Planting Out Brassicas – Companion Planting Tips

By J. H. Fearless

In May, most of us will be planting out our hardened off brassicas in their final growing positions outdoors. Risk of frost will have passed for most of us and we will be able to look forward to warmer weather and the summer growing season. Pigeons and other birds pose, perhaps, the biggest threat to young brassica seedlings. Those who encounter a big bird problem will almost always have to net or cage brassica crops from these hungry hoards. If cabbage-whites are a big concern where you live, you may wish to consider a finer mesh to keep them away.

Companion planting is said to protect your brassica plants from a number of other common pests and can also reduce the incidence of disease. A biodiverse system is a more sturdy one, so when planting out your cabbages, broccoli, cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, kale etc. it is a good policy to avoid planting big blocks of plants in one family. You should instead inter-crop, companion plant and layer in space and time to make the most of your space and ensure a good yield and healthy crops.

There are a number of different plants that co-operate with and aid brassicas and another range of plants that simply co-exist happily, allowing you to make the most of your space. Here are a few examples that gardeners have discovered over the years:

  • By Todd PetitOnions and other alliums can repel common cabbage pests, meaning that planting alliums with your brassicas can be a good method of sustainable pest reduction.

  • French marigolds are a super hero of companion planting. They exude a natural pesticide through their roots and can aid a number of different plants throughout your garden. Nasturtiums are another flower that can be beneficial when planted near brassicas, sometimes acting as a trap crop.

  • Amongst herbs, thyme is particularly beneficial in this context as it will help to attract predatory insects and keep numbers of insect pests down.

  • Beetroot, spinach and chard all seem to help and be helped by members of the brassica family and so are great choices for companion planting that increases biodiversity and resilience in your garden beds.

  • Lettuce and other swift growing salad crops are also great for planting alongside brassicas. Intercropping of lettuce and broccoli has shown an increased overall yield in scientific studies. These swift growing crops can fill space while brassicas are still small and will be gone by the time brassicas have spread to fill the bed.

Other beneficial interactions undoubtedly exist. The best way to discover what works best is to try things out and observe the results where you live. The main thing to consider, though, is that when you plant out your brassicas, you should be thinking about planting or sowing companion crops too. If you sow lettuce seeds between the small brassica plants, these will be ready to harvest just as the brassicas need the space they are vacating. Choosing to plant some other good companions at the same time could help you reduce the chances of losing your crop.