By David Wall, Mount Pleasant Master Gardener
OK, now that you’ve picked out what tomatoes you want in your garden, you’re ready to begin concentrating on support actions such as fertilizers, weeds, etc. You might even be looking at some companion plants to help grow more, healthier, and better tasting tomatoes.
Marigolds, for example, have a pungent odor that makes many pests move on to more favorable areas. One of the best companion plants, however, is one few people consider, which is basil. Basil has the same effect as marigolds, particularly with serious tomato problems such as tomato hookworm, aphids and whiteflies. As an extra, basil repels mosquitos and houseflies! It also helps increase tomato yields, by putting nutrients valuable to tomatoes in the soil, and may improve tomato fruit flavor. On top of all this, tomato plants help basil to grow healthier. First, they provide shade for basil, which extends to helping the soil retain moisture.
So how much basil do you need to plant around your tomatoes? And just how close does it have to be to help? Well, you normally plant your tomatoes three feet apart. Planting one basil plant within a foot of the tomato plant will be plenty. Planting any additional basil plants or seeds, might rob the tomato plant of needed nutrients.
If starting from seed, basil usually germinates in 7-10 days, although it could pop up in as few as 4-5 days. One it pops up, growth is fast. SO, you can wait until transplant time for your tomato plants to sow basil seeds (much cheaper than plants), as those plants will quickly catch up with the tomato plants. To be on the safe side, plant 3-4 seeds instead of one, thinning to two later. When thinning at 3-4mweeks, feel free to place in containers for your house or porch.