Are your tomatoes refusing to grow as beautifully as you want them to? They just need some companion plants, that’s all. Some plants grow well on their own, but some, like tomatoes, need other plants with them to thrive. This is known as companion planting and it really improved the flavor and look of my veggies. It also helped me keep weeds at bay and the soil moist enough to prevent erosion.
What is Companion Planting?
As is apparent from the name, companion planting sees different plants being planted together. However, it is not about cramming as many plants as you can in one place. You need to think about how they can benefit each other as good neighbors. The more beneficial interactions you can create, the better your tomato garden will be.
The good news is that tomato plants make good companions with most common garden vegetables so chances are that you are going to grow some of them anyway. Just plant them next to tomatoes for maximum and better yield.
At first, companion planting may seem a bit odd to you, but think about it – do you ever see the same plants growing neatly in a row in nature? Finding sections of the same species is rare. That is why if you plant monoculture sections of crops, you will get a poor yield (https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/environmental/monoculture-gardening.htm).
Here are just some benefits of companion planting that you should be aware of:
You Can Save Space
If you have a small garden or greenhouse, companion planting can help you utilize space that would otherwise go unused or fill it up with weeds. You can also plant crops that grow fast between ones that grow slowly and make the most of the limited space that you have.
It Keeps the Soil Moist
At a time when droughts have become common across the world, companion planting is perhaps the most beneficial aspect of getting companions for plants. By planting large leafy plants or vining ones such as cucumbers with others, you can provide shade to the soil that will prevent it from drying up. This natural canopy will also prevent soil erosion and will also attract insects that prey on pests such as ground beetles that eat slugs.
It Keeps Pests at Bay
Speaking of pests, if you plant your tomatoes with beneficial companion plants, you can confuse common pests. That’s because they won’t be able to find a significant patch of their preferred food in one place. Once they start to starve, their survival instinct will compel them to move on (https://app.surferseo.com/drafts/s/7k8Ao9qYzZ8oD669eXuAeTU0wWZ83JhY). This can really mean the difference between a good harvest and a meager one.
Best Companion Plants for Tomatoes
There is a range of herbs, vegetables, and flowers that are considered to be the best companion plants for tomatoes. These include the following:
Basil – Basil is known for improving the flavor of tomatoes it is planted next to. Just add two to three plants per one tomato plant and both will grow well together. The herb will also repel flies, mosquitoes, thrips, tomato hornworms, and milkweed bugs.
Parsley – This herb is also considered one of the best companion plants for tomatoes because, like basil, they also improve the vegetable’s flavor. Both plants act symbiotically – the tomato plants provide shade to the herb, which can otherwise burn up under direct sunlight and parsley can keep pests such as aphids and tomato hornworms away. It can also attract swallowtail butterflies to your garden and fill it with color.
The Allium Family (Onion, chives, leeks, and garlic) – Plants that belong to the Allium family are high in sulfur, which gives them their pungent odor. These include onions, garlic, leeks, and chives. The sulfur is what makes these plants great companion plants for tomatoes as it enhances the vegetable’s flavor in small amounts (https://homeguides.sfgate.com/information-putting-sulfur-tomato-plants-29024.html). However, be careful if you plant chives alongside your tomato plants. While these are great for attracting bees for pollination, they can easily take over your entire garden if it goes to seed. Prevent that from happening by harvesting the flowers as they crop up.
Nasturtium – One of the easiest ways to preserve fresh tomatoes is by planting nasturtium with it. This plant thrives in poor soil and aphids love them so it can be used as a sacrificial plant. In other words, the garden pests will be too busy gorging on nasturtium to even notice your tomatoes! Plus, when the aphids increase in numbers, they will attract ladybugs, which will eradicate them anyway so it’s a win-win situation. The flowers this plant produces look beautiful in the garden as well so you really have nothing to lose and a lot to gain with these (https://www.theseedcollection.com.au/Why-You-Should-Plant-Nasturtiums-in-Your-Garden).
Borage – Borage can act as good companions for tomatoes and make your garden look gorgeous once it sprouts flowers, which look like tomato blossoms. It deters hornworms and improves the flavor of the tomatoes it is planted next to. It also attracts pollinators such as bumblebees and honeybees so you can take advantage of that by planting winter squash nearby as well.
Marigold – The Marigold flower repels pests from your garden and can improve the health of your tomatoes by acting as a pest repellant. Some of the pests that cannot stand it (and can damage your tomatoes irreparably) include the hornworm, beetles, aphids, mosquitoes, and whiteflies. Like borage, the flower also attracts bees that can pollinate your garden. Most importantly, it can repel root-knot nematodes that can otherwise overwhelm your tomato plants (https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/tomato/tomatoes-nematodes.htm).
Sweet Alyssum – Sweet Alyssum is one of the plants to grow to make your tomatoes thrive. The flowers prevent the soil from drying out and keeps it moist enough for your tomatoes to thrive. It can also take over your garden, but that is an invasion that is as beautiful as it is beneficial for plant growth. The sweet scent will make your garden smell amazing as well.
Plants that Should NOT be Grown with Tomatoes
Just like toxic relationships can make us weak and vulnerable, some plants can stunt the growth of your tomatoes as well. While tomatoes are ‘social’ enough to get along and thrive with almost every plant, some can damage your crop irreparably. These include:
Cabbage – All vegetables in the cabbage family can stunt the growth of your tomatoes so they shouldn’t be considered as companion plants. These include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, rutabaga, and turnip.
Corn – Corn can attract earworms/cotton bollworm which can be as devastating to your tomatoes as they can be to corn.
Vegetables in the nightshade family (peppers, eggplant, and potatoes) – While tomatoes are included in this family, planting it with similar members will be its undoing. All of them are susceptible to blight which can build up in the soil and get worse every year. If a nightshade companion plant gets the blight, it will transfer it to others in the vicinity. Avoid planting them near one another to prevent this.
Q: What can I plant with tomatoes and peppers?
A: You can plant tomatoes with peppers as companion plants. The tomatoes will provide shade to the soil around the peppers and provide them relief from the hot sun. Peppers can also help members of the Allium family grow well such as carrots, cucumbers, and radishes.
Q: What vegetables should not be planted together?
A: Here is a full list of vegetables that shouldn’t be planted together for their own good (https://www.askaprepper.com/18-plants-should-never-be-planted-together/).
Q: What herbs to grow with tomatoes?
A: As aforementioned.
Q: What vegetables should be planted together in a raised bed?
A: Adopt companion planting to ensure your raised bed garden thrives. It is especially beneficial for tomatoes.
So, we have learned that:
- Tomatoes thrive with companion planting.
- Companion planting is a great way to keep pests at bay and to enrich the soil.
- Plants can die if they are grown with other plants that are toxic to them.
- Pests can attract predator insects, which can make your plants thrive and keep them healthy.
Companion planting is an art and just like any art, it takes time, experimentation, and a lot of patience. You will fail in the beginning but that is part of the learning process. The trial and error involved will pay off in luscious and juicy tomatoes.