Who doesn’t love a big, firm tomato warmed up by the summer sun? I do and the more I get each season, the better. There are various tips and tricks for getting a bumper crop of tomatoes, but one of the most effective is planting tomatoes with their favorite plant friends.
With the right combination of plants, tomatoes can be healthy, strong and provide you with a bountiful harvest. Who doesn’t want more tomatoes?
But what plants go with tomatoes? Well, there are many. There are also many plants that should not be close to tomatoes. Let’s explore.
Perfect conditions for tomatoes
One of the ways I find the perfect companion plant is to find out what the ideal conditions are for the main plant, then research other plants that can thrive in those conditions. If the conditions aren’t right for all the plants, interplanting usually won’t work.
Tomatoes like full sun for most of the day. They like temperatures between 65-75ºF. A soil pH of 6.3 to 6.8 is needed and you need to keep it moist.
Now that we have our baseline, let’s look at plants that thrive with tomatoes and help tomatoes provide a bumper crop.
Best Companion Plants for Tomatoes
There are many herbs that pair well with basil, depending on your needs and goals. Here are some of the best options:
It’s a classic combination that I always choose first. Basil is said to enhance the flavor of tomatoes. Basil also repels mosquitoes and fruit flies. Tomatoes surrounded by basil are often larger too.
Prime! Choose a sweet cherry tomato and wrap it in a basil leaf to snack on while you garden.
Although underrated as a food crop, borage can ward off the dreaded tomato worm. (Manduca quinquemaculata). As something that can defeat a pest that can defoliate a tomato plant, borage is an important addition to a tomato garden.
Be aware, however, that once you plant borage, it seems to pop up all over the garden and yard. Also, if you have bees, you know how much they love borage.
When planted with tomatoes (and any other plant), garlic will repel red mites. Garlic also has antifungal properties, helping to keep the soil healthy. Give the tomato and garlic plants plenty of water.
Tomatoes and lettuce remind me of summer, so it makes sense that they grow well together and help each other. Lettuce gets much-needed shade from tomato plants. Tomato plants have the advantage that the soil is kept moist and cool by the lettuce.
To improve the taste of tomatoes. many gardeners also plant mint. Be sure to give the mint plenty of water (while watering the tomatoes) to prevent rust from setting in. More than borage, mint can become invasive, so plant it in pots above ground or buried in the garden.
Strongly fragrant chives benefit tomatoes in several ways. They improve the taste, size and overall health of tomatoes and can reduce the need for tomato fertilizer. Chives repel aphids, which love tomatoes. They also deter Japanese beetles.
Grow parsley near chives and tomatoes for best results, but keep parsley away from any mints. Parsley helps tomatoes grow and hoverflies are attracted to parsley.
Syrphid flies love to chew on aphids, which like tomato plants. Use parsley to attract this useful insect to solve aphid problems.
With its shiny grain-like seeds and large leaves, amaranth looks cool. I have just started growing it and love planting it with tomatoes. Amaranth attracts beneficial insects to the tomato garden. Pigweed is actually a host for predatory beetles that feed on tomato plant pests.
To repel flea beetles from tomato plants, combine it with sage. If dust mites are a problem for you, use sage and, for an extra boost, add cilantro as well.
One of my gardening theories is that if food goes together on a plate, it goes together in the garden. Cucumbers and tomatoes go perfectly in salads and many other dishes. If you have tomatoes growing in a greenhouse, cucumbers are a perfect match. They also blend well in the garden.
Two reasons they grow so well together are that they require the same soil conditions and take the same time to grow.
Onions are related to chives and garlic and make excellent companions. They all omit a smell that repels many pests that afflict tomatoes.
Whether hot or sweet peppers, they go well with tomatoes. Many plants in the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, grow together (except tomatoes and potatoes).
Planting tomatoes is actually beneficial for arugula. The tomatoes shade the garden where the arugula grows.
Tomatoes and carrots grow at about the same rate. Plant carrots when tomato plants first come in. The carrots will be ready just before the tomatoes are ready and overrun the area.
Just be sure not to plant the carrots too close to the roots of the tomatoes. Removing them will disturb the roots, and if you do it right, the carrots will be pulled out before the tomatoes are ready.
It’s a combination that isn’t chosen often, but it works. Pull the asparagus away from the stem of the tomato plant. To make the tomatoes even more successful, plant the asparagus with parsley and basil.
Tomatoes omit a chemical called solanine. This repels a beetle that attacks the asparagus. Oddly enough, it’s called an asparagus beetle.
To aid planting tomatoes, asparagus leaves out a chemical that deters another prolific pest, nematodes.
This compromise between plants is the perfect example of companion planting.
Sometimes known as pot marigold, calendula can help repel tomato pests. Hornworms and whiteflies both hate calendula, so if you’ve ever suffered from these pests, try this winning combination.
Plants to avoid with tomatoes
These are the plants you should avoid planting with your tomatoes.
This combo contradicts the idea that plants that taste good together should grow together.
Tomatoes are hungry feeders, just like corn. You really need to stay on top of the soil nutrients with these two plants and they will cause the other to struggle with half the chance.
Corn also attracts pests that attack tomato plants such as tomato earworm (also known as corn earworm). Larvae can decimate your corn crop and then move on to tomatoes. They will tunnel through all parts of the plant, including the leaves, stems, and fruit of the tomato.
The tomato fruitworm (Heliothus zea) is nearly impossible to treat once it burrows into the plant and fruit.
Tomato and fennel do not mix well because fennel can affect the growth of tomatoes and cause them to stunt their growth. Fennel roots release a chemical that affects the ability of other plants to grow properly. Give the fennel its own space.
Because potatoes and tomatoes are so closely related, they compete for the same nutrients. They also often suffer from the same pests and diseases, including psyllid and potato blight.
Although I have grown crucifers with tomatoes before, the resulting tomato crop was nowhere near as good as if I hadn’t. Fungal diseases that crucifers suffer from also affect tomatoes. If you put your tomatoes and crucifers in the same space, the risk of disease is higher.
Brassicas also need very nutrient-dense soil like tomatoes, so if they end up weakened because they’re all competing for food, the chances of infection are higher.
Crucifers not to plant with tomatoes include:
- Brussels sprouts
Rosemary grows well with the brassica family but does not work with tomatoes. Tomatoes and rosemary seem weaker than if they were not together.
Tomatoes and dill are good friends in their youth, but they grow apart as they get older. Older dill can stunt the growth of tomatoes. It is better to separate them.
Although eggplant can technically grow with tomatoes, it’s more of a health condition that can cause problems. Mildew and late blight affect both plants. alternaria kills leaf tissue, which means less fruit to harvest due to a lack of photosynthesis.
Downy mildew affects the entire plant and likely stays in the soil. Not only should you not plant eggplants and tomatoes together, but don’t plant eggplants in the same soil as tomatoes for two years.
It’s a much less common combination, but tomatoes are so affected by nuts that you should throw the nut shells and flesh in the trash, not put them in your compost.
If you have a walnut tree near your vegetable garden, or even overhanging it, most of the plants are affected by a chemical called juglone. This is often toxic to plants and can inhibit their growth.
Members of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, are particularly susceptible to juglone and will certainly struggle to grow.
How far apart to plant tomato companions
To adopt companion planting, the next question is how far do we plant the friends of the tomato crop and how far should the enemies be?
A good rule of thumb is to plant friends next to each other or in two rows. Those that are not suitable for planting together should be spaced at least three to four rows apart.
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