Planting onions and beans together

organic_mamag(Z5 IN)July 9, 2008

Okay, I know conventional wisdom is that you don't plant onions and beans together. Of course, I *didn't* know that until after I'd planted a row of yellow onion sets right next to two rows of Blue Lake Bush Beans. This was back at the end of May.

The thing is, both of my crops seem to be doing well. The onions are big and hearty looking, and the bush beans have filled in the area, flowered, and have little beans over every plant.

What exactly is supposed to be the problem with planting these things together? I don't even know what to look out for in the way of problems with either of them. Please help me to understand this since I'm already starting to think about what I'm going to plant next year and where.


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I did the same thing, planted a row of onions across the ends of three rows of limas. Then I read about the taboo, but no problems with either crop - so far.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 9:10AM
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Ditto here. Onions and Kentucky Wonder in the same raised bed. Both doing splendidly. Maybe it's one of those old wives' tales that never amount to anything.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 9:18AM
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Some plants have symbiotic relationships. They can put out chemicals which are beneficial to each other. They may have differing nutrient requirements (not in competition for the same nutrients). Some plants put nutrients into the soil, which could benefit another type of plant. Certain plants may repel insect pests which other plants are likely to attract.

This year I planted some green and lima bean seeds near my onion patch, and I also planted them in another area to see what will happen. I got a late start. Rabbits ate the first round of seedlings, so I had to replant. My bean plants are not ready to flower. I don't know the specifics of why beans and onions are not considered good companion plants.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 9:21AM
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reba_nc(z 7)

Beans put nitrogen in the soil and excessive nitrogen encourages more foliage and less bulb? That is the only thing I can think of. Alliums in general are good company because they repel a lot of different insects.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 9:51AM
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Allium definitely exudes a chemical that inhibits growth in legume. That's not to say that the legumes don't grow at all, just not as well as if the alliums were some distance away or pulled months before planting the legume.

I havn't noted the onion/bean combo carefully, but I run into the onion/pea problem every year, as I have walking onions scattered all thru the garden and a like to rotate the peas around different spots each spring. So I pick out the pea-spots preferably by february and then pull all the onions near those so that by early april at pea-planting time the onion effect is gone.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 11:19AM
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greenmulberry(5-Iowa City)

I have noticed that onions cause problems with my peas, but have not noticed it with beans. I planted many snap peas, and they are all thriving, except the ones that I interplanted some onions, those are only a quarter as tall as the other snap peas, and clearly suffering.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 11:41AM
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I had never heard this one. Shhhhhhhhhh...don't tell my beans, because they don't know any better and have been peacefully co-existing and reproducing with abandon next to my onions/leeks/shallots for decades. LOL.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 11:58AM
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david52 Zone 6

I'd never heard of this either, and I planted, on one side of the cattle panel, a row of peas that are about 30 inches high, and on the other side, a row of onions. The peas are doing fine, the onions are small, but that, it would seem pretty obvious to me looking at it, is because they only get sunlight half the day.

I'll cut back the pea vines here shortly, maybe get a fall crop. No powdery mildew yet.....

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 12:16PM
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I think the problem arises primarily when the legume is planted with or near already well-established alliums. The ground near the allium roots is awash with whatever it is, and it cripples the legume crop from the outset. When they are planted at the same time, my guess is that the legume can sort of keep ahead of the inhibitor.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 12:54PM
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I thought we were supposed to be assisting our fellow gardeners here?? Rather than just passing along unsubstantiated heresay.

pnbrown wrote
"Allium definitely exudes a chemical that inhibits growth in legume."

I'm asking him to prove it.
The Internet is stuffed full of scientific articles and journals. I couldn't find one mention of this "crippling" mentioned in any of them. Sure, there are hundreds of "old wives tale" websites that warn bout this combo.

I seem to have proof of either that there is no effect or in fact the plants are symbiotic in my garden. Others responding above support my view.
Perhaps a more correct statement should read, "Peolple who can't grow legumes and alliums in close proximity are just really lousy gardeners that like to have goofy excuses when they have problems."

My first ever pole beans are planted right up against my well established garlic, leeks and shallots. The beans had 100% germination, grew 7 feet in a month and just started flowering like gangbusters. When does the crippling from the outset begin?

