Basil is one of the most widely used herbs in cooking. Its peppery, aromatic leaves add immense flavor to dishes like pasta, pizza, sauces, and more. While basil thrives in warm weather, its preference for sunlight and well-draining soil can make it vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Companion planting is a technique that pairs basil with other plants in a way that is mutually beneficial. By selecting the right companions, gardeners can help basil grow healthier while also boosting their harvests.
- Basil is an important culinary herb but can struggle with pests and soil conditions
- Companion planting pairs basil with other plants that help each other thrive
- Selecting the right companions supports basil’s needs and leads to bigger harvests
Basil’s Companion Planting Needs
In order to do well, basil appreciates full sun exposure and moist but well-draining soil. It also attracts plenty of pollinators and suffers from fungal diseases in wet conditions. Companion planting can help meet these requirements by:
- Providing shade and blocking winds with taller plants
- Adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil
- Repelling pests that threaten basil
- Creating a diverse microclimate
Understanding basil’s preferences is key to choosing plants that will enhance rather than hinder its growth. By meeting its needs through companion planting, basil will be healthier and more productive.
Good Companions for Basil
Mint, oregano, and thyme are aromatic herbs that pair beautifully with basil. Their strong scents help repel insect pests while also attracting beneficial insects. Mixed together, their flavors create bright, layered herb combinations.
Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are nightshade vegetables that benefit from basil’s pest-repelling properties and vice versa. Their lush foliage also creates shelter from sun and wind. Tomatoes pair especially well, complementing each other in the kitchen too.
Marigolds, nasturtiums, and calendula flowers provide visual appeal alongside basil’s foliage. As a bonus, their vivid colors attract pollinators and natural enemies of pests. Marigolds are especially effective at reducing disease in the soil.
Cumin, coriander, and cardamom are warm, fragrant spices that enhance basil’s herb garden. Beyond offering pungent aromas, their aromatic seeds may even enrich the soil when plants are pruned and composted.
With its refreshing scent, mint helps mask basil’s aroma from herb-eating insects and nibbling rodents. Its fast growth also provides effective ground cover and living mulch. Though determined, its vigorous roots won’t compete with basil for water and nutrients if planted 18 inches apart.
Like basil, oregano originates from the Mediterranean and enjoys similar growing conditions. Its woody stems and grayish leaves form an eye-pleasing backdrop for basil. As a bonus, this hardy herb deters more pests, including those that threaten tomatoes.
A classic herb pair with tomatoes and peppers, low-growing thyme makes an excellent choice for basil. Its small gray-green leaves form a lush, tight carpet beneath basil. Not only gorgeous, thyme’s potent oils work doubly to repel insects and attract predatory insects.
A pillar in Mediterranean cuisine, tomatoes and basil were simply meant to be grown alongside one another. In the garden, tomatoes shelter basil from winds while basil deters harmful insects like hornworms and nematodes. Together in the kitchen, their flavors are unbeatable.
Like tomatoes, peppers of all kinds benefit from basil’s insect-repelling properties. Fragrant basils also attract predatory insects that dine on pepper pests. Basin in turn appreciates peppers’ dense foliage that blocks sun and wind. Their flavors meld together deliciously in caprese salad, bruschetta and more.
Dark purple eggplants visually complement green basil and similarly thrive in heat. As nightshades, they are plagued by the same pests as tomatoes and peppers, making basil an ideal ally. Plus eggplants and basil blossom around the same time, providing plenty for pollinators to enjoy.
Bright marigolds benefit basil as a valuable companion. Their bold blooms attract beneficial insects to the garden while also releasing a chemical that repels nematodes in the soil. This helps keep basil healthy without the use of pesticides.
With their vivid colors and fragrant foliage, nasturtiums are as beautiful as they are useful. They attract pollinators as well as the pests themselves, who dine on nasturtiums instead of basil. Nasturtiums also indicate soil health, thriving only where nutrients are balanced.
Sometimes used medicinally for its antifungal properties, calendula bloomfield has similar effects in the garden. Their sunny flowers and leaves create vibrant visual interest among basil plants while suppressing soil-borne diseases that threaten basils.
Warm and fragrant, cumin seeds have long been used to deter pest insects when planted around vulnerable crops. As a fellow member of the parsley family, it shares basil’s preferred growing conditions. Cumin’s peppery notes also meld deliciously with basil in dishes from around the world.
