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Mixed culture is the targeted planting of vegetables that support each other in growth. Accordingly, so-called bad neighbors are avoided. A good mixed culture saves a lot of work during the season.

In a nutshell

  • There are types of vegetables that encourage each other to grow
  • Bad neighbors can hinder each other's growth and promote the spread of diseases and pests
  • Vegetables from the same plant family should never be placed next to each other
  • Neutral neighbors can be underplanted if no good neighbor is available
  • With new breeds, it is important to make your own observations

Advantages of mixed cultures

The mixed culture of vegetables has already saved many a gardener a lot of work. Along with crop rotation, mixed cultures are one of the most important concepts in the garden. The aim of mixed cultivation is that the types of vegetables that you plant next to each other support each other. What that support looks like, however, can vary widely.

Milpa bed. Source: Paul Rogé, Milpa in Zaragoza, Tilantongo, crop from Plantopedia, CC BY 4.0
  • mutual defense against pests
  • mutual protection against diseases
  • mutual promotion of growth and maturity

Mixed cultures have developed over generations, during which it was observed and tried out which types of vegetables get along well with each other and which vegetables tend to hinder each other. It is important that you plant the different types of vegetables in row culture. Whether you make rows in a large field and plant variety by variety or combine good neighbors within a bed is irrelevant.

Tip: It is often easier for beginners to start with a mixed culture in beds. It is easier to find good partnerships in small areas, compared to large vegetable fields, where it is more difficult to avoid unfavorable combinations.

Symbiosis of good neighbors

In many gardens there are several cultures per growing area. A basic distinction is made between the following cultures:

  • preculture
  • main culture
  • postculture
  • interculture

Finding good neighbors is a challenge when crops change during the growing season. Short preliminary crops such as radishes and various salads are usually followed by longer main crops. Vegetables can be used as an intercrop, with a short growth period. But green manure can also be used as an intermediate or secondary crop.
Before you start planting the first crops in early spring, you should therefore plan which crops will be next to each other and when. This will prevent you from having vacancies in beds and the vegetables from missing neighbors who support you.
The symbiosis between the types of vegetables is often greater than many people think. Because they keep pests away from each other. The classic is the combination of carrots and onions. The intense smell of the carrot leaves away pests such as the leek moth, which not only eats onions but also other leeks. Conversely, the smell of the onions drives away pests that eat the carrots.
In addition to mutual support, good partnerships also mean that they do not get in each other's way. That is why, for example, people switch between shallow and deep roots and plants that have a narrow, tall or a wide and sprawling habit.

Avoid bad neighbors

Where there are good neighbors, there are also bad combinations. These are vegetables that hinder each other's growth. This is when plants develop at different rates and one species is taking light and nutrients away from the other. Plants also emit essential oils through stomata, which are not always beneficial to all immediate neighbors.
Plants that are preferred by a certain group of pests also get along poorly. If these vegetables are planted right next to each other, the pests will literally eat their way through all crops. In addition, the spread of plant diseases that can affect the same genus or plant family, for example, is also encouraged.
The following plant families are particularly at risk of pests and diseases spreading:

  • Solanaceae (potato beetle, late blight)
  • Asteraceae (snails, aphids)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage white, flea beetles)
  • Cucurbits (snails, powdery mildew)
  • Allium plants (leek moth, lily beetle)
  • Legumes (Black bean aphid)
  • Apiaceae (carrot fly)

Another problem besides disease transmission is that plants from the same family often have similar site requirements, which in turn leads to competition when they are in close proximity.
In addition to good and bad neighbors, there are also so-called neutral neighbors. These plants do not harm each other in close proximity, but do not support each other either. If there is no other choice in the mixed culture table with the selected plants, a neutral neighbor can also be selected. This at least prevents the plants from interfering with each other.

Strong and weak consumers

Especially in older mixed culture tables, heavy and weak consumers play an important role. Due to the fact that the vegetables in the garden usually have more than enough nutrients available, this can be neglected. More relevant, however, is the alternation between heavy and weak consumers in crop rotation. A lot can be saved here with fertilization.

Collect your own experiences

The mixed culture is based on the experience of several generations. Due to the fact that new varieties, which are mainly bred in the direction of resistance, are constantly coming onto the market, it is important to make your own observations as to which plants are compatible and which are not.

Tip: Keep your own observations of which plants get along with each other and which do not in a garden diary. Create a separate page for each plant or type of vegetable and write down your experiences with good and bad neighbors.

