Garden Harmony: Tomato Companion Plants

From basil to marigolds, the best plants to grow alongside your tomatoes and a tomato festival for taste testing

By Donna Gable Hatch
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There are few things more rewarding than picking, or eating, your own home-grown, vine-ripened tomatoes. Early bird enthusiasts are already enjoying an early crop, but summertime is the best time to celebrate all things tomato.

Amidst the rich history of past civilizations, gardeners didn't just cultivate crops, they planted seeds of enduring wisdom for those who follow. One such legacy that stands the test of time is companion planting - a practice as ancient as agriculture itself, yet as relevant today as ever.

Delving into the past reveals a wealth of botanical partnerships forged by our forebearers, showcasing the enduring efficacy of their strategies. From these historical roots comes a timeless blueprint for sustainable gardening, offering insights that continue to enrich and nourish our modern communities.

Evidence of companion planting dates back to ancient Greeks, Romans, and Native Americans, all of whom employed companion planting techniques to maximize crop yields and deter pests. Its longevity underscores its effectiveness and enduring relevance in gardening practices.

This method provides numerous benefits, including attracting pollinators and natural predators of pests, which helps deter them from targeting susceptible plants like tomatoes.

Companion planting operates on the principle of symbiosis, where certain plant combinations benefit each other by enhancing soil health, deterring pests, and maximizing space utilization. For tomatoes, selecting the right companions can significantly boost their growth while mitigating common challenges like pests and diseases.

Companion Plant Options
Galveston Monthly has compiled a list of symbiotic allies for home gardeners in our area to consider as companion plants for your tomatoes.

Basil is revered for its culinary allure and its role as a steadfast companion to tomatoes. It enhances their flavor while naturally repelling pests like mosquitoes, flies, and the notorious tomato hornworms. Pairing also works on the plate as basil is often served alongside tomatoes.

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Marigolds, with their dazzling blooms and potent aroma, act as natural guardians, deterring nematodes and aphids that threaten tomato plants. Their presence forms a protective shield, safeguarding the precious tomato crop.

Placeholder imageNasturtiums, nature's ingenious diversion, entice aphids away from tomatoes, directing them toward their foliage. This sacrificial offering shields tomatoes from the harm caused by whiteflies and squash bugs, fostering harmony in the garden.

Borage, boasting striking azure blossoms, emerges as a benevolent force in tomato cultivation. It enhances plant health and flavor and attracts pollinators and beneficial insects while repelling tomato hornworms with its protective foliage.

Garlic and onions, with their pungent aroma, prove formidable against pests such as aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. They fortify the garden with their aromatic shield, repelling intruders and nurturing the prosperity of tomatoes.

Chives, with their fragrant presence, serve as guardians against aphids and other invasive insects. Their potent aroma acts as a deterrent to larger pests, ensuring the uninterrupted growth of tomato plants.

In this harmonious dance of companion planting, a tapestry of resilience unfolds. Through the strategic integration of diverse plant allies, pests are deterred, and a flourishing ecosystem emerges, nurturing the health and vitality of tomato crops to fruition.

Expanding beyond vegetables alone, gardeners can incorporate wildflowers or native blossoms to attract local predators, enhancing biodiversity and visual appeal. For instance, sunflowers make excellent companions for tomatoes, diverting stink bugs away, albeit with crucial timing considerations.

While there isn't a universally applicable plan for companion planting, it's generally advised to avoid planting alternating species in the same row. Despite common assumptions, proximity isn't always a prerequisite for plants to offer mutual benefits.

Companion planting strategies vary depending on soil composition, climate, and plant species involved. Experimenting with diverse arrangements and considering the unique needs of each plant can lead to more fruitful outcomes in terms of pest control, nutrient uptake, and overall garden health.

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Tomato Testing in the Gardens
Mark your calendars, tomato enthusiasts. The 2024 Tomato Tasting in the Gardens, hosted by the Galveston County Master Gardeners, is slated to take place on Thursday, May 30, from 9am to 11am. The event promises to be a delicious celebration of the tomato and will be held at Discovery Garden within Carbide Park, located at 4102 Main Street (FM 519) in LaMarque, Texas.

The event is open to everyone, from seasoned gardeners to curious newcomers. At the heart of the festivities lies the annual Tomato Trials, a showcase of tomato varieties cultivated by the Master Gardeners' intern class.

The Tomato Trials serve as a valuable learning experience for the interns but also as a means to disseminate crucial growing insights to the local community. These budding horticulturists grow both determinate and indeterminate tomato strains, collecting vital data on growth metrics such as first bloom, first tomato, plant size, and tomato size.

The highlight of the event? The taste test, of course. As the saying goes, “taste is subjective,” and what better way to gauge the true essence of each tomato variety than by inviting the community to savor them firsthand. Armed with raw tomato wedges, attendees will embark on a sensory journey, savoring the nuances of flavor, texture, and aroma.

For those with a penchant for culinary creativity, the Salsa Contest beckons. From mild to fiery, contestants vie for top honors with their tantalizing salsa recipes, each one showcasing the vibrant flavors of fresh tomatoes alongside an array of complementary ingredients.

In years past, there has also been a delectable array of tomato-inspired appetizers and snacks crafted by interns.

The event is free to attend and will take place rain or shine. For those who wish to participate with your tomatoes, registration is required. The deadline to register is on Tuesday, May 28 at 3pm. To register, please visit their website at and click the events tab at the top of page. For additional information, call 281.309.5065.