Planting mistakes to avoid: Exploring incompatible crop combinations

Planting mistakes, incompatible crops
(Markus Spiske/Unsplash)


It’s important to consider the compatibility of different plants before planting them near each other. Just like people, plants have their preferences and dislikes when it comes to their neighbors. Plant incompatibility refers to the phenomenon where certain plants, when grown together, can have detrimental effects on each other’s growth and development. When incompatible plants are placed near each other, they can compete for resources, release chemicals that inhibit each other’s growth, or create unfavorable conditions for one or both of them, or even their surroundings. It’s important to note that not all plants are incompatible with each other, and some even benefit from being planted together. However, certain combinations can lead to stunted growth, decreased yields, or increased susceptibility to diseases and pests.

Here are some factors that can contribute to plant incompatibility:


One significant factor in plant incompatibility is allelopathy, which refers to the release of chemicals by certain plants that inhibit the growth of other nearby plants. These chemical compounds can affect germination, root development, or overall plant health. For example, onions release allelopathic compounds that can inhibit the growth of nearby bean plants. Planting onions and beans too close together may result in reduced bean growth and development.  Another example is cabbage and lettuce. When planted together, the allelopathic effects of cabbage can negatively impact the growth and yield of lettuce plants.

Sunflower is a popularly grown plant grown for its vibrant and iconic flowers that brighten any garden. However, it’s important to know that sunflowers possess allelopathic properties that can have a detrimental impact on nearby crops. When planted close to other plants, sunflowers release chemicals that can stunt the growth and development of neighboring crops. So, it is generally not advisable to plant other crops in immediate proximity to sunflowers, as their growth may be hindered.

Different growing requirements

Plants have varying growing requirements. Some plants may require specific soil pH levels, sunlight exposure, or water conditions. Plants also have different growth habits, including their height, spread, and density. Incompatible growth habits can result in shading, overcrowding, or competition for space and light. For example, vine plants like cucumbers may overtake and shade smaller plants if not given adequate space. It’s important to consider the growth habits of plants to ensure they have enough room to grow and receive sufficient sunlight.

Pest and diseases

Certain plants are more prone to diseases or attract specific pests, which can have a cascading effect on nearby crops. Plants from the same family often have similar growing requirements, such as soil pH, sunlight, and water needs. Planting them together makes it easier to provide the optimal conditions for their growth. However, they may be susceptible to similar pests and diseases. Planting them together can create an ideal environment for these issues, as pests and diseases can easily spread among closely related plants. For instance, planting tomatoes near potatoes can increase the risk of spreading diseases such as late blight. Cucumbers and melons belong to the same plant family and are vulnerable to similar diseases, including powdery mildew and cucumber beetles. Growing them together can lead to disease transmission and increased pest infestation.

Creating a productive garden involves more than just putting plants in the ground. Considering plant incompatibility is crucial for ensuring healthy and productive plant growth. Signs of plant incompatibility include stunted growth, yellowing leaves, poor yields, increased susceptibility to diseases and pests, and overall unhealthy appearance. By understanding factors like allelopathy, different nutrient and growing requirements, and disease and pest, gardeners can be mindful of avoiding incompatible plant pairings and, instead, prioritize the selection of companion crops that establish mutually beneficial relationships when grown together.

READ: Make a garden productive through companion planting, Part 1: Benefits

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