The Best Pumpkin Companion Plants (And What to Avoid!)

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pumpkin companion plants
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Do you want to get the most out of your pumpkin patch this year? Try growing your pumpkins along with the best pumpkin companion plants!

Fall isn’t complete without the quintessential pumpkin. It’s nutritious, delicious and adds a bright splash of orange to your garden. Plus, who doesn’t love carving Jack-O-Lanterns or baking pumpkin pies?

But all this fun starts with a successful pumpkin crop — that’s where companion planting comes in. This pumpkin companion planting guide will show you which plants to grow next to your pumpkins and which ones to avoid. So, let’s dive in!

A variety of harvested pumpkins of various shapes, sizes, and colors displayed at a market.

What is Companion Planting?

It’s a gardening practice where two or more types of plants are planted together so they can benefit from each other in some way – like providing shade, repelling pests, or attracting beneficial insects.

Sometimes the pairing is symbiotic, meaning they both benefit from one another; other times, it’s a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” meaning one plant helps protect another from a common pest or disease.

It’s a century-old practice, and though there’s no one-size-fits-all formula, the idea is to make plants less dependent on pesticides and fertilizers by creating a healthier, more balanced ecosystem in your garden.

The Benefits of Companion Planting with Pumpkins

Companion planting has several benefits that help improve the health of your pumpkin patch without much effort. The following are a few of them:

  • Pest control: Certain companion plants like radishes help create natural barriers and confuse pests, like the cucumber beetle or squash bug, and keep them away from your precious pumpkins. Others, like licorice mint, attract predators like wasps, which help control some of the most common garden pests.
  • Pollination: Pumpkins need bees, especially squash bees, to pollinate them. Some compatible plants like sunflowers, marigolds, or marjoram attract these pollinators and increase the yield of your patch.
  • Soil improvement: Legumes, such as beans, will help improve soil structure and nutrition by adding nitrogen.
  • Space: Pumpkins are notorious for taking up a lot of space in your garden. But you can make the most of that space by planting quick turn-around companion plants like radishes or lavender in the same patch.

Understanding the Needs of Pumpkins: (A Quick Care Guide)

Pumpkins are usually a no-fuss crop. They can thrive in most conditions as long as they have plenty of room and good soil. Let’s do a quick rundown of their needs:

  • Soil type: They like well-drained, fertile soil. If you have clay or sandy soil, amend it with some compost before planting. And aim for a pH level of 6.0 to 6.8 for optimal growth.
  • Sunlight: Pumpkins need full sun—at least six hours a day.
  • Water: They only need 1 to 2 inches of water a week, even less if the soil is properly mulched.
  • Temperature: Pumpkins are warm-season crops, preferring temperatures between 65 F and 95 F. So if you’re in a cooler climate, make sure to provide them with row covers when the temperature drops below 50 F.
  • Fertilizer: Once the vines start to grow, apply a balanced fertilizer, like 10-10-10. But beware of fertilizers with too much nitrogen—it can lead to excessive leaf growth at the expense of fruit production.
  • Pruning: For big and healthy pumpkins, prune off any side shoots (or suckers) from the main vine after it sets fruit. This will help channel the plant’s energy into growing bigger pumpkins.

Remember that pumpkins take up a lot of space – each plant could spread to 10 feet or more, so give them plenty of room. If planting several plants, space them at least 3 to 5 feet apart for best results.

The Best Pumpkin Companion Plants

Now that you know the basics of pumpkin care, let’s talk about the best plants to grow with pumpkins. Here’s a list of our top picks:

A close-up of zucchini growing watermelons growing in a garden

1. Zucchini

Zucchini is from the same family as pumpkins, so they have compatible needs in terms of soil, temperature, and water. Plus, it’s a summer crop, so it’ll be done and out of the way before pumpkin vines start to need extra space for growth.

It also attracts the main pollinator of pumpkins, the squash bee. And in case there is an infestation of pumpkin pests, like squash bugs, your zucchini vines may act as a trap crop and can help reduce the damage to your pumpkins.

Note: Here, we’d like to debug a common misconception; some people avoid planting pumpkins along with other Cucurbita pepo plants like zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers for fear of cross-pollination. But first, it needs very specific conditions for that to happen, and second, even if it does cross-pollinate, it only affects the seed and the next generation produced from that seed. Meaning your harvested crop this season will be just as usual.

2. Melons

Melons are also from the same family as pumpkins and share many of their needs. Like zucchini, they’ll attract squash bees and other pollinators to your pumpkin patch. But the biggest advantage of growing melons is they attract earthworms – which aerate the soil and add much-needed nutrients.

One downside to interplanting melons is that they can compete with pumpkins for space – so if your garden is on the smaller side, you may skip melons.

3. Radish

Pumpkins are long-season crops, so if you want to plant a quick crop in the middle of your pumpkin patch, radish is your best bet.

You can plant an early radish crop right when you plant your pumpkins in the late spring, and it’ll be ready to harvest within a month. And then an autumn crop when the pumpkin patch is winding down and gets a second harvest before winter. It’s a perfect space saver.

Radish also acts as an excellent “trap crop.” If you have pest problems with flea or cucumber beetles, grow a few rows of radish around your pumpkin patch—the pests will be drawn to the radish and away from your pumpkins.

Close-up of licorice mint with bright purple flowers A corn stalk with ear of corn growing

4. Licorice Mint

Licorice mint is a tall herb with foliage that smells like licorice. It invites hoverflies over to lay their eggs under its leaves. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae devour aphids and other soft-bodied pests, lending a helping hand in pest control.

