There’s only one reason we plant cucumbers in the garden: We want lots of crunchy, juicy fruits to enjoy! And one of the easiest ways to get the maximum harvest from your cukes is the simple practice of companion planting.
There are lots of options that make excellent cucumber companion plants. Some of my personal favorites include green beans (pole or bush varieties), peppers, nasturtium, and borage- but those aren’t the only good choices out there.
In this post, I’ll cover why companion planting is such an awesome idea (not just for your cucumbers, but for your whole garden!), which plants I recommend and why, and which ones to avoid.
Let’s get started!
- Companion planting in the cucumber patch helps with pest control, improved growth, and efficient use of space.
- Ideal vegetable companions include legumes, dill, corn, peppers, and radishes which provide trellising support & natural protection from pests.
- Flowering plants, like nasturtiums, marigolds, borage, and sunflowers attract beneficial insects.
- Plants that make poor companions for cucumbers include melons, squash, fennel, potatoes, and aromatic herbs.
Understanding Cucumber Companion Planting
Companion planting is taking a strategic and thoughtful approach to garden planning. You’re choosing to place certain plants close together, with the goal of one or both plants benefitting.
In the case of cucumbers, the right companion plants can provide pest control, improved growth, and efficient use of garden space.
- Tall, sturdy plants, like corn or sunflowers, provide support for cucumber vines to wind up and remain upright, keeping fruits off the ground.
- Certain herbs and flowers are especially beneficial for cucumbers, attracting parasitic wasps, ladybugs, lacewings, and spiders that feed on pesky cucumber-eating insects.
- Placing plants that need similar sun exposure, water, and fertilizer close together can streamline your garden chores.
- Growing taller plants in the ground space that vining cucumbers cover lets you grow more plants in limited space.
- Cucumbers are heavy feeders, and some plants actually enrich the soil with nutrients. Growing these plants near your cucumbers makes these nutrients readily available.
By choosing plants that don’t overcrowd, ensuring sufficient fertility in the soil, and providing vining cucumbers with plenty of sunlight, you can achieve a successful companion planting experience.
6 Best Vegetables for Cucumber Companions
Get the most edible production from your cucumber patch by smart planting with other vegetables. Here are the ones I recommend these plants for a healthy and productive garden.
1. Legumes (Beans and Peas)
Legumes, including beans and peas, are a fantastic choice as cucumber companions due to their nitrogen-fixing abilities. Plants in the legume family excrete nitrogen into the soil from their roots, which is one of the key nutrients for preventing yellowing cucumber leaves. Nitrogen is also key for promoting photosynthesis and healthy foliage production.
Pole beans and green beans are excellent for trellising behind cucumbers, allowing the cucumbers to trail in front. Plant peas directly at the time of cucumber transplanting, with 2-inch spaces between pea groups and at least 6 inches of space between peas and neighboring cucumber plants for maximum benefits.
Making dill pickles is one of the main reasons that many home gardeners grow cucumbers in the first place, so it makes sense to grow the two primary ingredients right next to each other. Dill is also a good neighbor to cucumbers thanks to similar care needs: lots of sunshine and plenty of water.
Even if you’re not pickling your cucumber harvest, many gardeners are convinced that dill improves the flavor of fresh cukes. Try it yourself and see if you agree!
Most dill varieties grow very tall and form a deep taproot. So plant your dill about 18-24 inches away from your cucumber’s main vine.
Corn is great for providing natural support for cucumber vines, suppressing weeds, and creating a symbiotic relationship. The benefits of planting corn with cucumbers include:
- The sturdy corn stalks act as a “living tree” for cucumbers to vine up
- The corn canopy forms a dense cover that suppresses weeds
- The corn canopy also shields cucumbers from the summer heat
By planting corn and cucumbers together, you can maximize the growth and health of both plants.
When planting cucumbers with corn:
- Place cucumber seeds 12 inches apart
- Plant them directly adjacent to corn rows or between them
- Opt for smaller cucumber varieties to ensure the corn stalks stay upright under the weight of the growing fruit.
Peppers are very similar to cucumbers in many ways:
They love a full-sun location with well-draining soil, and they need lots of water and fertilizer. In other words, anywhere you can grow a cucumber, a pepper plant of some type will also thrive.
Peppers are an especially good choice to plant with vining cucumber varieties. That’s because creeping cucumbers tend to stay lower to the ground while peppers are more upright. This balance lets you squeeze more plants in a smaller space, and take care of them all at the same time, too.
Onions are ideal for planting with cucumbers thanks to their small root system that doesn’t compete too much with cucumber roots.
Also, since onions have a strong fragrance, they’re a natural repellent to many pests that might attack your cukes.
Radishes are an excellent companion plant for cucumbers because:
- They have a rapid maturation, which means you can harvest them before the cucumbers start to take up too much space.
