As you expand your knowledge about growing cucumbers, you may be interested to learn about cucumber companion plants. Cucumber plants are one of the top five vegetables found in a vegetable garden and thrive when planted near beneficial plants. Companion planting is not a new concept, with evidence of its use by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Native to India, the cucumber has been a food source for well over 3000 years. We can thank Columbus for bringing it over to the new world, where it quickly gained popularity in the garden. Even today, gardeners across the world are continually learning better ways to grow cucumbers. Companion planting is a great practice to implement to help you meet your gardening goals.
This guide discusses the best companion plants for cucumbers so you can have a healthy cucumber plant with plenty of vegetables to enjoy during the summer. So let’s look at what companion planting is and what to plant and not to plant in the garden with your cucumbers.
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is when you grow different plants together to maximize the health and efficiency of your vegetable garden. Certain plants grown together will help each other and develop a symbiotic relationship. Each plant has strengths that may improve the life of another plant. Knowing which ones to pair together can take some trial and error to get started.
However, there are tried-and-true companion plants that grow well together. A splendid example of companion planting comes from the indigenous people of the land. They would sow corn, squash, and green beans together to improve the biodiversity of their vegetable garden. The beans would use the corn as a trellis and provide nitrogen to the other plants. The squash would shade the soil and reduce weeds while also keeping away some rodent pests such as raccoons, who would be more drawn to the squash than the other produce. This example can help you to get a feel for the benefits of companion planting in the garden.
Other benefits of companion planting include repelling pests and even trapping pesky insects, or attracting beneficial insects such as pollinators. Like the previous example about beans, a companion plant may be able to pull nitrogen from the air into the soil to help fertilize their plant neighbors. This will also improve the flavor of the vegetables that are eaten later on.
Tall plants can act as a support for plants that need to climb and they can also provide shade to those that don’t thrive in the heat. Low-lying plants are great as ground covers to reduce weeds and to keep the soil moist. You can place fast-growing varieties as a companion plant with slow-growing varieties to use as a row marker so you don’t accidentally double-plant or till them up when hoeing the garden.
Good Cucumber Companion Plants
There are plenty of good companion plants to choose from to place next to your cucumbers in the garden. First, decide what you want to focus on to keep your cucumbers healthy. If you have a specific pest problem, it will help to know what pest you are dealing with (especially if it is the dreaded cucumber beetle or aphids), and then find a plant that deters the pests or attracts beneficial bugs.
There are many flowers that repel pests while simultaneously attracting the insects you want. Some examples are marigolds, calendula, sunflowers, and tansy. If your goal is to attract beneficial insects, use flowers such as nasturtiums, cosmos, and borage. Nasturtiums repel cucumber beetles and thrips because they taste awful to these insects. However, nasturtiums will improve the flavor of the cucumbers and will enjoy the shade provided by the vines.
Flowers like cosmos are a great option near cucumbers to attract parasitic wasps. These beneficial insects provide pest control by ridding your cucumbers of aphids, cucumber beetles, and squash bugs. Buckwheat and cowpeas attract beetle predators that can help reduce the pest numbers in your garden, while pansy, nasturtiums, and radish deter the cucumber beetle.
Cucumber plants are nitrogen feeders, so it is ideal to place legumes nearby such as bush beans, fava beans, pole beans, peas, and lentils to fix nitrogen in the soil. Many of these plants will also shade the soil near your cucumbers to reduce weeds and keep the soil moist within that area of the garden.
Root vegetables seldom compete for the same nutrients as cucumbers because they need different ones to develop. Examples of root vegetables that grow well near cucumbers are carrots, onions, rutabaga, beets, radishes, turnips, and parsnips. Radishes repel the rust fly and beetles, while the cucumber improves the growth of the radishes.
Dill attracts ladybugs and pollinator insects while repelling spider mites. Other herb plants like catnip, oregano, and chives are also other herb options to control insect pests. Summer savory may also reduce the spread of cucumber beetles.
There are a few more garden combinations to mention. You can plant leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce because they will thrive in the shade provided by the cucumbers. Tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers are also good crops as companions. Tomatoes planted as cucumber companion plants are an especially great choice because they both require deep watering and are warm-season garden crops, plus tomatoes can help give a little shade to vines during hotter weather.
Finally, corn and sunflowers both work well as a trellis for cucumber vines as long as you use a small cucumber variety that won’t become too heavy for them. Sunflowers will need to be planted before the cucumbers because the seeds require cooler soil to germinate and you need to allow time for the sunflowers to become large enough to support the fast-growing cucumber vines.
What Not To Plant With Cucumbers
Some plants are best kept away from each other in the vegetable garden because they can compete for nutrients, water, and/or space, which could essentially stunt the growth of either plant. Let’s look at what not to plant near cucumbers.
Melons, squash, and gourd plants attract many of the same pests. Consequently, all vining plants need plenty of space so they won’t compete with nutrients, water, and space. It’s best to place these crops away from one another to prevent insect infestation and to allow plenty of room for them to grow.
It is not a good idea to place one particular member of the nightshade family near your cucumbers: potatoes. Potatoes need plenty of water to survive, so they will compete for soil moisture. When you plant them together with your cucumbers, potatoes have a higher risk of being affected by potato blight. Last, when you harvest your potatoes, there is an increased chance of damaging your cucumber plants.
Avoid planting fennel in the same garden bed because it doesn’t play well with others. It does a great job at reducing weeds, but this means it also inhibits the growth of anything nearby, including the growth of cucumbers. Planting it nearby can draw in beneficial insects, but avoid sharing the soil with your cucumber vines!
Though some herbs are ideal as a companion plant (look in the good companions above for a few ideas), the strong scent of some aromatic herbs will affect the flavor of your cucumbers. Sage is one of the most aromatic herbs that can cause untoward effects. Other savory herbs that shouldn’t be planted in the same garden bed are basil and rosemary. Mint is not only a pungent aromatic, but it also loves to take over an area and competes with other plants.
Plants like brussels sprouts or other related brassicas are best kept away from cucumbers. Brussels sprouts are heavy feeders and like high amounts of water, so they will compete for nutrients, thus affecting the growth of your cucumbers. Other brassicas may be prone to similar conditions, plus may attract insect pests.
On the other end of the spectrum, don’t plant anything that doesn’t prefer a lot of water, since cucumbers love moist garden soil. Drought-tolerant stuff that likes drier conditions should be avoided.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can you plant cucumbers with strawberries?
A: If you want a good yield from your strawberries, then the answer is no. Strawberry plants multiply with runners, so they need plenty of room to spread out in the garden. Since cucumbers are a vining plant, they would compete with strawberries. Also, strawberries prefer full sun and the cucumbers would most likely provide too much shade to your strawberries planted around them, which would affect growth and fruit yield.
Q: How many cucumbers do you get per plant?
A: Depending on the variety, you can expect to get 15-20 cucumbers per plant within the growing season. Pickling varieties will have a slightly higher yield. Providing ideal growing conditions will ensure a good cucumber crop throughout the summer months.