Companion planting is a time-honored agricultural practice involving growing different crops close to each other for the mutual benefit of all. This technique can enhance crop yield, pest management, and pollination. According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, companion planting can increase crop yield by up to 20%. Furthermore, a report from the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program suggests that certain companion plants can reduce pest populations by up to 70% by attracting beneficial insects.
However, ensuring effectiveness will be necessary when choosing the right companion plants, especially when considering building a watermelon garden. However, you might not know what to plant with watermelon. Companion plants for watermelon can be challenging to understand, especially when you want to maximize yield and ensure watermelon flavor. What to plant with watermelon will be critical, and here is a guide to choosing the most suitable companion plants.
What is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is a method of cultivation where different species of plants are grown nearby for mutual benefit. It’s an agricultural practice deeply rooted in ecological principles and understanding the symbiotic relationships between plant species. Companion planting is based on the idea that certain plants can improve each other’s health and growth when planted in proximity. This is achieved through various means such as nutrient uptake, pest deterrence, pollination, and providing beneficial insect habitats.
In nature, plants rarely exist in isolation. They engage in complex relationships with their surrounding environment and other organisms, including other plants. Symbiotic relationships between different plant species can take several forms. For instance, some plants, known as ‘fixers,’ can convert nitrogen from the air into a form other plants can use. Both species can thrive by planting these ‘fixers’ alongside nitrogen-loving plants. Other plants may deter pests that harm a neighboring plant or attract beneficial insects that aid pollination. Understanding these relationships is crucial for practical companion planting with watermelons and can lead to healthier, more productive gardens.
Symbiotic relationships between different plants vary from species to species. Therefore, it’s essential to understand different types of companion plants and how they benefit melon plants before selecting the best ones for your garden.
15 Best Companion Plants for Watermelons
Watermelons are heavy feeders with deep root systems that require a lot of nutrients to grow optimally. Nurturing watermelon companion plants can ensure the melon has good soil fertility and protection from pests. Moreover, some companion plants for watermelon can help deter precocious fruit development. What grows well with watermelon include:
Marigolds make perfect companion plants for watermelons, thanks to their ability to act as natural pest repellents. These vibrant flowers emit a strong aroma that deters many common garden pests, such as nematodes, beetles, and even rabbits, protecting the watermelon plants from harm. The marigold’s repellent properties are not only limited to its scent, but its roots also exude a special secretion found to ward off harmful soil nematodes and microscopic worms that can damage the watermelon’s root system.
Aside from their pest control benefits, marigolds enhance soil health. The secretions from their roots can improve soil fertility, which benefits watermelon plants, known for their high nutrient requirements. In this way, marigolds serve a dual purpose: fortifying the garden against pests while enriching the soil, making them ideal melon companion plants.
Nasturtiums are another superb choice as companion plants for melons. The brightly colored flowers and lush foliage of nasturtiums are aesthetically pleasing and serve practical purposes in a watermelon garden. Nasturtiums exude a strong scent that helps deter many garden pests, such as beetles and whiteflies. At the same time, their nectar-rich flowers are a magnet for beneficial insects, including pollinators like bees and butterflies, which are crucial for watermelon growth and yield.
Moreover, nasturtiums are renowned for their ability to serve as a “trap crop” for aphids. Aphids are attracted to nasturtiums over other plants, so they become a decoy, drawing these pests away from the watermelon plants and keeping them safe from aphid infestation. Consequently, the watermelon plants can grow undisturbed, leading to a more successful harvest. Their ability to attract and trap aphids, deter other pests, and invite beneficial insects make nasturtiums an excellent component in a watermelon garden, enhancing the space’s beauty and productivity.
Basil, a beloved culinary herb, makes a fantastic companion plant for watermelons, especially for those interested in enhancing the flavor profile of their melon crops. It is believed that the aromatic compounds present in basil can subtly influence the taste of nearby crops, including watermelon. When planted in proximity, basil can infuse watermelons with a slight, almost undetectable basil undertone, adding an intriguing complexity to their sweet flavor.
