15 Best Kale Companion Plants to Grow (And 3 To Avoid)

I have to come clean. I used to hate kale. But as time went on, I grew to like this little leafy plant, and it is now one of my favorite “superplants”.

And what’s great is this plant can grow successfully if the right nearby plants are present.

In this article, I’ll walk you through an in-depth list of some of my favorite kale companion plants and a few you should stay away from.

Get ready as we dig deep into optimizing your green thumb for a prosperous harvest!

Key Takeaways

  1. Companion planting with kale involves strategically growing different plants together to enhance growth, deter pests, and promote a self-sustaining ecosystem in the garden.
  2. Companion crops like cilantro, dill, marigolds, and nasturtiums can repel pests such as aphids and cabbage loopers while attracting beneficial insects like hoverflies and lacewings.
  3. Plants like bush beans, hot peppers, and onions provide essential nutrients for kale’s growth, such as nitrogen, while also acting as natural pest deterrents.
  4. Cucumbers not only offer ground cover and shade but also release chemicals that repel harmful pests and enrich the soil with nitrogen when grown alongside kale.

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Understanding Companion Planting

kale companion planting

Companion planting is a time-honored gardening technique that puts the concept of plant community to practical use.

It involves strategically growing different types of plants together, capitalizing on their naturally occurring properties to make a garden thrive.

Some plants exude chemicals from roots or aerial parts that could either attract or repel pests and enhance the growth and yield of nearby plants.

This practice has diverse implications such as pest control, pollinator attraction, maximizing the use of space, promoting healthy soil conditions, and improving crop productivity.

For instance, certain herbs can improve the flavor profile of kale while others can deter harmful insects.

Flowers like marigolds not only beautify your kale patch but also serve as powerful insect repellents with their distinct aroma.

Understanding companion planting plays a pivotal role in establishing a self-sustaining ecosystem within your vegetable garden!

Benefits of Companion Planting with Kale

Companion planting reaps several advantages in cultivating kale, a versatile superfood.

It’s a holistic gardening strategy that enhances the growth of your leafy greens while promoting an overall healthier garden ecosystem.

Companion plants play crucial roles: they allure beneficial pollinators and insects which contribute to plant reproduction and predate on harmful pests.

In addition to attracting helpful insects, some companion crops inhibit destructive creatures from infesting your kale plants.

This natural pest control reduces reliance on chemical pesticides, contributing to safer food consumption and healthier soil composition over time.

Herbs like cilantro fend off unwanted aphids while marigolds deter cabbage loopers – two common threats to kale plants.

Meanwhile, certain companions enrich the soil with much-needed nutrients that boost kale’s growth and productivity.

For instance, legumes such as peas or beans restore nitrogen levels in the ground – an essential nutrient for thriving cruciferous vegetables like kale.

Similarly, cover crops like buckwheat help maintain soil moisture and suppress weed growth around your precious frizzy varieties, ensuring that they are given maximum space and nutrients for optimal development.

Characteristics of Kale

Plant Family
Brassicaceae
Watering Conditions
Regular, even moisture
Mature Size
18-30 inches (height), 12-18 inches (spread)
Soil Requirements
Well-draining, fertile soil
Sunlight Needs
Full sun to partial shade
Temperature Tolerance
Hardy in USDA zones 7-10
Growth Habit
Leafy, rosette-forming
Flowering Period
Typically in the second year
Flower Color
Yellow
Foliage Characteristics
Thick, curly, or smooth leaves (green or purple varieties)
Propagation Methods
Seeds or cuttings
Pruning and Maintenance
Remove damaged or yellow leaves, regular harvesting
Common Pests and Diseases
Aphids, flea beetles, cabbage worms; clubroot, downy mildew
Companion Planting
Beets, onions, herbs, chamomile
Edible Parts
Leaves
Wildlife Attraction
Attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies
Toxicity
Non-toxic
Special Care Instructions
Plant in early spring or fall for best flavor; provide shade in hot weather to prevent bolting

15 Best Companion Plants to Grow with Kale

companion plants for kale

While this is a comprehensive list, it’s not all kale’s companion plants… you’d be here all day.

However, these are some great companions for kale you’ll want to include in your garden. Enjoy the list and let me know if I missed any.

1. Cilantro/Coriander

Cilantro, or coriander as it’s also known, is an excellent companion plant for kale. These aromatic herbs are known to repel pests that often threaten kale plants with their fragrant leaves.

More than just a repellent, though, their flowers attract beneficial insects like parasitoid wasps and predatory hoverflies.

