‘Very bad idea!’: Plants to ‘avoid’ growing beside each other – follow these ‘basic rules’

Gardeners’ World: Monty Don shares advice on planting potatoes

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Gardeners do all they can to keep their plants happy and healthy, but sometimes, no matter what they do, certain plants just don’t go together. Plants that don’t like each other may be responding to different environmental needs, could be in direct competition with one another for major resources or one may attract insects that severely harm the other. Determining plant incompatibility can be a guess and check situation since soil types also have an influence on what plants should not be planted together.

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Kristi Waterworth, gardening expert at Gardening Know How explained: “There are a few basic rules of thumb when it comes to plants to avoid near one another. 

“First, check that your garden plants are all about the same size and have the same light requirements. 

“Planting very tall plants like tomatoes next to bush beans, for example, is a very bad idea since the tomatoes will very likely shade out the beans.”

When planting taller and shorter plants together, gardeners should make sure that the shorter plants are spaced far enough away and oriented so the sun will shine on them during the day. 

Many gardeners solve this problem by putting the shortest plants in their own row on the edge of the garden, or plant them as part of their borders.

The expert noted that plants that need a lot of water will cause those water haters nearby “a great deal of discomfort”. The same goes for fertiliser. 

It’s always a good idea to plant things with similar nutritional and water needs together, unless they’re fiercely competitive. 

Even then, gardeners can often compensate by spacing them extra wide and providing enough fertiliser and water for both types of plants.

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Last but not least are the plants that are allelopathic. 

Allelopathy is a biological phenomenon where one plant inhibits the growth of another.

Kristi explained: “Allelopathic plants have the capability to chemically impede the vital systems of competing plants. 

“These plants are usually weeds, but many landscape and crop plants have been observed leaving behind allelopathic chemicals. 

“Plant scientists are using these observations to develop better methods of weed control for farms and gardens alike.”

So which garden plants should not be planted together?

Many plants are believed to have allelopathic behaviors, but many remain in the realm of garden lore and lack substantial scientific documentation. 

Research in this area is sparse, but the list of plants believed to have allelopathic properties include:

  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas
  • Soybeans
  • Sunflowers
  • Tomatoes

When planting broccoli in gardens, make sure that you practice good crop rotation since broccoli can leave behind residue that other crops can’t tolerate, according to the expert.

She added: “Some plants, like alfalfa, seem to exhibit a remarkable type of allelopathy that interferes with the germination of their own seeds. 

“Garlic and onions are believed to interfere with the growth of beans and peas, but seem to be compatible with most other garden crops.”

Other commonly believed plant incompatibilities include the following plants to avoid near one another:

  • Mint and onions where asparagus is growing 
  • Pole beans and mustard near beetroot
  • Anise and dill neighbouring carrots 
  • Cucumber, pumpkin, radish, sunflower, squash, or tomatoes close to potato hills 
  • Any member of the cabbage family near strawberries 
  • Cabbage, cauliflower, corn, dill, and potatoes near tomatoes

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