Spinach is a popular crop species that greatly benefit from companion planting techniques. Spinach has a shallow root system that gains nutrients from legumes and benefits from retained soil moisture from shady species, all while being provided pest relief by other crops.
Companion planting is a simple task, but it can be detrimental to your plants if paired with the wrong species. The following article dives into the green and leafy world of spinach companion plants, including which species are the best to plant and which plants you should avoid at all costs!
- Cold Weather Companion Plants
- Companion Crop Species
- Companion Root Species
- Companion Legume Species
- Brassica Companion Plants
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is a technique used in Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which consists of ecologically friendly techniques aimed at managing the pests that feed on crop species. It follows the idea that plants can benefit each other by giving shelter to beneficial predatory insects or acting as an alternative host to pests that typically feed on the crop.
Both actions have the potential to help manage pest populations to the point they reduce the need to use chemical pesticides while increasing overall crop yield.
Companion planting is a type of polyculture that focuses on growing two or more plant species together that are thought to have a collaborative improvement on each other’s growth and yield capabilities.
Specific plant species are planted together because they either mask the other species’ scent cues that draw in their pests or attract natural enemies that feed on those pests.
10 Benefits of Companion Planting for Spinach
Companion planting has long been known to create benefits such as disease prevention, pest management, increased health and nutrition, and increased crop yield. Companion planting for spinach will attract beneficial pollinators, increase protection from wind and sun, and increase the chances of having a productive, healthy spinach crop throughout the growing season.
- Insect and pests repellents
- Preventing animal foragers
- Attracting predatory insects
- Attracting pollinating insects
- Preventing crop diseases
- Amending or adjusting soil pH
- Offering shade where needed
- Improving soil nitrogen content
- Offering growing support for climbing varieties
- Ground cover for weed-suppressing
Considerations Before Planting
Crop diversification creates the need for more management and economic input, which could prove to be difficult for large-scale growers. The more diverse your garden is the more work is needed to maintain it. But IPM techniques, such as companion planting, will reduce the need for pesticides used to combat inevitable garden pests and will create an environment that is capable of higher yields.
Popular Spinach Companion Plants
Spinach can be planted with a variety of different crop species, each providing its own benefits too and rewards from the growing spinach plant.
Cold Weather Companion Plants
The easiest plant species to plant with spinach are other cold-tolerant species like sugar snap peas, kale, Swiss chard, and broccoli. These species are early sprouting and grow to provide shade and moisture retention for the growing spinach. They are the most commonly paired companion species of spinach.
- Sugar Snap Peas
- Swiss Chard
- Winter Salad
Companion Crop Species
During the summer, planting spinach in amongst the rows of tomatoes will provide the heat-sensitive leafy greens with enough shade and heat protection to make it harvest without bolting. This allows you to gain an extra harvest of spinach during a time of the year when it would typically be too hot for spinach to thrive.
Strawberry plants are a great companion plant for spinach. They grow to a similar size, which optimized space, and protects soil moisture for both species. They also have different root systems which allow strawberry plants and spinach plants to coexist without competing for nutrient resources while allowing the spinach to have access to nutrients that its shallow roots would not normally have access to.
I would tend to avoid vigorous plants such as squash, melon, and other sprawling large-leaved plants. They are too large and aggressive to control around a small plant such as spinach.
Companion Root Species
Spinach is popularly planted in beds of growing garlic. The garlic repels pests while the spinach keeps weed species from establishing. Spinach and garlic can be seeded at the same time, either in the late fall or early spring. Radishes are very commonly seen paired with spinach plants because they act as a trap crop for the very damaging leaf miner bugs that can eat entire crops of spinach.
- Bok Choi
Companion Legume Species
Legume species, like peas, beans, and peanuts are nitrogen fixers and will add available nitrogen to the soil as they grow. When planted with species such as spinach, they will increase the overall health and yield of the species by increasing the nutrient content in the soil.
- Dwarf Beans
Brassica Companion Plants
Brassicas are always a good option. Their broad leaves and moderate height offer a nice cooling shade during warmer periods of the growing season. However, they can be prone to attract whitefly, aphids, and other pests. It is also worth considering the planting location of your crops. Brassicas typically prefer a cooler location away from intense direct sunlight. In these circumstances, your spinach most likely will not need further shade, quite the opposite in fact.
Companion Flowers for Spinach
Petunias and tansy flowers are commonly used as companion plants in the garden because they deter pests while attracting pollinators. These species can be aggressive and invasive in nature, so don’t let them escape from your garden! To help combat their competitiveness it is best to have your spinach already planted and with established root systems before bringing these beautiful flowering species into your garden.
- Sweet Alyssum
Companion Herbs for Spinach
Scallions, leeks, chives, and coriander are all known to be great companion herbs to plant with spinach. Like garlic, allium species, like chives, and scallions, all produce a chemical that wards off many potential pests.
Cilantro (Coriander) is widely used as a companion crop based on its ability to attract beneficial natural enemies such as ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and hoverflies that feed on pesty aphids, spider mites, and beetles that harm other plant species like spinach.
Many gardeners choose to sow spinach seeds scattered within their herb gardens. The herbs provide nutrients and soil moisture to the spinach and the spinach plants act as a natural weed prevention for your herb gardens.
- Cilantro (Coriander)
What Not to Plant with Spinach
Some plant species do not make good companion plants because they either compete for the same nutrients or space, require vastly different growing conditions, or have allelopathic chemical compounds that prevent other crops from growing.
Corn, Sunflowers, and other very tall species are not good companion pants for spinach. These species block out too much of the spinach plant’s sunlight which makes the crop productive throughout the season.
Potatoes are also not a good companion for spinach plants. Potatoes use a large number of nutrients and water from the soil that created direct competition for resources. Spinach plants’ shallow root systems will not be able to gain the nutrients and moisture it needs to survive and produce a bountiful crop.
Melons and pumpkins tend to out-compete most spinach varieties and grow tendrils that can cause damage to delicate species, so they are not commonly planted as companions to spinach.
Fennel is not a good companion crop for spinach, or any other garden species, except dill. Fennel produces toxic allelopathic secondary compounds that are released into the soil in an attempt of poisoning nearby competitors. These allopathic chemicals will cause plants to struggle to survive.
Verdict: Spinach Companion Plants
Plants such as garlic are typically planted as a companion crops because they mask the other species’ scent cues that draw in its pests and attract the natural enemies that feed on those pests, while species such as spinach act as a weed preventing ground cover. Companion planting can create a symbiotic relationship within your garden space, reducing the need for chemical pesticides and increasing plant yield through environmentally friendly tactics.
For spinach, choose companion plants that aren’t too tall, don’t have allopathic chemicals, and don’t out-compete for resources. Species such as corn, sunflowers, fennel, potatoes, and melons are all not good choices for spinach companion plants.
Instead, choose other leafy greens, strawberries, garlic, or legume species. These species will benefit spinach by increasing nutrient availability in the soil, attracting pollinators, increasing protection from wind and sun, and increasing the overall chances of having a productive, healthy crop throughout the growing season.