Who doesn’t love cucumbers? Juicy and crunchy as they are, cucumbers are perfect for your salads, yogurts, pickles, and many other side dishes. Additionally, your sandwiches and burgers are never complete without these. Cucumbers are a respite during scorching summer days.
Originally a fruit, cucumber is treated like a vegetable. Scientifically known as Cucumis sativus, cucumber is grown throughout the year. Initially found in India, cucumbers are now available worldwide.
What is so special about cucumbers? Well, apart from adding an extra taste to your dish, they come with a whole load of health benefits. And the best part is that they are easily available in most places and many people prefer to plant cucumbers.
Have you ever thought about what you can do to grow healthy cucumbers? Well, you might be a little surprised here, but cucumbers are quite compatible with other vegetables. This concept is known as companion planting.
For successfully starting your cucumber companion planting journey, you need to know the best companion plants for cucumbers to start off with. To know more about best companion plants for cucumbers, their benefits, bad companion plants for cucumbers and more, read on.
Table of Contents
- What Is Companion Planting?
- Best companion plants for cucumbers
- Companion plants for cucumbers in containers
- Are tomatoes good companions for cucumbers?
- Can cucumbers and peppers be placed alongside each other?
- Companion plants for cucumbers and squash
- Bad companion plants for cucumbers
- Benefits of Companion Planting
- Cucumber Plant Varieties
What Is Companion Planting?
As the name suggests, companion plants are quite helpful considering the quality of the yields. Just as we look upon our ‘companions’ for support, plants also require companions for better and natural growth and to keep pests at bay. Companion planting involves putting those breeds together that sync with each other pretty well.
Deciding on companion plants is not as simple as it may sound. A lot of thought process goes into planning this out carefully to ensure maximum growth and minimum damage. Companion plants foster each other’s growth. Hence, while zeroing down on the best companions for plants, one needs to check that they do not hinder each other’s growth.
Gardeners usually have a checklist on their minds before they go in for companion planting. For instance, you may choose to put plants having different nutritional requirements from the soil beside each other. This way, both plants will get their share of nutrients, helping them grow well. You can also place plants having different growth patterns next to each other. This way, there is a very minute chance of them obstructing the other’s growth pattern. For instance, you cannot place two plants demanding equal amounts of sunlight or water.
Another important factor here is that you need to figure out how these plants can help each other by repelling pests and insects. This way, you can also reduce your pesticide usage, thereby promoting natural and healthy growth in your garden. All fruits and vegetables that thrive out of companion planting would be organic and pesticide-free, or with minimum medicines. You are allowing mother nature to take over artificial protection methods in your garden.
If you own a small garden and wish to engage in companion planting, careful planning and structuring may be required to optimize the space available. Companion planting, when done carefully, gives excellent results.
However, don’t think that you are bound to get a nutritive output if you simply invest in companion planting and then leave it as it is. These plants require a lot of love and attention in the form of regular watering, cleaning and maintaining your garden, using appropriate and good-quality fertilizers, clearing out weeds regularly, and many more.
There are certain situations too which are not in our control like adverse weather conditions. Do not be disheartened if your plants get spoiled due to a lack of sunlight or non-stop rains. You can always sow them again.
Best companion plants for cucumbers
Cucumbers might be a very simple vegetable to use in your salads and burgers, however, it is quite challenging to grow them in your garden. It is difficult to grow and maintain them in cool and moist weather conditions. The biggest threat to them is from cucumber beetles, which eat up the vegetable completely and are a root cause of bacterial wilt. Then there is the cucumber mosaic virus that gives out pale and unhealthy cucumbers. Powdery mildew is also common amongst cucumber plants.
Cucumbers when cultivated properly are ready to harvest anytime between 50 to 70 days. All you need is proper and careful planning and lots of love and care for your plants. Cucumber companion planting is one such option wherein you can invest in healthy and organic cucumbers.
Which plants could be the best companions for cucumbers? One may think that species from the same family serve as the best companions. However, this is not true at least in the case of cucumbers. You would be surprised to know that melon, belonging to the same family as cucumber, acts as a very poor companion. Gardeners advise not to plant these two anywhere close by. So what are the good companion plants for cucumbers? There are a few vegetable plants, flowers, and herbs that are good cucumber companions. Let us read on to know more.
