Just like people, spinach gets along better with some plants than others, and we call those “spinach companion plants.” You can organically maintain a thriving garden and maximize your yield by pairing spinach with these companions.
Spinach is a cool-season leafy green vegetable, perfect for growing in your backyard. It’s one of the most cold-hardy plants and can withstand heavy frost and temperatures as low as 20 degrees. And it matures super fast – some varieties are ready to harvest in just 21 days. However, spinach needs well-drained, nutrient-rich soil and full sun for the best yield.
But don’t worry; many spinach companion plants can help you keep the soil healthy and support your crop. So what are the best plants to grow with spinach? And, just as importantly, what plants should you avoid?
This spinach companion planting guide has all your answers.
What Will I Learn?
- What is Companion Planting?
- The Benefits of Companion Planting for Spinach
- Understanding the Needs of Spinach: (A Quick Care Guide)
- Best Spinach Companion Plants
- Worst Spinach Companion Plants
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is the practice of planting two or more different types of plants together in close proximity to benefit each other. Some companion plants provide direct benefits like nutrient exchange and pest control, while others share indirect benefits, like wind protection, increased water efficiency, and use of space.
When done correctly, companion planting can improve soil fertility and yield without harming the environment with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. It’s an organic, natural way to create a mutually beneficial ecosystem in your garden.
The Benefits of Companion Planting for Spinach
Spinach can greatly benefit from companion planting in several ways. Here are some of the main advantages of growing it together with other compatible plants:
Nutrient Exchange: Spinach is a heavy feeder and requires plenty of nutrients to thrive. Certain companions, such as legumes, can help add nitrogen-rich organic material into the soil. This reduces the need for frequent fertilizing with synthetic materials.
Weed Retardation: Spinach has a deep tap root and a bunch of shallow feeder roots, which are vulnerable to damage from pulling weeds. You can discourage weed growth and reduce the need for weeding by planting ground-covering plants (such as strawberries) around your spinach.
Pest Control: A wide variety of pests, including aphids, caterpillars, leaf miners, wireworms, and spider mites, love to attack spinach. So by growing certain companion plants like garlic and leeks nearby, you can repel these pests or even attract beneficial insects that prey on them.
Sun Protection: Spinach can suffer from heat stress and premature bolting in warmer climates. Planting it with taller companion plants, such as eggplant and broccoli, can act as natural temperature regulators and protect your spinach from intense sunlight.
Disease Prevention: Plants of the same species as spinach are more likely to contract the same diseases. So planting companion plants like onions, which are rich in sulfur, can help reduce the risk of disease.
In addition, several spinach companion plants help neutralize soil acidity, act as living mulch, and attract beneficial insects. We will cover these in detail below.
Understanding the Needs of Spinach: (A Quick Care Guide)
Spinach is easygoing and undemanding. It doesn’t ask for much but still needs a few things to thrive.
Soil: First off, spinach loves full sun and moist, well-drained soil with an acidic pH of 6.0 to 7.0. It also prefers cooler temperatures, so it’s best to plant spinach in early spring or late fall when the weather is milder.
Water: Spinach likes a good drink, but don’t go overboard. Just make sure the soil is moist, or it can start bolting (early flowering due to drought). An important point to note; always water at the base of your spinach plants and not from overhead so that you don’t encourage disease or rot.
Fertilizer: It’s a heavy feeder, so it does best with a light sprinkle of fertilizer every two to three weeks. An all-purpose organic fertilizer is perfect for spinach and will give your plants the nutrients they need to grow strong.
If your soil really lacks nutrients, add some compost or aged manure for an added boost.
Best Spinach Companion Plants
Now let’s look at 9 of the best spinach companion plants to help your spinach grow strong and healthy.
Like spinach, garlic is also a cold hardy plant, so you can plant them together early in the season when the conditions are not yet suitable for other vegetables. And since garlic is a long crop, you can grow many successive spinach crops between garlic rows and make optimal use of your garden space.
But the most important benefit garlic offers is pest protection. Its strong odor naturally repels pests like aphids, spider mites, slugs, and other leaf-eating insects that love to feast on spinach.
All types of beans, including bush beans, pole beans, and snap beans, fix nitrogen into the soil. As a heavy feeder, spinach greatly benefits from this nutrient and needs minimum supplement when planted near bean plants.
Beans plants also provide dappled shade that prevents premature bolting in case of mid-season temperature hikes. Plus, they are also compatible in terms of harvesting time.
Brassica is a family of vegetables that includes cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts.
