It is a great idea to interplant potatoes with different crops in your veg patch. Here are our tips on interplanting potatoes, their favourite companion plants, and crop rotation.
Those looking to become more self-sufficient often turn to the humble potato (Solanum tuberosum). And those who turn to the potato often turn to potato companions. Planting potatoes alongside other vegetables and herbs imitates a natural, species-rich environment, which has advantages for gardeners and nature alike. Companion plants can increase yields and help keep pests at bay.
Here is everything you need to know about interplanting potatoes with companions, the benefits crop rotation and which plants to grow after a potato harvest.
Companion planting with potatoes: is it worth the effort?
Cultivating potatoes alongside other plants has several advantages. Firstly, because potatoes require a lot of nutrients, they can starve the soil. You can prevent this by planting your potatoes alongside more frugal species. What is more, your soil’s structure and microorganisms benefit from more natural, diverse planting. This may, in turn, deter pests, shade the soil and reduce evaporation. In sum: interplanting maintains, and can even increase, the fertility of your soil.
Good neighbours for potatoes
Which plants go well with potatoes?
- Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)
- Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)
- Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)
- Broad beans (Vicia faba)
- Strawberries (Fragaria)
- Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes)
- Corn (Zea mays): sweetcorn, barbecue corn or popcorn
- Mint (Mentha)
- Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)
- Savoy cabbage (Brassica oleracea convar. capitata var. sabauda)
- Onion (Allium cepa)
Ideally, to maintain soil health, you should interplant high-yielding potatoes with vegetables that do not require a lot of nutrition. It is also important to sow different plant families next to each other, if possible, because close relatives carry the risk of spreading diseases quickly. They also tend to compete for the same nutrients.
In this vain, the nightshade genus (Solanaceae), which includes aubergines (Solanum melongena), peppers (Capsicum annuum) and tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) are perfect next to potatoes. Meanwhile, courgettes (Cucurbita pepo) which have high nutrient requirements, are not good companions of potatoes. In fact, it is best to avoid planting potatoes next to any root vegetable, as they will compete for space underground.
As such, shallow-rooted fruit and vegetables, such as strawberry and spinach, are perfect potato companions. Beans too, develop shallow roots, and thrive next to potatoes. A particularly efficient combination is potato, pumpkin (Cucurbita), beans and corn, all planted in a single bed. These vegetables come from South America and have been planted in this combination for thousands of years. The beans climb up the corn plants; the squash covers the space between the plants; and the potatoes thrive underground.
Cabbages (Brassica) also get along well with the deep-rooted potatoes. As does garlic, which can deter field mice (Arvicolinae), and peppermint and nasturtium, which are said to deter slugs (Gastropoda) and various insects, including the potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata).
Crop rotation for potatoes: what to plant after potatoes
Potatoes are fantastic at preparing soil for other plants. They are particularly important for heavy soils, as their large root system loosens the earth. Once harvested, potatoes can be replaced with medium-hardy root crops, such as carrot (Daucus carota), parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), salsify (Scorzonera hispanica), beetroot (Beta vulgaris) and turnip (Brassica napus subsp. rapifera).
A year after your potato harvest, plant low-yielding, leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, radish (Raphanus sativus), pea (Pisum sativum) and spinach. Followed by green manure the year after, which will replenish organic matter in the soil and rebuild humus. Green manure also provides food for insects, and covers the soil, preventing the earth from drying and eroding. Radish (Raphanus sativus), mustard (Sinapis alba), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) and cress (Lepidium sativum) are just a few examples of green manure plants.
Once you have found an ideal location to cultivate your potatoes, it can be difficult to sacrifice it. In theory, at least, you could grow potatoes in the same place each year. However, some potato diseases are soil-borne, and survive underground for many years, infecting plants again and again. As such, it is best to plant potatoes, and their close relatives, in the same place every 4 to 5 years.
Need some advice on growing potatoes? Read our useful tips on choosing a site, planting, care, harvesting and storing the nutritious tubers.