1. Corn and Sunflower
Well, if you remember, we did mention earlier that cucumbers grow well on trellises. If you are intending on finding a good companion for your vining cucumbers, then corn stalks are the best. Corn stalks act as real-time trellises for cucumbers, which helps them in their growth. The same goes for sunflowers too. Sunflowers can also support vining cucumbers.
However, keep in mind that corn and sunflower plants are delicate and may not bear the weight of heavy cucumbers. Choose to grow light-weighted ones like pickling cucumbers, or else your corn, sunflower, and cucumber plants could get ruined.
For an entire week, cucumbers consume an inch of water else they can turn bitter and get damaged. In contrast, both sunflowers and corn do not require too much water, hence it won’t obstruct the water requirements of cucumber.
Corn and sunflowers boost nitrogen content in the soil, making it more fertile. This is what exactly cucumbers need.
Just like corn stalks are good for cucumbers, the latter too favors the former. Cucumbers protect the roots of the corn plant from adverse weather conditions. It also helps in retaining moisture within the soil, which is beneficial for corn. Cucumber also prevents the spurt of weeds.
However, corn and sunflower may not be the best companions for bush cucumbers. Unlike vining cucumbers, bush cucumbers are not dependent on trellises for their growth and productivity. On the contrary, they require sunlight, which even sunflowers and corn plants do. Hence, they might end up hindering each other to obtain sunlight.
Not all insects are harmful to your plants. Some of them are quite useful too. Dill is a herb loaded with a lovely fragrance that can draw useful insects which aid in pollination, thereby improving the health of other plants as well.
Hence, Dill is a must in every home garden. These useful insects also help in trimming down pests that tend to attack plants and spoil them. Dill, when planted beside cucumber plants can improve their flavor too, thanks to its aromatic nature. It features in the likes of many gardeners as well. However, all aromatic herbs may not be good companions for cucumbers.
Celery is often considered to be a good companion for cabbage as it repels cabbage butterflies. It can also be placed beside cucumber plants. There is no special benefit of placing celery besides cucumber plants. However, there is no harm either.
You can consider the celery-cucumber pair to be beneficial for optimizing your garden space. Additionally, celery goes well with dill herbs that are good companions for cucumbers as stated above.
Like celery, lettuce also establishes a neutral relationship with cucumbers- neither any advantages or disadvantages. Lettuces are good companions to root veggies like carrots and radishes which in turn are good companion plants for cucumbers.
You will get to know more about this further down in the article.
5. Peas, beans, and lentils
Similar to corn and sunflower, beans, peas, and lentils act as good companions for cucumbers since they are nitrogen boosters. With a good nitrogen content, your cucumber plant will undoubtedly be healthy.
Marigolds ensure your garden is not attacked by pests. They even help in driving away insects like aphids and beetles, which are commonly known to attack cucumber plants.
Nasturtiums feature in every vegetable gardener’s list. Not only are they beautiful and add that lovely look to your garden, but they also invite aphids.
This way, your cucumber and other vegetable plants are safe. You may find aphid colonies on your nasturtium stems, however, your vegetable plants will be spared from aphid attacks.
8. Carrots, Radishes, Parsnips, Onions, Beetroots, and Turnips
These root vegetables are preferred next to cucumber plants as they do not invade each other’s space. The cucumber plant consists of a single taproot that can go down up to twelve inches. Apart from the taproot, it has a few thin roots which hardly take up any place.
On the contrary, root vegetables like carrots, radishes, parsnips, turnips, and onions spread far underneath the soil, thereby utilizing the soil nutrients to the maximum. Also, radishes keep cucumber beetles at bay. Expect a good cucumber crop in your garden if you have these root vegetable plants nearby.
Just like dill, oregano is also a herb that serves as a good companion plant for cucumbers. Oregano fends off unwanted pests in your garden.
Chives are another herb with an onion-like aroma that keeps cucumber beetles away. Plant chives beside your cucumber plants to protect them from these pests.
Companion plants for cucumbers in containers
Now we know that vining cucumbers require trellises to grow well. However, the same thing cannot be said about bush cucumbers. Bush cucumber plants grow about two to three feet in length and can come out quite well in pots or containers.
