Of course, it’s a well-known gardening cliché to say that homegrown produce is best. But you would be hard pushed to find one person to disagree with that statement when it comes to tasting the first homegrown peas (Pisum sativum) of the year!
This easy-to-grow garden staple will reward you with countless amounts of pods to pick all season long. However, if you want to improve the chances of having an even better yield then companion planting for peas is the perfect gardening method to try.
There are good and bad companion plants to partner with peas which can make choosing companions a little difficult.
This is why I’ve provided lots of useful information and advice in this article to simplify this growing technique to ensure you make the right companion plant choices for your pea plants this year.
What is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is a method of gardening where different plants are grown close to one another with a view to these plants improving the other’s health or yield amount.
This technique can also enhance the growing environment by encouraging insect and plant diversity. It’s a tried and tested method of gardening that has been used throughout history and has many benefits.
Companion planting can help reduce pest populations in your vegetable garden using completely natural methods. And, depending on the planting combination, can even boost the health and flavor of produce.
Gardeners in Asia have been using a very effective method of companion planting for at least a thousand years to improve the health and yield of rice plants.
Rice growers in China actively encourage an aquatic mosquito fern called ‘Azolla’ which thrives in the wet growing conditions surrounding rice plants.
The Azolla fern plant is very small in stature but is able to increase its numbers very quickly creating a weed-suppressing blanket on the water around the rice plants.
In addition to releasing nitrogen into the water to encourage fast and healthy growth of the rice plants, the fern also keeps away harmful bacteria by acting as a water purifier
All in all, the tiny Azolla fern makes the perfect companion plant for rice crops.
Benefits of Companion Planting
Companion planting benefits differ depending on the plant combination used. This gardening technique will not only boost the health of plants but will also have a positive effect on the biodiversity which surrounds the garden.
Thai style of planting will also help to eliminate the need for chemicals or pesticides, promoting a completely organic way of gardening and allowing each gardener to work alongside nature rather than against it.
Other benefits of companion planting include:
Help with Pollination: Pollinators are responsible for pollinating over a third of the world’s food crops so it is vitally important that as gardeners we protect and support them whenever possible.
Using herbs, flowers, and native plants as companions is a fabulous way of encouraging pollinators and other beneficial insects to the growing environment.
Inviting these garden allies will help to increase the chances of plant pollination and also, the amount of produce that is harvested.
Pest Management: The use of pesticides can negatively impact the growing environment by dramatically affecting soil health and the nature which surrounds us.
By incorporating companion planting we can lessen the effects of pest attacks dramatically without the need for chemicals. Clever fragrant plant combinations such as herbs and onions are a great alternative to pesticides because these aromatic plants divert prospective pests away masking the scent of main crops.
Companions can also be used as ‘trap crops’. This is when the plant’s sole purpose is to entice pests away from the more desirable plants, in this case, pea plants.
Improved Soil Health: One way of promoting healthy growth and increasing yield is to feed our plants and using companion planting can assist with this. Known soil improvers that can boost the nutrient content of the soil are bean, pea, and legume plant varieties.
These plants are part of the ‘Fabaceae family’ and all have the ability to absorb nitrogen from the air which they then convert and fix in the soil benefiting any nearby plants in the process.
Considerations When Selecting Companion Plants
Companion planting is an extremely worthwhile method of gardening, but choose the wrong planting combination and it can have a detrimental effect on one or both plants. With this in mind, you will need to give some consideration to the combination of plants you use when employing this technique.
Be sure to consider the requirements of each plant and if their particular needs are compatible. For example – if one plant thrives in full sun and the other has a preference for cooler, shadier growing conditions they won’t make a good planting companion.
Another consideration is the nutrient requirement for each plant. If both plants require the same nutrients to promote healthy growth, then grouping these plants together may not be a good idea as there will be direct competition between each plant.
