Planting a garden is a great way get some fresh air and grow your own food—and absolutely nothing (and we mean nothing) tastes better than a tomato fresh off the vine. But by planting tomatoes with other companion plants, you may be able to improve your harvest. The idea of companion planting is part folklore, part science, but it’s based on the theory that certain plants may help each other absorb nutrients better, keep bugs away or attract beneficial pollinators and parasitoids, a type of insect which attack vegetable pests and provide natural pest control. ( Research has shown that by attracting beneficial insects such as green lacewings and ladybird beetles, you may be able to control aphids in your garden.)

There’s also some folklore that advises what not to plant with tomatoes. Granted, there’s limited research, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to plant these edible and ornamental plants as tomato companions in your garden. Whether some companion plant pairings are fact or fiction, at the very least they’ll support pollinators and add beauty to your garden. Even if there’s not a ton of science behind every recommendation, try them and see what works. After all, experimentation is half the fun of gardening!

Related: The 6 Biggest Garden Trends of 2021

What to Plant with Tomatoes

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1. Basil

An Iowa State University study found that tomato insect damage was lessened when planted alongside basil. Plus, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a fresh, juicy tomato! Think of it like starting your own caprese salad garden.

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2. Thyme

The same study found that thyme had a similar effect. It’s a perennial so it will return for many years. But because you should rotate where you plant tomatoes each year (to prevent diseases from overwintering), you should replant thyme again near tomatoes in subsequent years.

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3. Borage

This old-fashioned annual has pretty blue edible flowers, and its leaves taste like cucumbers so they’re often brewed into a refreshing iced tea. Borage attracts beneficial pollinators, and it’s purported to repel tomato hornworms.

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4. Parsley

Parsley’s pretty, wispy flowers attract beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps and predatory flies. It’s a biennial (lasting two years) but is often grown as an annual because it may become more bitter the second year.

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5. Cilantro

The strong scent of cilantro may repel pests. Let some of it go to flower, too, to attract beneficial pollinators. Eventually, the flowers will go to seed, and you can harvest them as coriander.

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6. Carrots

Some gardeners believe that planting carrots beneath tomatoes will help aerate the soil. There’s no scientific evidence, but it won’t hurt to try this trick, especially if you’re short on space.

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7. Marigolds

These sturdy flowers have a long reputation as pest repellants. In fact, research has shown that their roots produce chemicals that are toxic to worm-like root nematodes that can kill plants—though it seems they’re more effective when grown, then tilled into the soil. Still, it won’t hurt to plant these reliable annuals around your garden’s perimeter.

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8. Lettuce

Pairing plants with different growth habits together is called “intercropping,” and there’s some data to show it’s an effective technique. In this case, low-growing veggies such as lettuce, which prefer cooler temperatures, thrive beneath the shade of taller tomatoes. This trick may extend your lettuce season slightly.

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9. Arugula

The same intercropping principles apply for this spicy green. Arugula grows fast so you can plant it in between rows of tomato plants and harvest when it’s small.

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10. Chives

Chives are a perennial herb that has pretty purple flowers in late spring. Beneficial pollinators love them, and they also may repel aphids.

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11. Beans

Beans are nitrogen-fixers, which means they can transform nitrogen in the atmosphere into a form that’s usable to them and neighboring plants. Bush beans (as opposed to pole beans, which climb and require a trellis) take up less space because they remain compact, and they’re super easy to grow.

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12. Garlic

Research has shown interplanting garlic with other crops such as strawberries may reduce some kinds of insect populations, but it’s not scientifically proven to keep bugs away from tomatoes. Still, just in case it works, garlic is very easy to grow and totally worth the space in your garden. Plant in the fall for a late spring/early summer harvest.

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13. Nasturtium

These delightful, brightly-colored annuals, which grow easily from seed, have edible flowers and leaves. They’re reported to work as a “trap crop” to keep away aphids from the rest of your garden.

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14. Cucumbers

Although cukes and tomatoes may not necessarily do anything for each other, these warm-weather lovers both like similar garden conditions, including consistent watering, so garden chores will be simpler. Plant a bush variety or train them up a trellis if you’re tight on space.

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15. Cosmos

This pretty annual attracts aphids, so they may stay away from your tomatoes. Plus, it’s appealing to many different beneficial pollinators.

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16. Mint

Mint has a strong odor that some gardeners believe repels harmful pests. Plant it in pots sunk into the ground because it can go crazy and take over your garden if you don’t contain it.

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17. Sweet Alyssum

Grow this pretty annual along the perimeter of your garden to attract beneficial pollinators and hoverflies, which eat aphids. Sweet alyssum also has a delicate, honey-like scent and will bloom until a hard freeze, so you’ll enjoy color long into the fall.

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18. Sage

Sage is a hardy perennial herb with a strong odor that may repel pests, but it also boasts gorgeous flowers in late spring and attracts tons of beneficial pollinators.

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19. Garlic Chives

This perennial herb has flatter leaves than the other type of chives and white flowers in late summer. Some gardeners believe its scent is reported to keep most vegetable pests at bay, and pollinators love the blooms.

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20. Calendula

Often called pot marigold, this pretty annual can act as a “magnet plant” for aphids, whiteflies and thrips, drawing them away from vegetable crops. Plus, it brings in beneficial ladybugs to dine on aphids. Calendula grows easily from seed, and the flowers also can be harvested and tossed in salads.

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21. Peas

Peas are a great early-season crop for young tomato plants. Like beans, they’re nitrogen fixers. When the heat kicks in, they’ve run their course, so pull them up and replant with bush beans.

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22. Bee Balm

Some gardeners believe this perennial flower improves tomatoes’ health, and it’s certainly like candy to the bees, which many garden plants, such as cucumbers and squash, need for pollination.

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23. Hyssop

This lesser-known perennial flower brings in lots of different predatory insects to take out the ones you don’t want on your plants. Bees especially love it! Plus, it’s just plain pretty.

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24. Oregano

Oregano is a perennial herb that makes a great groundcover to conserve moisture around tomatoes, plus its flowers attract many different kinds of pollinators. It’s also the perfect seasoning for all of the tomato dishes you’ll be making.

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25. Roses

Roses may not be your first choice for planting near your tomatoes, but tomatoes supposedly benefit roses by warding off the common rose disease called black spot! It’s certainly worth a shot, and honestly, what garden couldn’t benefit from a few extra blooms?

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What Not to Plant with Tomatoes

Believe it or not, certain plants are not good tomato companions. These include cabbage and cabbage family members including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, and kale, which may stunt tomato growth. You should also keep corn away from your tomatoes because they attract the same pests, so both crops could be wiped out by an insect invasion. Ditto with eggplants, which are susceptible to the same diseases as tomatoes.

Related: The 17 Best Summer Vegetables to Grow This Year

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