In addition to its flavor-enhancing properties, basil plays a crucial role in pest control within a watermelon garden. The robust aroma of basil plants deters several common watermelon pests, notably mosquitoes and flies. The essential oils in basil leaves are unappealing to these insects, effectively keeping them at bay and protecting watermelon plants from potential damage. By fostering a basil-friendly environment around your watermelon patch, you can improve the taste of your watermelons, keep bothersome pests away, and enjoy a bountiful harvest of watermelons and fresh basil herbs.
Oregano, recognized for its varied medicinal and culinary uses, is also an excellent companion for watermelon plants. This aromatic herb is a deterrent to many pests threatening watermelons, including beetles, aphids, and cabbage moths. The potent smell of oregano leaves is known to confuse and repel these pests, creating a protective barrier around your watermelon patch.
Beyond its pest-repelling attributes, oregano contributes to the overall health and vigor of watermelon plants. Oregano aids in improving soil fertility by recycling nutrients back into the soil as its leaves decompose. This nutrient boost can be particularly beneficial for watermelon plants, which are heavy feeders and need rich soil to thrive. Additionally, the dense growth of oregano may provide a living mulch for watermelons, helping to regulate soil temperature and retain soil moisture, conditions favorable for optimal watermelon growth. With oregano as a companion plant, you safeguard your watermelons from pests and enhance their overall health, development, and productivity.
Mint, a commonly known herb for its distinct aroma and culinary use, is an excellent companion plant for watermelons. One of the advantages of including mint in a watermelon garden is its effectiveness as a natural pest deterrent. The strong scent of mint has been found to repel several pests that can potentially harm watermelon crops, such as aphids, flea beetles, and even larger pests like rodents. This natural insect-repelling characteristic of mint can provide a protective shield for your watermelon plants, reducing the need for chemical pesticides and promoting a healthier and more natural garden.
In addition to its pest-deterrent properties, mint adds a fragrant dimension to your garden. The refreshing aroma of mint leaves can create a pleasant and stimulating gardening atmosphere. This aromatic aspect, coupled with its rich green foliage, contributes to the overall aesthetic appeal of your garden. Moreover, mint’s fast growth and spreading nature can fill in gaps in the garden, providing a lush, green carpet that’s as functional as it is beautiful. Thus, by incorporating mint as a companion plant for watermelon, you can enjoy the benefits of natural pest control while adding a sensory delight to your garden experience.
Radishes are an excellent sacrificial or “trap crop” paired with watermelons. These vibrant and rapidly growing vegetables are particularly adept at attracting pests that would otherwise target your watermelon plants. Common garden pests, such as flea beetles and aphids, are drawn to radishes over watermelons. This way, the radishes effectively divert these pests, absorbing the damage and leaving the watermelon plants safe and undisturbed. The radishes’ sacrifice ensures healthier, pest-free watermelon plants that can grow to their full potential.
In addition, radishes contribute to the diversity of your garden. Their bright red bulbs and lush green tops add color and variety to the planting area, making the garden more visually appealing and enhancing biodiversity. This diversity can lead to a more balanced garden ecosystem, which may further deter pests and promote overall plant health. Plus, radishes are edible and grow quickly, meaning you’ll have a helpful harvest even from your sacrificial crop, adding another layer of productivity to your garden. This dual role of radishes as a protective barrier for watermelons and a source of vibrant visual diversity makes them a valuable addition to any watermelon garden.
Cucumbers make an exceptional companion for watermelon plants, owing to their similar growth habits and care requirements. Like watermelons, cucumbers are vines that prefer warm conditions and require a fair amount of water, making them ideal to grow side by side. Cultivating these two crops together allows efficient use of water and fertilizers, as they can be irrigated and nourished simultaneously, minimizing resource waste and labor effort.
Moreover, cucumbers and watermelons flourish under full sun, but they also appreciate shade during the hottest part of the day. When these two crops are grown together, those broad watermelon plant flowers create a lush canopy with their leaves, providing much-needed shade and reducing the soil temperature. This helps to retain soil moisture and prevents the sun’s harsh rays from scorching the fruits and burning the leaves.
