Which plants make the best neighbors for your tomatoes? Companion planting is what we call it when we group plants together, usually in vegetable gardens, to use one plant’s natural characteristics (such as it buggy-pests-deterring abilities) to enhance production or flavor for one or both plants.
Sometimes it’s a plant’s smell that repels a bug that likes another plant, so you plant them together – such as marigolds… Their strong smell actually addles some insect pests so that they don’t attack nearby plants. Sometimes we also avoid planting plants near one another because of common pests or diseases. Either way, before you plan where to put tomatoes in your garden, make sure you’re aware of how they complement or conflict with other plants.
Tomatoes like warm temperatures and full sunshine, so companion plants should require the same – as well as lots of water during the growing season, but less during the ripening stage. There are a lot of considerations to knowing what plants should go nearby and what ones to avoid.
Good Companion Plants for Tomatoes
Let’s take a plant by plant analysis of plants that benefit tomatoes by being planted nearby, and those plants you should not plant near tomato plants.
Asparagus: Tomatoes and asparagus are good companions – with this duo, it is the tomatoes that help keep the asparagus beetle away from the asparagus.
Basil: When basil is planted together with tomato plants, many gardeners report that the flavor and viability of both plants improve. I haven’t tried this, so I’d love to hear from someone with actual experience growing these two together.
Bee Balm: This herb is supposed to improve the flavor of tomatoes or so I’m told by an elderly neighbor who gives free gardening advice to anyone who will listen. (And do I listen! I love anything free, including good advice!)
Borage: Planting borage as a companion to tomato plants should be helpful – borage is a deterrent to the tomato hornworm.
Carrots: These root veggies are good companions because they can use the same space: cool months are for carrots, and tomatoes grow in the warm and hot months. You’ll harvest carrots about the time you set out your tomato plants, so for a small garden this rotational planting works well.
Chives: A delicious addition to tomato-based dishes, and can even improve the flavor of the tomatoes. Click here to read more about companion planting with basil and chives.
Lettuce, Spinach and Argula: Like carrots, the benefits here are related to space. Lettuce and spinach can grow almost as a ground cover under and around other plants, and tomato plants are no exception. Allow some to go to seed, to keep the lettuce and spinach growing in all stages of growth underneath and around all the vegetable plants. When summer’s sun is relentless, and the tender leaves of spinach and lettuce usually cannot survive, the shade provided by tomato plants, and other plants, will shelter them.