Planting your veggies next to their “friends” can improve yield, nutrient content and flavor, while warding off pests
You probably have heard of planting basil next to your tomatoes, as the nutrients they pull from the soil complement each other as well as their flavors in the kitchen, but I learned recently from a biodynamic farmer that borage is an even more amazing “companion plant” for tomatoes, and she was right!
I spread the seeds she gave me in my first-year tomato patch last spring and the huge leafy plants sprouted up almost over night with hundreds of little blue star flowers. I plucked the biggest, outermost leaves and used them as a nutrient-rich compost/mulch around the base of my cherry and brandywine tomatoes, which came out fantastic considering it was my first year planting in this patch and I had added no other fertilizer.
The main reason borage and tomatoes are best friends is because borage’s slightly spiny leaves deter tomatoes’ worst enemies — tomato hornworms! The plants are also fast=growing nitrogen fixers, the flowers attract pollinators and they are said to improve tomato growth and flavor as well.
Carrots are also close friends of tomatoes, as they loosen and prepare the soil for tomatoes’ roots… those left to decay in the soil are especially beneficial as fertilizer!
On the other hand, tomatoes hate potatoes, as they are both nightshades and both susceptible to blight, which can build up in the soil and get worse each year. Cabbage and its relatives (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale) can also stunt tomatoes’ growth, as they compete for the same nutrients.
It may sound silly to think of veggies as having “friends” and “foes,” but the idea is backed by centuries of folklore and decades of scientific research.
The basic concept of “companion planting” is that planting two or more plants close to each other can benefit one or more of those plants.
One of the oldest examples of companion planting is the “Three Sisters” trio — maize, climbing beans, and winter squash—which were commonly planted together by Native Americans because:
1. The tall corn acts as a lattice for climbing beans (sunflowers are also great supports for pole beans and other climbing plants like cucumber)
2. The big, prickly leaves of low-growing squash shade the soil and lock in moisture, while pushing out pests and weeds
3. The fast-growing beans are ‘nitrogen fixers’ for the squash and corn.
There are plenty of books on companion planting,Carrots Love Tomatoes, Great Garden Companions and Companion Planting being our favorites. Or for a quick reference check out the list we compiled below from various sources, includingMother Earth News, the Old Farmer’s Almanac and The Spruce.
Plant Near: Calendula, Petunias, Tomatoes
Comments: Calendula, tomatoes, and petunias are thought to deter asparagus beetles.
Plant near: most garden crops, especially peppers, purslane and tomatoes
Keep away from: rue
Comments: Purslane shades the soil around basil. Basil improves the growth and flavor of tomatoes, peppers and lettuce, while repelling mosquitoes.
Plant near: corn, cabbage, carrots, catnip, cauliflower, cucumbers, marigolds, potatoes, radishes, squash, strawberries, sunflowers
Keep away from: beets, fennel, garlic, leeks, onions, shallots
Comments: Potatoes and marigolds repel Mexican bean beetles, catnip repels flea beetles, and nasturtiums repel aphids. Sunflowers and corn provide structural support for beans to climb.
Her giant “Mammoth sunflowers” would make a great support for them to grow on!
Plant near: broccoli, brussels sprouts, bush beans, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, garlic, onions
Keep away from: field mustard, pole beans
Comments: Onions protect against borers and cutworms. Beets adds minerals to the soil, as their leaves are composed of 25% magnesium.
Try these heirloom “Detroit dark red beets from Mama Bean Seeds:”
Plant near: squash, strawberries, tomatoes
Comments: Repels tomato worms. Improves flavor and growth of companions. Fixes nitrogen. Attracts pollinators.
Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts
Plant near: beets, buckwheat, calendula, carrots, chamomile, dill, marigolds, mints, nasturtiums, onions, rosemary, sage, thyme
Keep away from: strawberries
Comments: Marigolds repel cabbage moths. Nasturtiums repel aphids.
Cabbage and Cauliflower
Plant near: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery, garlic, nasturtium, sage, spinach, tomatoes
Keep away from: strawberries
Comments: Tomatoes and celery repel cabbage worms.
Plant near: Cabbage, chives, early potatoes, leeks, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, rosemary, sage
Keep away from: While tomatoes benefit from nearby carrots, carrots can suffer from nearby tomatoes… so plant some near and some far.
Comments: Onions, leeks, rosemary and sage repel carrot flies. Chives improve the growth and flavor of carrots and deter aphids, mites, and flies.
Plant near: Beans, cucumbers, early potatoes, melons, peas, pumpkins, spinach, squash, sunflowers
Comments: Beans provide more nitrogen corn as they climb the corn. Even faster growing, taller sunflowers can provide structure and windbreak for the corn. Spinach and squash grow well in the shade of corn, while keeping corn roots cool.
Help preserve Native American heritage by planting this rainbow Glass Gem corn from Mama Bean Seeds!
Plant near: Beans, borage, cabbage, corn, early potatoes, nasturtiums, radishes, sunflowers.
Keep away from: late potatoes, which are more susceptible to blight when planted near cucumbers
Comments: Cucumbers like to climb up corn and sunflowers Radishes deter cucumber beetles, while borage and nasturtiums deter other bests.
Plant near: Aromatic herbs, buckwheat, cabbage family, marigolds, nasturtiums
Keep away from: pole beans, strawberries
Plant near: Beets, carrots, chives, onions, garlic, parsnips, radishes, strawberries
Keep away from: cabbage family
Comments: Chives, onions, garlic and zinnia deter lettuce pests.
Plant near: beets, cabbage family, carrots, chamomile, lettuce, marigolds, parsnips
Keep away from: beans, peas
Comments: Onions deter most pests, especially maggots. Marigolds protect against onion maggots.
Plant near: Beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, early potatoes, radishes, turnips
Keep away from: Garlic, leeks, onions, shallots, which stunt pea growth
Comments: Mint improves peas’ health and flavor. Alyssum brings in pollinators and encourages green lacewings, which eat aphids.
Plant near: basil, carrots, eggplant, onions, oregano parsley, tomatoes
Keep away from: fennel
Comments: Basil, oregano and marjoram protect peppers from pests
Plant near: Beans, basil, cabbage family, corn, eggplant, flax, hemp, horseradish, marigolds, peas, squash
Keep away from: Apples, birch, cherries, cucumbers, pumpkins, raspberries, sunflowers, tomatoes, walnuts
Comments: Beans make bigger potatoes. Basil deters potato beetles. Hemp deters a potato pest called phytophthora infestans. Calendula, tansy, and horseradish ward off off Colorado potato beetles. Marigolds deter nematodes.
Plant near: borage, bush beans, lettuce, spinach
Keep away from: cabbage family
Plant near: asparagus, basil, borage, carrots, mustard, parsley, onions, rosemary, sage, stinging nettles
Keep away from: cabbage family, fennel, potatoes, walnuts
Comments: Asparagus repels nematodes, borage repels hornworms, and basil repels whiteflies, mosquitoes, spider mites and aphids. Garlic helps prevent blight and spider mites.
The flowers of carrots (and its relatives parsnips, parsley, cilantro and dill) attract praying mantises, ladybugs, and spiders, who feast on bugs that eat tomatoes.