Growing tomatoes is an easy way to start gardening if you don’t have a lot of experience.
However, you may be wondering how you can maximize your yield by growing this delicious vegetable (or is it a fruit? The jury is still not there!). If you grow tomatoes vertically, which happens when you stake out the fruits, you’re wasting some space.
Fortunately, there are different types of plants that you can grow under your tomatoes to make the most of the space. This is a process called intercropping.
Intercropping is an easy way to increase your tomato yield. Here are some of the best ways to do this – and protect your soil – to be successful in the long run.
What is intercropping?
You can enjoy looking at a beautiful, neat garden where each harvest has a specific section of the garden dedicated exclusively to her and him alone.
However, there are several problems with this. This can not only lead to wasted space since not all plants have the same growth habits (some grow upwards, others outwards), but also increase the likelihood of pests and diseases.
For example, certain pests target only one type of plant. The tomato hornworm is an example. This pest only goes after tomatoes, so planting a ton of tomato plants together can be problematic.
Another problem is that by growing only one type of plant in one area, much of your soil remains open to problems. Bare soil can not only be eroded and washed away – which leads to a loss of fertility – but it can also cause the wind to blow away the top soil. This type of erosion reduces both the microbial activity in the soil – necessary for good soil health – and the bare soil for weed seeds.
Intercropping, also known as companion planting, is the solution to this problem. It essentially requires you to plant several types of plants together. It can help protect the soil and reduce soil evaporation so your plants have access to more water.
The soil remains covered to protect diversity, prevent weed seeds from germinating and maintain soil quality.
For more information on catch crops related to tomatoes, see this video.
All in all, intercropping will make your work as a gardener about ten times easier. That said, there are some plants that shouldn’t be planted with tomatoes. Tomatoes are heavy feeds, so you don’t want to plant them with other heavy feeds like spinach (lettuce is a better alternative because it doesn’t take up a lot of space or nutrients).
12 plants growing under tomato plants
Growing herbs with your tomatoes is a wise choice. Many herbs not only require little space to grow (both in terms of height and root coverage), but are also easy to care for. They don’t take a ton of nutrients from your soil, and you don’t compete with your tomatoes for water, sunlight, or airflow.
Some of the best herbs to grow with your tomatoes lock in:
- Lemon balm
- Dill (harvest early so its high, bushy growth doesn’t affect your tomatoes)
Many of them, like basil, can also help ward off diseases and insects. Some gardeners report that basil also improves the growth and taste of your tomatoes.
2. Ground cover
Almost any ground cover plant can be grown with tomatoes. Many of them are also herbs like marjoram and oregano, but you can grow any plant that grows to the ground with tomatoes. They don’t take up much space and don’t compete for nutrients.
Grow leafy lettuce and other leafy greens (except spinach, a heavy feeder) under your tomatoes. The lettuce not only acts as a living mulch to keep the soil cooler, it can also reduce the spread of diseases in the garden.
Salad is also often kept cool. So if you grow it in the shade of your tomatoes, you can extend the time before it starts to sow.
Many people don’t think about growing beans next to or under their tomato plants, but it’s actually a wise choice. Beans are no heavy nitrogen conveyors, but give the soil nitrogen again. Tomatoes, on the other hand, consume a lot of nitrogen. Growing these two plants together is a wise choice that maximizes the space you have unstable. Choose bush beans instead of runner beans for best results.
Radishes love the shade, so growing radishes under tomatoes is a wise choice. Your radishes stay cool, which prevents them from being screwed together.
6. Root vegetables
Most root vegetables also grow well in the shade of tomatoes. Some good options are parsnips, carrots, beets and rutabagas. All of these plants grow best when exposed to soils that contain a lot of phosphorus but not quite as much nitrogen. If these root vegetables are supplied with too much nitrogen, they will produce bushy tips at the expense of their roots.
As a result, small, inedible tubers remain.
Growing these plants under your tomatoes is a great way to make sure they don’t get too much nitrogen – but your tomatoes will love nitrogen instead!
Flowers not only increase pollination by beneficial organisms, but also reduce the likelihood of pests being attracted to your tomatoes. Marigolds can reduce the likelihood of soil-based nematodes, as well as pests that target tomatoes such as hornworms and hornworms
The viola is another good choice. Violas do not need much sun and can be planted directly in bed. Lavender, technically a herb, is also a good choice. It forms a cover close to the ground and does not require a lot of nutrients or sunlight to be productive
A flower that many people don’t think about when growing with tomatoes is the rose. Although roses can compete for space with tomatoes if both plants are not properly pruned, tomatoes can actually help roses by protecting them from a disease called black spot.
Onions are great for growing under tomatoes because they don’t take up much space and produce minimal foliage. They do not restrict the air flow and do not absorb too many nutrients in the soil that your tomatoes need.
Like onions, garlic takes up little space and doesn’t compete much for nutrients. It can control late blight and also helps ward off red spider mites. Another advantage of growing garlic near tomatoes? You have everything you need to prepare a homemade spaghetti sauce!
Amaranth is a grain crop that grows surprisingly well alongside tomatoes. It can help repel insects and doesn’t compete for space or water.
Borage grows similar to lettuce, so you can plant it under your tomato plants without worrying about it competing for space or nutrients. It is also said to protect your plants from tomato hornworms. You can harvest the leaves young and enjoy them in salads.
Asparagus is another crop that you can grow under your tomatoes, but you need to be a bit careful about how you do it. Asparagus is a perennial, which means that it comes back year after year.
You just need to pay attention to where your plants grow when you plant your tomato seedlings in the spring – this way you won’t disturb the developing shoots.
Harvest the asparagus shoots young so that they do not affect the leaves of your tomatoes. Then you can take advantage of the many advantages of both.
Asparagus helps clear the soil of nematodes that tend to be attracted to tomatoes, while tomatoes in turn help asparagus by getting rid of asparagus beetles. It is a win-win situation for everyone!
How to choose the right plants to grow with your tomatoes
First, consider the amount of sunlight that reaches the soil around your tomato plants. Tomato plants can grow quite dense, so you may want to plant shade-loving plants near the tomatoes and sun-loving plants further away.
Herbs grow particularly well near tomatoes, as in most cases they don’t need much sunlight or nutrients.
The type of tomato can also affect the best plant that grows with your harvest. Some tomato varieties grow bushy and close to the ground, while others are large and thin. In most cases, you should choose plants with sparse foliage, such as carrots, rather than those that become large and bushy, such as broccoli.
However, if you are growing more bushy tomato varieties, you should pick ground covers that stay low on the ground and don’t produce much tall foliage at all (herbs usually work well).
Be sure to prune your tomatoes when practicing intercropping as you still want to provide enough good airflow. Fertilizing, mulching and weeding is just as important as in every corner of your garden.
Growing a garden doesn’t have to be time consuming. Work smarter, not harder – and consider growing these 12 plants under your tomatoes to increase your yield, protect your soil, and reduce your work all at once.