Not all vegetables know how to play nice with others. Beets, however, are exceptionally cooperative when it comes to companion planting. In many cases, they grow even better with friends!
Beets enjoy the company of many types of plants, from other root crops and leafy greens to aromatic herbs and ornamental flowers. The benefits of these pairings include improved growth, natural pest control, and more efficient use of garden resources.
In this article, I share the best companion plants for beets and offer practical advice to help you design a diverse and self-sufficient vegetable garden.
Root Crop Companions for Beets
Beets can be grown with many fellow root crops, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, radishes, turnips, carrots, and parsnips.
Most potatoes are planted in early spring, or when the soil is at least 55°F during the day. With proper spacing, you can intercrop potatoes and beets. The beets will be ready for harvest several weeks before the potato tubers reach their full size.
Sweet potatoes, however, love the heat and should be planted later in the spring (when soil temperatures are consistently above 65°F). I recommend succession planting your beets either a few weeks before the sweet potatoes or after the tubers have been harvested in the fall.
Alliums like garlic and onions are best planted in the fall for a summer harvest. They appreciate the cooler temperatures of fall and winter, and the longer they’re in the ground, the larger the bulbs will grow.
In warm climates, beets can be planted and harvested throughout the garlic and onion season. In cooler regions, you may only be able to cultivate beets at the very start and end of the season.
Radishes, turnips, carrots, and parsnips can all be sown from early spring to mid-summer. You can consolidate your gardening chores by planting these root crops at the same time as your beets.
Radishes mature quickly and can be harvested in as little as 20 to 30 days. Turnips, carrots, and beets are all usually ready to harvest after 60 to 80 days. Parsnips require a longer growing period, so you should plan to leave them in the ground until a light frost.
Tips for Interplanting Root Vegetables
Many gardeners worry that growing different root crops in the same bed will result in competition or even lead to deformed vegetables at harvest time. In my experience, though, these problems are more often caused by growing root crops too close together or not providing adequate moisture and nutrition.
Growing root crops together can actually create some benefits. Their various growth rates and harvest times mean that as one crop is harvested, space opens up for its still-maturing neighbours.
Companion planting also leads to more efficient use of resources. This is because many root crops have vastly different root structures and will access nutrients from different layers of the soil.
Pest damage is the biggest concern when growing more than one type of root vegetable. Pay close attention to which families your root crops belong to — e.g., turnips and radishes both belong to the brassica family — and try not to grow more than one vegetable from a given family in the same bed.
Leafy Vegetables to Grow with Beets
Leafy vegetables like cabbage, kale, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and leeks will happily grow alongside beets. These crops make ideal garden companions due to their complementary growth habits and nutritional requirements.
Popular salad greens like kale and lettuce mature relatively quickly. They also need cool weather for proper development and good flavour. You can plant these crops with your beets in either early spring, when the soil is first workable, or in fall, about 6 weeks before the first frost date. They should then all be ready for harvest at about the same time, give or take a few days.
Since beets only take about half as many days to mature, you can plant these vegetables quite close together with the knowledge that the beets will be harvested long before the brassicas fill out.
Compared to other leafy vegetables, leeks have a very long growing season. Fill the spaces between your leeks with small, quick-growing crops like beets to make the most of your garden’s square footage.
Why You Should Plant Leafy Crops with Beets
Intercropping beets and leafy vegetables is an extremely efficient use of your available garden space. You can use many of these crops to reduce weed pressure around your beets and keep the soil cool.
Another awesome benefit of growing these veggies together is that the beets can act as a ‘trap crop’. You can plant beets around your leafy greens as an alternate food source for foliage pests to munch on. (Of course, this won’t work if you plan to harvest the beet foliage along with the root!)
More Fruit and Vegetable Companion Plants for Beets
Including a mix of other types of vegetables like cucumbers, beans and peas, corn, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi with your beets will create a more well-rounded and diverse garden.
Cucumbers and melons are warm-season crops that can be transplanted outdoors a few weeks after sowing your beets. Interplanting with beets early in the season allows you to maximize your garden’s productivity before the vines take over the entire bed.