Making the most of the garden space is key to maximizing harvest amounts. Rather than allowing bare ground beneath slow-growing crops to go unused, consider planting fast-growing companions to make full use of the space.
Good companion combinations mean choosing fast-growing plants such as lettuce, radishes, and scallions amongst slow-maturing plants like eggplants.
Best Companion Planting for Peas
Encouraging natural predators in the garden will certainly benefit pea plants. Increasing the natural balance of biodiversity will assist with pest prevention and control, organically keeping these attacks to a minimum without the need for harmful chemicals.
Peas flourish in sunny conditions requiring around 6 to 8 hours of sun a day to produce flowers and ultimately pea pods. However, they will cease to grow or produce flowers when temperatures are consistently above 80°F.
To combat this a good companion choice is those which can provide dappled shade thus giving the pea plants some protection from the midday sun.
Another natural way to protect pea crops from pests is to use a companion partner as a sacrificial plant, that can naturally attract unwanted insects away from the peas. Using a companion plant in this way is called trap cropping and will help maintain a healthy growing environment.
Here are some examples of good companion plants to grow with peas:
Fruits & Vegetables
Carrots: The best plant companions don’t always have to complement each with fabulous pest-deterring capabilities or growth-encouraging nutrients; sometimes a good companion is one with similar growing needs and preferred growing conditions such as carrots.
Both peas and carrots enjoy temperate moist soil and will grow alongside each other with little or no competition and will allow you to utilize garden space more efficiently.
Sweetcorn: Corn is a very heavy feeder and thrives when planted with peas thanks to the nitrogen fix in the soil the peas provide.
In return for this, sweetcorn will reward the pea plants with a natural structure to cling to as the plants grow. The tall corn plants will also provide dappled shade for the peas during hotter periods.
Tomatoes and Eggplants: There are mutual benefits when using tomatoes or eggplants as companions to peas. Tomato plants and eggplants have a strong fragrance that can act as a pest deterrent for pea plants.
As an equal exchange, the pea plants will fix nitrogen in the soil which both the tomato and eggplants will relish.
Cucumbers: Cucumber plants can assist peas in a number of ways. Their large sprawling leaves can shade the soil, retain moisture and act as a weed suppressant. These leaves are also very useful at protecting pea plant seedlings, sheltering them from being scorched by the sun.
The large yellow blooms cucumbers display will also help attract pollinators which can increase the number of pods each pea plant produces.
Herbs and Flowers
Mint: Usually the only pest that mint helps keep away are aphids. However, in addition to keeping these sap-sucking pests at bay this aromatic herb can deter rodents too.
Mice and rats are common pea thieves but do not like the smell of mint which makes mint plants a great companion.
Nasturtiums: Nasturtium flowers make great trap crops, helping to greatly reduce aphid and white fly attacks on peas.
Cilantro: This strongly fragranced herb makes an excellent companion by helping to keep aphid attacks as low as possible, thus ensuring pea plants can mature without being hindered.
Bad Companion Plants For Peas
Just as there are plants that will grow in harmony with peas, there is also a cluster of so-called ‘bad companion plants’ that can have damaging effects on your growing success.
Here are some examples that should not be grown in close proximity to your pea crop:
Onion, garlic, and other alliums: Plants from the allium family are usually lorded for their great plant companion attributes. Unfortunately, this is not the case when it comes to peas.
Alliums are known to stunt the growth of peas thanks to their anti-bacterial properties that prohibit nitrogen-fixing bacteria found in soil.
Fennel: Much like alliums – fennel is known to stunt the growth of peas. Planting fennel nearby pea plants with inhibit their growth and will reduce the number of pods the plants produce by restricting the nitrogen-fixing capabilities of peas.
If you have enjoyed this article, here’s a link to Pea Plant Growth Stages that may also be of interest.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica – Pisum sativum
- earthisland.org – Azolla
- Encyclopaedia Britannica – Fabaceae Family
- Permaculture Research Institute – Compounds found in Alliums
Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.