As a gardening expert and educator who grew up immersed in Wisconsin’s natural landscapes, I’ve spent over 20 years transforming outdoor spaces of all sizes into vibrant gardens adapted to local growing conditions. In my experience, incorporating companion planting into any vegetable patch can make your garden more productive, pest-resistant, and sustainable. Peas are no exception! These sweet legumes thrive with the right plant neighbors by their side. In this blog post, I’ll teach you about companion planting for peas and how to choose additions to your garden that can improve your pea plants’ growth, health, and yields.
- 1 A Brief Overview of Companion Planting
- 2 Why Peas Love Having Friends Nearby
- 3 Best Companion Plants for Peas
- 4 Planting Your Pea Companions for Success
- 5 Common Companion Planting Concerns
- 6 Time to Give Pea Companion Planting a Try
A Brief Overview of Companion Planting
Before discussing companions for peas specifically, let’s quickly cover the basics of companion planting for any garden. Companion planting is the practice of strategically growing mutually beneficial plants together. It takes advantage of the natural interactions between certain plant species to boost yields, deter pests, and attract pollinators.
This bio-diverse gardening technique has ancient roots. One of the first known examples is the “Three Sisters” planting method of the Native American Iroquois tribe, which intercropped corn, beans, and squash. Companion planting remains a crucial technique in organic and sustainable vegetable gardens.
Why Peas Love Having Friends Nearby
As legumes that fix nitrogen from the air into the soil through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in their roots, pea plants enrich the earth. This makes them perfect companions already! Their vining growth habit allows them to climb vertically and share space without overcrowding other plants.
Still, even peas need a little help from their friends sometimes. Planting peas with thoughtful companions tailored to their needs results in more robust root systems, more vigorous foliage, better pollination and fruit set, and protection from pests and diseases. The advantages of growing peas among friendly neighbors include:
- Increased Yields: Well-supported peas with access to plenty of nutrients and protection from threats produce higher quantities of their tasty pods.
- Improved Pest Management: Strategic companions mask the scent of peas to confuse pests or repel them with strong odors.
- Enhanced soil health: The suitable companions fix nutrients into the soil or draw minerals from deep in the earth, fueling the peas.
- Aesthetic Appeal: A thoughtfully planted pea patch interplanted with flowers and foliage is a beauty to behold!
Next, explore some of the best companion planting options to grow alongside your peas.
Best Companion Plants for Peas
As nitrogen-fixing plants, peas produce more nitrogen than they need. Fortunately, they can share their nitrogen bounty with heavy feeders! By planting peas with companions that will thrive thanks to the surplus nitrogen in the soil, you can maximize the output of your garden space.
Some of the best nitrogen-loving companion plants for peas include:
- Corn: A classic companion in the “Three Sisters” indigenous planting method, corn benefits greatly from the nitrogen peas produced.
- Squash: Another “Three Sisters” companion, vining squash appreciates the living mulch and nitrogen from peas.
- Cucumbers: These sprawling plants use nitrogen while providing a natural trellis for peas.
- Carrots are one of my favorite companions for peas. The roots drill deep to access nutrients, while the tops thrive thanks to the nitrogen peas generate.
Organic Pest Control Crew
In addition to enriching the soil, some plants actively deter pests that can damage peas. Planting these aromatic and distasteful plants near your peas can confuse pests and protect your precious pods!
Some of the best organic pest deterrents for peas include:
- Chives: A pretty and flavorful allium that masks the scent of peas to aphids.
- Garlic is another allium that confuses a host of pests with its powerful aroma.
- Marigolds: A hardy annual flower that discourages soil-dwelling nematodes.
- Radishes: These spicy root veggies repel cucumber beetles, sparing your peas.
Support Crew for Climbing Peas
Providing adequate support is one of the most significant challenges gardeners face when cultivating vining peas. Rather than devote precious garden space to rows of trellises, I prefer integrating natural supports right within my beds. Thankfully, many taller plants make perfect climbing poles!
Some of my favorite pea supports include:
- Pole Beans: These fellow legumes form beautifully intertwined pea and bean teepees.
- Sunflowers: A classic Wisconsin native that offers peas tons of vertical space to climb skyward.
- Corn: The sturdy corn stalks provide the quintessential support structure in Three Sisters’ planting schemes.