Predatory insects act as a natural pest control strategy against aphids – one of the common pests that bother our superfood, kale.

The resilient growth of your organic kale can be boosted when grown in conjunction with cilantro/coriander due to this symbiotic relationship in nature’s self-sustaining ecosystem.

Plus, intercropping these two won’t lead to nutrient competition – a win-win situation in your vegetable garden!

2.  Dill

Dill is not just a flavorful herb to include in your kitchen, but it can also be a fantastic companion plant for kale in the garden.

When planted near kale, dill provides several benefits that both you and your leafy greens will appreciate.

Not only does dill enhance the flavor of kale when grown together, but it also acts as a natural pest repellent.

Hoverflies are particularly attracted to dill, and they help keep pesky aphids at bay which can otherwise harm your kale plants.

By adding some dill to your garden bed alongside your nutrient-packed kale, you’ll be enjoying tastier greens while naturally protecting them from unwanted pests.

3. Marigolds

Marigolds are an excellent plant to grow alongside kale in your garden. These vibrant and colorful flowers not only add beauty to your garden but also serve as natural pest repellents.

Amazingly, marigolds have the ability to deter kale pests like aphids, potato bugs, flea beetles, and even rabbits!

You can keep these pests away from your kale by planting marigolds a short distance away.

Marigolds attract beneficial insects like lacewings and ladybugs who control the population of harmful pests. 

With their low-maintenance nature and easy growth, marigold companionship is a must for any kale lover looking to promote a healthy and thriving garden ecosystem.

4. Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are excellent companion plants for kale due to their ability to divert pests away from the leafy green.

Their vibrant flowers and neat foliage not only add beauty to your garden but also act as a trap crop, attracting pests like caterpillars and aphids away from your precious kale.

These pesky insects can cause damage and reduce yields, so having nasturtiums nearby can help protect your crop.

Additionally, nasturtiums suppress weeds and can be planted between rows of kale, effectively smothering unwanted vegetation.

By planting these beneficial companions alongside your kale, you’ll not only enhance biodiversity in your garden but also increase pest control and ultimately enjoy better harvests.

5. Sweet Alyssum

Sweet Alyssum is a fantastic companion plant for kale due to its numerous benefits. It attracts hoverflies which are beneficial insects that help control pests in the garden.

These hoverflies feed on aphids and other damaging insects that may harm your kale plants.

Secondly, Sweet Alyssum can serve as an excellent ground cover for your kale, helping to retain soil moisture and suppress weeds.

It also adds visual appeal to your landscape with its sweet scent and pretty blossoms.

Along with improving the health of your plants, planting Sweet Alyssum with your kale will also create a stunning and flourishing environment in your vegetable patch.

6. Bush Beans

Bush beans are excellent companion plants to grow next to kale due to their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen is a vital nutrient for kale’s growth, especially its lush green leaves.

The presence of bush beans near kale helps promote healthy foliage and overall plant vigor.

These legumes work symbiotically with rhizobium bacteria, which reside in nodules on their roots and convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be readily absorbed by plants.

By cultivating bush beans alongside your kale, you’ll ensure that your soil remains rich in nitrogen, supporting the nutritional needs of both vegetables.

7. Hot Peppers

Hot peppers are fantastic companions for kale in your garden. These fiery plants not only add a touch of spice to your meals, but also provide several benefits when planted alongside kale.

First and foremost, hot peppers do not compete with kale for nitrogen, making them ideal neighbors.

Plus, their strong odor acts as a natural deterrent against pests and other hungry animals that may be eyeing your precious greens.

So go ahead and plant some hot peppers alongside your kale – it’s a winning combination!

8. Scallions

Scallions, also known as green onions, are an excellent companion plant for kale in your garden.

These flavorful and versatile plants not only add a punch of flavor to your dishes but also help repel pests that can damage your kale crop.

Scallions are particularly effective in keeping flea beetles, cabbage loopers, and aphids at bay. Their pungent scent acts as a natural deterrent to these pesky insects.

By planting scallions between rows of kale, you create a barrier that helps protect your leafy greens from potential infestations.

Over the course of the growing season, scallions can be harvested numerous times. This provides more bang for your buck while also benefitting your kale plants.

9. Onions

Onions are not only a staple in the kitchen but also make excellent companions for your kale plants.

Their strong scent acts as a natural deterrent for pests like flea beetles, cabbage loopers, and aphids, keeping them away from both the onions and your precious kale.

Scientifically proven to repel insects in brassica plantings, planting onions between your rows of kale can help create a pest-free environment.