Please back up your statement or quit lying and scaring your fellow gardeners for no reason.
I think there is more than enough to worry about when gardening i.e. insects, soil fertility and weather, without passing along and promoting this kind of horse manure.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 4:39PM
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I have heard this too, and have passed it on as a "maybe." Something is usually behind the old wive's tales--they have just been around so much no one remembers "why" anymore. But.....

Does not sound like you have had a problem, and I have beans next to some walla wallas that are, like yours, 7+ feet and heavy with flowers. I would hate to see what they would be doing if the onions do have an inhibiting effect--maybe grow over my house and make it impossible to open the kitchen door?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 6:49PM
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rsb, on this forum there is a tradition in polite decorum. If you want to be nasty go to the hot topics forum and I'll uncork both barrels on you.

I'm not "lying" because there is a clear correlation between the mature onions and peas being planted within a foot or so of them are consistently less thriving than peas not near alliums. In my garden. That's close enough to a controlled experiment for me.

It appears from the anecdotals expressed here that beans are less affected, or not at all. I did say that I didn't really know about that. Another possibility is that walking onions, being perennial, have a stronger effect than annual alliums. That would make sense to me. For most gardeners this will be a non-issue, as most gardeners do not dally much with perennial food-crops.

If I find some indications on the web to support my contention, I'll present them to you in a polite manner.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 8:51PM
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Well, it seems you didn't look hard - I found plenty of references in seconds. Probably not scientific proof, but you can start with these:

"Companion planting for successful gardening", by Garden Way.

"Companion Plants", by H. Philbrick and R.B. Gregg

"A-Z of Companion Planting" by P. Allardice

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 9:02PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

Drat, I knew I should have checked my companion planting guides before I planted some green onions right next to my pole beans. No problems yet but the onions are young so if I had to can them I could. I'll check the charts when I get home.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 9:10PM
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This study gives a hint, though not carried out with legume victims:

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 9:31PM
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pnbrown Keep trying.
I've seen the companion planting websites, That's no better proof. The scientific paper clearly states
" Aqueous extract and volatile compounds of the bulbs were stronger inhibitors of seed germination and seedling growth compared to those of the leaves. The soil and phenolic-containing fraction of the soil under Allium ursinum also inhibited seed germination and growth of test plant seedlings"
I didn't state that you could freely spray beans with allium extract or plant them directly underneath the allium bulb. I reported, as have others that beans planted next to alliums are growing with no problem.

The original post was about BEANS and ONIONS
I quote you again
"Allium definitely exudes a chemical that inhibits growth in legume."
There is clear evidence above that gardeners with BEANS (legumes) planted next to all sorts of alliums are not having problems.
The assertion that you have trouble with peas and walking onions has no bearing on the original subject. While I believe you do have this trouble, it seems very uncontrolled to me. Stretching this to beans is misrepresentation. Maybe not an outright lie; but, certainly unhelpful at the very least.
Anecdotal evidence about peas is not a systematic scientific evaluation regarding how BEANS and onions behave.

This isn't the first blunt discussion on these forums and it won't be the last as long as there are people who discourteously mislead others.
As I said before, I thought we are here to help each other. People may be reading this thread years from now wondering whether it's ok to plant BEANS near onions. Everyone who responded that they aren't having problems is being helpful and polite about this exact subject.
I did an exhaustive web search about this very subject after I had planted my pole bean tepee between my beets (God forbid) and my alliums. Based on the companion planting wesite and book heresay, I was tempted to dig the whole thing up and move it. I would have too, had I had more room. Instead I figured I'd give a go. Sure enough, the conventional wisdom was wrong. Which is what the OP was after.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 10:40PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"I was tempted to dig the whole thing up and move it. I would have too, had I had more room."

What a shame.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 11:17PM
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The only poster being discourteous and outrageously offensive is you, rsb. Discussion is what is going on here. Discussion is an art which some folks cultivate. I am enjoying the discussion, except for your two posts.

Onions put out sulphorous gas. I companion plant onions with my roses because roses have a positive reaction to being in proximity to the onion's chemical output.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 12:21AM
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Well, one thing that has come of rsb's discourteous objection to my observations is to wonder why beans react less than peas to the emissions from the onion clan? Clearly they are pretty similar in general.