The mutually beneficial relationship between cucumbers and watermelons extends to creating a favorable microclimate. The dense growth of these vine crops helps maintain high humidity levels, which is particularly helpful in arid regions or during dry periods. This microclimate also discourages the growth of weeds, as the thick foliage blocks sunlight from reaching the soil surface, hindering weed germination and growth.
Watermelons are great companion plants for sunflowers, and vice versa. Their lofty stature provides a natural shade for watermelon plants, protecting them from the intense heat of the midday sun. This shade helps conserve soil moisture and reduces the risk of sunscald, a common issue where direct sunlight causes the watermelon’s skin to harden and crack.
But the benefits of companion planting sunflowers go beyond just providing shade. Sunflowers also serve as a beacon for pollinators and beneficial insects. Their vibrant flowers, rich in nectar and pollen, attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinator species, which in turn help pollinate the watermelon flowers, increasing their productivity.
Moreover, sunflowers also attract beneficial insects that prey on common pests, contributing to natural pest control in the garden. For instance, ladybugs and lacewings drawn to sunflowers are natural predators of aphids and other harmful insects. Therefore, companion planting with sunflowers enhances not just the aesthetic appeal of your garden but also boosts its ecological balance, promoting a healthier, more productive environment for your watermelon plants.
Beans are an excellent choice as companion plants for watermelons and cantaloupe due to their unique ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil. Legumes like beans host nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their roots, which convert inert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can use. This natural process enriches the soil with nitrogen, a crucial nutrient for watermelon growth, and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers. This organic addition of nitrogen contributes to soil fertility and promotes watermelon plants’ vigorous, healthy development.
Additionally, beans, especially pole varieties, grow upwards, forming natural watermelon trellises supporting vine crops. The vertical growth of beans serves a dual purpose – it optimizes the usage of garden space. It introduces an element of vertical interest while providing necessary support for watermelon vines. This natural trellising process allows for better air circulation and exposure to sunlight, both of which are conducive to the health and productivity of watermelon plants. Therefore, with their nitrogen-fixing and trellising benefits, beans make highly beneficial companions for watermelons, enhancing the garden’s productivity and sustainability.
Corn is another excellent watermelon companion due to its tall and sturdy stalks. These stalks can serve as natural trellises for watermelon vines, providing necessary support as they grow and spread. This vertical growth habit optimizes space usage in the garden and improves air circulation and sun exposure, contributing positively to watermelon plants’ overall health and productivity.
Moreover, corn’s height offers shade protection to watermelon plants, especially from the intense midday sun. This protective shade helps to retain soil moisture and minimizes the risk of sunscald on the watermelon’s skin, a common issue during hot, sunny weather.
In addition to providing shade, corn’s robust structure also acts as a windbreak, shielding the watermelon plants from strong winds, which could potentially cause damage. Corn helps watermelons thrive and contributes to your garden’s overall productivity and sustainability by offering the proper support, shade, and wind protection.
Garlic, a potent herb famous for its distinctive flavor, is a remarkable companion plant for watermelons. Its intense aroma serves as a natural deterrent for various pests like aphids and spider mites, which could potentially harm watermelon crops. Garlic in a watermelon garden can significantly reduce the need for chemical pesticides, promoting a healthier, more natural environment.
Moreover, garlic has a unique ability to enhance the flavor of neighboring fruits and vegetables. Its robust, spicy aroma is believed to subtly infuse the soil, affecting the taste of the watermelons growing nearby. This subtle influence can add depth and nuance to watermelons’ sweet, juicy flavor, making them even more delicious.
The aspect of spacing is crucial when planting garlic with watermelons. How much space do watermelons need? Watermelons and sprawling vines need ample space to spread out and grow. Garlic plants, on the other hand, are compact and take up minimal space. Therefore, they can be planted between watermelon vines, ensuring both crops have enough room to grow without competing for space. The ideal space for watermelon and garlic plants is about 2 to 3 feet apart, allowing each plant to flourish and contribute to a bountiful and healthy harvest. This strategic arrangement makes garlic an excellent companion for watermelons, enhancing your garden’s productivity and flavor profile.
