This year, consider growing herbs and flowers among your tomato plants. Tomatoes have many good friends in the garden, which help attract pollinators and pest-fighters, build soil fertility, and tamp down the weeds that leap into action as soon as you begin feeding your tomatoes.
A mixed garden is both useful and beautiful. And if space is a problem, what better way to sneak in a few flowering favorites and delectable herbs without dedicating a new garden area?! Here are a few that we especially like in the tomato patch:
Because their foliage is fragrant, herbs make excellent companions to most vegetables in the garden. They attract pollinators (bees, butterflies, etc.) while driving away some nibbling pests. Among the best for the tomato patch:
No tomato patch is complete without a stand of basil! We like the Italian Large Leaf types for their stronger fragrance, but any variety will do. This plant repels tomato hornworms and aphids, among other pests.
All onions are dear friends to tomatoes, but chives are particularly useful because they are compact, quick, and edible in flower as well as foliage. Sow seeds when the soil warms in spring, and they will protect your tomato plants all summer long.
A magnet for pollinators and other beneficials, this strongly-scented plant can be harvested leaf by leaf all season. We like Cilantro Calypso, a big, well-branched variety with superior flavor.
The pretty daisies draw pollinators into the garden, while the plant itself improves the quality of the entire vegetable patch. It can be harvested for tea or left alone to suppress weeds and stand guard among the tomatoes!
Nectar-bearing flowers bring pollinators into the tomato patch, which in turn gobble destructive insects before they can eat your plants. Many flowering plants also meander nicely along the ground, suppressing the growth of weeds and carpeting the garden in gorgeous color. Consider these good friends for your tomatoes:
The queen of the tomato patch, thanks to its nematode-destroying ability. The most famous variety for ridding the soil of destructive nematodes is Golden Guardian, but if you want a more ornamental choice, go for it! We like the Janie series, a classic dwarf French variety that sets big flowers beginning early in the season.
We are so used to big, beautiful spreading petunias in baskets and planters that sometimes we forget how useful this nectar-rich sun lover really is! Petunia can help drive away everything from tomato hornworms to aphids, and it likes the same soil as your tomatoes. The time-tested (and very economical!) Celebrity Mix is a dwarf bedding variety that loves to stand guard in the vegetable patch; the gorgeous Easy Waves have an adaptable habit that can mound up in the garden while still spreading several feet in all directions.
This nectar-rich groundhugger blooms in spring, attracting lacewings, which in turn gobble up aphids and other pests before they can get a foothold on your tomato plants. Also a butterfly and bee magnet, Alyssum is perennial, so you can make it a permanent addition to the garden.
So quick and easy to direct-sow when the soil warms up in spring, lovely zinnias need no coddling to flower nonstop all summer long. This member of the Aster family repels a number of potential nibblers, and gives you a handful of fresh blooms for cutting every time you visit the garden to harvest your tomatoes!
This season, turn your tomato patch into a fragrant, colorful garden oasis . . . and grow healthier vegetables with the aid of a few good friends!