Did you know that there are personality clashes that go on in gardens which might remind you of your kids’ high school? Yes, some of the plants just can’t get along with each other, while others are quite popular. Beans have the most friends (other plants in whose proximity they tend to thrive) but they also have more enemies than corn, which ranks second.
Corn’s only known enemy is the tomato, and its friends are the potato, peas, beans, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, melons, purslane, wild morning glory, lambs’-quarters, and pigweed. (Aren’t you happy to hear that?) You may like the bean’s 12 friends better: peppers, potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, marigolds, rosemary, caraway, petunias, corn, savory, and the entire cabbage family. Beans’ three enemies are onions, garlic and sunflowers.
There are five common vegetables which keep low profiles so that they won’t develop any enemies. They are asparagus (whose few friends just call him Gus), lettuce, peppers (surprising, considering how hot-headed
they can be), spinach, and the lowly turnip, whose only friend in the world is the pea. The pea, however, has three other friends of its own: the carrot, the radish and the aformentioned corn. ‘Gus has four friends: tomato, parsley, basil and calendula. Mild-mannered lettuce has only six friends, which may surprise some, considering how important it is to salads and sandwiches. But that places it ahead of peppers, who are chummy only with beans, carrots, eggplant, onions and tomatoes. Spinach, as might be expected, gets along well with the cabbage clan, but its only other friend is the strawberry, of all things. (But that’s no reason to throw the two of them together in a salad as a friend of mine’s been doing lately.)
Strawberries’ other friends are beans, borage, onions, and lettuce. But they don’t like anyone in the cabbage family. The feeling is mutual: big-headed cabbages look down on the gaudy, flamboyant strawberry, as well as on the climbing polebean and the seedy tomato.
On the other hand, the cabbage clan do approve of potatoes, celery, dill, sage, mint, rosemary, onions and beets.
Tomatoes and potatoes are two other plants that are mutually exclusive. You might decide to leave potatoes to the farmers when you learn that they are the least popular vegetable in the garden, showing up four times on the enemies list. The beloved tomato is there three times, but once it’s for the potato, with its other two foes being cabbages and corn. The juicy, red veggie-fruit thrives in the company of onions, mint, parsley, marigolds, basil, carrots, borage and Gus. Beets, as one would hope, thrive alongside of onions and also with the cabbages. Strangely enough, they dislike the pole bean while approving of its bush cousin.
Another root vegetable you can profitably stick in with your beets and onions is the carrot. It also likes to hang around with peas, lettuce, rosemary, sage and tomatoes, but not with dill.
So, just when you thought you had figured out all your edible-garden plants’ placements, having considered light and heat, soil, watering, convenience and aesthetics, you now see that there are backyard popularity issues to sort. Who knew?