Your Squashes’ Best Friends

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Begin the harvest early with this mix of baby pattypans!

Squash definitely wins the popularity contest in the vegetable garden! Whether you choose a bushy summer variety or a vining winter type, squash has a crowd of friends eager to attract beneficials and keep pests at bay. Beginning with the Three Sisters, it welcomes just about all neighbors, and has a special affinity with a wide range of other vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

The Three Sisters Planting

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Even if your garden is space-challenged, compact Gold Rush Zucchini will make itself at home and fruit generously. The blossoms are delicious, too!

Much has been written about this ancient Native American system of companion planting, and we are delighted to report that it justifies all of the hype. Corn, beans, and squash are perfect companions in the vegetable garden, helping one another to grow better. The role of squash (particularly vining winter types such as pumpkin) in this trio is to provide a lush, leafy groundcover that keeps weeds at bay, helps stabilize soil temperatures, and deters pests with its thorny, scratchy stems. You can’t grow wrong planting squash around your corn (which provides shade for the young fruit) and beans (which uses the cornstalk as a climbing support while fixing nitrogen, which squash craves, in the soil).

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Patricia is a French breakfast radish with fabulous flavor, early maturity, and dense above-ground growth. Let some of these plants go to seed for maximum pest deterrence.

Radish

Squash seeds like to be direct-sown when the soil has warmed up in spring, and this makes them the perfect companion for your early crop of radishes. Radish is a pest deterrent, keeping cucumber beetles at bay, but it works best when it has gone to flower. Unfortunately, this means you may have to sacrifice a few radish roots to the cause of pest prevention on the squash crop! Good thing radish seeds are sold by the many hundred per packet . . .

Covered with bees all summer long, borage is your vegetable garden's best friend.

Covered with bees all summer long, borage is your vegetable garden’s best friend.

Borage

A superstar in the squash patch, borage both attracts good bugs and repels the bad! (And its beautiful blue flowers don’t do any harm, either!) This herb brings bees on the wing to help pollinate the squash, and helps deter hornworms and cabbage worms. It is even claimed to improve the growth of squash plants.

Dill

A powerhouse against squash bugs, dill belongs front and center in the squash garden! Catnip and tansy are also good at fighting off this pest.

So much more than just a pretty face, creeping thyme is a protector of young vegetable plants!

So much more than just a pretty face, creeping thyme is a protector of young vegetable plants!

Basil, Thyme, and Oregano

Highly fragrant, these herbs all keep pests confused and at a distance. If you are growing summer squash, surround the plants with creeping thyme.

Nasturtium

Any nasturtium will do the trick. We love the old favorite Jewel of Africa, currently on sale and so beautiful. (The blooms are edible, by the way!)

Any nasturtium will do the trick. We love the old favorite Jewel of Africa, easy to grow and so beautiful. (The blooms are edible, by the way!)

A friend to nearly all vegetables, nasturtiums are special protectors to squash. Not only do they deter an array of pests from aphids to squash bugs, but studies have shown that they can improve the flavor the squash fruit. If possible, let the nasturtiums get a good head start on the squash (starting the seeds indoors and transplanting, if you can), because they are at their pest-fighting peak when flowering.

Calendula

Another must-have in any vegetable garden, Pot Marigold attracts beneficials and can repel nibbling beetles.

Gorgeous new Alumia mix is a splendid addition to the vegetable patch, but any French, African, or New World variety will do!

Gorgeous new Alumia mix is a splendid addition to the vegetable patch, but any French, African, or New World variety will do!

Marigold

The distinctive odor of marigolds can keep beetles away from the squash. It is also a big nematode killer in the vegetable garden, so be sure to chop up and work the plants back into the soil at season’s end.

Blooming earlier than most other flowering plants, Sweet Alyssum gives you a head start on repelling pests in the veggie patch.

Blooming earlier than most other flowering plants, Sweet Alyssum gives you a head start on repelling pests in the veggie patch.

Sweet Alyssum

Early-blooming and strongly scented, this lovely flowering plant can keep pests confused while the young squash plants grow.

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In other words, you can and should plant a wide variety of companions among your squash plants! Only one crop is detrimental, and a few others can have long-term consequences, though it’s certainly stretching a point to call them “enemies.” Find out what these are next time!

About Sappho Charney

Sappho Charney is a garden writer living in Lubbock, Texas.

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