With their sulfurous compounds releasing an odor above and below ground, onions serve as an effective barrier against unwanted pests while adding flavor to your garden.

So go ahead and interplant some onions with your kale for healthier crops and tastier harvests!

10. Leeks

Leeks, being part of the allium family, are excellent companion plants for kale. Their strong scent acts as a natural insecticide and repels pests like flea beetles, cabbage loopers, and aphids.

Planting leeks near kale helps create a self-sustaining ecosystem in your garden while keeping harmful insects at bay.

Another advantage of growing leeks with kale is that they can be planted together without overcrowding the kale plants.

Leek’s bulky base and root zone even help aerate the soil, improving drainage and potentially preventing diseases that affect brassicas.

With their pest-repelling qualities and soil-enhancing benefits, leeks are an ideal choice to accompany your healthy kale crop.

11. Garlic

Garlic is a powerhouse companion plant for kale, belonging to the Allium family along with onions, leeks, chives, and shallots.

Its strong scent and oils make it an effective deterrent for pests like flea beetles and aphids that can wreak havoc on your kale crop.

By planting garlic between fall rows of kale, you can maximize the use of space in your garden while offering protection against hungry insects.

The pungent odor of garlic repels not only pests but also other animals that may be tempted by your garden’s bounty.

So why not harness the power of this flavorful herb to keep your kale thriving and pest-free?.

12. Cucumbers

Cucumbers are fantastic companion plants for kale, offering a multitude of benefits to both plants.

When grown alongside kale, cucumbers provide excellent ground cover, helping to suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture.

The sprawling vines of cucumber plants also act as natural shade providers for the kale, keeping the soil cool during hot weather conditions.

Cucumbers also release chemicals that repel pests harmful to kale, such as harlequin bugs and lacewings. This makes both plants an awesome pair in your garden.

This means that by growing cucumbers near your kale plants, you can naturally protect them from pest infestations without relying on chemical pesticides.

Cucumbers have another amazing benefit, they actually improve the soil when they are planted close to kale because of their nitrogen-fixing abilities.

They absorb nitrogen from the air and infuse it into the soil, causing healthy growth in both cucumber and kale plants.

13. African Marigold

African marigold is a fantastic companion plant for kale. In addition to beautifying your landscape, these colorful flowers also have some remarkable pest-repellent properties.

The strong scent of African marigolds can deter aphids, root knot nematodes, and even rabbits when intercropped with kale.

By planting these marigolds alongside your kale, you can help protect your harvest from caterpillars and increase the chances of a successful crop.

14. Calendula

Calendula is a beneficial companion plant for kale in the garden. Not only does it add beauty with its vibrant flowers, but it also attracts essential pollinators like bees to help fertilize your kale plants.

Calendula keeps pests away and attracts beneficial predator insects like hoverflies, lacewings, and ladybugs.

Kale plants don’t like aphids and thrips, and if you put calendula next to your kale, those annoying insects won’t want to come near your garden.

It doesn’t compete with kale for nutrients and requires minimal maintenance, making it an ideal companion plant.

By intercropping calendula with your kale, you can maximize space in your garden while enhancing the growth and resilience of both plants.

15. Radish

Radishes are excellent companion plants for kale due to their numerous benefits.

As members of the Brassicaceae family, radishes have similar growth requirements as kale and can be planted alongside young growing kale without overcrowding them.

Like many companion plants on the list, radishes ward off pests like aphids, flea beetles, and cabbage worms.

They also attract helpful predators like ladybugs and lacewings to create a natural defense for your plants.

Moreover, radishes are fast-growing root crops that do not compete for water or nutrients with kale. They also improve soil structure and fertility by breaking up compacted soil with their taproots.

How to Choose Companion Plants for Kale

kale companion plants

To choose companion plants for kale, consider their pest-repellent qualities, ability to attract beneficial predators, soil fertility improvement, shade, and moisture provision, as well as flavor enhancement.

Pest Repellent Qualities

Certain companion plants for kale possess pest-repellent qualities that can be a game-changer in protecting your precious crop.

For example, herbs like cilantro, dill, and mint have natural oils and aromas that deter pests such as aphids and cabbage loopers.

These aromatic herbs not only keep the unwanted bugs at bay but also enhance the flavor of your kale when grown together.

Additionally, flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums are known to attract beneficial insects while deterring harmful pests that could harm your kale plants.

Companion plants collaborate to create a self-sufficient environment in your garden. This reduces the need for pesticides while maintaining healthy growth.

