By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
The other day, I was asked by one of my community garden participants what made a good tomato garden.
I went into the science of soil and how tomatoes thrived in a loose, well-drained soil that contained compost or seasoned manure and that was high in calcium.
When I was finished with what seemed to be a science lesson, the gardener looked at me and said no.
I look puzzled by his response and in turn requested some clarification of the question. Once we were in the same garden space as far as the question, I understood what he wanted to know and that was what made a tomato garden thrive verses one that just survives.
The first thing I recommend to beginning gardeners is to avoid a monoculture garden arrangement. I know some individuals have such limited likes in the vegetable world that there are only a few vegetables that they like.
If you are one of those individuals, it is time to expand your culinary horizons. While tomatoes will grow together, problems can spread like wildfire if that is all you have. Planting something else sporadically will help reduce the chance of tomato Armageddon.
Second, know what makes a good neighbor. This is not a time to keep your friends near and your enemies nearer. Enemies of tomatoes can cause some major problems in the tomato patch. This principle is called companion plantings and is one of the basic principles as far as organic gardening. A famous companion planting that can be found on in many Italian kitchens is tomatoes and basil.
It is well know that basil planted with tomatoes improves the taste of the tomatoes. The smell of the basil, it is believed, also keeps the hummingbird moth at bay and in doing so prevents the dreaded tomato hornworm. Beyond basil, tomatoes love to be in the company of asparagus, carrots, parsley, celery, cucumbers, anything in the onion family, nasturtiums, and marigolds.
While tomatoes do have a wide range of friends in the vegetable and flower kingdom, they do have some enemies. This includes anything in the cabbage family, fennel or Irish potato.
Creating a “good neighborhood” in the tomato garden is as important as watering and fertilizing. So this year, take a look at your tomato neighborhood and see if you have created a harmonious environment. If not, give these companion plantings a try.
So until we blog again, may the breeze of harmonious tidings greet you in your garden space with a wealth of fresh produce through contented plants.