Almost every brassica is a large, tightly packed plant notorious for vigorously competing with neighboring plants. But with spinach, it’s different. Since brassicas have deep roots, they don’t compete with spinach for water and nutrients. Instead, spinach gets aerated soil and improved drainage.
Once fully grown, the brassica plants also offer shade and protection to spinach from pests and extreme weather conditions. In addition, they have a very different pest profile than spinach, so overall pest impact is minimal.
Above all, you save a lot of space in your garden. Brassicas are long-term crops, so you can grow successive spinach crops between them and make use of your garden space to the fullest.
Like brassicas, tomatoes are also warm-season crops, so you can maximize your garden space by planting spinach between your tomato plants at the beginning of the season. But even when mature, tomato plants are usually trained to grow upward using stakes or trellises, so you can keep planting spinach underneath them without compromising sun exposure.
Tomatoes also have different root zones and nutrient requirements, so they won’t compete with spinach for soil nutrients. Plus, tomato plants provide shade to keep the spinach from getting fried during the hot midday sun.
5. Leeks and Onions
The Allium family, including leeks, scallions, chives, and onions, are all very popular companion plants for spinach. First, they have a strong odor that repels pests like aphids and mites, common on spinach plants. The strong smell of onions and leeks also helps mask the scent of spinach foliage from animals like rabbits and deer that would love to snack on it.
The sulfur-rich compounds secreted by these allium plants also act like anti-fungal agents and help reduce disease risk. In addition, the shallow, bulky roots of chives and onion plants aerate the soil and improve drainage, reducing the risk of root rot.
Cucumbers and spinach are an excellent companion combo as cucumber plants climb the trellises, leaving plenty of room for spinach to thrive below.
Furthermore, cucumbers provide shade to the spinach, and their wide leaves make mulch that prevents the evaporation of soil moisture. And they’re very light feeders, leaving most of the soil nutrients available for spinach.
Strawberries typically grow in small dense mounds less than 10 inches tall, much similar to the size of spinach, so they don’t compete for sunlight. The low-growing foliage of strawberries also acts like mulch and helps keep moisture in the soil all year round while reducing weeds.
In addition, strawberries are grown as perennial plants with a deep-established root system that helps aerate the soil and reduce runoff from heavy rains or irrigation.
Almost all garden herbs except mint are excellent companion plants for spinach, as they attract beneficial insects and repel pests. But out of them all, dill stands out due to its unique upright structure and fern-like foliage that provides consistent shade during the warm summer.
Dill also enhances the growth and flavor of its neighboring plants, including spinach.
Among flower plants, borage is the best companion for spinach. Borage produces bright blue edible flowers and leaves with cucumber-like flavor, attracting beneficial insects like bees, hoverflies, and ladybugs to the garden.
These predatory insects help eliminate pests that could potentially attack your spinach crop. In addition, borage also pulls trace minerals deep from the ground and makes them available to heavy feeder plants like spinach.
Worst Spinach Companion Plants
Now that you know the best companion plants for spinach, let’s talk about a few of the worst plants to avoid when planting.
Potato: Potatoes compete with spinach for moisture and minerals. Plus, they’re highly susceptible to a range of diseases that could also spread to nearby spinach.
Corn: You don’t want spinach under the shade, and corn plants being tall and dense will certainly deny spinach the required sunlight.
Fennel: Don’t plant fennel with any vegetable, really! It tends to take over and choke out other plants.
Sunflower: Sunflowers are tall, rampant growers that require deep soil. As spinach doesn’t prefer overly wet or heavily compacted soil, it’s best to keep it away from sunflower roots.
Pumpkin: Pumpkins spread vigorously and create canopies that can block sun exposure to other plants.
Mint: Mint is considered an invasive plant and can easily spread over your spinach patch; best to keep it away.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I plant with spinach to keep bugs away?
Aromatic herbs like oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, and dill produce strong smells and are great for keeping bugs away from spinach. In addition, plants from the allium family, like garlic, chives, and onions, also keep away pests while improving the flavor of spinach.
How should I arrange the companion plants around my spinach?
Make alternative rows of different companion plants around your spinach—for example, two rows of onions, two rows of tomatoes, and so on. Or divide the bed into 4×4 feet sections and arrange the companion plant with spinach in a checkerboard pattern.
What are the best companions to grow with spinach in containers?
Compact herbs like parsley, oregano, and chives grow very well in containers. In addition, you can also plant baby lettuce, small bush tomatoes, and even strawberries in the spinach container.
Companion planting is a great way to optimize the use of your garden space while increasing yield and protecting from plant pests. Spinach has many beneficial companion plants that can enhance its growth and flavor while reducing the risk of disease and attracting beneficial insect predators.
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