Among cruciferous plants, kale is one of the most popular and easiest to grow at home. Resistant to cold weather, many pests and most diseases, kale thrives in almost any environment.
But while kale thrives on its own, it is always better to put it alongside other plants. Here, we want to show you those kale companion plants that you can’t dismiss to ensure proper growth.
There are many advantages as well as different plants to consider. Below, we explain what plants, why, and how they work. Take a look!
Why Plant Kale with Companions?
In essence, companion planting is about putting different species to share benefits and thrive together. But it’s not that simple. Next, you’ll find several ways companions can help kale (and any other plant) thrive:
Repel & Attract Pests
Many plants benefit from taking pests off other plants, like flowers rue, catnip, and marigold, veggies like alliums, or herbs like cilantro and lemongrass. Simultaneously, they may attract insects so the plants can pollinate the crops, like dill, buckwheat, and hairy vetch do.
Enhance Nutrients & Growth
All plants consume nutrients from the soil. But some of them also help renew these nutrients, including nitrogen. This includes marjoram, pole beans, and summer savory. They promote further growth and faster development of the plant by releasing chemicals and improving soil’s composition.
Provide Cover & Shade
Small plants that form soil blankets like herbs oregano or cilantro and flowers sweet alyssum can lower ground temperature exponentially. Similarly, other plants that grow large and dense like tomato, hairy vetch, and sorghum can protect against scorching sun rays.
As you can see, there are good benefits to planting kale alongside other plants. Below, we explain how they work specifically and how you can get the most out of each.
Vegetables as Kale Companions
Probably the best type of plant you can grow alongside kale is another vegetable. You can get the whole set of benefits that a companion can bring by using another veggie.
However, be aware that most other vegetables will also consume a lot of nitrogen. If you’re accompanying kale with other veggies, then you’ll need a bit more fertilizer than usual.
Here are some of the vegetables we consider worth trying:
Alliums (Onion Family)
This includes onions and garlic, shallots, and even chives. These alliums are all effective at taking away pests and repelling them at the same time.
What’s even better, alliums require little maintenance, won’t suck away the soil’s nutrients, and grow almost at the same pace. Most alliums are nearly-perfect companions for kale.
Onions, for example, are super-cheap and will repel insects. The slight acidity of onions pushes pests away.
Chives are another worthwhile allium companion. They thrive with little output while still repelling insects away.
Then you’ll find leeks. Some types of leeks can grow large enough to provide shade and improve the soil’s nutrients.
Even though people think of peppers are slightly invasive, they’re not. Peppers actually don’t consume much of soil’s nitrogen while still taking many pests away from kale.
Among these pests, you will find parasitic wasps that typically leave their larvae on plants. With peppers, you can prevent that from happening.
You can also use any type of peppers for this, from habanero to Zavory, or even Fresno or Cayenne. They all attract pests away from kale.
Working as a shade and pest-attracting companion for kale, tomato is one of the most sought-after options on the list. Pests like diamondback moths, for example, will prefer tomato instead of kale, preventing any damage to your green veggie.
Most types of tomatoes work for this. Focus on the thickest and tallest tomato plants for even better results. More importantly, keep the garden overly fertilized, as tomato consumes a lot of nitrogen.
Beans (Most Legumes)
There’s a bit of confusion with beans as companions. Some people see the pole bean as a go-to option. But other kinds, like the bush bean, may produce mixed results. Overall, we recommend not letting bean plants overgrow the kale if you want sustained and excellent results.
When together, beans will add more nitrogen, working as a natural fertilizer to the soil and grow almost at the same pace as kale. This makes them exceptional crop companions.
Other Vegetables to Consider
While most veggies above are easy to plant and worth seamlessly with kale, you may not find them ideal for your needs. In that case, consider these:
Vegetables to Avoid
Some vegetables are better to avoid planting alongside your kale. This includes anything from the same Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables.
While they grow well together due to their similar nutrient consumption, height, and overall watering needs – they are prone to the same diseases and pests.
If you plant brassica veggies alongside kale, there’s a high chance you won’t be able to stop pests or diseases later on.
Herbs as Kale Companions
Similar to most vegetables, herbs attract a lot of pests, taking them away from kale. But at the same time, herbs consume little to no nitrogen while providing ground cover to keep temperatures in check.
There’s something herbs do that other plants won’t: they invite beneficial animals, mainly insects. These animals will help with pollination and work as eat or feed the pests that would feed on the kale.
Among the different herbs worth considering as kale companions, we can name:
Working as the almost perfect herb, catnip attracts the predators that eat pests on your kale. It also brings pollinating insects. And what’s even better, catnip often attracts cats and dogs, that will keep animals like moles and rabbits from even approaching the crops.
Another super-helpful herb is cilantro. It is the perfect addition to bring pollinating insects like hoverflies, helping kale grow further and farther.
More importantly, cilantro consumes little nitrogen while still growing dense, helping to work as a slight shade for kale over time.
Almost as useful as cilantro at bringing beneficial insects around, dill works like a charm for pollination. With dill alongside your kale, you’re more likely to bring around wasps and hoverflies, perfect to both keep the plants thriving and eat insects that won’t let that happen.
Sure enough, dill consumes little nitrogen and still covers the ground to keep temperatures in check. If it grows sufficiently large, dill also works as shade.
Repelling the harmful types of insects and bringing along the good ones, enough lemongrass alongside your kale can be immensely helpful in many ways. On top of that, it is super-easy to grow and thrives almost in the same temperatures as kale, so it is one of the most compatible you can get.
