The Popular Crop You'll Want To Grow With Zucchini In The Garden

Zucchini is a famously productive crop, with just one or two plants happily producing more than enough squash to feed a household. While zucchini are known for being easy to grow, using companion planting can improve their health even more. If you plant your beans with your zucchini, both plants can benefit from the arrangement.

It's no surprise that beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) can benefit other plants growing nearby, given that beans are nitrogen fixers. They, like all legumes, can form a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria Rhizobia, which turns atmospheric nitrogen into a form usable by plants. While this primarily benefits the bean plant itself, it can also benefit nearby plants, and increase the amount of available nitrogen in the soil. While it may initially be less clear what zucchini squash (Cucurbita pepo) brings to the relationship, their large leaves can help to shade out weed seedlings, providing less competition for the bean plants.

Growing zucchini and beans

Both beans and zucchini are warm-season annuals that should not be planted outside until after your last frost date. Beans can thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 2-11, with zucchini growing in zones 3-11. Both plants benefit from being planted in full sun and appreciate fertile and well-draining soil. You can get a jump start on planting them by starting inside. But as they are both relatively fast-growing crops, this is only necessary in areas with extremely short growing seasons. Don't forget to inoculate your bean with rhizobia before planting to ensure the best nitrogen-fixing possible.

Beans have a variety of growing habits. Climbing beans, bush beans, and pole beans are all delicious, easy-to-grow beans that are easily available options for gardeners. Zucchini is also available in both bush and vine varieties. While growing plants with a bushy habit means you don't need to provide climbing structures, climbing and vining plants have the advantage of growing vertically, which often allows for growing more plants in a smaller footprint.

Supporting zucchini and beans

If you opt to grow climbing and vining varieties of zucchini and beans, you can, of course, build a structure for them to climb on, but an even more fun option is to take advantage of more companion plants. One clever option is to skip the trellis and plant sunflowers for your beans and zucchini to climb. The sturdy sunflower stalks provide structure for the other plants to climb. The large flowers can also help encourage pollinators to come to your garden, which benefits all three plants.

Another brilliant option is the famous three-sisters method of gardening. Used throughout the Americas — most famously by the peoples of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy near the Great Lakes — this combination of corn, squash, and beans has been in use since at least 1070 A.D. It uses corn stalks to provide structure for the beans and squash to climb. The corn benefits as well, thanks to the zucchini squash's leaves shading out weed seedlings, and the beans improving the usable nitrogen levels in the soil.