Attraction of Beneficial Predators

Companion planting not only helps keep pests away but it also attracts beneficial predators that can aid in controlling pest populations naturally.

By strategically planting certain companion plants like marigolds and nasturtiums near your kale, you can attract friendly insects such as lacewings, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps.

These beneficial predators feed on common garden pests like aphids and cabbage loopers, which are known to cause damage to kale leaves.

Creating a diverse ecosystem in your garden through companion planting encourages a self-sustaining environment where natural predators keep harmful insect populations in check.

This reduces the need for chemical pesticides and promotes a healthier and more balanced garden overall.

Soil Fertility Improvement

Companion plants for kale can significantly improve the fertility of your soil, creating a thriving environment for your superfood.

By strategically planting legumes like beans and lentils alongside kale, you’ll enjoy the benefits of nitrogen fixation.

These incredible plants work their magic by converting atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form that gets absorbed by the soil.

This natural process enriches the soil with essential nutrients and promotes healthy growth in kale.

Shade and Moisture Provision

Kale is a leafy green that thrives when it has some shade and consistent moisture. Luckily, there are companion plants that can help provide these conditions for your kale.

By planting taller leafy plants like celery or Swiss chard near your kale, you can create natural shade that will protect the leaves from intense sunlight, preventing them from becoming bitter and tough.

Cover crops like buckwheat or cucumbers planted close to kale act as groundcover. This helps retain soil moisture and prevent weeds from taking over.

Your kale gets the right amount of hydration without competing with other unwanted vegetation.

With these companion plants by its side, your kale will have the perfect environment to grow lush and healthy!

Flavor Enhancement

Companion planting does wonders for enhancing the flavor of your kale. Planting herbs like zesty cilantro, dill, citric lemongrass, refreshing mint, aromatic rosemary, or savory sage near your kale adds an extra burst of flavor to your plants.

These aromatic herbs infuse their flavors into the surrounding soil and air which adds depth to your kale dishes.

The oils and aromas released by these herbs not only enrich the taste of your kale but also create an enticing garden aroma that delights the senses.

Detailed Guide on Growing Kale Plants

  • Choose a sunny location for your kale plants, as they thrive in full sun but can tolerate some shade.
  • Prepare the soil by adding compost or organic matter to improve its fertility and drainage.
  • Sow kale seeds directly into the garden or start them indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date. Plant them about ½ inch deep and space them 12 to 18 inches apart.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged, as kale prefers evenly moist conditions.
  • Mulch around the base of the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • Fertilize kale plants regularly with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer or use companion plants like legumes for natural nitrogen fixation in the soil.
  • Monitor for pests such as aphids, flea beetles, and cabbage loopers. Use organic pest control methods like introducing beneficial predators or using homemade insecticidal soap if necessary.
  • Harvest the leaves when they get around 8 to 10 inches long. You’ll want to pick the outer leaves first and let the inner leaves continue growing for you next round of harvesting.
  • To extend the harvest season, you can harvest kale in a cut-and-come-again method by cutting off individual leaves instead of harvesting entire plants.

Harvesting Tips for Kale

Harvesting kale can be rewarding because you get to finally enjoy the delicious and nutrient-packed leaves from your garden.

Here are a few suggestions, for selecting the kale leaves:

  1. Begin harvesting when the leaves have fully matured allowing them to grow to 6 inches in length before you start cutting them. This is usually around 55-75 days after planting, depending on the variety.
  2. Pick outer leaves first: When harvesting kale, focus on picking the outer leaves first. These leaves are older and ready for harvest, while the inner leaves continue to grow.
  3. Use sharp scissors or shears: Go in with precision, snip those leaves right at the base of the stem, and voilà! You’ll steer clear of any unwanted plant damage.
  4. Leave some leaves behind: While it may be tempting to harvest all the kale at once, it’s best to leave a few inner leaves intact. This allows them to continue growing and provides a continuous supply of fresh kale throughout the season.
  5. Regularly remove yellowed or damaged leaves: As your kale plants age, some of the lower leaves may turn yellow or become damaged. Removing these leaves not only improves aesthetics but also promotes healthier growth by redirecting nutrients to younger foliage.
  6. Harvest in moderation: Instead of completely depleting your kale plant, practice moderation when harvesting. Aim to take no more than one-third of the plant’s foliage at each harvest session, allowing it time to recover and continue producing.
  7. Harvest throughout the season: Kale is a cool-season crop that can tolerate light frosts and even tastes sweeter after exposure to cold temperatures. Continuously harvest throughout the season rather than waiting until all mature leaves are present for large-scale harvesting.

