Kale companion plants are a secret weapon for boosting growth and warding off pests in the garden. This article is tailored for gardening enthusiasts looking to enhance their kale crops. We’ll dive into which companion plants are best for kale, why they’re beneficial, and how to strategically plant them to maximize your garden’s health and yield.
Whether you’re curious about the science behind companion planting vegetables or seeking practical tips for your garden layout, this guide will answer your most pressing questions. We will also get into what plants you should always avoid planting near your kale.
Marigolds are always one of the top picks for companion planting due to their ability to confuse and repel pests with their aromatic scent. In addition, studies have shown that marigolds attract parasitic wasps and predatory hoverflies, which help drastically reduce aphid infestations.
There is also evidence that marigolds help discourage root-knot nematodes in the soil.
The brightly colored flowers also look lovely contrasted against the dark leafy kale.
- Want to know more about companion planting with Marigolds? Check out our complete list of marigold companion plants.
Herbs are beneficial companions for kale as they repel kale pests, attract predators, regulate soil moisture, and even enhance the flavor of nearby plants.
While almost any herb can benefit kale plants, some herbs are more effective companions than others:
If pests are your biggest concern, plant herbs like catnip, fennel, and cilantro to help repel and confuse pests and attract beneficial predators that will help reduce pest populations.
Root vegetables like beets make great companion plants for kale; kale plants have a shallow root system and will not compete with deep-rooted beets for water or soil nutrients.
If you return your beet greens to the compost pile, try using the greens instead as mulch around your kale plants. Beet greens contain many organic materials and minerals to help you grow healthier kale plants.
- Did you know you can grow beets in containers? See our complete guide on growing beets in containers right on your patio.
Buckwheat is an excellent ground cover companion plant that helps retain soil moisture and chokes out those pesky weeds.
Planting buckwheat in the garden will attract beneficial insects like parasitic wasps, beneficial flies, and bees, and it helps to shelter spiders and ground beetles.
Buckwheat makes an excellent perimeter planting around a vegetable garden.
Carrots planted as companions offer no pest control or sizeable benefits like some of the companions mentioned in this post. Still, they enjoy similar growing conditions, making them good companion plants without any garden drama.
Both kale and carrots are cool-season crops that can grow together without competition for water or nutrients. Both plants also enjoy similar soil environments, and both can manage a light frost and grow well as a pair.
- Check out our guide to know when to harvest carrots at their peak of flavor and nutrition.
Pole Beans & Bush Beans
Both pole beans and bush beans make great companion plants for kale due to the extra nitrogen the beans extract from the air and put back into the soil. When nitrogen is readily available, leafy greens like kale grow exceptionally well!
Plant kale behind trellised beans to help protect the plants from direct sunlight to prevent bolting.
Calendula is a predatory insect beacon and makes good a companion plant for kale. The flower’s scent and color attract hoverflies, lacewing, and ladybugs that help combat aphids and thrips.
These long-blooming perennials can be planted everywhere and anywhere in the garden space to attract a range of beneficial insects.
Calendulas’ bright yellow-orange flowers make a perfect color-companion for kale.
Cucumbers are good kale companion plants when they can sprawl at ground level.
The leafy vines of the cucumber plants can create a living mulch around the kale plants and help to keep the soil cool and reduce evaporation. In addition, the cucumbers will provide shade for the kale plants if grown on a trellis.
Cucumbers also do not attract pests that can harm kale or compete for water or nutrients.
- We also have a guide on the best companion plants for cucumber you should check out before planting!
These lovely late spring blooming perennials with white daisy-like flowers make wonderful kale companion plants.
Like marigolds, chamomile attracts beneficial insects like hoverflies, and parasitic wasps will help organically control aphids.
Roman chamomile is self-seeding and can be hard to control. To prevent chamomile from spreading, use a pot or container to keep it self-contained within the garden bed, and remove spent flowers before seed heads can scatter.
Cilantro is an aromatic herb that makes a great companion for kale for various reasons, such as drawing in pollinators and beneficial predators, repelling pests, and boosting the flavor of kale leaves. Cilantro is particularly effective in keeping aphids, a primary predator of kale, at bay by drawing hoverflies that feed on them.
In addition, cilantro and kale have comparable growth rates and don’t compete for moisture or nutrients, making them easy to plant and cultivate together.
- Learn More: See our guide on how to grow cilantro and learn about the different types of cilantro so you grow the one that is right for you.
Nasturtium plants act a bit differently than most companion plants for kale. Instead of repelling pests, they attract them as a decoy to divert pests. So, place nasturtium a few feet away from your kale plants for best results.
These attractive, edible flowers mature quickly, taking 30-50 days, and can be started indoors alongside kale seeds or directly sown outside next to existing kale plants.
The allium family includes plants such as chives, shallots, garlic, leeks, and onions. These plants can deter pests by releasing strong scents and oils that repel common pests of kale, like flea beetles, cabbage loopers, and aphids.
Garlic also helps protect the surrounding soil from fungal infestations by excreting sulfur into the ground.
In addition to pest control, alliums do not compete with kale for moisture or soil nutrients.
Radishes are great companions for kale. Even though radishes do not protect kale plants, they can be planted together easily as they mature quickly and do not consume the same resources as kale.
