By Michelle Brunet

If you only have a small area to work with, companion planting will allow you to squeeze more types of plants into your vegetable and fruit garden. Plant your strawberry plants at least 15 inches apart and the rows 3 to 4 feet apart, but make the most of the empty space between plants and rows with companion vegetables and herbs. Vegetables planted with strawberries will mask the foliage and the fruit’s aroma, protecting the strawberries from potential pests. Companion plants also will add essential nutrients to the soil.

Borage is an herb that has a slight cucumber taste. It can be added as a green to salads or as flavor to soups and other dishes. It is also the “O blood type” of the companion planting world, compatible with almost any crop, including strawberries. Borage will improve soil richness by adding trace minerals, such as calcium and potassium, to your garden medium. It also attracts beneficial insects like pollinators and predatory wasps that will keep pests away. Borage will provide visual appeal to your garden as it flowers with blue, star-shaped blossoms.

Sage is another herb that may be planted with strawberries. It will attract bees, which are important pollinators, to your garden. It will also provide a pleasing aroma and visual appeal with its oblong-shaped leaves and blue, pink or white flowers. You can harvest sage leaves and use them to flavor poultry, meat and vegetable dishes.

You can plant vertical plants that climb up trellises and poles, such as certain varieties of peas and beans, alongside strawberry plants. Strawberries grow along horizontal runners, thus pea and bean climbers can take advantage of open vertical space in your garden. Peas and beans also add nitrogen to the soil.

Onions are also compatible with strawberry plants. They keep away the insect pests that tend to destroy strawberries, including aphids, weevils, spiders and nematodes. If you choose to plant onions with your strawberries, unfortunately beans and peas will not prosper.You can harvest both the greens and roots of onion plants.

Lettuce and spinach work well with strawberries in a companion garden. Oregon recommends establishing strawberry plants first and then filling the empty spaces with lettuce, spinach and onions. You can create a zigzag pattern with your strawberry plants amongst greens; create rows of interspersed greens and onions separated by rows of strawberries, or create a row of greens, a row of strawberries in the middle, followed by a row of onions.

For a flower companion for strawberries, consider planting marigolds. They deter nematodes but also provide a visual splendor of orange, yellow or red blossoms. Marigolds also have a distinctive aroma that is pleasing to any gardener.