Crop Rotation, Succession & Companion Planting (2023)

September's vegetable garden using companion planting at the Montreal Botanical Garden. Photo Amanda Jarrett

Succession Planting - Crop Rotation - Common Vegetable Families -
​Companion Planting (Friends and Foes) -The Three Sisters

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A bountiful harvest can be yours with tried and true growing methods.

Companion planting, crop rotation and succession planting are the basics of successful veggie growing. These are tried and true practices that have stood the test of time and have been passed on from generation to generation. Not only do they reduce the need of pesticides and fertilizers, they assist in soil health, deter insects, diseases, reduce maintenance while increasing the nutrition of crops grown.

Succession Planting

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Peas, kale, garlic and broccoli.

It’s wonderful to be able to harvest lots of goodies, but there is something to be said of the saying ‘too much of a good thing’. Planting all the seeds in the package at once results in a glut of produce. Succession planting consists of four methods to avoid feast or famine and results in non-stop harvest throughout the growing season.
Repeated plantings of the same crop:
Avoid planting all the seeds in the package at the same time, instead sow only a quarter of the seeds every two weeks.
Planting different crops in succession:
In early spring plant a quick maturing cool crop such as spinach. Once it’s harvested plant with another cool crop such as lettuce. After the lettuce is harvested, plant peppers, tomatoes or another heat-loving crop. When practicing this method, take note of 'days to harvest' of each crop in seed catalogues and seed packages.

Intercropping/Companion Planting
This method combines two different crops growing side by side so they must be good companions. It’s a good idea to combine a root crop with a foliage crop such as lettuce with onions, or a legume such as beans with corn. Legumes fix nitrogen from the air into the soil and corn likes lots of nitrogen so it is a match made in heaven.
Growing different varieties of the same crop
Not all tomatoes varieties mature at the same time; the same goes for all vegetables.
Their harvest dates vary depending on which variety or cultivar you have: ex: early, main, or late season. Check the labels, seed catalogues and seed packages for the maturity dates. This is a sure-fire way of extending the harvest season.

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'Isis Candy' tomatoes grow well with basil.

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Partner 'Peppermint Stick' Swiss chard with bush beans.

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A delicious, organically home-grown bush beefsteak tomato.

Crop Rotation

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Potatoes like an acid soil and shouldn't be planted with broccoli and other members of the cabbage family.

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Lime soil first before planting broccoli and other cole crops as they don't like acid soils.

One of the biggest mistakes newbie gardeners make is growing the same crop year after year in the same piece of soil. The soil becomes depleted of nutrients essential to that crops well-being because that’s all that is being grown there. All crops have their vulnerable side and are prone to specific insect pests and diseases. Growing them in the same spot increases their vulnerability as insects and diseases overwinter in the soil.

Not growing the same crop year after year in the same spot also includes their relatives. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants (aubergines) are members of the same family so it is not a good idea to grow potatoes one year and tomatoes the second year in the same bed. This makes crop rotation is a tad difficult if you have limited space, but it really is important to follow the rules even if you have to plant in containers or plant them in the flower garden. Most veggies are quite attractive, so don’t feel like you have to confine your veggies to the veggie garden.

Consideration must also be made when selecting an alternate crop the following year. Some veggies require an acidic soil while others like a more sweeter soil. Acidic soils promote club root in broccoli and other members of the cabbage family. They prefer a high pH of 6.5 to 7.0, so add lime before planting. On the other hand, Potatoes are prone to potato scab if their soil is too sweet. They prefer a pH of 5.2, therefore it's a good practice not to plant members of the cabbage family and the potatoes family together or following each other.

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Members of the nightshade family includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers

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Beans are legumes, which have the ability to nab nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots.

When it comes to nitrogen, some plants are heavy feeders and are best grown in soil where legumes, like beans or peas have been grown. Legumes have the ability to capture nitrogen from the air and deposit it in their roots and the soil with the assistance of nitrogen fixing bacteria. Once those peas and other legumes die, the nitrogen becomes available to other plants as the roots release the nitrogen into the soil. Therefore, don’t rip out members of the legume family by their roots. Just cut off them on at the soil line then plant nitrogen hungry plants such as tomatoes, corn and other heavy feeders in their place.