The container should be big enough to accommodate other herbs alongside cucumbers. Even the soil is a little different here. You cannot use your garden soil for putting cucumbers in containers. You have to combine potting soil and compost in equal proportions to get those perfect cucumbers growing inside the container.
There are various kinds of containers that can be used for planting cucumbers. They are placed in either huge containers or hanging baskets, depending on what variety you want to grow within them.
Let us have a look at some of the cucumber types that grow well in containers.
- Pick A Bushel: The Pick A Bushel cucumbers grow about 3 to 5 inches in length and are ideal to be placed in containers. These plants grow not beyond 2 inches in length. At the time of harvest, these cucumbers measure about 3 to 5 inches in length. They can be placed along with herbs like Dill, oregano, or even vegetable plants. However, ensure you have a big container to put other plants besides cucumber within the pot.
- Salad Bush: People having small gardens or wishing to plant cucumbers in containers pick this variety. This plant can grow up to 2 inches in length. The Salad Bush cucumber can grow up to 8 inches long.
- Parisian Gherkin: The Parisian Gherkin plants produce lots of small-sized cucumbers that are quite tasty and can be eaten either raw or pickled. The Parisian Gherkin cucumbers come with a mild sweet taste.
- Spacemaster: Spacemaster is again another popular cucumber plant that produces about 8-inch long cucumbers. These fruits spring up quite fast and are appropriate to be planted in pots. You can also put them in hanging baskets.
To prevent your cucumbers from aphid attacks and cucumber beetles, you can plant nasturtiums or herbs like oregano along with these cucumber plants. Although most bush cucumber plant varieties spread out to a maximum of two to three inches in length, you can choose to put them over a trellis too. In such situations, you can plant cucumbers along with corn. If you are looking for some best companion plants for cucumbers in containers, you can go with any of these.
Are tomatoes good companions for cucumbers?
Just like cucumbers, tomatoes too tend to grow on vines. Both of them tend to grow likewise and thus, they also need similar elements in equal quantities for their growth. Hence, they can be put beside each other so that both of their requirements can be fulfilled simultaneously.
Now, the next question that arises in our mind is, how close can you place cucumbers and tomatoes? It is very important to understand that both cucumbers and tomatoes are vining plants. Moreover, their nutritional requirements are also similar. Hence, you cannot place these two plants very close to each other since they could compete for space and sunlight.
Space tomatoes and cucumbers at least 18 to 24 inches apart. Leave sufficient spacing such that they do not invade each other’s territories. This way, you can ensure that both cucumbers and tomatoes receive their share of nutrients and grow well together.
Can cucumbers and peppers be placed alongside each other?
Just like tomatoes, peppers also require a similar growing environment to cucumbers. Peppers are bush-type plants. Vining cucumbers can be put close to peppers, however, the same thing cannot be said about bush cucumbers as there could be a lack of space. You can place vining cucumbers on a trellis and place peppers ahead such that they do not come in each other’s way. This way, both cucumbers and peppers tend to grow well.
Companion plants for cucumbers and squash
Cucumbers and squash belong to the cucurbit family. The companion plants listed above for cucumbers are also good companions for cucumbers and squash. Let us go through the companion plants for both cucumbers and squash.
- Three sisters: During the earlier times, Americans used to plant corn, beans or peas, and cucumbers or squash all in a single place. The combination of all these three plants is referred to as the ‘Three Sisters.’ Each of these plants acts like a very good companion to the other two. However, the placement of the Three Sisters needs to be done in a certain way.
You have to place the corn plant at the center. Surrounding this, you can either put beans or peas plants. Both peas and beans are responsible for boosting the nitrogen content within the soil. Place cucumbers and squash outside peas and beans.
- Icicle radishes: These are very good companions of cucumbers and squash. Not only are these tasty, but they also help in driving away nasty pests like cucumber beetles and squash bugs.
- Nasturtiums: As Nasturtium flowers are known for repelling aphids, they act as good companions for squash also along with cucumbers.
