Friday, April 22, 2011


It's spring in the Pacific NW and it's a good time to start sprouting tomatoes indoors for transplant to the outdoors in May.  Many folks plant their tomato crops in isolation and then deal with individual pest problems or blossom-end rot problems with organic solutions & mixes bought at the local nursery.  One way to keep external inputs and ($$$) costs down while keeping one's harvest UP is to plant a tomato guild.  A guild is a beneficial association of plants that work together well and support each other naturally - like a solid family or community.  A well thought-out guild can attract bees and other pollinators, repel pests, accumulate essential soil nutrients, catch sun, and augment the quantity & quality of harvest.  Below is a list of plants that go well with tomatoes and we can start planting and prepping these beneficial companions now in the beds where our tomatoes will go.  What are some beneficial companions to tomatoes that you have grown in your garden?

Chives  /  Allium schoenoprasum
-         Pest repellent:  pungent smell/taste above & below ground
-         Their fibrous roots stabilize the soil
-          Nutrient accumulator:  Potassium (K)  +  Calcium (Ca).  Soils deficient in calcium can lead tomatoes to develop blossom end rot.  I grew tomatoes last year with lots of chives and had no end-rot problems.
-         Attracts pollinators
-         Perennials you can cut & come back for more throughout the season.

Basil  /  Ocimum spp.
start indoors now to plant out in May
-         Said to aid in taste of tomato
-         pollinator attractor
-         pest repellent
-         culinary companion – who doesn’t love   basil?  Really good for making into sauce with your tomatoes.

Nasturtiums / Tropaeolum majus:
-        Soil fumigant - they secrete an effective pest repellent.
-        Sacrificial plant:  attract aphids & their predators
-        So tasty!  Flowers & leaves!


Wild Marigold / Tagetes minuta:
      -          Another pest repellent
      -          Medicinal properties
      -          The cultivated garden varieties
       are less effective

Jerusalem Artichoke / Helianthus turberosus:
If you plant your tomatoes in the open in a windy spot, this could be an excellent edible border/windbreak/fortress plant or sun-trap plant (planted behind tomatoes to the north).  The artichoke has edible tubers like potatoes and can restrains animal invaders from messing with your tomato crop.