Licorice aroma also wards off deer, rabbits, and other large animals that can wreak havoc on your beloved pumpkin patch. And let’s not forget its eye-catching bright purple flowers that add a touch of beauty to any garden.

Remember, it can be invasive, so keep unwanted seedlings in check to prevent them from taking over your garden.

5. Corn

Corn is part of the famous “three sisters” companions, an ancient Native American tradition of interplanting corn, squash, and beans in the same garden bed. The idea is that the corn acts as a trellis for the beans, which add nitrogen to the soil, while squash provides ground cover, preventing weed growth and retaining moisture.

The squash can be any cucurbit plant, including pumpkins, so it works as a great accompaniment to your pumpkin patch.

You can also plant just corn and pumpkins together. Corn will provide shade in the summer heat and attract songbirds which will help keep your gardens free of pests. In return, the pumpkin vines will cover the ground and keep the soil moist and cool. But in this case, make sure you fertilize the patch as they both are heavy feeders.

6. Beans

Beans are part of the “three sisters,” so you can plant them together with pumpkins and corn. But you can also plant beans on the outer perimeter of your pumpkin patch. Especially bush beans, as they take up less space and can be harvested in the mid-season.

Beans are nitrogen-fixing plants, which is valuable for your pumpkin as they’re heavy feeders. They’ll also attract pollinators and beneficial insects like ladybugs, hoverflies, lacewings, and predatory wasps.

A close-up of bright yellow sunflowers in full bloom Bright orange marigolds growing

7. Sunflowers

In an alternative type of “three sister” group, corn is replaced by sunflower, also called the “fourth sister.” Just like corn, sunflowers act as a trellis for beans and provide shade to squash or pumpkins.

Sunflowers are also excellent companions as their flowering heads attract pollinators from miles away; honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects will be drawn to your pumpkin patch.

However, since sunflowers can shade your patch, plant them in the outer perimeter or away from the direct line of your pumpkins.

8. Marigolds

Marigolds are a dream team for any garden bed, especially your pumpkin patch. These blooms not only attract beneficial insects like hoverflies and lacewings, but they also repel pumpkin pests like white squash bugs and cucumber beetles.

And the cherry on top? Marigolds keep parasitic root nematodes away. Their roots have special chemicals that attract the nematodes towards them and then kill them, protecting your pumpkins from root-borne diseases.

But don’t forget to remove the flower heads once they’re done blooming – un-deadheaded marigolds will self-seed and take over your garden bed.

9. Herbs

Strong aromatic herbs like lavender, marjoram, citronella, lemongrass, and thyme are excellent companions for your pumpkin patch. They repel many common pumpkin pests like cucumber beetles, squash bugs, wireworms, and flea beetles while attracting beneficial pollinators.

Some of these also repel root rot nematodes and even deer or rabbits. But be aware that pumpkin is ruthless for sunlight; its broad leaves can easily smother herbs if space is limited. So, only try this if you get enough sun on the patch.

The Worst Pumpkin Companion Plants

Some plants can do more harm than good when planted next to your pumpkins. Here are five plants that you should steer clear of in your pumpkin patch:

Garlic: With its strong aroma, garlic repels many pollinator insects, ultimately reducing your pumpkin yield. It’s also a fierce resource competitor but usually not a match for the pumpkin vine, which will eventually smother out your garlic crop.

Onions: Onions are also excellent for repelling pests but make bad companions for pumpkins because of resource competition.

Tomatoes: Although they’re part of the same family, tomatoes and pumpkins don’t always get along because they attract the same pests. Tomatoes can be especially prone to powdery mildew, which can spread to your pumpkins.

Potatoes: If pumpkins had an arch-nemesis, it would be potatoes. They take up a lot of space underground and can cause root stunting on pumpkins, leading to poor growth and yield. Plus, potatoes are nutrient hogs, so even fertilizing won’t do much good if you plant them together.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pumpkin Companion Plants

What plants don’t like pumpkins?

Pumpkins are very greedy plants, notorious for competing with other plants for sunlight, water, and nutrients. So, it is best to avoid planting them near delicate plants, like lettuce. Similarly, some root vegetables, like carrots, onions, and beets, don’t do well near pumpkins due to their large leaves shading the sun.

Are there any special requirements for companion planting with pumpkins?

You must consider the rooting habits of companion plants. Pumpkins have long taproots with a bunch of shallow roots. So the other plant should either have very shallow roots (like herbs) or similar deep tap roots; only then can they survive with the pumpkins.

Will companion planting really help me get better yields?

Yes, the right companion plants for pumpkins can attract beneficial insects and pollinator bees, improve soil fertility, and keep pests away. Plus, you can make better use of space within the same patch.

Final Thoughts

So, now you’ve got the lowdown on pumpkin companion planting – the dos, the don’ts, and the whys. It’s definitely worth a try; companion planting with pumpkins can bring you huge rewards and save you plenty of headaches. All you need to do is choose the right pumpkin companion plants, keep an eye on their needs, and be patient!

With time, your pumpkin patch will transform into a thriving, dazzling, bug-busting haven, ensuring an amazing harvest season after season.

Pin This Guide To Pumpkin Companion Planting!

A variety of pumpkins of various shapes and colors, with text overlay: "9 Best Pumpkin Companion Plants"

Last update on 2024-07-17 / Affiliate links / Some images and data from Amazon Product Advertising API

Companion Planting for Beginners: Pair Your Plants for a Bountiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden
  • Lowell, Brian (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages – 03/29/2022 (Publication Date) – DK (Publisher)

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