Useful in the garden from root to tip, beans like this elegant Romano are a must-have!

Useful in the garden from root to tip, beans like this elegant Romano are a must-have!

Good old beans! As a legume, they are one of the stars of the garden, fixing nitrogen in the soil so that every plant grows better. A hero to all, they are as useful after they have been plowed back into the soil as they are when they bear those delicious edible seeds.

But while the beans are helping improve the soil, who’s helping improve the beans? Let’s look at some of their best garden buddies.

Together, potatoes and beans battle garden pests! And varieties like Sangre thrive even in smaller garden spaces.

Together, potatoes and beans battle garden pests! And varieties like Sangre thrive even in smaller spaces.

Potatoes

Potatoes and beans have a symbiotic relationship: together, they help each other to be stronger. They do this by deterring Mexican bean beetles and Colorado potato beetles, two of their biggest garden foes. If you have space at all, put in a few potatoes around your beans!

The classic Howden pumpkin is a fabulous squash for dense foliage cover!

The classic Howden pumpkin is a fabulous squash for dense foliage cover!

Corn and Squash

Yes, we are talking the Three Sisters Planting: beans, corn, and squash. This ancient companion planting system was taught to European settlers by the native peoples of the New World, and it is still among the most effective. The tall corn stalks serve as supports for the pole beans, while the squash vines cover the ground, smothering weeds and keeping the soil evenly moist. And as we all know, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil for other plants to use.

Turns out that sunflowers aren't nice to pole beans. They do better around bush beans or elsewhere in the garden.

Turns out that sunflowers aren’t nice to pole beans. They do better around bush beans or elsewhere in the garden.

By the way, if you want to grow the Fourth Sister, Sunflower, be sure to do so only if you are planting bush beans without either potatoes or pole beans nearby. Sunflowers release a chemical compound that can stunt their growth.

Carrot and Radish

These two root vegetables are good friends to beans, but their affection is unreturned. Use them as helpers in the bean patch, but plant them elsewhere for best crops of their own.

By attracting aphids away from the bean plants and onto its own foliage, nasturtium is a true friend.

By attracting aphids away from the bean plants and onto its own foliage, nasturtium is a true friend.

Nasturtium

This beautiful flowering plant is perhaps the noblest friend the bean has, because it sacrifices itself for its garden neighbor! Nasturtium is a trap crop: it will attract most of the destructive aphids that would otherwise feast on your bean plants. So while your nasturtium may look pretty ratty by midseason, the beans ought to be leafing out, blooming, and setting seed beautifully!

Select Herbs

Need an excuse to grow gorgeous, fragrant summer savory? Blame it on the beans!

Need an excuse to grow gorgeous, fragrant summer savory? Blame it on the beans!

Beans have many herb buddies, from basil and dill to catnip and savory. Their strongly fragrant foliage discourages potential pests from getting too close, and they cover ground nicely around the beans, keeping weeds at bay.

Teeming with rhizobia bacteria that help bean plants fix nitrogen in the soil, this humble product is one of the best things you can do for your garden!

Teeming with rhizobia bacteria that help bean plants fix nitrogen, this humble product is one of the best things you can do for your soil!

Nature’s Aid

The very best friend of beans isn’t a plant at all. It’s an inoculant that you sprinkle over the bean seeds at planting time, releasing millions of beneficial bacteria into the soil to help the beans fix nitrogen. (Use it with peas, too.) All your garden plants will thank you!


The bean is such a garden helper, how could it have any enemies? Find out next time!

About Sappho Charney

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

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