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.