Growing your own raspberries is a real treat and so rewarding especially when it’s time to pick those juicy, plump fruits fresh from the plant.
They grow best in garden beds or containers, in full sun or partial shade and if you really want to improve the chances of a successful yield, then it’s a good idea to practice the age-old method of companion planting.
Naturally, there are good and bad companion plants which can make choosing the right plants a little tricky. This is why I’ve provided lots of useful information and advice to simplify this growing method and help you choose the right companions for those raspberries.
What is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is the practice of growing different plant species close to one another to benefit one or both plants. Companion planting is a traditional method that has been practiced by gardeners for centuries and can be used to benefit plants in lots of different ways.
Companion planting is a great option for those gardeners who wish to grow organically as it negates the need for pesticides. Choosing to companion plant will utilize growing space much more efficiently which will increase the number of products that can be harvested, with the added bonus of being extremely cost-effective.
A very good example of companion planting is known as The Three Sisters method. This technique dates back thousands of years and was introduced by Native Americans to improve the health and yield of food crops.
Gardeners used this growing technique to grow beans, squash, and sweetcorn simultaneously. The sweetcorn plants provide natural support for climbing beans and in return the beans provide nitrogen in the soil which will benefit the squash and sweetcorn plants.
The large leaves of the squash plants create a canopy that will provide shade to the roots of the beans and sweetcorn. These leaves will also act as a weed suppressant to limit any competition for water and nutrients in the soil, making this the perfect companion plant combination.
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The reason so many gardeners are choosing to practice companion planting is thanks to the many different benefits it brings. Companion planting is a completely natural and organic alternative growing method that will positively affect plants and the biodiversity which surrounds them. By working alongside nature rather than against it, it is possible to encourage and support pollinators and other beneficial predatory insects, thus maintaining the natural balance in the garden.
Some other benefits of companion planting are:
Improved flavor: With the right planting combination the quality and flavor of popular fruits and vegetables can be improved greatly as a result of certain companion plant combinations.
A good example of where flavor can be enhanced is when basil is grown amongst lettuce and tomato plants. Not only does this wonderfully fragrant herb improve the flavor of its companions, but it also means when the fruits are ready to be harvested, they can also be picked at the same time and enjoyed together.
Improved Soil Health: Growing fruits and vegetables in healthy, nutrient-rich soil is one way to ensure a maximum yield. Most gardeners achieve this with annual mulching and establishing a regular feeding routine during the plant growth cycle. In addition to this, companion planting can also be used to give plants a much-needed boost.
A popular and well-known example of this is where gardeners grow plants from the Fabaceae family to improve the nutrient quality of the soil. These plants include legumes, peas, or beans and they all have the ability to absorb nitrogen from the air which they then convert and release into the soil. This added nitrogen can then be utilized by neighboring crops to help improve yield amounts.
Pest Management: Using chemicals or pesticides to control pest populations can have a negative impact on our health and the natural biodiversity which surrounds us. Fortunately, more gardeners are becoming conscious of this and are realizing the same results can be achieved organically by using alternative methods such as companion planting.
Main food crops can be protected from unwanted insect visitors simply by using companion plants that have a strong fragrance. Highly-scented plants such as onions and herbs can be used to mask the scent of the primary crops, diverting pests away rather than eradicating them.
Companions can also be used as sacrificial plants, with the sole purpose to lure pests away from main crops.
Companion planting is an extremely beneficial way of gardening, but there must always be some consideration to your plant selection when determining harmonious pairings.
For example, when plants that are vulnerable to the same ailments are grouped together it can increase the chances of a pest infestation on all plants. This is also true when pairing plants together that are vulnerable to disease or infection such as mildew or rust – interplanting will almost certainly make disease transfer more likely.
It’s always good practice to carry out a little research before making any companion plant choices to ensure the needs of each individual plant are met. For example – pairing a drought-loving plant with one which flourishes in moist, water-retentive soil will almost certainly ensure one or both plants will fail.
Another instance of poor companion plant selection could be pairing a plant that is large once fully matured, with a very small plant as this can result in the latter being overshadowed and crowded out if grown too closely together.
Some time and consideration spent before selecting companion plants will save time, money, and a disappointing harvest further down the line.
