By Sarah Giles
Including the best companion plants for cucumbers in your veg patch is one of the most effective ways to ensure you get the best results from your crop. There’s something wonderful about being able to wander into the garden, greenhouse or veg patch and pick a fresh, home-grown cucumber whenever you fancy adding one to a salad. But cucumbers are one of those tricky crops that are easy to grow when you know how, but virtually impossible if you don’t!
One of the key things you need to know in order to get it right is that cucumbers are fussy about who they share their space with. Choose the right companion plants for cucumbers, and you’ll have a constant supply of cucumbers from mid to late summer; choose the wrong bedfellows, and your plants could end up as feeble specimens that can only manage to produce a fruit or two over the whole season.
That’s because cucumbers are hungry and thirsty crops, so their companions need to add to the soil rather than taking anything away. And it’s important that neighboring crops don’t compete for precious water, especially in the kind of hot summer weather that cucumbers love.
They grow best if they have good support too – a cucumber plant that’s left to trail on the ground will rarely produce as much fruit as one that’s well supported. You can use canes, wigwams and string for support, of course – but far better to use companion planting that will not only allow the cucumber plant to climb, but will also flower and attract pollinating insects to both crops, ensuring good harvests from them.
Why should you use companion plants for cucumbers?
Keeping your cucumber plants healthy and productive is the key to success, and by planting them alongside their ideal companions in your kitchen garden ideas, you will have a far better chance of warding off pests and diseases.
This is because companion planting creates a polyculture rather than a monoculture. We are only just beginning to understand how much more beneficial to plants the former is, but it’s now clear that it’s what all fruit and veg grower should aim for as it allows a natural ecosystem to develop in the garden, potager garden or greenhouse.
Where there’s a strong ecosystem, fruit, veg, flowers and herbs growing together bring in a whole variety of different pollinators. Nutrients aren’t depleted as quickly from the soil as they are when one crop is intensively planted in a space, and pests and disease are thwarted because it’s harder for them to target the plants they are intent on eat or setting up a home or nursery in.
Disease is much less likely to take hold too, because there are fewer of one plant species side by side. So if you're interested in companion planting for cucumbers, we've got plenty of suggestions for what to grow alongside your cucumber crop.
Best herb companion plants for cucumbers
Many herbs thrive in the same hot weather that cucumbers enjoy, so it makes perfect sense to grow them together. If you're growing cucumbers as well as learning how to create a herb garden, it makes sense to try these first.
Oregano will help to fend off a wide range of pests, and can be a good solution for how to get rid of aphids. Dot a few clumps of oregano around the bases of your cucumbers to give the plants the best chance of thriving.
An added benefit? You'll also have fresh herbs to add to a whole host of tasty recipes.
If you've read our guide on how to grow dill, you'll already know that as well as being a brilliant plant for culinary purposes it also looks wonderful in beds and borders too. If you plant dill alongside your cucumbers and allow it to flower, you will attract beneficial predatory insects that will feed on pests.
Best flower companion plants for cucumbers
Make the most of some of the tall flowering plants you already have in your beds and garden borders and press them into action as companion plants for cucumbers. Then add in other flowering plants that are excellent at repelling pests, and you’ll be well on your way to success with your next cucumber crop.
As we've already explained, cucumbers grow best when they have some sort of support. Although one option would be to shop for climbing plant support ideas, another solution is to use other garden plants to provide the support instead.
For that reason, sunflowers are a brilliant choice for companion planting for cucumbers. Their strong, sturdy stems can make excellent climbing frames for outdoor cucumbers.
Convinced of the benefits of adding sunflowers to your garden? Our guide on how to grow sunflowers will show you how to get started.
2. Persicaria orientalis
As the fruits of gherkin cucumbers (for pickling) are smaller and lighter than standard cucumbers, their twining stems can be trained up the tall stems of Persicaria orientalis – it’s a great way to combine veg and flowers in ornamental flowerbed ideas.
A favorite for cottage garden ideas as well as working more modern spaces, marigolds are a pretty addition to any garden scheme. But it's their strong scent that makes them such a good option for companion plants for cucumbers.
Their smell will help repel sap-sucking insects, so learn how to grow marigolds and plant them in between cucumbers (roughly 4in or 10cm apart) to help protect your crops.
Marigolds are also one of the best companion plants for strawberries.
If you're looking for a brilliant all-rounder then nasturtiums should definitely be on your planting list.
Insects that feed on cucumbers won’t go near nasturtiums, so let a couple of them scramble around the bases of your cucumber plants to keep bugs at bay. What's more, nasturtiums also make excellent companion plants for tomatoes too.
Best vegetable companion plants for cucumbers
There are several vegetables that are good options for companion planting for cucumbers. They'll make the most of the space around them while at the same time benefitting both crops.
If you're looking for crops to add to your greenhouse ideas, then cucumbers and peppers are an ideal combination. They both enjoy similar growing conditions so will happily grow in the same space.
Cucumbers can be planted between your pepper plants and then trained upwards to make the most of the available space.
Plant cucumbers with legumes - which include peas, sweet corn and beans – as these fix nitrogen in the soil, which in turn will give you stronger, healthier cucumber plants.
3. Sweet corn
Even if you're already learning how to grow sweet corn, you might not have realized that it can also be good as an option for companion planting for cucumbers.
This is because the sweetcorn stalks make good supports for outdoor climbing cucumbers.
Tomatoes and cucumbers grow well together, especially in the greenhouse, so they are ideal companion plants.
They do well in similar soil conditions and take around the same to grow and be ready for harvest. They also have similar requirements for sunlight and water, which makes it simple to grow them alongside one another.
There's more tips on how to grow tomatoes in our guide.
What not to plant with cucumbers
Some plants are absolute no-goes when it comes to companion plants for cucumbers – plant them nearby at your peril!
- Sage is known to stunt the growth of cucumber plants so keep it away from them.
- Cucumber plants can encourage potato blight, so keep the two crops apart.
- Avoid planting mint near to cucumbers, as it will compete too much for water and nutrients. Remember, for best results with how to grow mint, plant it in containers rather than in the ground. It's invasive so can quickly take over a space.
- Pests that attack cucumbers also attack melons, so don’t plant them close to each other in your small vegetable garden ideas or greenhouse.
Sarah is a freelance journalist and is lucky to be able to write about her two main passions: gardening and food. Ten years ago she moved from a house with a tiny town garden to a much bigger space in the country and since then she's slowly been putting into practice all the garden design ideas she's been mulling over for years. Trouble is, as soon as she's got the garden looking how she thinks she wants it, she decides to start on a new project so it's a constant 'work in progress'. She took on an allotment last year too, and is really loving growing all her own fruit and veg then bringing it home to try out in new recipes for her food and gardening blog, A Cook's Plot.
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