Cabbage companion plants are unsung garden heroes. The myriad of benefits they offer may be less appreciated, but it’s actually their fault why you get chunky coleslaw heads! This is because there are differing mechanisms on how cabbage companions work–from the preservation of beneficial insects and microorganisms to a well-functioning nutrient cycle–all boil down to the natural ecology of plants. If you wonder who your cabbage’s best friends are, wonder no more as we take a detailed garden mugshot of these silent heroes!
What Makes a Companion Plant?
If a plant appeals to be a candidate companion plant for cabbage, it would have to meet one simple requirement—to be harmonious with cabbage. Like other buddy plants, it should bring numerous benefits:
- setting a good haven for the pollinators to stand by,
- providing free pest and weed services,
- improving soil fertility,
- nursing the crop during the early establishment phase.
Types of Cabbage
Cabbage is a variety of the diverse Brassica oleracea taxa that has evolved morphologically over millennia of cultivation. Modern plant breeders are not getting tired of superior lineages of the following:
This non-western group is a generic label for all the B. oleracea varieties that generally lack the cabbage head forms. Instead, the leaves are usually loose or elongated. Some common types include Bok Choy, China Express, Joi Choi, and China Flash.
Numerous varieties are bred exclusively to secrete antioxidants like anthocyanin–the pigment that makes plants turn purple! The ones worth mentioning include Ruby Ball, Ruby Perfection, Red Acre, Regal Red, and Red Meteor.
Also referred to as Curly Cabbage, this cultivar group is characterized for having creased leaves. They are also less dense and less sweet than the smooth ones. Savoy King, Savoy Queen, Melissa, and Famosa can be categorized under the group.
Most cabbage cultivars have flat, unwrinkled, a bit sweeter leaves, making it a perfect wrapping for dishes like cabbage rolls. Charleston Wakefield, Tendersweet, Tropic Giant, Typhoon, Danish Ballhead are your choices when planting non-wrinkled types.
Benefits of Companion Planting with Cabbage
Why is companion planting for cabbage beneficial? The truth is it offers the following advantages that were proven and tested by science:
- Increases land productivity of your garden;
- Improves crop quality;
- Reduces the risk of a fungal rot;
- Improves the soil microbiota beneficial for crops;
- Makes specific nutrients more available for the plants;
- Reduces soil erosion;
- Enhances agro-biodiversity;
- Encourages pest resilience;
- Promotes climate-smart and sustainable agriculture.
What Grows Well with Cabbage
What grows well with cabbage? Depending on the growth factors and your horticultural objectives, this question might be subjective and highly variable. However, the safest answer would be the herbs and aromatic plants whose insect-repelling properties, due to their smell, are a great edge. Bulb plants like alliums (onions, garlic, chives, and shallots), with which you can make several dishes, also go well with cabbage.
What Is the Best Companion Plant to Grow with Cabbage?
There are many candidates for companion plants for cabbage, making it hard to choose the creme de la creme. However, the best ones that offer the most benefits, like soil improvements, land use efficiency, and insect-repulsing ability, would be the onion family. Of course, you can experiment with which is the best, depending on your gardening goals!
Best Companion Plants for Cabbage
Cabbage companion planting includes a wide array of crops to play with. The only limitation is your creativity and, of course, the crops’ compatibility!
If you are thinking of a veggie to pair with cabbage, you could not go wrong with the following:
- Carrots. This orange root crop can be inserted between the rows of your cabbage because it only takes a little row spacing. Its tap root does not interfere with the cabbage’s, avoiding competition among themselves! The leaves are also not too dense, allowing its garden partner to have its fair share of sunlight.
- Lettuce. This leafy vegetable has a short cropping season and shallow root system, avoiding competition and increasing land use efficiency. The neutral cabbage-to-lettuce relationship is backed by extensive horticultural studies. Moreover, as they belong to different families, the likelihood of getting pests is quite low.
- Onion. Due to its slim leaf architecture, solar blockage is not a problem if you intend to plant onions next to your cabbage. Plus, as a bonus, it also offers a protective dome with its insect-repelling smell.