When pairing peas with climbing supports, arrange your pea seeds in a ring around the structure’s base at planting time. As they germinate, gently train their tendrils onto the support. You may also need to provide supplemental caging for extremely exuberant peas and heavier yields.
Soil Enhancers and Pest Patrol
In addition to directly supporting peas, many companion plants work harder behind the scenes to create optimal growing conditions. By cultivating beneficial soil microbes, attracting pollinators, or luring predatory insects, these companions create a thriving garden ecosystem for your peas to flourish.
Some of my favorite companions in this category include:
- Clover: This legume covers bare ground, fixes nitrogen, and feeds soil life.
- Dill: A favorite of beneficial wasps that prey on pests, dill enhances essential oil production.
- Comfrey: A versatile fertilizer plant accumulating nutrients deep in the soil.
- Bee Balm: With its gorgeous red blooms, bee balm sustains pollinators.
With so many options, you can create custom companion planting schemes tailored to your specific garden’s needs! Avoid pairing peas with incompatible plants like onions, tomatoes, or fennel.
Now that you know which companions best support thriving peas, let’s discuss how to plant your pea patch effectively.
Planting Your Pea Companions for Success
Designing Your Garden Layout
Companion planting increases yields within the same space by maximizing positive plant interactions. But without forethought, these beneficial relationships can’t develop.
When planning your bed layout, consider the expected mature size of both your pea variety and the companion plants you select. Avoid shadows from taller plants falling over your peas. Similarly, don’t allow spreading companions to overtake emerging pea seedlings.
I arrange my garden beds into zones based on plant heights and growth habits. I place tall supports for climbing peas to the north of my mattresses. Low-growing herbs and flowers occupy the sun-drenched southern border. Heavy feeders and legumes go in the center, reaping mutual benefits. This zoning prevents overcrowding and distributes nutrients where needed most while using every inch of soil.
Successful Planting Techniques
Beyond mapping out zones on paper, executing companion planting schemes in the garden involves some specialized techniques. Follow these tips for companion planting success:
Diversify: The more varieties of mutually beneficial plants are grown together, the more stable the ecosystem will be. Mixing up plant families produces cycles and functions.
Think in layers. Arrange plants of different heights and spreading habits together, using vertical and horizontal space.
Enhance Soil Life: Spread organic compost, grow cover crops, and mulch to feed the soil, suppress weeds, and improve drainage and nutrient absorption.
Welcome Wildlife: Select flowering herbs and native plants to attract pollinators and beneficial predatory insects for natural pest control.
Space Mindfully: Give each plant enough room to grow to its expected mature size without crowding companions.
Time It Right: Plant companions together starting from seed, setting out transplants simultaneously to give roots time to intermingle.
Follow these best practices for thoughtfully integrating companion plants with your peas, and you’ll enjoy a thriving, resilient garden that produces bountiful harvests.
Common Companion Planting Concerns
I often receive questions from home gardeners about the nuances of pairing plants together. Here are some of the most frequent queries, along with my responses:
Will companion planting improve my pea yields? Yes! Support plants provide physical support, repel pests, and attract pollinators – all benefits translating into higher pod production.
What are some ideal companion plants from seed? Beans, corn, carrots, radishes, and beets pair nicely with peas sown directly outdoors. Choose quick-maturing varieties.
Do all peas have the exact companion needs? All vining garden pea varieties thrive mainly with the same supports and soil enhancers. There are a few differences, though, so consult seed packets.
What precautions should I take? Overcrowding stresses plants and increases pest and disease pressure. Monitor for signs of reduced vigor, indicating competition for resources. Also, beware of allelopathic plants like garlic that suppress pea growth.
How do I trellis pea companions together? Install support structures like obelisks and fencing before sowing seeds. Position vining peas and pole beans around the base and train tendrils to climb as they grow.
Can companion planting increase pea nutrition? Yes! Nitrogen-fixing plants boost levels of proteins within pods. Dynamic accumulators like comfrey enrich overall mineral content, too.
Time to Give Pea Companion Planting a Try
As you can see, companion planting peas successfully just takes a bit of planning and plant know-how. But the benefits for your garden are immense! Who wouldn’t want higher yields, fewer pests, and enhanced nutrition from the same garden space?
I encourage you to review this guide and consider ideal companion plants to incorporate in next year’s pea patch. Try working on a few additions in this first year if space allows. Gradually build up a thriving ecosystem surrounding your peas. Let me know about your adventures in pea companion planting or any other gardening topics on my website!