Planting Basil w/ there a benefit?

Nu_2_GardeningJuly 3, 2012

I have had a few "old timers" tell me that planting basil plants close to tomatoes is extremely beneficial to the tomato plant. They said it improved the flavor of the tomato as well as provided a natural barrier for the hornworm. Anyone else have that experience? I am quite new to all this and I did it. I have no insect damage at all to my tomato plants but have not been able to harvest any fruit yet to see if there was a flavor difference. I look forward to your responses.

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

No, it's an old wives tale. Or in this case and "oldtimers" tale. :) Give it a try and see if it works for you.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 11:41AM
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Old-timers tend to often do the right thing, but they don't explain themselves very well.

The flavor part might be a stretch. But a lot of bugs hate the strong smells that herbs give off. So do deer. If you grew a compact basil around the base of the plant like a low hedge, it would at least shade the ground and be pretty. For me, it would be worth it just to annoy the deer.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 1:09PM
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No clue about the flavor enhancing effect of planting Basil next to tomatoes. But, in my garden here in Chicago, they give the impression of being bug magnets. I've planted them between the rows of tomatoes in my modest garden and they seem to attract bugs.

I don't see many upset pests when I shake my tomatoes to assist pollination. When I bump a Basil plant, a small swarm of gnat-like bugs take flight. They return their Basil roost almost as quickly. So, I'm of the opinion that some of the nasty little critters here like Basil.

Now, I dunno if those critters would go after my tomatoes if it weren't for the Basil. They may have no interest in the tomato plants. But, here in Chicago, in the hottest Summer in recent memory, the bugs love Basil.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 2:09PM
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opal52(z7b GA)

I tried it a few years go and the only result was stunted basil plants. The tomatoes kept the sun off the basil, and hogged most of the water :~). The only natural deterrent for hornworms that has worked for us is preventative treatment with BT. Have found the liquid concentrate form easier to use than powder.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 2:19PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Good point Opal - shade, stunted growth, rob nutrients and water, attract pests, etc. but the oldtimers never mention any of that.

And there is simply no way they can affect the flavor of the tomatoes. They aren't grafted on and they don't cross-pollinate, The exception is when you chop the basil leaves and sprinkle them on a sliced tomato on a plate. :)


    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 3:20PM
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If you let the basil grow flowers, it will attract more pollinators to your tomato flowers as well---more pollinators equals more tomatoes.

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Dave, what about dry farming effecting the flavor of tomatoes? Perhaps since the basil is depriving the tomato of some water it is in fact helping to concentrate the flavor?

Now granted a dandelion would work just as well under this scenario and the fact that it's a basil plant would be irrelivant, but I could see some slight effect being possible.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 4:47PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

Carla, the last thing I want in my tomato patch is to draw pollinators since I save seeds. And tomato blossoms self pollenize around 95% of the time anyway, if temps are correct for doing so.

CH,not many folks dry farm and I think there was a recent thread here about dry farming. When I visited CA it was common and that b'c water is a big problem out there.

Yes, dry farming can concentrate the flavor of almsot anything you grow since the veggies/fruits are less juicy being deprived of water.

But that's not the same as growing basil or marigolds or anything else that folks plant around their tomato plants as I see it. ( smile)


    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 6:16PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Coconut_Head - the easy way to concentrate flavor is to control your watering and to pick before when rain is forecast. But yeah you are right, a dandelion or a thistle or even Johnson would work just as well as a basil plant would. :)

Carla - more pollinators equals more tomatoes.

Since when? There are many factors that determine how many fruit a plant sets at any given time. Insect pollinators are way low on that list.

I'm all for flowers and herbs in a garden but let's not credit them with magical properties.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 6:36PM
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Thanks for the replies. I can say that I have had very little insect issues other than with my beans and that is minimal. Basil is strong and healthy and not stunted for sure. In fact I just went out and trimmed them down a bit as I didn't want them to block the sun from my tomatoes. I have read that if you let basil flower the leaves can be become bitter so I have been pinching off buds.

I definitely agree with eating the basil with the tomatoes in a caprese yummy. Well....we'll see hwat happens. This is all relatively new to me. I just hope all the buds on my Ttomato plants start some fruit. I have some but feel there should be more. They are big thriving plants ....hopefully soon. Again...thanks.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 9:09PM
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opal52(z7b GA)

"basil can become bitter ..."

Not my experience. I keep basil cut back to keep it from flowering so it will produce for longer period of time. As basil matures, the leaves will become less tender, which is perfectly good IMO for making pesto, or for putting in the freezer for winter. I also plant new basil every few weeks through summer so we will have the tender leaves for chopping when fresh basil is called for, like in tomato salads. Later in the summer, I let some of the basil plants bloom. Bees love it, and so do hummingbirds. Then it produces seeds which can be saved for the next season. I have never known basil to become bitter, but mature coarse leaves can have a slightly peppery taste which I do not find offensive.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 11:29AM
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If you have a raised bed made out of cinder-blocks you can put the basil plants in the small holes in the cinder-blocks. That way there is no competition for water and nutrients. I keep the basil on the south side of the bed and it seems to get plenty of light. I usually keep a few marigolds and catnip's as well and it looks very nice.

Even if there is no benefit to having tomatoes and basil together in the garden, the benefit is huge in the kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 2:00PM
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I agree Barnhardt....definitely a benefit in the kitchen. We just harvest many stalks of basil and are heading to the mother in law's place to have her show us her super secret pesto recipe....we'll of course have to give her some of the bounty. There is so much I'm not worried. Was just checking some tomatoes that are popping out on my plant and am a bit disturbed. Saw two with strange anomalies on the bottom side and after some research think it might be blossom end rot. I'll post pics in a separate thread later tonight once we get back. :(

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 5:14PM
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If the tomatoes look puckered up on the end, but not brown, leave them on. That is catfacing, which disfigures the tomato but doesn't affect the flavor or cause it to rot. Catfacing is usually caused by weather.

If it's brown on the bottom, that could be BER, a calcium deficiency caused by uneven watering. It doesn't spread from tomato to tomato, so one or two tomatoes could be affected but the rest could be fine. Even with BER, if it's not too bad, you can just cut off the bad part and eat the rest.

Here is a link that might be useful: What's Growing On?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 12:30AM
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You were absolutely right about the catfacing. Posted a pic in a separate thread. Unfortunately I had already picked them fearing it was some big bad disease....ugh. Oh well. Thanks for the great advice!Whatis funny is thaty you can actually see a catface in this picture.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 6:20AM
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One can use catfaced tomatoes for a Rorschach test ;)
Last year i've seen my aphid population on peppers migrate completely once i've put a container with nasturtium majus (tropaeolum) next to it - they just switched from pepper to it and made it much easier for me to remove them. It's also edible, you can add it to salads, both flowers and leaves.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 8:34AM
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