If time machines were a thing, you could go back to a classic 1972 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial, where in the commercial, a man trips and falls, accidentally dipping his chocolate bar into a jar of peanut butter that a boy is eating from. After the initial disappointment, they both discover that chocolate and peanut butter are “two great tastes that taste great together.” You can’t plant Reese’s Cups, but if you want two garden plants that taste great together, try basil and tomato companion planting. It’s a Caprese salad right in your garden!
Some things are just meant to be together, right? They don’t just taste great together, though. Basil and tomato companion planting is beneficial to the entire growing process. Companion planting, in general, tends to bring benefits to your garden. Catnip is one good example of this, as it may help repel aphids, squash bugs, and other pests. Your cats will be pretty happy about having a supply of this herb around, too. And marigolds are often used as natural pest repellents, while at the same time they attract pollinators.
You already know how intoxicatingly fragrant the basil plant is. I plant way more of it than I could ever need simply because I like smelling it while I’m in my yard (sure beats the tomato plant smell.) That same wonderful scent also happens to attract bees and butterflies, as well as ladybugs, which feed on aphids. It also repels pests like thrips, hornworms, milkweed bugs, flies, and mosquitos, not to mention, some fungal diseases.
Some gardeners also insist that basil and tomato companion planting improves the flavor of your tomatoes. The University of Florida actually conducted a study with a group of volunteers who planted lemon basil and tomatoes together, and the majority agreed that the tomatoes did taste better.
Here’s what we do know. Because basil helps repel pests, tomatoes planted with basil often produce more fruit. And if you’re container gardening, you can get many of the benefits even if they aren’t in the same pot. Just arrange them so they are near each other. In the ground, plant basil and tomatoes about 15-20” apart.
They’re also easy to plant together since they both have similar needs. Tomatoes and basil require similar amounts of water, and they both love the sun, though basil enjoys some shade also, which the tomato plants can provide for them.
Now, about that Caprese salad. Once your tomatoes are ripe and your basil is abundant, you can make my Simple Caprese salad recipe, all you’ll need is some mozzarella, olive oil, salt, and pepper! It really is one of the best ways to take advantage of your basil and tomato companion planting.
Have you planted basil and tomatoes together? Share your experience in the comments below. I’d love to know how it worked out.