By Michael Gesling
Well folks, it’s that time of year again: spring! Sure, some of you may have been gardening for most of your lives and have it figured out. But for the vast majority of us, every season is an adventure in learning about growing food. Take me, for example. Though I work as a Bonnie Plants sales rep based in Rhoadesville, Virginia and am also a longtime gardener, it wasn’t until relatively recently that I discovered “companion planting” – the idea that certain plant varieties grow better when placed near other specific varieties. Here’s what happened.
A few years ago, in an attempt to make better use of my time and available water resources, I wised up and invested in a drip watering system and timer. The emitters on my ready-made drip tubing were spaced in nine-inch intervals, but the tomatoes I was planting required 18 inches between them. I laid out my drip system and turned it on for about five minutes, long enough to leave visible wet spots. Then, I went back and placed my tomato plants at every other wet spot in the row. This provided perfect spacing and direct watering to the plants — great. But what about the other drip spots between the tomato plants?
After doing some research, I came across some articles on “companion planting” tomatoes with basil. Now, like virtually anyone else who likes to cook, I can attest to the brilliance of this pairing after harvesting. But I had never considered forming the same combination during the growing season. These articles suggested that if I were to place these two varieties close together, the plants would share nutrients under the soil surface, the tomatoes would have enhanced flavor (since flavor comes from the soil), and the aroma from the basil would help confuse insects seeking tomatoes to eat. That made sense to me, so I planted a basil plant in each unused wet spot in my tomato row.
The results astounded me! From just the 10 heirloom tomato plants in that row, I was able to harvest approximately 200 pounds of the best tasting tomatoes I could remember growing. In addition, each of the nine basil plants grew to about four feet tall.
This particular companion planting pair has worked extremely well for me ever since – so well, in fact, that I’ve continued to look for other great pairings. My next adventure: planting sage with my bush beans, as sage reportedly deters many bean parasites.
So take it from me: When you grab your Bonnie tomato plants, don’t forget the basil!