A Blessing to the Soil: Companion Plants for Beans

Pole BeansAccording to an Iroquois legend, beans are among the plants that were given as a gift by the Great Spirit to humankind.  These plants are watched over by three spirits, also known as “The Three Sisters”.   Beans must indeed be gifts, not only to humans but to other plants as well, because these plants do a lot of good in the garden.  They have bacterial nodules on their roots that enable them to fix nitrogen into the soil, making the soil fertile for their companion plants.

The Other Two Sisters

Corn and squash are the two other plants that humanity has been blessed with, according to the Iroquois.  The Native Americans were already practicing companion gardening long before Columbus came.  Corn was planted first.  When the corn stalks were tall enough, the beans were planted next.  As the beans grew and as the weather started to become warm, Native Americans planted squash.  The corn provided support for the beans to climb through.  The beans kept the soil fertile for the corn and squash.  The squash shaded the soil and slowed the evaporation of water.

Aside from corn and squash, beans have other good companions.  Like other crops, they should also be kept away from other plants.

Good Companions for Pole Beans and Bush Beans

To protect your bean plants from Mexican bean beetle, plant summer savory at the base of each plant.  Make sure that the summer savory won’t be shaded by the bean plant, but see to it that it is near enough so it can provide protection.

Summer savory does not just keep away the beetle, but it also increases crop yield and it enhances the flavor of the beans.  Other Mexican bean beetle deterrents include nasturtiums, rosemary, and marigold.  Radishes keep bean seedlings safe from insects.  Pole beans and bush beans grow also grow well with carrots, celery, cucumber, cauliflower, potato, eggplants, peas, strawberry, lettuce, and tansy.

Bad Companions for Pole Beans and Bush Beans

As mentioned earlier, beans fix nitrogen into the soil.  However, excessive nitrogen makes some fruit-bearing plants green and leafy, but they won’t yield a lot of fruit.  Do not plant onions and garlic, because they may kill the friendly bacteria on the roots of the beans, thus hampering the growth and maturation of the plants.  Beans may inhibit the growth of beets and kohlrabi.  Other plants that must be planted away from pole beans and bush beans are basil, fennel, cabbage, kohlrabi, sunflower, shallots and beets.

Pole beans and bush beans share the same compatible and incompatible plants with the exception of beets.  You should never plant beets with pole beans or they will never thrive, but you may plant the beets near bush beans.

Conclusion

Here are some points to remember when companion planting:

Find out which plants stimulate the growth of other plants and which ones inhibit growth.

  • Learn which plants provide protection from wind and sun so you can use them to create a suitable environment in your garden.
  • See which plants deter or confuse pests.  Usually, these plants have strong, pungent odors.
  • Find out which plants attract beneficial insects and birds that feed on the insects and worms that hurt your plants.
  • Find out the nutritional requirements of your crops.  See to it that you don’t grow plants with the same nutritional requirements together as they are bound to compete for nutrients.
  • Check the root depths of your crops.  If you grow plants with the same root depths, chances are they will compete with each other.  Also, plants that reach deep into the soil can capture nutrients and make them available to other plants.

Nature has designed some plants to help and protect other plants.  In many cases, plants have symbiotic relationships.  By taking advantage of the beneficial relationships that plants have with one another, you can grow crops organically and maximize their yield.