Companion Planting with Tomatoes

Collards Growing at the Base of Tomatoes.  Hog Panel Trellis.

Collards Growing at the Base of Tomatoes. Hog Panel Trellis.

The sun is slowly heating up in the sky over South Texas, and the soil is ready for spring planting.  Now is the time to get those tomatoes into the ground.

To achieve the greatest production from your tomato plants, you might consider companion planting.

Companion planting is the close spacing of two, three, or more plants together, where each plant helps and strengthens the others.  Every plant in nature—every vegetable, herb, fruit, and flower—grows better when planted in the right combination with other plants.

Nature always strives to create diversity in plant life, and companion planting harnesses this productive power of nature and channels it into the garden.

The best companion for tomatoes is collard greens.  Plant four collards closely spaced around the base of each tomato, and continue this pattern down the row.  The leaves of the collards will grow together and form a dense canopy over the soil.  This canopy preserves soil moisture, prevents weeds, and provides a sanctuary for beneficial predators–frogs, toads, lizards, and lady bugs.

Collards emit a subtle odor that repels many of the insect pests that attack tomatoes.  The tomatoes will vine thickly up their trellis and offer much-needed shade to the collards, while the collards keep the soil at the feet of the tomatoes nice and cool.  And best of all, you can harvest your collards along with your tomatoes all through the hot summer season.

Marigolds make excellent companions for tomatoes.  Densely plant a couple dozen marigolds around the base of each tomato plant.  The perfume of marigolds pushes nematodes away from the roots of your tomatoes.  And the vibrant yellow and orange flowers set a colorful stage for the lush green tomato vines.

Dill, basil, and cilantro are also excellent companions for tomatoes.   Plant these herbs generously throughout the tomato bed and let them go to flower.  These herbs are beautiful, edible, and their aroma repels many insect pests from the garden.

The best combination of all is to plant collards, marigolds, and herbs all together throughout your tomato bed.  The plants will not crowd each other.  Instead, they will work together to maximize the beauty, fragrance, pest resistance, and food production in every square inch of your garden.

Collards Companion Planted with Tomatoes

Collards Companion Planted with Tomatoes

5 responses

  1. This really is fascinating reading. I do remember my grandmother growing marigolds in her vegetable garden. Of course I had no idea why, but all of that came back in a rush when I read this post.

    I was especially interested in this line: “Every plant in nature—every vegetable, herb, fruit, and flower—grows better when planted in the right combination with other plants.” I have a hunch that’s true for people, too.

    • Thank you so much for this beautiful comment. I did not think of it that way about people, but how true it is! That is just beautiful.

      The “old-timers” sure knew something, didn’t they? Isn’t it interesting about the marigolds, and the many techniques our ancestors carried as common knowledge? My great-grandmother was an excellent gardener. I remember standing outside her lush gardens when I was a child, because we were not allowed to play in there, and trying to comprehend the order and structure she had imposed on nature. It always fascinated me when she walked into the garden with an empty basket and came out a few minutes later with a basket loaded with cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, peppers, on and on. It was Little Granny’s magic.

      She was born in 1900, and she learned gardening from the old-timers of her day. Her family came over from Germany to Texas in that great German migration of the 1880’s, that I learned about in history books. Those folks knew something about how to grow food. They carried with them the cumulative experience of hundreds of years of farming (without any type chemicals or GMO’s or any other crutches). They brought their knowledge over from Germany and adapted it to Texas and built cities around their gardens–Cuero, Shiner, Schulenberg, New Braunfels. It was no accident that those folks produced such beautiful and prolific gardens, year after year–they knew what they were doing.

      I wish so much that I could go back and ask Little Granny questions, and learn from her. I was still a child when she passed away and took all those wonderful gardening secrets with her. My Aunt Pat says the green thumb in our family skipped a few generations and landed on me, but the truth is, Little Granny was a clear-eyed expert in the garden and I am just fumbling in the dark. She had 70 years of gardening experience in her when I stood outside her gardens, and I would love just a little of that.

      Thank you so much for your comment! Enjoy this beautiful day!

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