Onions, another flavorful and aromatic herb, make great companions for watermelons. Their strong scent repels pests such as aphids, spider mites, and moths, which can damage watermelon crops. Onions also contain sulfur compounds with fungicidal properties, making them useful in controlling fungal diseases that often plague watermelons.
In addition to their pest-repelling and fungicidal benefits, onions are believed to improve soil health. They are shallow-rooted and can be easily interplanted with watermelons, adding diversity to the garden and helping break up compacted soil. The breakdown of onion roots as they decompose releases organic matter and nutrients into the ground, which benefits watermelon plants by increasing soil fertility.
Like oregano, thyme is another herb with multiple benefits as a companion plant for watermelons. Its strong, pungent scent repels pests like slugs and snails that can cause damage to watermelon plants. Thyme’s aroma also masks the smell of other crops, making it challenging for pests to identify their preferred hosts.
Moreover, thyme’s aromatic qualities extend beyond pest control. The herb’s essential oils have been found to enhance watermelon plants’ growth and flavor, making them more robust, more productive, and even tastier. This dual role of thyme as a pest deterrent and flavor booster makes it an ideal addition to any watermelon garden.
Lavender is a beautifully fragrant herb that makes an excellent companion for watermelons. Its strong scent repels pests such as moths, beetles, and aphids, reducing their harmful impact on watermelon crops.
In addition to its pest-repelling qualities, lavender’s aesthetic appeal contributes to the garden’s overall beauty. Its delicate purple flowers add a pop of color and attract beneficial insects like bees, butterflies, and hoverflies that serve as pollinators for watermelon plants. As these pollinators visit lavender flowers for nectar and pollen, they also transfer pollen to watermelon flowers, increasing their fruit set.
Chamomile is an herb with a multitude of benefits for watermelon gardens. It naturally repels pests like flies and mosquitoes, making it a useful companion plant for watermelons. Its strong scent also attracts beneficial insects like hoverflies that feed on common pests such as aphids and caterpillars.
Moreover, chamomile has been found to enhance the flavor and size of watermelons anywhere, making it easier for homeowners growing watermelon in raised beds. The elevated area can provide extra verticality. Watermelons in raised beds can also get more sun. Its essential oils contribute to the sweetness and juiciness of watermelon fruits, making them more palatable and refreshing. Additionally, chamomile roots are rich in nutrients like potassium, phosphorus, and calcium that benefit neighboring plants through natural fertilization.
Other Companion Plants to Consider
While the plants mentioned above make great watermelon companions, several other options are worth considering. For instance, catnip has pest-repelling properties that can benefit watermelon crops. Additionally, aromatic herbs like rosemary and sage can help improve neighboring plants’ soil health and flavor profiles. Peach tree companion plants are also suitable for watermelon gardens, as they can discourage pests like aphids and serve as natural trellises for vine crops. Finally, can watermelon and cantaloupe be planted together? Yes, they can, and their complementary growth habits make them excellent companions in the garden.
Companion planting is an essential strategy for enhancing your watermelon garden’s health, vigor, and productivity. By carefully selecting companion plants that complement and benefit watermelons, you create an interconnected ecosystem where each plant supports the others. This methodology enhances pest control and soil fertility, optimizes garden space, and contributes to a more sustainable gardening practice. The nuances of flavor, aroma, and color brought into your garden through companion planting can also enrich the sensory experience of gardening and the taste of your harvest.
As gardeners, we should never be afraid to experiment with different companion planting arrangements. Like every gardener, every garden is unique, and what works in one setting may not work in another. Therefore, don’t hesitate to mix and match, test and learn. Try different combinations of watermelon companion plants and observe how they interact. You might stumble upon a pairing that thrives in your garden environment or discover new ways to enhance the growth and flavor of your watermelons. So, let’s explore the fascinating world of companion planting and unlock the full potential of our watermelon gardens.