry ground lovers together, you may contract a good case of root rot on the drought-resistant plants that may spread and infect other plants.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What can I plant with cabbage to deter pests?
A: Onions are great! Some herbs are excellent too. Most of all, marigolds deter bad insects and attract good ones. They are a great companion to many other plants. Try a mix of onions, peas, beets, herbs, and other root veggies. A good garden design and plan will help you avoid any pitfalls.
Q: What can you not plant next to cabbage?
A: Lettuce attracts bad insects. Cabbage’s good companions are bush beans, but pole beans may be problematic. They shade out cabbages too much. Check through this companion planting guide before planting to see if there is anything else you need to avoid. Guides like these make companion planting easier.