Cucumbers are a rather exuberant crop with vines that can sprawl over a lot of space—the more healthy the cucumber plant, the more space they seem to take up. But space requirements aside, cucumbers can also play well with more types of vegetables than you think.
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are in the same family as squash and melons and can be eaten fresh or pickled for later use. There are some plants that make good garden neighbors to cucumbers, and several that should be avoided. You may be surprised to learn that melons, cucumbers' cousins, are poor matches to grow nearby.
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is the close planting of different species based on their ability to enhance one another's growth, offer some form of pest protection or other advantages. Sometimes this is a matter of choosing plants with different growth habits that do not compete with one another, or it can mean choosing companions that have different nutrient needs in order to make efficient use of soil.
Strategic companion planting is especially important in small gardens or wherever careful space planning is needed.
Because cucumbers typically hug the ground, towering or climbing vegetables and flowers such as corn or sunflowers will stand well above the blanket of cucumber vines. These plants also do not require much in the way of water, and so they will not compete with cucumbers for moisture.
There are many vegetables that make excellent companions for cucumbers. Peas, corn, and beans are legumes—a type of plant that has a root system that increases nitrogen in the soil. The mechanism by which this happens is that roots have the ability to colonize the Rhizobium bacteria and absorb about 20 percent of the sugar produced by the plant—which is then turned into nitrogen. Any of the nitrogen not absorbed by the legume is released into the nearby soil as the plant decomposes, thereby becoming available to nearby companion plants. This will benefit your cucumber plants, as well as many other garden plants. Other good vegetable companions include radishes, beets, carrots, and onions.
Marigold flowers will help repel beetles, and nasturtiums are distasteful to thrips and other insects that feed on cucumbers. These flowers, along with sunflowers, make for good companions for almost all vegetables and herbs.
Poor Companions for Cucumbers
Just as some plants are good companions together, there are also those that should not be allowed to reside side-by-side.
Potatoes compete mightily with cucumbers for nutrients and water, so they should not be planted with cucumbers. For some reason, other members of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, do not have this effect on cucumbers.
Sage seems to attract pests that feast on cucumber leaves, and thus should be avoided. In general, other ground-hugging vining crops are likely to compete with cucumbers, and therefore should not be planted in the same vicinity as cucumbers.