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
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).
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
Another must-have in any vegetable garden, Pot Marigold attracts beneficials and can repel nibbling beetles.
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.
Early-blooming and strongly scented, this lovely flowering plant can keep pests confused while the young squash plants grow.
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!