Some things just go well together, and we love seeing a good pairing of two mutually beneficial things that, together, make something special. Each is wonderful on its own, but together they can make magic. The world of gardening is no different, but the pairings may not be as well-known.
Often, we see a vegetable garden that is rimmed by gorgeous blooms and imagine that the gardener’s bright green thumb and love of flowers is the motivation for the pairing. But did you know that zinnias and dahlias are the perfect floral companion for vegetables that tend to be attacked by tiny bugs like aphids? While their hot colored blooms are gorgeous, their inclusion as a nearby or bordering plant in a vegetable garden is actually a useful pairing for the gardener as they will help keep the tender edible growth protected by actually harboring the pests themselves with no big effect on the flower’s health.
This paired relationship in gardening is called companion planting, and gardeners that take advantage of this naturally beneficial association between plants will be the most successful. The leafy arugula is no exception to this natural law of attraction. This tasty green veggie has some built-in pairings that, if followed, will ensure a strong growing season and bountiful harvest. But first, let’s look at how companion planting works.
What is Companion Planting?
The idea of companion planting harkens back to when most gardens were created to feed the family. No row or crop could be planted if it were not highly likely to produce a robust yield, providing a reliable food source for the gardener to consume or sell. With ancient roots, this practice has been around so long that we can’t actually pinpoint who first used it. But it’s sound principles of planting mutually beneficial plants nearby each other continues today both in small and large-scale gardens.
Companion planting can pair together plants that encourage growth in one of the plants, in the case of tall, tree-like plants providing a trellis that vine plants can cling on. Another type of companion planting inhibits pest infestation in one plant by growing a “trap plant” nearby that will draw away the insects from the other plant.
Yet another type of companion planting involves pairing a strongly scented or flavored plant near another vulnerable plant. This neighbor repels the insect pests or invaders, like deer or rabbits, that would have otherwise consumed or harmed the tender vegetation. Lastly, another common strategy of companion planting is the pairing of a plant that naturally gives off or sheds a nutrient compound that either protects or is needed by its neighbor.
What Companion Plants Benefit Arugula?
Enrich the Soil
Beans naturally add nitrogen to the soil as they grow, so planting them next to arugula will take advantage of this. Another benefit of beans is that some of them, like pole beans, will provide needed shade for arugula as they climb upwards naturally. One caveat to planting beans nearby arugula is that they cannot be also placed nearby allium at the same time. The allium will negate the beneficial nitrogen due to their own natural bacteria eating the nitrogen, making this an unbeneficial pairing.
Use the soil supplementing power of beets to add nutrition to your arugula. Beets naturally add minerals to the soil that arugula will love.
Peas also add nitrogen to the soil, boosting the arugula’s ability to thrive in your garden.
Plants that provide shade
Like the pole bean, the cucumber plant is a vertically growing plant. With its wide leaves and statuesque growth pattern, the cucumber is a perfect pairing with arugula.
Another tall grower is the kohlrabi, a cruciferous veggie like its cousins broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Kohlrabi will grow up and out to provide arugula some shade, but it also has another benefit: kohlrabi will repel earth flies away from the arugula as well.
A well-known towering vegetable that provides shade is corn. Using corn as a companion plant for arugula will not only give the little leafy plant some needed shade, but corn one of the “three sisters” of plants that mutually benefit each other along with beans. Planting corn, beans, and arugula together mimics the benefits found in this renowned trio of companion plants.
Stunning sunflowers are a perfect companion plant to arugula as well. Not only will they provide much-needed shade to the cool weather loving arugula, but sunflowers can also attract pollinators to your garden. While not directly affecting arugula, a well-pollinated garden is a must for any garden that includes flowering plants.
Tall-growing tomato plants can also provide necessary shade for the tender arugula. Having fresh tomatoes to slice on top of your arugula salad is just an added benefit!
Plant Trap Plants
Calendula, commonly called the pot marigold, is a wonderful companion for arugula. First, the calendula will entice pests, protecting the delicate arugula from infestation of deadly slugs. Since the calendula is an edible herb, it will not only be beautiful in your garden, but it could also be a tasty addition to an arugula salad.
Another trap plant used to lure pests away from arugula is the sturdy nasturtium flower. Attracting a host of insects, the nasturtium can benefit arugula as well as many other plants plagued by aphids, white flies, and caterpillars. Planted near but not next to the arugula will ensure that the pests take hold on the sacrificial planting of the nasturtium, but the flower will also attract pollinators so it will benefit your other blooms at the same time.
If you harvest radishes, they are a good neighbor to arugula as a trap plant for multiple kinds of beetles that love leafy greens. An additional benefit is that your radishes will taste less woody and more delicious when planted near arugula, too.
To keep pests from bothering the arugula, there are several herbs and vegetables with a strong scent that discourage infestation of arugula as a companion plant:
Boost Arugula Flavor
A few herbs and vegetables enhance the flavor of arugula and are encouraged as companion plants for argula if space allows.
These plants are a good idea to plant near the leafy arugula plant, but for different reasons. Kind of like peanut butter and jelly, these combinations just work well together. Since a well-designed garden contains plants that not only benefit the gardener but also the other plants, these plants can be worked into a garden with arugula when space or time allows. In order to best utilize these companion plants, be sure to watch out for any issues that might arise with their inclusion, like specific pests they might attract that would be a challenge for the other plants nearby.
Attractive to bunnies and humans alike, carrots are a perennial garden favorite. One problem with a sparsely topped row of these orange veggies is the open space they leave when planted in traditional rows. Since their above-ground foliage is typically fairly thin, surrounding the carrots with hedges of arugula not only utilizes the otherwise unused space, but it also acts as a barrier to bunnies who might like to munch on the tender carrot growth.
Hill-planted vegetables like melons, squash, and potatoes take up a lot of room and also leave large borders unplanted. Filling those empty areas with arugula protects the mounds from erosion as well as provides a barrier against their wild vine growth with a bumper crop of arugula.
Slower growing Brussel sprouts take up to 4 months to grow to harvest stage and are a good garden partner with faster growing arugula. Both love cooler weather, so this pairing works well in the fall planting season. The leafy greened arugula will fill in the empty spaces around the sprouts, and once the arugula is harvested, the Brussel sprouts will have room to flourish until harvest time.
Guide To Pruning Cucumbers
What Not to Plant Near Arugula
Although arugula is a friend to most gardens, there are a few plants that are not compatible with them if planted close by. Strawberries are a plant that should not be planted directly adjacent to arugula. Invasive, the strawberry plant creeps out of its borders easily and will keep the arugula from growing to its full potential if paired directly with the stronger-willed strawberry plant.
Nightshade plants prefer a more acidic soil than arugula does, so planting tomatoes or other nightshades nearby means that the soil will need to be watched to make sure both the arugula and the nightshade is happy in their dirt homes.