Best Companion Plants for Raspberries
Like all plants, raspberries (Rubus idaeus) are very attractive to unwanted garden pests. Therefore, some of the best companions for raspberry canes are fragrant or very strong-smelling plants which will help hide them in plain sight, confusing and diverting any nearby pests away. This method of pest deterrent can also mitigate the need for using chemicals or pesticides and thus, promotes sustainable organic growth.
Although self-pollinating, raspberries will certainly benefit from a little extra assistance by way of bees and other pollinating insects. I recommend choosing companion plants that encourage bees and other pollinators as the more flowers which are pollinated, the more raspberry fruits will be produced.
Raspberry plants enjoy plenty of sun and require nutrient-rich, moist soil in order to flourish and bear lots of fruit. A growing position in full sun, however, can often lead to dry soil which raspberry plants will struggle in, resulting in far fewer fruits. Combat this by choosing companion plants that provide ground cover in and around the raspberry plants. This will help to keep the soil moist whilst suppressing competing weeds. These companions are known as ‘cover crops’.
Here are some good examples of companion plants to grow with raspberries:
Onions: The strong scent of onions makes them a perfect partner to raspberries thanks to their natural ability to deter pests such as Japanese beetles. Onions are shallow-rooted plants which means they won’t compete for moisture or nutrients even when grown around the base of raspberries.
Turnips: Turnips behave in much the same manner as onions when paired with raspberries as they help keep harlequin beetles and aphids away thanks to their strong fragrance. They also help loosen the soil, making growing conditions less compact.
Leeks: Leeks make a good planting partner as they do not take up too much space. They also aid and assist raspberry plants by using their strong
Peas, beans, and other legumes: Growing any plants from the legumes family will fix nitrogen in the soil which raspberries can take advantage of, promoting quicker, healthier growth meaning more fruit can be produced.
If growing bush or climbing beans as companions, be sure not to allow them to shade the raspberries too much. Raspberry plants can grow in partial shade, but too much will inhibit fruit production.
Garlic: Garlic is part of the allium family, so using this as a companion will have much the same positive pest-reducing benefits as growing onions or leeks. However, the added advantage is garlic contains sulfur which has natural antifungal properties and is perfect for protecting neighboring plants.
Herbs and Flowers
Marigolds: Growing marigolds is always a popular choice for gardeners as it has a number of advantages when it comes to companion planting. Not only are marigolds aesthetically pleasing but adding a splash of colour to any garden they also have pest-deterring properties.
Growing these flowers in close proximity to raspberries will help protect your plants from eelworms and nematodes. Their bright color will also attract natural predatory insects and pollinators which assists with pollination.
Lavender: Raspberries not only attract unwanted insect visitors, but they are also very inviting for larger pests such as rabbits or deer who will strip all ripened fruits from the plants when left unattended. Planting lavender will help to prevent this from happening thanks to its strong aromatic scent.
The flowers of lavender are also a magnet for pollinators, so using this herb as a companion can assist with pollination.
Nasturtiums: Much like lavender and marigolds – nasturtiums are fabulous for attracting pollinators as well as being aesthetically pleasing plants. They will also assist the growth of raspberry plants by keeping them free of pests such as squash bugs. Plant nasturtiums around the base of your raspberry canes to create a ground cover that will act as a weed suppressant and shade cover which will help keep the soil moist.
You may also like to read Best Raspberry Fertilizers | How and When To Use
Bad Companion Plants For Raspberries
There are of course lots of bad companion plants for raspberries which are definitely best to be avoided as they can have a detrimental effect on the health of your plant and fruit crop.
Here are a few which should be avoided:
Tomatoes: Tomato plants are susceptible to fungal diseases such as blight or verticillium wilt which can be easily transferred to raspberry plants causing flowering/fruiting issues and in extreme cases, can kill raspberry plants entirely.
Blackberries: Growing similar plants that attract the same pests and diseases can increase the risk of contamination for all plants and this is certainly true of most berry plant varieties. Ensure other berries are grown a good distance away from raspberry plants to avoid the risk of infestations from occurring.
Eggplants: Because eggplants are part of the same family as tomatoes (Nightshade family), planting next to raspberries can have the same negative impact as tomatoes, such as fungal diseases. I recommend keeping eggplants away from raspberries to avoid cross-contamination.