You can harvest radishes in just three weeks, so they do not grow and overcrowd kale plants.
Plant those radish seeds around and among kale plants to utilize the extra open space around the kale plants before they mature.
Sweet alyssums are an ideal companion for a wide range of plants in the garden. Not only do they release a pleasant honey-like scent, but they also attract beneficial predators such as lace-winged insects, parasitic wasps, and essential insect pollinators.
The insects that the alyssum plant attracts can help control pests such as aphids. Ladybugs can consume up to 50 aphids daily as adults and even more as developing larvae.
Plant sweet alyssum alongside kale to spread and form a living ground cover that will help keep the soil cool and reduce moisture evaporation.
Avoid Planting These Plants With Kale
Here are the plants that you must avoid planting near kale as they either compete for resources or share similar pests and diseases:
Brassicas, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage make poor companions for kale. These plants are all members of the same family and are susceptible to many of the same pests and diseases. The build-up of pest populations can cause increased damage to both crops.
Additionally, brassicas and kale require similar growing conditions, such as cool weather and rich soil, which can lead to competition for water and nutrients.
You will want to avoid planting kale anywhere near any member of the Brassica family.
There are so many wonderful companions for brassicas; although planting side by side with kale won’t work, there are many more you can choose from. See our companion planting guides for more information:
Zucchini is a heavy feeder that requires much nitrogen and other nutrients to grow. If grown together, the zucchini may consume all the available nutrients, leaving the kale struggling to survive.
Additionally, zucchini has a longer growing season than kale and will be much larger at harvest time. Bushy, full-grown plants can lead to competition for space and sunlight.
Zucchinis are also often affected by various pests, such as powdery mildew, which can spread to nearby plants like kale. For these reasons, it is best to avoid planting zucchini near kale.
Kale is a cool-season crop that prefers well-drained soil and consistent moisture. On the other hand, strawberries are a warm-season crop that prefers rich, well-drained soil and moderate moisture. When grown together, the strawberries may consume more water and nutrients than the kale, leaving the kale struggling to survive. There are much better strawberry companion plants, especially for greens like spinach and lettuce.
Tomatoes are large plants that require more nutrients, water, and sunlight. Growing tomatoes near kale may mean reduced resources for the kale plants to thrive. Tall-growing tomatoes will also shade out the kale plants. Plant tomatoes away from your kale plant to avoid competition and reduce harvests.
Sunflowers make poor kale companion plants; they can quickly outcompete kale for sunlight, water, and nutrients.
Although beautiful, sunflowers are, unfortunately, allelopathic. Allelopathic plants release toxins from all parts of the plant (roots, leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds). Those toxins can inhibit or kill other plants.
By integrating the following strategies, gardeners can effectively use companion planting to enhance kale’s vitality, yield, and pest resistance in a more sustainable and productive garden ecosystem.
- Marigolds for Pest Control: Surround kale with marigolds to naturally repel pests like nematodes and aphids, utilizing their strong scent as a protective barrier.
- Aromatic Herbs as Repellents: Plant herbs such as dill, sage, and mint near kale to deter pests with their potent aromas and attract beneficial insects for natural pest control.
- Alliums for Health and Pest Deterrence: Incorporate onions, garlic, and chives to repel aphids and beetles, while their sulfur compounds help prevent soil-borne diseases.
- Legumes for Soil Nitrogen: Beans and peas fix nitrogen in the soil, providing essential nutrients for kale and promoting healthy growth.
- Root Vegetables for Soil Structure: Beets and carrots share space efficiently with kale, helping to improve soil aeration and drainage without competing for resources.
- Flowering Plants for Biodiversity: Include calendula, nasturtiums, and sweet alyssum to attract pollinators and beneficial predators, enhancing garden biodiversity and pest management.
- Crop Rotation for Disease Prevention: Rotate kale with different crops annually to reduce the buildup of pests and diseases, avoiding planting in the same spot as previous brassicas.
- Shade and Moisture Conservation: Use larger plants like pole beans for shade and ground covers like cucumbers to maintain soil moisture, benefiting kale’s growth and health.
Avoid planting kale near nightshades such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes, as well as beans, legumes, and strawberries due to shared pests and diseases.
Kale enjoys the company of aromatic herbs like dill, sage, rosemary, and mint, which can deter pests. Alliums such as garlic and onions also make good companions by deterring pests with their strong scents, and root vegetables like beets and carrots do well with kale as they occupy different soil depths.
Yes, marigolds are excellent companions for kale because their strong scent can repel various pests and attract beneficial insects, helping to keep the kale healthy.
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Companion planting principles can significantly improve kale growth and health. Select and position plants that offer mutual benefits, such as marigolds for pest control and aromatic herbs for their repelling properties. Avoid plants that compete for resources or attract shared pests. This guide provides comprehensive resources for optimizing kale cultivation through companion planting.
Author: Laura Kennedy
Writer & Owner of Little Yellow Wheelbarrow
Editor’s Note: This post was first published on January 23rd, 2023, and was updated and republished on February 17, 2024. The update included improved formatting, the addition of FAQ, Expert Tips, and visual related posts.