Table of important combinations

  • Plant species - good neighbors - bad neighbors
  • Artichokes - cucumbers, lettuce, celery - potatoes
  • Aubergine - beans - peppers, tomatoes
  • Basil - tomato, cucumber, zucchini, fennel - X
  • Cauliflower - French beans, celery, peas - garlic, onion
  • Savory - beans, beets, lettuce - X
  • French Beans - Savory, Chinese Cabbage, Dill, Strawberries, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Cabbages, Beets, Radishes, Lettuce, Celery, Spinach - Peas, Garlic, Fennel, Peppers, Leeks, Chives, Onions, Runner Beans
  • Chinese cabbage - beans, peas, spinach - radishes, radish
  • Dill - peas, carrots, cabbages, lettuce, corn, radishes, celery, zucchini - beans, potatoes, leeks, garlic, onions, tomatoes
  • Strawberries - borage, garlic, lettuce, radishes, spinach - cabbages
  • Lamb's lettuce - strawberries, radishes - X
  • Fennel - peas, cucumbers, cabbages, spinach, basil, savory - beans, tomatoes
  • Cucumbers - basil, beans, peas, dill, cabbages, lettuce, corn, leeks, beets, onions - tomatoes, potatoes, radishes
  • Carrots - leeks, Swiss chard, peas, lettuce, tomatoes - beets
  • Potatoes - French beans, turnip greens, corn, spinach - tomatoes, peas, cucumber, squash, onion
  • Garlic - strawberries, cucumbers, carrots, beets, tomatoes - peas, beans, cabbages
  • Cabbage - beans, dill, lettuce, peas, cucumbers, beets, celery, tomatoes - cabbages, potatoes, garlic, onions, chives
  • Kohlrabi - beans, dill, peas, cucumbers, potatoes, leeks, radishes, celery - types of cabbage
  • Leeks - strawberries, cabbages, carrots, lettuce, celery, tomatoes - beans, peas, beets
  • Lettuce - beans, peas, fennel, cucumbers, cabbages, carrots, onions, radishes, tomatoes - parsley, celery
  • May turnip - beans, peas, lettuce, chard, parsnips, dill - X
  • Corn - beans, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, zucchini - beets
  • Chard - bush beans, types of cabbage, radish, lettuce, carrots - beetroot
  • Peppers - cabbages, tomatoes - peas, beets
  • Parsnips - Potato, Lettuce, Turnip, Radish, Beetroot, Celery Corn - X
  • Parsley - cucumber, tomato, onion - lettuce
  • Radishes - beans, peas, chard, carrots, tomato - cucumbers, cabbages
  • Beetroot - beans, dill, cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, onion, zucchini - potato, leek, spinach, chard
  • Black salsify - kohlrabi, lettuce, carrots, leeks, basil - X
  • Celery - French beans, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, lettuce, leeks - peas, potatoes
  • Spinach - strawberries, potatoes, cabbages, beans, tomatoes - beets, chard
  • Runner beans - cucumbers, potatoes, cabbages, radishes, beets, spinach - bush beans, peas, leeks, peppers
  • Tomatoes - French beans - cabbages, carrots, leeks, celery - peas, fennel, cucumbers, potatoes, peppers, beets
  • Zucchini - basil, runner beans, onions - cucumbers
  • Onions - dill, beans, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes - beans, peas, potatoes, cabbages

Here you can download our mixed culture table free of charge and easily as a PDF:

Notice: Colloquially, there are the so-called "three sisters", which are corn, runner beans and pumpkin. These three plants can be planted in the immediate vicinity, because the beans can grow up on the corn, for example, and the pumpkin provides enough shade so that the corn has enough moisture.

frequently asked Questions

How can I create my own mixed culture table?

In addition to certain basic rules, such as never planting vegetables from the same family, plants that are preferred by similar pests should be excluded in advance. New observations of the combinations can certainly be made with new breeds and with neutral neighbors. Once you have created an optimal plan, you can keep it and only have to move up one place every year, so there is also automatic crop rotation.

I can't find a good or neutral neighbor, what should I plant?

If you really can't find a suitable neighbor in the table, the simplest solution is to sow a row of ornamental flowers. In addition to sunflowers, decorative baskets or zinnias are also suitable. They have the advantage of attracting pollinators. Alternatively, you can also leave at least a meter distance between the plants that do not get along.

I can't find a plant in the mixed culture table, what should I do?

The mixed crop tables deal primarily with the most commonly planted vegetables. In recent years, however, new types of vegetables from other countries have been added again and again. If there is no information on this, you have to do your own research, with the most important factors being the plant family, the habit and the nutrient requirements and the cultivation period. This means that some plants can already be included or excluded.

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