by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Native American Three Sisters gardeners is legendary. Planting corn, beans, and squash together help all three plants thrive and produce a better harvest. These first gardeners of the soil were the first to use companion plants to improve vitality. Companion planting the vegetable garden involves part folklore, wishful thinking, and experience. Let’s take the mystery out of companion plants for tomatoes that work.
Luckily tomatoes make good companions with the majority of popular garden vegetables. Some companions help improve the health and vigor of tomato plants, and some improve tomato flavor. Other companions are used to repelling and deter insect pests and diseases. You’re probably going to grow some of these plants anyway, so why not experiment and use them as companion plants with tomatoes.
Many plants are touted as improving tomatoes’ health, vigor, and flavor. These features are hard to measure, more scientific research must be done to back up the claims, and many other factors may be involved. Still, it’s interesting to try them in your own garden.
Here are the Top 10 plants that will help your tomatoes grow larger and taste better.
Asparagus produces a chemical that kills tomato nematodes, while tomatoes contain solanine that is toxic to asparagus beetles, actual companion plants. Tomatoes grow tall, creating shade around asparagus plants, and preventing weeds from invading the bed.
Borage is planted with tomatoes for several reasons. It deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms. Tomato health and flavor are also elevated.
Calendula leaves and blooms are edible and taste delicious in salads. Similar in style to marigolds, when planted between tomato plants, calendula is a natural way to control pests that feast on tomato plants. Impress your friends by topping a salad with some of these fetching flowers.
Carrots and tomatoes share space well. You can plant carrots when tomatoes are small and will be ready to harvest by the time the tomatoes grow more prominent and need room. This is a great way to increase the garden’s yield if you need more space.
Chive is a stunning herb that helps improve the taste of tomatoes, repels aphids, and is an excellent addition to any tomato salad.
Garlic, when planted near tomatoes, helps keep spider mites at bay. Who doesn’t enjoy fresh garlic on their bruschetta. . . Yum!
Leaf lettuce with your tomatoes is a green mulch keeping tomato roots cool. It reduces the chance of disease spreading from the soil to your tomato leaves.
Marigolds are considered a must when growing tomatoes for many gardeners. Many gardeners only consider growing tomatoes with marigolds. These bright and chipper annuals do mighty wonders when deterring pests. They produce a substance known as alpha-terthienyl. This substance also reduces root-knot nematodes in the soil.
Mint makes a beautiful ground cover that can be aggressive. Pick your flavor of mint; all pests detest the smell, including small rodents. Plant a container of mint for easy control and place it in the garden.
Nasturtiums add color and cheer to your garden but also protect tomato plants. They deter whiteflies, squash bugs, beetles, and aphids while preventing fungal diseases.
If you want the most from your tomatoes this year, consider some of these companion plants.
Free Garden Classes offered by Watters Garden Center
We go deep into growing better. Check out this spring’s class selection offered every Friday @ 3 pm.
April 14 @ 3pm: My First Herb and Vegetable Gardens. We cover the best heirloom varieties to local favorites and highlight soil preparation, best practices, and care. Let’s get ready to plant!
April 21 @ 3pm: New Flower Introductions for 2023. We’ve hand-picked the finest flowers from our favorite farms to grow in local gardens. Combine, and create beds bursting with blossoms with exclusive, new annual and perennial flowers in an array of vibrant colors.
Until next week, I’ll be helping locals grow tomatoes organically here at Watters Garden Center.