The delicate, lacy foliage of coriander provides basil with living mulch and ground cover. Even better, coriander is a major trap crop for the swallowwort moth and hessian fly – significant threats to carrots, parsnips and falsely to basil too if left unchecked.
Though not hardy, the small white flowers and aromatic pods of cardamom pack a punch against insect pests. As a tropical spice, it boosts basil’s microclimate when grown in containers. Cardamom’s resinous perfumes mingle wonderfully with basil in Indian curries and Southeast Asian soups.
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A member of the mint family, lemon balm forms an aromatic, pest-repellent ground cover beneath basil. As an added bonus, this lemony herb creates a calming effect when steeped as a tea. Its light, refreshing notes balance basil’s robust flavors in pesto or salad.
Soothing chamomile flowers provide visual appeal among basil plants. Their sweet apple-like scent masks basil’s aroma from insects while repelling airborne fungal diseases. Chamomile lawns underneath protect basil from soil borne illnesses and moisture fluctuations too.
An understated plant parent to beautiful bay leaves, tarragon forms an alluring backdrop for basil. Hardy and resilient, it deters pests like Japanese beetles that sometimes bother basil. Blended together, tarragon’s subtle anise flavor enhancers basil’s aroma in herbed vinegars.
Table 1: Companion Planting Benefits
|Plant||Benefit to Basil|
|Mint||Repels whiteflies, spider mites, Japanese beetles|
|Oregano||Repels Colorado potato beetles, aphids|
|Thyme||Naturally pest-resistant, grows compactly|
|Tomatoes||Attract predators of spider mites, hornworms|
|Peppers||Benefit from pest-eating insects drawn by basil|
|Eggplants||Benefit from pest-eating insects drawn by basil|
|Marigolds||Deters nematodes from nearby plants|
|Nasturtiums||Attracts beneficial insects, repels aphids|
|Calendula||Draws predatory wasps that eat pests|
|Lemon Balm||Deters spider mites, spreads lemony scent|
|Chamomile||Aids soil health and nitrogen fixation|
|Tarragon||Attracts predators of beetles, caterpillars, more|
Plants to Avoid
While many herbs make wonderful companions, some will actually compete with basil for vital resources. It’s best to avoid planting:
- Sage: An aggressively spreading herb, sage may overrun delicate basil plants.
- Rosemary: Similar to sage, rosemary is a hardy shrub that demands nutrients, water and space.
- Lavender: Attractive flower spikes aside, basil struggles near lavender’s deep, draining roots.
Keeping these potent herbs at least 2 feet from young basil transplants prevents them from dominating the herb patch. Choose milder companions that provide shelter versus crowding out basil.
Implementing Companion Planting
Now that the top basil companions have been identified, it’s important to understand proper placement in the garden. Some best practices for implementation include:
- Intersperse companion plants throughout the basil patch rather than grouping them all in one area. This encourages beneficial insect activity across the whole space.
- Taller plants like tomatoes and peppers should surround basil, not tower directly over it, to avoid blocking sunlight.
- Marigolds are well-suited for bordering garden beds and acting as a barrier to soil pests.
- Continually rotate where different plant varieties are located from year to year to prevent disease and nutrient depletion in any one spot.
With some strategic planning, any sized garden can successfully allocate space for basil’s most synergistic partners. Proper placement optimizes the beneficial relationships.
Recipes Featuring Basil Companion Plants
To put these wonderful pairings to delicious use, here are a few recipe ideas highlighting complementary flavors:
- Caprese Salad featuring tomatoes, basil and creamy mozzarella or goat cheese
- Pesto combining basil with pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Herbed Goat Cheese Spread blended with basil, chives, lemon balm and tarragon
- Pepper Relish mixing assorted peppers, basil, oregano and apple cider vinegar
- Moroccan Lentil Soup spiced with cumin, coriander and cardamom
Celebrating companion pairings in cuisine brings the garden flavors directly to the table. The combinations are truly greater than the sum of their parts.
Troubleshooting Companion Planting
While companion planting has many benefits, there is still a learning curve to find the perfect balance. Here are some potential issues to watch out for and solutions:
- Shade concerns: Monitor sun exposure and adjust placement if basil appears leggy or pale. Consider sacrificing some companion coverage for more sunlight.
- Spreading tendencies: Be vigilant of overly aggressive spreaders like mint, coriander or sage trying to outcompete basil. Be ready to contain or reduce fast growers if needed.
- Fertility demands: Heavy feeders like tomatoes or peppers could potentially deplete soil nutrients if not amended. Ensure consistent fertilizing to support all plants’ needs.