3 Plants to Avoid Planting with Kale

Avoid planting strawberries, other brassicas like broccoli and cabbage, and tomatoes near kale to prevent pest infestation. Read on to learn more about the best companion plants for kale!

Strawberries

Strawberries and kale are not easy to grow together.

Why? Well, strawberries can actually impede the growth of kale if they’re planted too close together.

They compete for nutrients and space, which can stunt the growth of both crops.

So if you want your kale to thrive and produce those nutrient-packed leaves we all love, it’s best to give it some distance from those tempting strawberries.

Other Brassicas

Make sure to keep your kale separate, from vegetables such, as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.

They might not get along well in the same garden space. While they may share the same plant family, these brassicas can compete with kale for nutrients and space in the garden.

To ensure healthy growth for your kale plants, it is best to keep them separate from other brassicas and choose compatible companion plants instead.

Pests and diseases love to party (and bring their friends). So, play it smart, give each plant its own space, and keep your garden free from unwanted guests. 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are not recommended as companion plants for kale due to their potential to compete with kale for nutrients.

Both tomatoes and kale belong to the nightshade family, and planting them together can lead to overcrowding and stunted growth.

For the growth of both crops it is advisable to allocate sections in the garden or plant them at a sufficient distance from each other.

By avoiding planting tomatoes alongside your kale, you can create a more balanced growing environment and maximize the health and productivity of both plants.

Final Thoughts

Planting different types of crops together is a decision that can benefit any gardener. It can improve their garden’s yield and also help in establishing a self-sustaining ecosystem.

By selecting the right companions such as cilantro, marigolds, beans, and onions, you can repel harmful pests, improve flavor, attract beneficial insects, and ensure healthy soil fertility.

With this ultimate guide on kale companion plants and our expert tips on growing and harvesting kale successfully, your vegetable garden will thrive with nutrient-rich goodness year after year.

FAQs About The Best Kale Companion Plants

What Should You Not Plant Next To Kale?

Based on expert advice, it is usually not recommended that you grow kale in close proximity to vegetables belonging to the Brassica family, such, as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

These plants are prone, to pests and diseases so planting them together could attract pests and increase the risk of disease spreading. 

Additionally, avoid planting kale near potatoes, as they can compete for nutrients in the soil.

What Grows Well With Kale?

Kale is a fantastic team player in the garden! It thrives when planted alongside certain companions that offer mutual benefits.

Some great companion plants for kale include herbs like dill, chamomile, and mint because can attract beneficial insects that help control pests and enhance kale flavor.

Onions and garlic help repel pests that commonly bother kale plants. Beets and celery are compatible with kale and can grow well together in a vegetable garden. 

Can You Plant Tomatoes And Kale Together?

Tomatoes and kale can be planted together, but it’s not the most ideal pairing. Kale is a leafy green that prefers cooler temperatures and partial shade, while tomatoes are heat-loving and thrive in full sun.

When planting them together, ensure that the kale is not shaded too much by the taller tomato plants.

Can carrots grow with kale?

Yes, carrots can be grown next to kale! In fact, this is a beneficial combination as carrots and kale have compatible growth habits.

Kale is a plant, with long leafy stems that offer a bit of shelter to the soil. This can be advantageous for carrots since they tend to thrive in cooler soil temperatures.

The kale’s foliage can also help protect carrots from excessive sunlight and keep the soil moist, which aids in carrot germination and growth.

Plus, planting these two together is a space-efficient way to maximize your garden’s productivity.

What are the benefits of growing companion plants with kale?

Growing companions with kale can provide several benefits, such as attracting beneficial insects, improving soil health, preventing pests and diseases, maximizing garden space, and enhancing overall plant growth and productivity.

Which plants are considered the best companions for kale?

Some of the best companion plants for kale include herbs like dill and thyme, vegetables like lettuce and spinach, flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums, and crops from the allium family such as onions and garlic.

How do companion plants help deter pests from attacking kale?

Companion plants can help deter pests by emitting certain scents that repel or confuse them.

For example, planting aromatic herbs or flowers alongside kale can mask its scent and deter pests like aphids or cabbage worms.

Can I plant kale next to broccoli?

No, planting broccoli and kale together increases the risk of pest infestations and diseases that affect all members of the Brassica family.

To ensure healthy growth for your kale plants, it is best to keep them separate from other brassicas and choose compatible companion plants instead.

Which plants grow well with kale and won’t compete with it?

Plants that grow well with kale and won’t compete with it include bush beans, celery, cucumbers, and zucchini.

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