Other Herbs to Consider
If you can’t plant any of the previous herbs for one reason or another, then you can also use the following ones:
- Summer savory
Herbs to Avoid
Luckily, there aren’t many herbs that could cause problems with kale. In fact, we couldn’t find any worth considering. If you’re looking to keep your kale thriving, then planting herbs (of any kind) may be a problem-free experience. Still, it would be wise to consider the ones above – there are plenty to choose from.
Flowers as Kale Companions
Most flowers are mostly pollinating aids for vegetables. But some of them can also work as repellants with their smells and chemicals.
Below, we talk about some of these flowers and how they work when planted alongside kale:
Super-smelly and perfectly designed to bring hoverflies that eat aphids, marigolds also handle a beautiful orangey tone that is impossible to dismiss. When planted along with your kale, marigolds bring a unique touch to the garden.
Some marigolds don’t get too tall, making them ideal ground covers to keep temperatures balanced. More importantly, they consume little nutrients so kales can thrive.
Ideal for cool temperatures where kale thrives, nasturtium is also an excellent addition as a crop protector. It can repel cabbage loopers that often prey on kale as well. Similarly, it attracts predatory insects that eat aphids and other pests.
What’s really interesting about nasturtium flowers is their gorgeous orange to yellow tones. You can expect nasturtium plants to grow only a few inches in size, which makes them perfect soil covers as well.
One of the shortest yet densest flowery plants you can get is alyssum. It boasts a uniquely attractive purple with white flower color that attracts some of the best predatory insects, like hoverflies.
Simultaneously, the short height covers the entire soil perfectly to provide a cooler ground for kale to thrive on.
Lastly, it consumes little nitrogen, making it an excellent companion plant for its low-maintenance needs.
Other Flowers to Consider
If none of these flowers seem cute enough or viable for you, then you can still consider alternatives like:
- Sweet pea
Flowers to Avoid
While many people consider the sunflower an excellent addition to their vegetable garden due to their ability to attract pollinators, they can also damage the soil. The allelochemicals sunflowers produce can negatively affect the metabolism of kale and other cruciferous vegetables.
Apart from that, sunflowers attract squirrels and other mammals, which may eventually prey on the kale.
Grains as Kale Companions
People think grains crops are not useful when planting alongside vegetables. But in fact, they can protect veggies even more than any flower or herb can.
On top of that, grains add a unique appearance to your garden. They bring the overall appeal up without much effort.
And when they start to break down after harvesting season, they add tons of nutrients to the soil so kale can thrive on an organically-rich ground.
Be aware, though, as most of these grains consume a lot of nitrogen. It’s vital to keep gardens well-fertilized when growing grains as companions.
Here are some of these to consider:
In the first few weeks of growth, buckwheat is good at keeping the soil cold and hydrated, working as cover. Then, once the buckwheat starts to grow larger, it can act as shade.
While growing, buckwheat also attracts beneficial insects that eat away pirate bugs thrips, caterpillars, and aphids.
One of the densest crops you can grow is the hairy vetch. It produces super-thick covers on the ground that leave no space for sunrays to dehydrate the soil. More importantly, it tends to break down and grow super-fast, adding tons of nutrients to the soil in the process.
On top of that, the purple flowers it produces will attract useful insects while making your garden look a lot more attractive.
Among grains that keep vegetables free of parasites, sorghum stands out for its effectiveness. When planted alongside kale, it also works as a highly protective alternative, as sorghum grows large and provides a lot of sun cover.
Some types of sorghum are also harvestable, while others are entirely ornamental. You can pick either one depending on your needs and still get the same results.
Other Grains & Crops to Consider
Many other crops also thrive alongside kale while adding tons of benefits. These include:
- Berseem clover
- Crimson clover
- Oil radish
- White mustard
Grains to Avoid
Some grain types will consume way too many nutrients from the soil while growing way too large for other plants to thrive along. These grains include corn, oatmeal, and barley, for example, tend to grow way too large, leaving no space for the kale to receive sun rays and suctioning away most nutrients.
Worst Companion Plants for Kale
The wrong plants can stunt the growth of kale. We’ve compiled a list of the worst companion plants that can do more harm than good to your kale crops.
Kale doesn’t need to dislike tomatoes every time since both belong to the nightshade family. Still, the tendency of tomato plants to grow larger may impact kale. Large tomato plants require more nutrients, making kale plants struggle to survive. Also, tomatoes may shade kale plants, preventing them from receiving enough sunlight to thrive.
Strawberries can successfully inhibit kale growth. As a result, avoid planting these berries near kale.
3. Brassica Family Crops
Plant kale away from any plants in the Brassica family. Insects that attack one brassica plant will be drawn to the other brassicas. To avoid a major pest invasion that could destroy all of your brassica plants, keep kale separate from veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and so on.
Sunflowers have an allelopathic effect on kale. Furthermore, these flowers may attract squirrels and other predators, which may eventually feed on your kale plants.
5. Corn, Oatmeal, and Barley
These grains require a lot of space to grow. As a result, if you plant them near kale plants, your kale will likely not get enough sunlight. Furthermore, these grains would absorb all of the soil nutrients.
While kale doesn’t necessarily need a companion to grow, we utterly recommend you plant alongside one. This can improve your results exponentially and get away from common drawbacks that may cause problems over time.
If you’re doing so, then you’ll find our kale companion plants list super-useful. Don’t hesitate to use our advice when growing your kale, and you’ll undoubtedly enjoy much better results.
Did we miss any kale companion plants? Share them in the comments below!