- Pest migration: Companions may still attract pests, which could then pose issues if left unchecked. Regularly scout for new threats and be prepared to intervene early.
With a little trial and error, gardeners can dial in the right combination tailored to their space. Observation is key to evolving plant partnerships over time.
Sustaining Companion Plantings
Keeping companion plantings thriving requires ongoing nurturing to enjoy their benefits all season:
- Fertilize regularly with a balanced organic product like compost tea to replenish soil nutrients.
- Mulch properly with materials like shredded leaves to suppress weeds, retain moisture and regulate soil temperatures.
- Prune and harvest herbs regularly to encourage continued growth and flowering beneficial to pollinators.
- Water deeply and infrequently versus frequent light waterings to encourage deep root growth for all plants.
- Observe for maturing plants that have outgrown their space and divide/propagate as able to keep the community optimized.
Proper maintenance sustains healthy soil to support mutually beneficial plant relationships long-term.
Growing Basil With Companion Plants in Containers
For gardeners with limited space, containers provide an effective way to cultivate basil companions. Some tips:
- Choose a large pot or dividing planters to allocate room for multiple plants’ roots to spread.
- Select compact, heat-tolerant plants suitable for container growing like basil, peppers, tomatoes, marigolds.
- Use a well-draining potting mix amended with compost to ensure optimal soil fertility and drainage.
- Add a slow release fertilizer when planting to provide sustained nutrients through the season.
- Water containers daily in heat to prevent drying out. Drainage holes are critical to avoid root rot.
Creative arrangements in pots allow balancing plant pairings on patios, balconies or doorsteps. With the right support, container companions can thrive.
Final Thoughts on Growing Basil With Companion Plants
As this article has outlined, there are many beneficial companion plants for basil that thrive together through mutually supportive relationships.
By understanding basil’s needs and preferences, as well as how particular companions can enrich the soil, attract pollinators, and repel pests, gardeners can apply these principles to help basil grow robust and productive.
Rather than battling issues alone, basil supported by carefully selected neighbors will be healthier and yield larger harvests.
The right combinations also bring visual appeal and fragrance to the garden space. Beyond practical benefits, companion planting cultivates an ecosystem where plants enhance each other for a thriving, balanced result.
Whether growing basil outdoors or in containers, utilizing some of the discussed companions promotes mutually beneficial relationships.
By pairing basil with pest-deterring herbs like mint, oregano and thyme, it receives shelter while also benefiting from their scents. Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants make beloved culinary and gardening partners for basil as they face similar threats.
Vibrant marigolds, nasturtium and calendula flowers attract insect allies to benefit all plants present. Warming spices and other supportive herbs round out balanced basil companionships. With the right combinations applied, basil is set up to truly shine.
Frequently Asked Questions on Basil Companion Plants
Here are answers to some common queries about companion planting with basil:
Q. What can you not plant with basil?
A. It’s best not to plant basil near fennel, oregano, tarragon or thyme, as their strong scents can overwhelm the basil. Sage also tends to inhibit basil’s growth. Tomatoes, peppers and carrots grow compatibly with basil.
Q. Can I plant basil with tomatoes?
A. Yes, basil and tomatoes make excellent companions in the garden. Basil repels tomato pests like hornworms and mosquitoes, while both plants share similar growing conditions and benefits from each other’s presence. Their flavors also complement dishes.
Q. Can I plant basil and mint together?
A. It’s generally not recommended to plant basil and mint together, as mint is highly invasive and can overwhelm the basil. Mint spreads vigorously via runners underground. Keep them in separate pots or areas of the garden.
Q. Where does basil like to be planted?
A. Basil thrives in sunny, warm areas with fertile, well-draining soil. It can be grown directly in gardens or large containers. South or west facing windows are suitable for indoor growing. Provide at least 6 hours of direct sun a day.
Q. What is attacking my basil plant?
A. Possible pests include aphids, whiteflies, Japanese beetles or leafminers. Diseases could be powdery mildew or fusarium wilt. Check undersides of leaves for signs of infestation like spots, webbing or clustered insects. Diagnose before treating with appropriate organic or chemical remedies.
Q. What pests hate basil?
A. Mosquitoes and a few common garden pests like cabbage loopers, tomato hornworms and whiteflies tend to steer clear of basil plants. The powerful essential oils in its leaves act as natural repellents to many insects. Grow basil as companion plants amongst vegetables for natural pest control.