18 Tomato Companion Plants

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18 Tomato Companion Plants

Companion Plants Help Each Other in the Garden

Tomatoes are probably the one vegetable gardeners universally want to grow in their gardens. Some will plant the unusual Whopper tomatoes, so they have the bragging rights for the largest tomato. Others will start tomato seeds indoors so we can claim the earliest ripe tomato. 

You can grow cherry tomatoes by the bucket full and try growing all the unusual heritage tomatoes. You may can and freeze your tomatoes and make salsas and sauces. 

For many gardeners, the tomato is the number one most important crop. It turns out, one of the most critical things you can do to help your tomato plants grow healthy and strong is to plant them with companion plants.

What are Companion Plants?

So, what is a companion plant and why does your tomato need one? A companion plant is a plant that is grown in close proximity to the tomatoes and will benefit the tomato in some way.  

There are several reasons to plant companion plants. Some companion plants are only there to attract pollinators. If your tomato is surrounded by flowering plants that have attracted lots of bees, the bees will also find your first blossoms on the tomato plant.

Another reason to plant companion plants is to provide nutrients that the tomato needs. Beans and peas are legumes which can fix the nitrogen levels with their roots. The tomato is a heavy feeder and will benefit from the nitrogen rich soil.

Other companion plants have an odor that will repel pest insects. Planted between your tomatoes, the plant will also protect your tomato from predator insects.

Another type of companion plant will act as a lure to attract pest insects away from your tomatoes. The companion plant will be sacrificed for the tomatoes.

Polyculture Gardening

This is an exciting time for gardening. There are new ideas and techniques to try. Gone are the days when every garden consisted of straight rows of vegetables with paths between them. Many gardeners have converted their gardens to raised bed gardens.

Others have opted for a polyculture garden that has a diverse mix of vegetables and flowers all mixed together to create a more resilient garden. If you have all your tomatoes planted in a block, there will be a greater chance that pests and diseases will find the tomatoes and damage the entire crop.

In a polyculture garden, the tomatoes are spread throughout the garden so that if one plant is attacked there isn’t another tomato plant right next to it waiting to be the second course.

Reasons to Grow Your Own Food

There are more and more people returning to growing at least some of their own food. For some new gardeners it is a step toward living with a sustainable purpose. For others, it is all about eating fresh food, grown organically.

Many gardeners are concerned about food shortages. With increasing areas of the country facing drought conditions and the increased cost of produce at the grocery store, growing your own food is an obvious way to ensure an adequate supply of the food you want at a very low cost. In these scenarios, losing your food producing plants to insect pests or disease is not an option.

18 Tomato Companion Plants

Whichever style of garden you choose to grow and whatever your motivation, companion planting will help you to have a successful gardening experience. Here are some great choices of plants to grow with your favorite type of tomatoes, including:

1. Alyssum

This plant will be covered with white flowers that will provide a food source for parasitic wasps. These wasps are important in the control of aphids. Alyssum grows in a mound form covering the ground and providing protection for the soil from water evaporation.

2. Marigolds

These flowers have been grown with tomatoes for years as gardeners believed that the marigolds deterred harmful insects. Recent studies have confirmed that the gardeners were right. Marigolds are particularly good at controlling whiteflies.

3. Sunflowers

These plants are great for attracting pollinators. The bees will be in your garden for the sunflowers and then will also benefit the tomatoes and other vegetables. 

4. Zinnias

Zinnias add pops of color to your garden and bring in the pollinators. Because Zinnias have such strong stems, butterflies also enjoy landing on these flowers.

5. Basil

Since a lot of dishes that include tomatoes also use basil for seasoning, it seems like they should be grown together in the garden as well. Many gardeners believe that basil grown as a companion plant will enhance the flavor of the tomatoes. 

Besides this possible benefit, recent studies have shown that basil will deter thrips and tomato hornworms. It is believed that the basil plants give off a chemical that masks the scent of the tomato making it difficult for the pests to find. The result is less egg laying by the adult hornworm and less damage to the tomatoes when interplanted with basil.

6. Oregano

This herb, when allowed to flower, will attract lots of beneficial insects and pollinators to your garden. Harvest oregano for your own supply but allow some plants to go to flower in your tomato garden to feed the beneficial insects.

7. Nasturtiums

These cheerful, easy to grow flowers have a reputation of attracting aphids and other pests away from your tomatoes. Nasturtiums also will attract pollinators with their flowers. Those nasturtium flowers are also edible. Simply pinch off the flowers and add to a salad or other dishes for a peppery flavor.

8. Calendula

Sometimes known as a Pot Marigold, this plant will attract pollinators with its daisy-like flowers in shades of oranges and yellows. Many gardeners also believe Calendula will deter pest insects while attracting desired insects. 

This plant has been grown for generations as a medicinal plant. Calendula contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties. The flower petals are used in salves to soothe minor scrapes or burns. The petals are also edible.