- Shallots. Also, a member of the family of Alliums, shallots will not disappoint you with its ability to protect your cabbage plants from pests. In Southeast Asian countries, the shallot-cabbage system is an established tandem among farmers, increasing land use and profitability.
- Sugar beet. The pest infestation with flies and beetles can be reduced if you decide to combine sugar beet with cabbage. However, the beetroot’s size may be significantly affected if it's planted close to its partner. So, ensure proper distancing!
The fragrant aromatic herbs in your garden in the following list will make your cabbage happy:
- Mint. If you ask what to plant with cabbage to keep bugs away, one concrete answer is mint. While its soothing smell is relaxing to humans, many insects, including the key cabbage pests and nuisant ones, fear its minty aroma. Just plant it in containers or put a metal or plastic hoop around it to prevent uncontrolled spread.
- Sage. Cabbage moth and carrot flies highly dislike the sage’s repulsive elements. Plant it in your cabbage plant's borders to maximize its anti-pest potential.
- Dill. This savory herb will surely accompany your cabbage well. It attracts pollinators, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps. According to a handful of accounts, it also improves the growth and taste of cabbage.
- Oregano. Planting oregano is hitting two birds with one stone as it offers double benefits aside from culinary use! The chemical constituents of its essential oils can be both discouraging to pests and fungal diseases.
- Celery. The bitter-tasting stalks of celery are non-palatable to pests. It also emits a smell that the cabbageworm dislikes. When it flowers, beneficial insects like ladybugs are drawn to feed on any aphids feasting on your cabbage.
Companion planting with cabbage includes not only crops for the table but also vibrant flowering plants:
- Geraniums. Geraniums are beautiful plants for decorating your garden while silently deterring major pests like cabbage worms.
- Marigold. This vivid-colored flower draws various pollinators while simultaneously deterring cabbage pests like cabbage worms, flea beetles, and whiteflies. On top of that, it also antagonizes root pathogens like nematodes.
- Borage. When the leaves of borage decompose, calcium, potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium ions are released into the soil, which improves the fertility and, consequently, your cabbage growth. It is also a great plant for attracting pollinators.
- Nasturtium. This beautiful cover crop not only serves as a soil protector but also acts as a trap crop. It produces an enticing smell that lures cabbage white butterflies to lay eggs on the leaves rather than the cabbage itself. The hatched larvae can be collected and killed to prevent further damage to nearby crops.
- Chamomile. The decaying leaves of this lovely white-petalled flower improve calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium availability in the soil, which are highly needed for the cell catabolism of cabbage.
If you are to ask the best companion plants for cabbage, other uncommon crops are good rivals for the title of the best:
- Beans. Many bean cultivars have shown beneficial interaction with cabbage, according to several scientific studies, although scanty sources say it should not be planted. This is probably due to variable growing conditions in each area. However, when choosing cultivars, a low-lying kind like bush beans or peanuts will help reduce solar competition while taking advantage of the free nitrogen.
- Mango. In a study conducted in Egypt, established mango farms in net house cultivation intercropped with cabbage increased the net produce for both plants. This implies that mango and cabbage companion planting is nonconflicting.
- Maize. Given the plant's tall and bushy appearance, it does not necessarily mean that it can compete with cabbage if planted at the proper distance. Field trials of corn plants intercropped with cabbage (spaced 60 cm or 2 ft between rows) increase the economic returns and land use efficiency.
- Buckwheat. Plant this flowering plant in the borders, and you will likely get beneficial visitors–parasitic wasps that are enemies of diamondback moths and cabbage worms! According to a study, buckwheat can relatively increase the activities of this beneficial insect against the bad one.
- White clover. Another beneficial insect magnet that you can plant next to cabbage is the humble white clover. Aside from this, it helps conserve soil moisture and improve soil texture and fertility as it deposits organic matter over time.
What Should Not Be Planted near Cabbage - Worst Companions?
Companion planting cabbage is not just inserting whatever you feel will look good. The plant’s biology and pertinent needs must be considered to avoid unwanted competition and pest infestations:
- Tomatoes. Aside from being a summer vegetable–a temporal mismatch–its stance, root spread, and canopy architecture can invade your cabbage’s space when it crucially needs solar illumination, negatively impacting its agronomic potential.