Bad companion plants for cucumbers
We have seen which plants act as good companions to cucumbers. Just like we tend to fall in ‘bad company, the same goes true for plants too. If cucumbers can have good companions, there are some bad ones too. Let us have a look at some bad companion plants for cucumbers and why they should be kept away from them.
Despite being part of the same family, you cannot place melons alongside cucumbers. Insects that feed on melons tend to feed on cucumbers as well. Placing melons and cucumbers together is like inviting all insects for a huge feast in your garden. Neither your cucumbers nor melons will turn out to be good and your crops would be a huge waste. Melons are good companion plants for kale, carrot, cauliflower, lettuce, okra, Brussel sprouts, etc.
Like cucumbers, potatoes have a high water demand. Hence both plants would always be in a quest to fetch the same kind of nutrients, which they will find difficult to obtain when placed next to each other. Potatoes are also at a high risk of contracting the blight disease when placed next to cucumbers. For best results, keep these two as far as possible from each other.
3. Aromatic herbs
Dill and oregano are among the few exceptional herbs that are good companion plants for cucumbers. Apart from these, most species from this family are a strict no-no to be placed besides cucumbers. Let us have a look at these herbs and why they are bad companion plants for cucumbers.
Sage has a very strong aroma. Cucumber, which is mostly composed of water, is very likely to get affected by its strong flavor. Don’t be surprised if you find a different flavor coming from your cucumbers. Sage also restricts the growth of cucumbers. Hence it is best to keep both these apart as much as possible.
- Peppermint and Spearmint
Peppermint and spearmint do not restrict themselves within their boundaries. They tend to encroach into other plant areas and obstruct their growth. They are a bad choice of companions even if you have planted your cucumbers in a pot. Additionally, like sage, mint exhibits a strong flavor which is not good for cucumbers.
Avoid placing basil beside your cucumber plant. Like all other herbs, this also affects the taste of cucumbers. Basil can be a good companion for tomatoes but not for cucumbers.
Fennel is a bad companion plant to most vegetable plants and cucumber holds no exception here. While on one hand, fennel does invite a few useful insects to your garden, it ruins other plants, sometimes destroying them altogether. If you have a vegetable garden, avoid putting fennel in there.
Brassicas and cucumbers are known to have an on-and-off relationship. While some gardeners feel that having brassicas beside your cucumbers can flourish that latter’s growth, both of them require water in huge amounts. Both will be pitted against each other for water and other important necessities, thereby obstructing each other’s growth.
Some other not-so-good companion plants for cucumbers from this family include Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and so on. Interestingly, all these form good companion plants for potatoes. And we all have already seen the relationship between cucumbers and potatoes.
Read more: Can you feed your dog cashews?
Benefits of Companion Planting
We have seen good companion plants for cucumbers. We have also seen bad companion plants for cucumbers. We now know how companion planting improves the overall growth quality, increases soil fertility, helps attract pollinators, and at the same time keeps unwanted pests away. We also know why we should not select certain plants as companions for cucumbers.
Let us see some benefits of companion planting for cucumbers in detail.
- Repel pests: This is by far, the most important reason for inculcating companion planting. Companion plants omit your garden from unwanted pests and insects. Your vegetables and fruits will be spared from pest attacks and you can enjoy eating them when they harvest.
Flowers like nasturtiums, marigolds, and tansy that are abundantly fragrant prevent your cucumbers from falling prey to aphid attacks, cucumber beetles, various other bugs, and even ants.
- Invite useful insects into your garden: Don’t be under the impression that all kinds of insects are sworn enemies of your plants. Not at all. There are some of them which are quite useful for your garden and will help your plants bloom out.
Just as there is a way to balance things, probably, this is mother nature’s way of striking a balance. Insects like ladybugs, spiders, lacewings, and parasitic wasps love to feast on all those unwanted pests that could prevent your cucumber from growing well.
- Help each other grow and flourish: Companion plants help each other to grow well and flourish. They will not come in each other’s way or block each other for anything, whether it is water, sunlight, soil, or even space. When they won’t hinder each other, expect them to be healthy.
When you have the right companion plants for cucumbers, be assured that they will turn out to be healthy.
