Strawberry Companions – What To Plant With Strawberries In The Garden

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Companion plants are plants that interact well when planted in close proximity. Biologists aren’t entirely sure how companion planting works, but the technique has been used for centuries to enhance growing conditions, attract beneficial pollinators, control pests and take advantage of available space.

Strawberries are prone to attack by a number of pests, so it makes perfect sense to plant them alongside neighbors that help keep invaders at bay. Other strawberry companions provide shade that keep strawberries cool when afternoon sunlight is a little too strong. Strawberries repay the favor by serving as a beneficial living mulch, keeping weeds in check and the soil cool and moist. Wondering what to plant with strawberries? Read on for helpful suggestions.

Plants to Grow Near Strawberries

The following all make good strawberry plant companions:

Borage – This herb is an all-around good guy, with attractive blooms that attract pollinators and beneficial insects, while strengthening strawberry plants’ resistant to disease. Many gardeners claim that borage makes strawberries taste even sweeter.

Garlic and onions – The pungent smell of garlic, onions and other members of the allium family are excellent strawberry companions that discourage marauders from feasting on juicy berries.

Thyme – Plant thyme around the border of a strawberry patch to deter worms. Thyme also attracts syrphid flies (also known as hover flies), beneficial insects that dine on soft-bodied pests such as aphids, thrips, scale and caterpillars.

Lettuce and spinach – Many gardeners believe that interplanting lettuce and spinach with strawberries enhances the productivity of all three plants. The leafy plants may also hide ripe berries from hungry birds.

Beans – Legumes are natural fertilizer producers, hosting bacteria that fix nitrogen in the soil.

Caraway – Plant caraway to attract parasitic flies and wasps – tiny, beneficial insects that are harmless to humans but voracious eaters of grubs, cutworms, beetles, scale, caterpillars and other pests.

Dill, fennel, coriander, mint and sage – These herbs and many others are excellent companions for strawberries, helping to repel slugs and other pests. Keep in mind that some herbs, especially mint, should be planted in containers as the plants are aggressive and can easily take over a strawberry patch.

Marigolds – Strawberries and marigolds make a beautiful team, and the distinctive aroma of the sunny blooms discourages pests. French marigolds are believed to repel root knot nematodes, which can do considerable damage to strawberry plant roots.

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Read more about Strawberry Plants

The Best Companion Plants for Strawberries

Growing strawberries gives you a beautiful supply of the fresh summer fruit right at your fingertips. Lovers of full sunshine, strawberries are relatively easy to grow in looser soils – in fact, they can be a little aggressive if you’re not careful.

In this respect, when planting companions to strawberries, you have to consider both what works well with strawberries, and what strawberries don’t work well with.

The thing is, that companion planting isn’t as simple as just planting something next to strawberries that helps them grow.

There are many facets to this technique that will truly allow your strawberries to flourish, including improvements soil quality, sun exposure, yield productivity and so on.

The Benefits of Companion Planting Vegetables

  1. Shelter - larger plants protect others from wind or too much sun.

Support - Some vegetables can be used as physical supports for others. As an example, pole beans planted with corn use the corn as a trellis.

Beneficial Insects - attracting beneficial insects such as bees help spread pollin.

Soil Improvement - some vegetable plants improve soil conditions for other plants. For example, members of the legume family (beans etc.) draw nitrogen from the atmosphere and add it to the soil around them.

  • Decoy Plants - there are plants that emit odors that aid in masking the odors of insect-desirable vegetable plants.
  • Be Careful!

    • Do not plant around walnut trees. Walnut trees release a chemical into the soil that makes it very difficult for other plants to grow around it.

  • Do not plant your garden around large trees and shrubs. They will compete for nutrients and sunlight, and your garden will suffer.

  • When can you expect your first strawberry harvest?

    That depends on the plant. Strawberries have different day length requirements that must be met before they are able to set the flower buds that will later develop into fruit.

    • June bearing strawberries produce one heavy berry crop in early summer.
    • Double cropping (or “everbearing”) strawberries set fruit in the spring and again later in the summer.
    • Day neutral strawberries set flower buds and fruit throughout the summer, although they may have two main crops like double cropping strawberries.

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    Fall Care

    After the tall greenery turns brown in the fall, pull mulch away from the borders and, if you've not edged the entire bed, dig out sod where it has encroached at the sides. Spread compost or rotted manure and till or hand cultivate shallowly.

    Asparagus fronds are tough and don't rototill in very well. Also, they can harbor bug eggs that will happily overwinter, tilled into the ground or not. I like to go down the rows and, using an old (but sharp) hook-bladed linoleum-cutting knife, grub out all the old fronds as far below ground as I can cut. I toss them at the base of a fresh compost pile along with any corn stalks and tough broccoli and sunflower stems still left in the garden. Or, I save them to be burned, and the ashes scattered back on the land. (If stacked up off the soil beside the outdoor fireplace where I boil off maple sap, these woody stems dry out under the snow and make great sugaring off fire kindling.)

    Then, I go down the rows and lightly rake old mulch and dead berry plant leaves off of the alternate rows that contain the new-generation strawberry plants and mound it over the old plant rows. Then I till it in very well (old berry plants and all) or (better) burn it and then till. A good sprinkling of composted manure mixed with soiled stable bedding goes on the fruiting bed. Finally, over the whole plot, I scatter six inches of loose salt hay, a type of grass that is harvested from coastal salt marshes, so it lacks inland weed seeds. It is expensive inland but you can use wheat or rye straw. Don't mulch with regular hay unless it is old and half rotten. New hay is full of weed seed and will turn your asparagus bed to what we call a "hay-mowing" here in New England. Lacking a natural mulch, the asparagus bed is one place I'd recommend spending the money for ground peanut shells, corncobs, shredded bark, or other organic mulch.

    The asparagus and new berry crowns will push right up through your mulch in the spring, and it will keep the new berries away from soil-borne rots. Be sure to sprinkle on limestone some time during the year to neutralize the acid content of mulch as it rots down, bark especially. To spread out the harvest, you can pull mulch away from crowns of half the strawberry plants as soon in the spring as you can. Sun will warm the soil and those plants will fruit a few days earlier than the rest.

    During the fall overhaul, I also pull out and compost old horseradish and rhubarb leaves and scatter any leftover compost or manure over the dormant crowns. But I'm sure to be careful of next year's rhubarb buds that often break the soil in fall. Then it's just a matter of waiting out the winter, confident that, in a carefully prepared bed, and after judicious harvest and good fall "putting to bed," the asparagus, strawberry, rhubarb, and new horseradish roots are preparing to gift us with a bountiful harvest next year.

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