Some crops are grown and harvested well before summer, while other continue to grow on until autumn. Maximize space and increase yields by growing short season then long season crops in the same bed in the same year ex: plant eggplants after spinach, plant radishes then bush beans. Once the beans are done, plant lettuce or kale.

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Rotating crops is a simple way of reaping a healthy and hearty harvest.

​To make the most of crop rotation:

  • alternate deep-rooted followed by shallow rooted plant, ex: beets the first year followed by cauliflower the next
  • plant legumes (peas, beans) then follow up with heavy feeders, (legumes grab the nitrogen from the air and fix it on their roots, this makes it available for other crops, ex: beans one year, next year plant tomatoes or corn

In the spring, before planting, mix in 3 inches of compost and:
Year 1 - lime soil and grow Brassicas, lettuce and/or spinach
Year 2 - grow Legumes, Alliums, or Cucurbits
Year 3 - grow Umbeliferae or Solanum
Year 4 - grow potatoes as there is less lime in the soil during year 4 and use spinach, corn, onions and celery randomly
Year 1: add compost and lime and grow Brassicas, lettuce or spinach

Keeping a map of the veggie garden helps you rotate your crops from year to year.

Common Vegetable Families
Cabbage, Brassicas:

  • rutabaga, turnips, kohlrabi, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, mustard
  • prefer a pH of 6.5 to 7.0

Pea & Bean, Legumes:

  • peas, beans, soybeans, peanuts
  • nitrogen fixers: grab nitrogen from the air and attach it to their roots, which is release into the soil after they have died, if the roots remain in the soil

Onion, Alliums:

  • onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, chives

Tomato & Potato, Solanaceae:

  • potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers

Carrot & Dill, Umbeliferae:

  • carrots, beets, radish, celery, cilantro, fennel, dill, parsnip, parsley

Squash & Marrow, Cucurbits:

  • squash, cucumber, melon, pumpkins

Beet, Chenopodiaceae:

  • beet, spinach, Swiss chard


  • herbs, corn, lettuce

Companion Planting (Friends and Foes)

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Keep fennel hinders tomatoes and bush beans.

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Eggplants don't do well with fennel, but like beans, peas and spinach.

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Cucumber and corn are good companions.

​Before commercial pesticides and fertilizers were invented, companion planting did a great job to reduce insects, diseases while optimizing plant nutrition. Farmers and veggie gardeners noticed that some crop combinations worked while others didn’t and were avoided.

They also found that nature doesn’t like it when you devote acres to a single crop (a monoculture).Crops were more prone to insects, diseases and malnutrition. Biodiversity is part of nature; think of a meadow or a forest and all the myriad of different plants growing together in harmony. Vegetable gardens also appreciate growing a combination of crops together.

Plant eating insects are not keen on companion planting, but they do love monocultures. Imagine an insect’s eureka moment when it finds a field full of their favorite food. There are no other plants to confuse it, no other smells to divert it; nothing but a feast of very vulnerable plants.

Biodiversity is the key to a healthy environment and happy plants (and ticked off bugs!). Companion planting is a great way to apply this principle to improve the quality of your own home-grown foods.

This logic of biodiversity also applies to plants in the same family as mentioned in Crop Rotation. Crops of the same family carry approximately the same weaknesses and strengths (just like animals) so planting peppers, potatoes and tomatoes together is asking for trouble as they are all in the Solanaceae family. These relatives tend to use the same nutrients in the soil and attract the same bugs and diseases. Interplanting (intercropping) with some other non-relation such as planting lettuce and beans together is a great idea.

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Garlic deters many pests, but keep away from peas.

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Plant marigolds next to beans to deter Mexican bean beetles.

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Peas, like all legumes, store nitrogen in their roots.

Feel free to experiment with planting assorted crops in the same bed (interplanting, intercropping). Select plants with different growth habits and require different nutrient needs such as root crops (beets, carrots) with shallow rooted crops (lettuce, kale).

Avoid planting heavy feeders together like corn with tomatoes, but sow the seeds of quick growing plants like radishes with carrots. Sow radish and carrot seeds together. The tiny carrot seeds when sown with radish seeds makes them easier to see and reduces the need for thinning seedlings. That’s interplanting and companion planting and succession planting all in one go!