9. Borage

This is an herb that has edible leaves and purple flowers which have a mild flavor of cucumber. Many gardeners believe borage deters the tomato hornworm when they grow borage between their tomato plants. 

The borage flowers are very attractive to pollinators, and you will have lots of bees to pollinate both the borage and your tomatoes.

10. Thyme

This is a great choice as a tomato companion plant if you have a problem with yellow striped armyworms in your garden. Studies have shown that planting thyme in and around your tomato garden will result in lowering the rate of egg laying by the adult armyworms. 

Thyme also will carpet the ground providing a living mulch around the tomato plants much like the alyssum mentioned earlier. However, remember that thyme is a perennial and if you move your tomatoes each year, you will also have to dig out and move the thyme.

11. Radishes

If flea beetles are a problem in your garden, plant radishes right next to your tomato seedlings. Given the choice, a flea beetle will always go for the radish. You will sacrifice the radishes to protect the tomatoes. 

Tomatoes are particularly vulnerable to flea beetles when the plants are young. While the flea beetles are busy feeding on radish leaves, your tomato plants will be growing to a mature size and won’t be bothered by flea beetle damage.

12. Cilantro

This is an herb used in authentic Mexican dishes and it is especially popular in salsa. Some people have a genetic trait that causes them to taste a soap flavor from cilantro, so they avoid using cilantro in the kitchen. 

Everyone should still grow cilantro and allow it to go to flower. These flowers will attract pollinators incredibly well. They will self-seed so cut the flowers before the seeds develop.

13. Winter Rye

This plant has long been used by farmers as a cover crop in their fields. The benefits of cover crops in the garden are just starting to be realized by gardeners. 

Besides protecting the soil from erosion caused by the winds and snow of winter, the cover crop will also lessen the weed development by choking out the weed seeds that try to sprout. Then the winter rye becomes added organic matter for the soil in the spring.  

When spring comes cut the cover crop to ground level and leave it on top of the soil. A mulching mower makes this an easier job. Plant your tomato transplants right through the residue and use the winter rye as a mulch for your tomatoes.

14. Beans

These vegetables are a great companion plant for tomatoes since beans can fix nitrogen in the soil. Tomatoes are a heavy nitrogen feeder and will leave the soil depleted of nutrients by the end of the season. If you plant the beans with your tomatoes the soil will be constantly replenished. 

You can plant either pole beans or bush beans. Plant the seeds at the same time you plant the tomato transplants. Keep the bush beans south of the tomatoes so the bean plants won’t be shaded by the tomato plants. 

If you are planting pole beans, keep them far enough away so they don’t become entangled with the tomato plants, and plant the beans behind the tomatoes as they will grow taller than them.

15. Garlic

This is an effective companion plant against red spider mites. Garlic spray applied to the tomato plant is believed by many gardeners to control late blight.

16. Dill

When allowed to flower, dill will provide nectar for beneficial insects like braconid wasps and ladybugs. The ladybugs will help to control aphids and the braconid wasps lay their eggs in tomato fruit worms, tomato hornworms, and other damaging pest caterpillars. 

When the eggs hatch the larvae will use the caterpillar as their food source, killing the caterpillar. There should always be some dill planted with tomatoes. One caution is that a mature dill plant will start to release a chemical that can stunt the growth of the tomato. 

17. Carrots

This vegetable and tomatoes are great companions in the garden. Carrots have their long root that will break up the soil for the tomatoes allowing more water and oxygen to reach the tomato roots. 

Tomatoes will provide shade for the carrots which will extend the season of this cool weather crop. In addition, the tomato plant gives off solanine which is a chemical that deters most of the carrot’s common pests.

18. Asparagus

This vegetable will ward off nematodes in the soil. Asparagus is a perennial that is harvested in the spring. Don’t try to plant tomatoes in the asparagus bed, rather plant the tomatoes next to the asparagus bed to reap the benefits of this plant without damaging the asparagus plants.

Plants that Aren’t Good for Tomatoes 

There are a few plants that you should not plant near tomatoes. These include corn, brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, and kohlrabi), and eggplant. Corn and tomatoes attract the corn worm and the hornworm. Putting these two plants next to each other spells disaster for both. Keep them as far apart as possible in your garden. 

Eggplant and tomatoes are both susceptible to early and late blight. Keep them apart to minimize the damage. Brassicas can stunt the growth of tomatoes.

Companion Planting Can Take Practice

Have fun in your garden and experiment with companion planting. Keep a garden diary to record what happens each year in the garden. Record things like unusual weather, bumper crops as well as failed crops, levels of pest damage and when it started so you can be proactive next year. 

Keep note of what varieties of seeds you plant and where you bought them. Any information that might be helpful next year doesn’t need to be fancy, just jot down little notes to yourself. Track your plants in the From Seed to Spoon app!

You’ll be surprised at how useful it will be in succeeding garden seasons. It is fun to look back and see how your garden and gardening skills have improved over the years.