Grow tomatoes and roses together

Learn about beneficial garden combinations

By Liz Douville / For The Bulletin

Unless you are going to a posh party or maybe getting married, I’d cancel the manicure appointments for the next few weeks. Believe me, I have had enough broken nails in the past month to offer advice at the Dear Abby booth. Save your money and purchase an extra pair of good garden gloves.

Interesting comments around the proverbial water cooler seem to be centered on the awesome display of lilacs this year. Many agree that the trees bloomed at least two weeks early. I can’t remember a year when the branches were so heavily laden with those lush blooms.

Considering that this year’s blooms were in the forming process directly after last year’s bloom season, I am trying to remember what magical weather combination we might have had to promote such heavy bud development. It certainly helped this year that we didn’t have a killing frost right at bloom time. Guess that should be another gardening curiosity to track in the garden journal.

Now to the subject at hand. I have been a follower of companion planting since the early days of the Rodale Press. Although I always thought that it made so much sense, I didn’t have the courage to follow the tenets. Back in the day, no self-respecting gardener in the Midwest or other conventional area would mix in carrots with tomatoes or strawberries with beans. Type A personalities prevailed with straight rows and cans of this and that to make sure nothing crawled in and about nice neat rows. No one really cared what components made up the soil or how to preserve them, and magic foods for the plants were purchased from a local garden center.

Somewhere along the line, I had a hallelujah moment and stripped off the bondage of being a conventional gardener. I have been a happier gardener ever since. I’ll admit I get a few pangs of guilt when I visit a neat and tidy pristine garden, but it passes quickly.

I recently finished reading a third book on companion gardening written by British author Bob Flowerdew, an organic gardener, regular panelist on BBC and author of six books on organic gardening. The different writing style and the terminology had me re-reading some paragraphs to confirm what I thought he was saying. The book will go on the shelf with “Carrots Love Tomatoes” by Riotte and Cunningham’s “Great Garden Companion.”

This year I am implementing new ideas, like planting the tomatoes with the carrots. I will have to be watchful to pull out dill seedlings that pop up every year in that area. Carrots have a major dislike for dill.

I don’t have roses; I know, totally un-American, but for those of you who do and are plagued with blackspot, both Flowerdew and Riotte suggest planting tomatoes with roses to protect them. If a mixed planting is not appealing to you, Riotte suggests making a solution of tomato leaves in your juicer, adding four or five parts of water and one tablespoon of cornstarch. Strain and spray roses. Keep unused spray refrigerated.

I may turn a few heads by planting some cucumbers with my corn. Each year I say I’m not going to plant corn, but this year I can’t resist the idea of combining some of the cucumbers with the corn planting. I also will try the combination of a few radish plants, left to mature to seed, in the cucumber patch to ward off the cucumber beetle.

The herb borage has somewhat of a bad reputation because it reseeds, so in that respect it could get a thumbs down. In the companion planting world, it is highly regarded as a provider of organic potassium, calcium and other natural minerals of benefit to plants. It is said to strengthen the resistance to insects and disease of plants neighboring it. It is an especially good companion for strawberries. In the culinary world, borage leaves are used raw, steamed or sauteed like spinach. Borage has a crisp cucumber flavor; you can eat the stems also. Peel, chop and use as celery. Fresh flowers can be used in salads or as a garnish.

It’s so overwhelming when you think of all the knowledge to be explored. It’s wonderful when every day that door can open just a tiny crack.

— Reporter: douville@bendbroadband.com