Fresh off the vine, still warm from the sun tomatoes are one of life’s greatest pleasures. Even better if you can wrap the little gems in basil. So why not grow them together?
That’s exactly what I decided to do this summer. I usually keep a cherry tomato plant on the deck for late night snacking but this year I kicked it up a notch with this Basil & Tomato Container Garden.
I started with a large planter, this one is plastic but this would look really good in a half whiskey barrel too. Mine is currently filled with mint and after replacing my car the budget is pretty shot this year.
You want a large container for a few reasons. One, larger containers are heavier and less likely to tip over in the wind. Tomato plants grow up and can get pretty top heavy, making a tumble even more likely.
Also, more soil means more room for water retention. Hot windy days can be a death sentence for plants, forget to water one day and it’s all over. That’s a huge part of why I avoid containers in general.
Speaking of soil, when you’re at the store make sure you’re grabbing a soil mix meant for containers. I usually buy the Ecoscraps brand. Container mix is formulated to hold water and stay light and uncompacted.
In the ground you’d have earthworms to do that (when they’re done killing your onions) but that’s not really an option on the porch.
Finally, we’re putting 4 different plants in one pot so you need some room for root growth and some space. I always bury my tomato plants fairly deep when I plant them so that’s an extra bonus.
Tomatoes will grow roots along the entire stem, you might have noticed in the garden that they’ll even start to put out roots if the plant flops over and the stem gets near the soil. More roots are always good!
You get more stability and the plant has a better change at absorbing nutrients and water. When I plant my tomatoes I’ll bury them right up to the bottom leaves.
Sometimes I’ll even pop off the bottom set of leaves if they’re looking a little rough. I have a whole post up on what to do if your tomatoes get leggy that goes into detail if you’re interested.
I planted the tomato in the ‘back’ of the pot and inserted a metal trellis. That’s one more great thing about the large planter, you can really get that trellis in deep and secured.
You don’t want to skip a support for this. You really want the tomato growing up so it stays out of the basils way. It’s sort of an nontraditional 3 sisters; the tomato is the corn, it need to be tall.
The basil plants will be playing the roll of the squash and acting like a living mulch. They will help keep the soil shaded and slow down water loss.
There’s no beans, or anything that acts like them so we’ll need to be sure to fertilize. That’s another reason I skip out on containers. I find in-the-ground gardens to be more forgiving with fertilizer as well as water.
I planted two different types of basil, a regular sweet basil and a purple variety. You can stick with one type of basil or swap one for an oregano.
After planting the basil I gave them a trim. I wanted bushy basil with lots of leaves.
If you pinch off the top it signals the plant to put out more side shoots. Pinch (or snip) back to just above a set of leaves, you should see small leaves starting to grow right above a larger set.
Don’t throw the cuttings away, they’re still delicious. Toss them on a pizza, drop them in a glass of seltzer or soak them in heavy cream and make amazing basil whipped cream.
I wish I had some better pictures to share but I’ll keep this updated over the summer. I grew something similar last year but I never took pictures.
The most important thing is to keep up on fertilizing. Lots of rain and watering will flush the soil and you’ve got quite a few plants sucking up whatever they can.
I use the Ecoscraps Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer, I use it in the regular garden too. I’m not being payed by Ecoscraps by the way, that’s just what I use. It’s easy to get locally and it’s on sale pretty regularly.
If you’ve been keeping track you might have noticed I said I’d be putting 4 plants into one pot, but we’ve only got three so far. I always plant marigolds with my tomatoes but I ran out and I haven’t had time to grab any more.