The first thing that jumps to mind is temperature. Peas are planted when the ground and air are cold; beans when both are rather warm. No idea how the mechanics of the difference would act - just a shot in the dark. Very unscientific inquiry, as gardeners have been doing for untold centuries.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 6:35AM
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I find the personal experience of individual gardeners to be very interesting. Rules of thumb don't always apply. There are all kinds of variables. There has been a lot of hybridization in beans. The bush variety replacing pole beans for the sake of mechanized harvesting. Who knows? Maybe hybridization has changed how beans and onions interact?! I'm wondering how my little experiment will work out?

Corn in one area of my produce garden is growing much faster than it is growing in another area. Oddly, I did less amendment in the area where it is growing faster. I had arugula growing in that section. Did the arugula put something into the soil which corn likes? I love garden mysteries, always a learning experience!


    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 10:13AM
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reba_nc(z 7)

The only way to make gardening an exact science is to grow everything in an hermetically sealed hydroponic greenhouse. Since that isn't an option for most of us it seems that experience is the best teacher and we should each stick with what works best for us in our own little patch of soil.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 10:59AM
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i just planted lima beans in the same row as onions hoping the onions would send the cutworms packing. j

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 7:25PM
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Hi all,

I agree that there is a lot of complanion planting bulshit, to be honest. It is great when people like you are experimenting with these and seeing really what works and what works not.

I also started experiments between every possible combination between one vegetable of each family: carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, beets and beans.

I will report on this 1-2 months from now, on how it went.

About other myths versus truths: I tested planting by the moon, it worked for radish and pumpkins (the ones I tested so far). Seedlings sprout faster when sown at full moon. And radish made larger bulbs when sown in earth days. I was skeptical initially but it works, though the effect is minor

I also tested watering plants with "biodynamic" teas of chamomile, yarrow, valerian, etc, in several vegetables. Rucula grew best with chamomile and bolted more with nettles. Tomatoes grew greater with yarrow and dandelion teas, but worse with valerian or chamomile. The effect is not large but it worked to some of my benefit.

Complanion planting is the next thing I am going to investigate and debunk. All those tables seem to be fancy claims, except that mixing crops obviously deters pests by confusing them, but that is common knowledge, monocultures attract pests.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 3:39PM
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"I also started experiments between every possible combination between one vegetable of each family: carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, beets and beans.

I will report on this 1-2 months from now, on how it went."

Well? How'd it go?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 3:32PM
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As long as this thread was re-opened: legumes do not 'put nitrogen out into the soil.' The plants take up all the excess fixed nitrogen themselves. The only way to get that nitrogen into the soil is to turn the plants under at the end of the season.

As to companion planting - most, but not all of it is wishful thinking. It would be nice if locating certain crops together would prevent the need for pesticides, but nice doesn't pay the rent. Antagonistic effects, like the one proposed for onions, are certainly possible, because plants compete with each other. When I look up such things, I always add 'extension' to my search, to get state extension services. They do this stuff for a living, and they usually don't just repeat what they read somewhere.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 7:40PM
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"I also started experiments between every possible combination between one vegetable of each family: carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, beets and beans. I will report on this 1-2 months from now, on how it went."

I did these combinations last summer, but in containers indoors. I am sure that the dynamics are probably different when growing outdoors.

I try to plant seeds of most of those families in a container with an established tomato. Nothing really grew well, except beans, but after some time, both are competing with each other for water.

Same thing seem to happen in a pot with an established squash, but any sown beans seem to grow better there than with the established tomato.

Brassicas and onions seem to not mind each other. This is also a combination I often do outdoors and works great. And from my own experience, if you grow brassicas mixed with other stuff, you have significantly less cabbage worm.

I sown a few beans in a container with established parsley. All were struggling, I guess the parsley inhibits the early growth of beans.

Two summers ago I was growing a bed with carrots and onions (outdoors and both sown at same time). Both grew normally.

A few years ago I also tried a bed with celery and kohlrabi and it worked perfectly.

I also experimented in a container with a couple of established bean plants. Sown spring onions failed, for some reason (probably competition of the established roots of the beans). But asparagus and chufa grew well in that container.