- They can repel cucumber beetles, which are a common pest for cucumbers.
- Their compact root systems do not compete for space or nutrients.
Growing radishes alongside cucumbers can help protect your garden from destructive pests and ensure a healthy cucumber crop.
Plant radish seeds 6 inches away from newly transplanted cucumber plants for optimal results, leaving 4-6 inches between each radish seed. Radishes are ready for harvest when they reach their mature size, which typically occurs quickly during the growing season.
4 Best Flowering Cucumber Companion Plants
Flowering companion plants do more than just add beauty and color to your garden. Marigolds, nasturtium, borage, and sunflowers are some of the best flower companions for cucumbers- let’s take a look at why that’s so.
Nasturtiums are one of my favorite companion plants of all, for a few reasons.
First, they’re absolutely beautiful and edible.
Besides that, nasturtiums act as a trap crop for garden pests. What that means is harmful insects are attracted to and will eat the nasturtium plants, so the pests are more likely to leave your cucumbers alone.
Finally, thanks to their bright blooms, nasturtiums also attract beneficial insects to your garden.
Plant nasturtium seeds outdoors in the spring after the last frost has passed, ensuring they have enough space to grow and spread. Nasturtiums are low-maintenance plants that can tolerate partial shade, making them an excellent choice for growing along with cucumbers.
Marigolds are another excellent flower companion for cucumbers. They help deter pests like aphids and cucumber beetles with their strong scent, and they secrete a compound from their roots that deters root nematodes.
Marigolds also attract pollinators and beneficial predators, like ladybugs.
Plant marigolds throughout your garden, spacing them evenly among your cucumber plants to maximize their pest-deterring properties. The strong scent of marigolds acts as a natural bug spray, protecting your cucumbers from harmful insects.
Borage is another nearly-universal companion plant. It produces delicate, star-shaped blossoms in the prettiest shade of blue-purple, so it definitely adds a lovely color to the garden.
But the real benefit is that pollinators love borage flowers, and planting it near your cucumbers boosts your chances of cucumber blossoms getting pollinated too.
Plant borage about 12 inches away from the main cucumber vine if you’re planting in the ground. if you’re growing cucumbers in a pot, you can plant borage in a separate 10-12 inch pot next to your cucumber.
Sunflowers provide natural trellises for cucumbers and attract pollinators, making them a valuable addition to a cucumber garden. Choose a smaller variety to prevent stalk collapse under the weight of cucumber vines and avoid overly shading your cukes.
Spacing for your sunflowers depends on the variety you choose, but make sure to plant them behind your cucumbers. This makes it easier to train the cucumber vines upward on the sunflower stalks.
Worst Cucumber Companion Plants
While many plants can benefit cucumbers, some should be avoided to ensure a healthy and bountiful harvest. Most of the problems arise from these plants competing with cucumbers for resources, sharing diseases, or negatively impacting growth and flavor.
Let’s look at the plants that you should grow on the other side of the garden from your cukes.
1. Melons and Squash
Like cucumbers, melons and squash are members of the large cucurbit plant family. Since they’re close relatives, melons/squash may share pests and diseases with cucumbers, putting your garden at risk for infestations and crop loss.
Fennel is a delicious and versatile herb in the kitchen, but it deserves its own secluded spot in the garden.
Fennel’s root system excretes compounds that are toxic to other plants, which inhibit their growth and may even kill them outright. Not only does fennel not get along with cucumbers, it pretty much doesn’t get along with any garden plant- the only exception I’m aware of is dill.
Potatoes are heavy feeders that compete with cucumbers for water and nutrients, making them poor companions that can suck the life right out of your cucumbers. What’s more, potatoes can share diseases or pests with cucumbers, putting your entire garden at risk.
These are plants like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. The main problem with brassicas near cucumbers is that both types of plants tend to get pretty large, so they’ll crowd each other out in terms of soil and sun. Also, both cucumbers and brassicas are heavy feeders, so they’ll compete for nutrients and water.
5. Aromatic Herbs
Aromatic herbs like sage, mint, and basil can negatively affect cucumber growth and flavor, so don’t plant them near cucumbers. The strong scent of these herbs can overpower the delicate flavor of cucumbers and even stunt their growth.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cucumber Companion Plants
I hope this post has helped you see that choosing the right cucumber companion plants isn’t hard- there are many to pick from!
My personal favorites would have to be nasturtiums, beans, and borage. But I recommend basing your choices on issues you’d like to deal with naturally. For example, if you’ve had pest problems before, choose a companion that’s a stellar repeller. And if you think you could use a nitrogen boost, choose a legume.
You might just end up with more cucumbers than you know what to do with!
I’d love to hear from you! Are there any veggies/flowers that you’ve found that make good neighbors for cucumber plants? Or do you have any other questions I didn’t address? There’s no better way to learn than from each other, so please share your thoughts in the comments!