- Invite pollinators: Cucumbers thrive on pollinators to come up in large quantities as pollinated flowers produce these fruits. However, some external help is required for these flowers to invite bees in huge quantities and that is fulfilled by other colorful flowers like nasturtiums and marigolds.
These flowers invite pollinators like bees to the garden. Having pollinators visiting your garden is a plus point. Plus your garden looks colorful, thanks to the beauty of these flowers!!!
- Boost soil quality: Root vegetables like carrots, beets, radishes, and onions impart a lot of value addition to your garden soil by increasing nitrogen content within. And these are also good companions to your cucumbers.
What more can you ask for other than nutrient-rich soil for your garden?
- Ground protection: Herbs like oregano grow close to the ground, forming a protective ground cover. This will ensure that your soil is protected from sunlight, thereby maintaining its temperature for plants demanding cooler temperatures.
The soil also retains the required moisture, thanks to the protection offered by these plants. Moreover, these kinds of plants are known to maintain and control weed growth.
- Protective shade cover: Taller and denser plants provide a protective shade cover for smaller plants. This becomes ideal for those plants that are sensitive to too much sunlight.
- Natural trellis: Some cucumber companion plants act as a natural trellis. Corn is one such plant that serves as a good companion to cucumber apart from providing it with a natural trellis. We all know how well cucumbers support themselves on trellises.
Corn stalks serve as a natural trellis for cucumber plants and prevent their fruits from getting spoiled and rotten.
- Space optimization: Companion planting, when planned carefully, optimizes the space around your garden. Although it requires a lot of planning and careful thinking to reap maximum benefits, the results are quite fruitful in the end.
You can plant many varieties of companion plants in that small compact garden of yours and see the results yourself.
Cucumber Plant Varieties
Cucumber plants come in two variations — vining cucumbers and bush cucumbers. Vining cucumbers are more popular and grow on thick vines that are shielded by big-sized leaves. With appropriate attention and care, these vines can produce good quality cucumbers in huge quantities and in a short duration. Vining cucumbers tend to grow pretty well on fences and trellises. Since they do not come in contact with the soil at any point in time, cucumbers from these vines are quite clean.
Some vining cucumber varieties are as follows:
- Lemon: This one is a popular vining cucumber plant that can grow up to 8 feet in length. Many cucumbers spring up on this plant. Lemon cucumbers are ready for harvest when they turn pale green or even light yellow. Moreover, bright yellow cucumbers have lots of seeds in them and they are much riper than required.
- Diva: Diva ranked number one during the All-America Selections. This one can grow when planted within pots or even garden beds. The vines measure about 5 to 6 feet in length on average. The crops of this plant pop up without pollination. This characteristic is quite useful for plants within a greenhouse or a polytunnel. Harvesting should be done when the fruit grows about 7-inches in length.
- Picolino: Picolino vines measure just about 5 feet in length. These plants are quite tough health-wise and they rarely contract any disease. The external surface of the fruit looks quite shiny, glossy, and dark green. The best time to harvest this arrives when the cucumber grows to about 5 inches in length. Plant this in your garden just in time before summer to enjoy feasting on these delicious mini cucumbers.
- Suyo Long: As the name itself suggests, these cucumbers are structurally slim and grow up to 15-inches long!!! It is unique in taste because it gives out a sweet flavor. The vines of this plant can grow up to seven feet in length. It also provides the necessary support required. Many people love to have these plants in their home gardens.
Bush cucumbers grow quite well in a pot. People prefer to grow these types of cucumbers in their gardens. The containers are made of plastic, fabric, wood, or metal. You can even choose to plant bush cucumbers within a pot or five-gallon buckets, half-barrels, or wine containers. Further down this article, the varieties of bush cucumber are mentioned in detail. Read on to know more.
Now we know the concept of companion planting and why cucumbers require them. We have also seen which are the good companion and bad companion plants for cucumbers and how we need to take care while planting cucumbers. We also know the benefits of companion planting, and how they help in one another’s growth.
Just go about carefully when deciding on the best companion plants for your cucumbers while optimizing your space. And don’t get disheartened if you do not get satisfactory results in one go. Some factors are simply beyond our control. You will surely be munching on those crunchy and tasty cucumbers from your garden when you follow the right methods and a little luck is there on your side. Happy gardening!