- Radish. According to a study conducted in Turkey, cabbage grown near radish had significantly smaller and lighter heads. This proves that not all root crops planted next to cabbage may be beneficial.
- Spinach. This nutritious leafy vegetable may have a short life cycle, but it can draw aphids and lots of water. After harvesting, the pests may effortlessly settle into the cabbage leaves and can cause significant damage.
- Pepper. Just like tomatoes, pepper belongs to the same family that has a humongous appetite for fertilizers, depriving the main crops of nutritional needs. Also, its bushy canopy can block the absorption of sunlight.
- Brassicas. Mustards, cauliflower, broccoli, and other vegetables in this family should be avoided because they usually share the same physiology and nutrient requirements, making them prone to competition. Also, most pests have the same preference for plants belonging to the same genera.
- Grapes. Grapes are perennial plants and have different cultivation requirements. They also take up lots of nutrients and may cast shade on your cabbage plants.
- Squash. This vine plant is one of the bad companion plants for cabbage because it also spreads extensively–competing for space, light, and nutrients.
- Strawberry. This refreshing summer fruit can outcompete cabbage for space due to its sprawling runners. Also, strawberries and cabbage share the same pathogen, like Botrytis rot. One infection can spell backyard mayhem!
What to Plant with Cabbage to Keep Bugs Away
While promoting a species-rich garden promotes a pest-resilient agroecosystem, some plants have an innate ability to actively thwart insect pests, such as the following:
- Rosemary. Multiple studies have demonstrated the rosemary's secret arsenal to repel insects. It uses its subtle biological odor that is spread through air, resulting in the retreat of any attacking pest.
- Thyme. Like rosemary, thyme is endowed with a natural scent that deters pests like cabbage butterflies from laying eggs on your cabbage, which will soon turn into cabbage worms if they manage to infest your plants.
- Garlic. If you are thinking of what to plant with cabbage, perhaps garlic is one of the most compatible spice herbs. They are almost produced in the same season, which makes them a perfect match. Thanks to its sulfur-containing volatile compounds, most insects would not dare to invade your garden!
- Chive. Belonging to the same family of garlic and onions, chives withstand aphid infestation and share their scent bandwidth with the neighboring cabbage plants, indirectly protecting them from herbivorous insects.
- Hyssop. Another member of the rosemary family, Hyssops, is a beautiful flowering plant that naturally repels cabbage looper and cabbage worms. Its strongly-emitted smell, fragrant to humans, is a reeking odor that discourages bugs from hanging out near your garden.
- Spearmint. This perennial herbaceous plant also uses the volatile chemical compounds it pumps into the air. In fact, diverse compounds have already been discovered that target varying insect groups, not only cabbage.
Mistakes to Avoid in Your Cabbage Companion Planting
Seeding and transplanting brassicas is not a daunting task. Even though it’s quite straightforward, the last thing we don’t want to happen are the following mistakes:
- Planting a cabbage companion too close to each other and to the main crop will prompt competition among themselves.
- Unorganized planting calendar. This might reduce the benefits that you can get from companion plants.
- Inadequate fertilization when the soil is not infused with lots of organic matter, except with bean companion plants.
- Insufficient watering during the establishment phase. While companion plants help conserve water, they still need a bit of watering in the sprouting stage.
- Planting a single companion plant. To gain the maximum benefits, cultivating several escorts is essential.
- Not inspecting for pests or diseases. Cabbage with companion plants is still not exempted from pests! Some pests may resist the bad smell and can, therefore, cause damage before your eyes.
- Applying pesticides. It will ruin the balance of the already established ecosystem in your garden. Unless your cabbage is heavily infested, it is a good justification.
What Plants Don’t Like Cabbage?
Solanaceous crops like tomatoes and peppers, fruit crops such as strawberries and grapes, and members of the same Brassica family are the plants that negatively affect cabbage growth and crops.
Can We Plant Cabbage with Cucumbers?
Cabbage and cucumbers don’t go well in one garden. When planted together, cucumbers grow poorly.