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Chives do well with parsley.

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A 'Jester' lettuce partners well with bush beans and nasturtiums.

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Interplant beets with cabbage, beans or garlic.

​​Planting many different plants together (intercropping) lures insects away from the plants they are attracted to. The different "smells" confuse insects, so they're unable to locate their preferred plant. Intercropping with companion planting in mind aids in insect control by deterring insects. Alliums repel slugs, aphids, carrot rust fly and the infamous cabbage moth. Companion planting techniques may also enhance flavor as well as vigor. For example, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives and other members of the Allium family assists the growth of cabbage, kohlrabi and broccoli.

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Make every inch count with companion planting bush beans, kale, lettuce and broccoli.

​Friends & Foes

  • Beans like celery and cucumbers but dislike onions and fennel.
  • Plant potatoes or marigolds with beans to deter Mexican bean beetles.
  • Beets like lettuce, onions, kohlrabi, cabbage family but dislike pole beans and mustard.
  • Cabbage, celery, dill, onions, and potatoes are good companions but don’t plant with strawberries, tomatoes and pole beans.
  • Carrots, lettuce, radish, onions, and tomatoes are friends, but don’t plant with dill.
  • Plant corn near pumpkins, peas, beans, cucumbers, and potatoes but avoid tomatoes.
  • Plant cucumbers near sweet corn, peas, radishes, beans, and sunflowers but not near aromatic herbs and potatoes.
  • Onions and lettuce grow well together as well as strawberries, carrots, radishes, and cucumbers.
  • Plant onions near lettuce, beetroot, strawberries, and tomatoes but not near peas and beans.
  • Plant peas, carrots, cucumbers, sweet corn, turnips, radishes, beans, potatoes, and aromatic herbs together.
  • Don’t grow peas with onions, garlic, leek, and shallots.
  • Plant radish with beets, carrots, spinach, parsnip, cucumbers, and beans.
  • Don’t plant radish with cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, or turnips.
  • Plant squash with corn.
  • Tomatoes, carrots, onions, and parsley are good companion plants, but don’t plant near cabbage and cauliflower.
  • Feel free to experiment with different plant combinations.

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Broccoli and dwarf curly kale like each other's company.

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Chili peppers partner well with carrots, lettuce, radishes and cucumbers.

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Keep peas away from members of the onion family including shallots and garlic.

​The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters companion planting method is the earliest known form of farming from ancient Native Americans. It is an ingenious technique that grows corn, pole beans and winter squash together in an efficient, space saving manner that provides a perfect well-balanced diet.

Planting the Three Sisters is easy. Flatten a mound of soil so it is 12 inches high and 20 inches wide. Sow 3 to 5 corn seeds in the middle of the mound. When the corn is about 6 inches tall, plant the beans around at the base of the corn so they will twine up the corn for support. Then plant the winter squash seeds a few inches away from the beans. The corn supports the pole beans, the beans provide nitrogen for corn and squash and the squash provides a living mulch and root protection for the other crops.For more information on companion planting refer to the famous book Carrot Loves Tomatoes by Louise Riotte. Download it for free.

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Squash makes a productive and effective ground cover.

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Scarlet runner beans no only produce beans, they provide nitrogen to the surrounding plants.

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Corn provide support for the pole beans.

But wait...There's More...

There's certainly more to growing veggies than this article. Check out the links below for more information.

  • Spring Veggie Gardening
  • Crop Rotation, Succession and Companion Planting.
  • Taming Tomatoes
  • Speeding Up Tomato Harvests
  • Tomato Tips
  • Tomato Troubles
  • TomatoesSeedlings toPlants
  • Growing Potatoes
  • Harvesting
  • Winter Veggie Gardening
  • Building a Potager (French Kitchen) Garden
  • How to Build an Easy Veggie Garden Trellis
  • Plant Pests Part 1
  • Plant Pests Part 2: Controlling Insects
  • Growing Seeds Indoors
  • Growing Seeds Outdoors
  • Soil Building
  • Compost Tea
  • Composting
  • ts

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