With experiments with chufa, I had the impression that chufa has a negative allelopathic impact in many other plants growing around it, but chufa itself tolerates and wins competition with other plants.

With Potatoes I only experimented outdoors. Lettuce grew very well at the edge of the potato plants, as well as celery. Obviously outdoors the plants have much more space available. Both seemed to benefit from the shade and increase moisture near the potatoes.

I am doing more experiments this summer.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 5:38PM
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Since this thread began I have noted that Phaseolus and Vigna crops do not seem to be affected by nearby walking onions whereas peas (Pisum) clearly are. Another guess is that by bean-planting time walking onions are in their fruiting stage and so perhaps not putting out much root exudate. It makes some sense that in early spring when they are very vigorously beginning to grow they would exudate to reduce local competition.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 7:37AM
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hi, don"t mean to but in, but here is what i have seen happen in my garden. I planted onions in a raised bed for the season after i harvested the onions in the spring (fall planted) I reworked the bed and planted bush beans. well they all came up but did not produce much of a crop. so i looked through my old organic gardening mags. and found an article about not planting beans in the same bed after onions. Simple test plant a bed of onions the next season plant beans in that same bed that the onions were in and see what happens...
Happy Gardening

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 1:19PM
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My favorite garden books advise against it, but when the alliums come out, there are a limited number of things that can be planted and still grow to harvest by fall (I'm zone 6b). So I have been planting bush beans following onions and garlic, and I can assure you my plants have been quite productive. They are healthy with no obvious problems. I have harvested 25 quart bags so far from two beds (3 x 7 feet each) of beans planted July 15, after my garlic harvest this year. There are still new flowers and I have to pick every other day to keep up. Same thing last year following yellow onions. So it might not be optimal, but I'll keep planting beans after my alliums are finished.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 12:55PM
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I never heard of this taboo, so I planted my fall peas directly after digging the onions.

They're not extremely vigorous, but I admit that my fall peas rarely are, and we've had bad weather for them. Still, there are pods filling out.

I'll keep this in mind for next year

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 2:49PM
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I think this old taboo is from the time when most home gardens had types of perennial onions. Hardly anyone does anymore. I have them, and as I have noted in this thread (now years old), the effect seems to be limited to spring-planted peas when sown near over-wintered onions, like walking onions.

It doesn't seem that seed-sown onions have any affect on peas or beans, nor have I noted an affect on beans from walking onion either.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 3:16PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I think we should try to tolerate others opinions in any discussion. And also , try not to be offended by the opinions of the others that do not concur with that of ours.

IMO, Certain experimental issues about gardening are not backed by solid scientific and near scientific experiments. Sometimes by coincidences certain things happen and then people see a co relation there. I give you an example. We know about BER in tomatoes. We also know that it is somehow related to Calcium. Now, Joe, The Gardener experiences BER and starts adding calcium to the soil. Shortly after, BER stops from happening. Joe TG, concludes that, IN ORDER TO PREVENT ber YOU SHOULD ADD TOMS PILLS TO THE SOIL. But what actually, JTG experienced was likely just coincidental:, The weather changed, the soil temperature changed, the plants grew out of bigger, soil pH changed(due to the amount of water in the soil, fertilizers..) and BER stopped.

It can be the same thing with most of co planting situation.
So , if one is a pro or con when it comes to BEANS and ONIONS, he should do as he wants. As far as I am concerned, it shouldn,t make any difference. Unless, the beans shade the onions too much.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 2:47AM
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Yes, since the thread title clearly states "beans" I should have just left the observation about peas out.

The reason I put it in - five years ago - is because I believe the taboo is about perennial onion in association with Pisum. Somehow it got applied wholesale to all legumes, even though legume is a massively varied clan. Seysonn is correct, one cannot make assumtions, for example, it is possible that garlic does not exudate as freely as A.cepa v. proliferum or aggregatum. It is possible that soil temperature is a big factor, and that might be why Pisum planted in cool soil can be affected and other legumes planted in warm soil are not ( I can imagine that exudates break down much more quickly in warm soil). And/or Pisum is uniquely vulnerable.

I'm sure nobody bothered to look at my links but the research has been done which indicates a suppressing effect can happen.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 7:25AM
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