Jack Solaris. Permaculture Practise and Design, Urban Farming and Sustainability.
Companion Planting: How It Works
Companion planting is an incredible organic method to increase your harvest, improve your soil fertility, and keep away harmful pests all at the same time. It is the practice of growing certain types of crops together that benefit each other and your overall harvest. These plants work together like friends or companions.
Some companion planting combinations will keep away unwanted pests and boost soil fertility. Other combinations will help to funnel much-needed nutrients into the soil to make up for the nutrients being used by your plants. This is a totally organic method of boosting your yields and increasing the diversity of your garden.
All of the companion planting solutions we lay out below work well in raised beds and containers but can also be applied in larger beds and gardens.
Now that you know what companion planting is, we will run through three fantastic combinations specifically for your tomatoes that you will want to try!
Planting Tomatoes With Marigolds for Natural Pest Control
Seasoned gardeners will already know that tomatoes can really suffer from pests. Organic gardeners and those who do not want to resort to chemical pesticides will often be left scratching their heads as to what to do.
Well look no further, because this is a brilliantly simple method that will reduce the risk of pests for your tomatoes. Tomatoes’ growth can suffer due to root nematodes, a very common form of tiny worm that lives in the soil. These cause root knots, which restrict the nutrients getting to your tomatoes.
To combat this, plant marigolds in lines around your tomato beds. You can do this in blocks of flowers or in lines around the beds border. Scientific research has shown that marigolds will help to keep pests away. This will allow your tomatoes to grow and give you the best harvest possible!
The other obvious advantage of this approach is that the marigolds really do look lovely and will add a gorgeous splash of yellow to your beds.
Planting Tomatoes With Dwarf Beans to Boost Soil Nutrients and Get a Double Crop
This is a very cunning combination that will allow you to get a double harvest of tasty crops from the same space.
Tomatoes are a favourite crop to grow, but they do need a lot of nutrients from the soil to grow to their full potential. This can often mean that gardeners resort to artificial fertilisers. You can avoid this and stay organic by using this great companion planting trick.
Plant the tomatoes as you would normally, but around the edges of the bed, plant your dwarf beans.
The dwarf beans are nitrogen-fixing plants. As they grow, they take nitrogen from the air and release it into the soil in a form that the roots of the tomatoes can absorb. This is a kind of slow drip feed of nitrogen for the roots.
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Make sure you plant the dwarf beans in closely spaced double rows (about 2 inches between rows) around the tomatoes. Tomato plants have a large root system, so they will find the nitrogen in the soil and grow larger and tastier crops.
Of course, the other great benefit of this combination is that you will also have great harvests of dwarf beans to supplement your tomatoes. Dwarf beans go great in pasta dishes as well as in salads. They are also very healthy, so give it a try!
Planting Tomatoes With Basil to Enhance Their Flavour
This fairly unique combination works on a number of levels. Planting basil with your tomatoes is known to attract pollinators, such as bees. So more of the delicate tomato flowers will get pollinated and grow into tasty fruit!
Basil also deters airborne pests and enhances the flavour of tomatoes grow in close proximity.
This combination is also fantastic for your cooking! There is nothing quite like freshly picked tomatoes and basil to create an amazing sauce for your pasta dishes.
Consider Hand Pollinating Your Tomato Flowers
As well as using companion plants such as basil to attract pollinators to your tomato plants, did you know you can also hand pollinate your plants to maximise the number of flowers that grow into fruit? One easy method of doing this is with a toothbrush (one that you’re not going to be using again).
Hand pollinating the flowers is a very delicate process, and the aim of it is to replicate the actions of a bee. So all you need to do is take your toothbrush and, using the bristles very carefully, rub the flowers one by one.
Doing this will trap pollen onto the toothbrush. And as you go from one flower to the next, you will spread that pollen and pollinate the flowers! And don’t worry, the bees and other pollinators will still be able to get a tasty meal from the flowers afterwards!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Jack Solaris (author) on August 13, 2019:
Thanks Larry Slawson, it's a pleasure :)
Larry Slawson from North Carolina on August 13, 2019:
Great ideas here. Thank you for sharing!