Should I consider companion plants for optimal pest control and nutrient balance?

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Q:

As a grower, I always want optimal pest control and nutrient balance in my garden. Is it possible to use companion planting to help with this? In particular, I’m interested in companion plants for my upcoming crops of tomatoes and culinary herbs like basil, cilantro and dill.

A:

That is a great question. There are a few companion planting options that can improve the health of your plants, as well as prevent harmful insects and diseases.

The first thing I would suggest is planting more than one variety of each crop. If a disease or insect wave strikes, having multiple varieties of tomatoes, basil, etc. will usually ensure that at least one variety survives the outbreak.

There are also a number of companion plants that can be beneficial to the plants’ health, as well as help deter insects. Planting garlic in between tomato plants can protect the tomatoes against spider mites and aphids. Basil can also help tomatoes overcome insects and diseases; however, you should plant basil parallel to, not amongst, the tomatoes. Planting pollen- and nectar-producing plants (i.e. dandelions, marigolds and wild carrots) nearby will also attract beneficial insects, such as lady bugs, and give them a place to lay eggs.

There are certain plants that should not be planted along side of tomatoes. Do not plant any type of cabbage, corn, potatoes, eggplant, peppers or fennel in the same garden as tomatoes because they will repel each other, resulting in an inferior or failed crop. It is also recommended that you should not plant your tomatoes where potatoes, eggplants or peppers have been planted within the past three to five years.

On the other hand, there are some plants that make great companions to tomatoes and can benefit each other, improving growth and overall health. Tomatoes are compatible with chives, onion, parsley, marigold, nasturtium, carrots, stinging nettle and redroot pigweed.

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Written by Erik Biksa
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Erik Biksa holds a diploma in agriculture with majors in fertilizer sciences and crop production. Erik has amassed over 18 years of indoor gardening experience and intensive research. Since first appearing in Maximum Yield in 1999, the “Ask Erik” column and numerous articles have reached growers throughout the world.  Full Bio