Legumes, such as beans and peas, collaborate with beneficial bacteria to add nitrogen to the soil. Most varieties of peas can be planted at the same time as beets in early spring. Beans, on the other hand, should only be started well after the risk of frost has passed.
Tall vegetables like corn provide supplemental shade for beets during hot summer days, extending the growing season for the root crop.
Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi are cool-season brassicas that grow best in temperatures between 45 and 75°F. Brussels sprouts are a long-season vegetable that will occupy the garden well into the fall. Kohlrabi, on the other hand, grows much faster and can usually be harvested with neighbouring beets.
Best Herbs to Interplant with Beets
Try pairing beets with herbs like mint, thyme, hyssop, catnip, dill, and rosemary. Not only are these herbs handy in the kitchen, but many also double as natural pest deterrents and pollinator attractors.
If you need a fast-growing groundcover, mint will handily suppress weeds and keep the soil cool even on hot days. Just keep in mind that this herb easily becomes invasive in most climates. For this reason, I only recommend planting mint with beets in raised beds or containers.
Thyme and rosemary are typically planted in the spring and harvested throughout the summer and fall. When in flower, they attract a wide range of pollinators and other beneficial insects. Varieties with prostrate growth habits — e.g., Thymus serpyllum, or creeping thyme — also make good groundcovers.
Beets sometimes fall victim to pests like cutworms, aphids, and leafminers. Growing dill is a great way to attract predatory insects to your garden, such as parasitic wasps, green lacewings, hoverflies, and tachinid flies.
Hyssop is another perennial herb that is often used as a border plant due to its attractive flowers, which are great for attracting pollinators. Hyssop also has a strong scent that may deter beet pests like flea beetles and cabbage moths.
Flowering Ornamentals to Grow with Beets
Incorporating flowers like marigolds, nasturtiums, ornamental alliums, and catmint into your beet garden can make the space a bit prettier and draw in more beneficial pollinators.
Marigolds are famous for repelling pests both above and below ground. While more research needs to be done on marigolds’ ability to control unwanted insects, we have scientific proof that they suppress the development of certain nematodes in the soil.
Another beneficial and aesthetically pleasing companion for beets is the nasturtium flower. These plants lure aphids away from your beets and other vegetable crops. And the nasturtium itself is 100% edible.
Just like their edible cousins, ornamental alliums boast globe-like flowers and a pungent odour that repels some pests. They can be planted in the fall for a late spring or early summer bloom that coincides with the year’s first beet harvest.
Ornamental varieties of catmint have fragrant flowers that are irresistible to pollinators. Catmints are hardy perennials that can be used to ‘anchor’ a bed used to grow beets and other edible crops.
5 Plants You Shouldn’t Grow with Beets
1. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard prefers warm weather and can be harvested through the growing season until frost. To harvest, simply cut off the outer leaves and leave the centre of the plant to keep growing.
While planting Swiss chard and beets together isn’t forbidden, it’s important to note that these vegetables are closely related. Both belong to the Chenopodiaceae family. This means that pests and diseases that affect one are extremely likely to also infect the other.
Spinach also belongs to the same family as beets and Swiss chard. Planting these crops together could increase the number of pests and diseases in your vegetable garden.
If you opt to intercrop these vegetables in your garden, I strongly recommend rotating them with crops from another family for at least 3 years. Adhering to this practice will prevent pathogens from ‘overwintering’ in the soil and damaging your Swiss chard and beets the following season.
Mustard belongs to the brassica family, so many gardeners assume that it’s a similarly great companion for their beets. However, many kinds of mustard have allelopathic properties that suppress the growth of neighbouring plants.
4. Pole Beans
In the process of researching good companion plants for beets, I stumbled across many different sources claiming that pole beans will inhibit the healthy growth of this root crop. It’s unclear what causes this incompatibility (or if it’s real in the first place.)
I haven’t tried growing pole beans and beets together in my own garden, but I’m very curious about this pairing. I might experiment in a future growing season, and I encourage you to do your own ‘research’ at home!
Fennel belongs to the same family as amenable beet companions like carrots and dill. I don’t recommend growing the two together, though, since fennel has a well-documented allelopathic effect on other crops planted nearby. According to Chavez Park Conservancy, even the seeds can prevent neighbouring plants from growing.
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.