Zucchini or summer squash is a wonderful addition to a summer vegetable garden. It’s a plant that is relatively easy to grow without a lot of challenges along away with one exception: Pests! Pests are drawn to zucchini and will cause damage to the plants if not taken care of quickly, but there are companion plants for zucchini that will act as a pest barrier. There are even some plants that can help improve the taste, health, and soil conditions.
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THE BEST ZUCCHINI COMPANION PLANTS
Companion planting is a natural way to help your garden grow to its fullest potential. By choosing the right companions for your vegetable garden you can add a whole host of benefits for your veggies, from repelling garden pests to improving the flavor of your veggies.
The best companion plants for zucchini are beneficial plants that encourage healthy growth and discourage pests and diseases. Here are the best companion plants for your zucchini crop:
BEANS & PEAS
Bush beans, pole beans, and peas make good companion plants for zucchini, because they introduce nitrogen into the soil, providing much-needed food for the zucchini. Other plants in the legume family may also be planted alongside your zucchini.
Zucchini can be planted a few inches from the base of your legume trellises, leaving enough room for both the bean and zucchini plants to grow.
Planting corn, beans, and squash together are known as the three sisters gardening method, which indigenous peoples of North America created over 3500 years ago. The planting method forms a mutually beneficial relationship all around.
Tall stalks of corn will give vining plants like zucchini a place to trellis themselves.
The zucchini plants shade the ground with its large leaves. Those broad big leaves help cool the soil and retain moisture. The boisterous growth of the zucchini plant will also help shade out weeds.
Corn and zucchini also enjoy the same type of growing conditions.
Squash bugs, squash vine borers, cucumber beetles, and aphids are all repelled by radishes. By planting a few radishes around the edge of your garden bed, you can stop them in their tracks.
Garlic will protect the zucchini crop from aphids. Aphids feed on the sap from the underside of leaves, stunting the growth of your plants, resulting in fewer and smaller zucchini.
Learn More: Garlic is a wonderful companion plant, deterring all sorts of pests from your garden. Check out this article on the plants that most benefit from being planted with garlic.
Fragrant herbs such as oregano, mint, lemon balm, parsley, catnip, marjoram, and borage help repel insect invaders. It’s a good idea to add at least one of these herbaceous plants to your zucchini.
Borage will also put calcium back into the soil, which benefits your zucchini plants. Bees also LOVE borage!
Mint is also said to enhance the flavor of zucchinis.
Flowering herbs can also attract pollinators and beneficial insects like ladybugs, parasitic wasps, lacewings, and garden beetles that feed on pests.
Learn More: Check out these guides on our favorite beneficial herbs:
Nasturtiums are among the best zucchini companion plants for several reasons:
“Beauty” isn’t always listed as a benefit for companion plants, but I just love how nasturtiums look twisting around the ground with the zucchini leaves. The colorful flowers also help to attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies to your garden.
Nasturtium vines growing on top of the soil also help provide shade, preventing moisture loss and acting as mulch.
Flea beetles and cabbage moths are attracted to nasturtiums, which helps keep them off your other vegetables, acting as a ‘trap crop’.
Like Nasturtiums, Marigold’s bright brilliant flowers and abundant food sources attract beneficial insects like bees to the garden.
Marigolds also attract parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and hoverflies which feed on many insect pests that can affect your zucchini plants.
Marigolds’ strong smell can act as pest control for pests such as flea beetles and deter squash vine borers, and squash bugs, making them an excellent companion plant.
Learn More: Check out this full guide to companion planting with Marigolds.
THE WORST Zucchini COMPANION PLANTS
Like any vegetable, there are some plants that you should not plant near your zucchini plants. The following plants will compete with nutrients or help spread diseases among your zucchini:
SWEET POTATOES & POtatoes
Potatoes do not make good zucchini companion plants. Potatoes are heavy feeders and will compete with zucchini for nutrients and water. The competition of nutrients can cause the stunted growth of both the squash and the potatoes.
Learn More: For a list of what CAN be planted with sweet potatoes, check out our article on companion plants for sweet potatoes.
PUMPKINS, SQUASH, AND CUCUMBERS
Pumpkins and squash plants are also heavy feeders that will compete for nutrients. Squash and pumpkins also share similar pests and diseases like powdery mildew. For the garden’s health, it is better to diversify planting to help reduce pest and disease spread.
Squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers all take up a considerable amount of garden space during the growing season. It’s easy to save precious garden space if you plant smaller, more suited, companion plants alongside your zucchini.
All of these plants also share the same garden pests; planting them together will encourage large infestations that can become difficult to control.
ZUCCHINI CARE AND PLANTING TIPS
Zucchini, also known as summer squash and courgettes, are easy to grow and produce a significant amount of fruit. However, don’t do what I did; I planted 12 my first year gardening – it was 11 too many.
Seed Starting: Direct sow in late May or early June when soil is warm. For transplants, start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost in your zone. Not sure about your last frost date? You can check your zone and frost dates with this handy chart.
Planting out: After all risk of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed.
Sun Requirements: Full sun. Zucchini may fail to produce if planted in the shade.
Soil Requirements: Well-drained, moisture-retaining, nutrient-rich soil.
Fertilizer: An all-purpose food like 10-10-10 is generally sufficient for zucchini plant needs every 2-3 weeks. You can also side-dress with compost through the season.
Diseases and Pests: Zucchini plants are often attacked by squash vine borers, aphids, spider mites. The plants are suspectable to powdery mildew so it is a good idea to find seeds that are more resistant to powdery mildew.
MORE ON COMPANION PLANTING FOR HEALTHIER GARDENS
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The key to successful companion planting is determining the problem first, then choosing the right companion for that problem. For example, if your zucchinis are stunted because they lack nitrogen in the soil, planting marigolds isn’t going to help that problem. Instead, you should consider planting them with legumes to replenish the soil.
Here are some of the general benefits of companion planting:
IMPROVED YIELDS FROM INCREASED POLLINATORS
You can increase the number of pollinating insects in your vegetable garden, like bees and butterflies, by planting flowers that they are attracted to. The more pollinators there are, the more likely the flowers on your vegetable plants will turn into fruit resulting in increased yields!
ATTRACTING BENEFICIAL INSECTS
Some plants, like marigolds, attract bugs like parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and hoverflies. These helpful pests prey on harmful pests like aphids and thrips, which like to feed on your vegetable plants.
Some plants have strong scents that pests don’t like. For example, tomato worms and squash bugs can’t stand the smell of rosemary or borage. In an organic gardening situation, you will want to limit the use of pesticides (even approved ones).
Some plants improve the growing conditions in the soil, making it easier for your vegetables to grow. Taproots like carrots, for example, can help loosen and aerate the soil. Legumes like peas and beans introduce nitrogen into the soil, acting as a living fertilizer dispenser. Tilling marigolds into the soil can reduce root-knot nematodes, which feed on vegetable roots.
Densely planting leafy greens like spinach as a zucchini companion can choke out weeds by creating a living mulch close to the ground, leaving no room for unwanted plants to grow.
Planting large patches of the same vegetable can encourage the spread of disease in your garden. Diseases spread from one plant to the next, like a chain reaction. By interplanting with species that are not vulnerable to the same diseases, you can break that chain, and reduce the spread of disease.
Learn More: If you would like to learn more about companion planting in the vegetable patch, check out this article on the benefits it can bring.
I always like to recommend the book “Carrots Love Tomatoes” for anyone interested in companion planting.