Improve the Growth and Maybe the Flavor of Tomatoes with This Trick

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A favorite dish for everyone at my house is pasta with cherry tomatoes and basil. My kids love the taste. I love that they're eating a healthy dinner—and that it's super easy and quick to make. Just slice a couple pints of cherry tomatoes in half and sauté them in olive oil, a teaspoon or so of minced garlic and about two handfuls of fresh basil leaves, chopped. Meanwhile, prepare pasta—we usually opt for thin spaghetti. Then toss it all together and serve.

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We know that tomatoes and basil are fine companions in recipes like this one, but it turns out they're also a great pair in the garden. Basil is purported to repel insects that might otherwise feast on your tomato plants (and basil also reportedly repels mosquitoes) and to prevent fungal infections. Gardeners also attest that growing basil near tomatoes improves the flavor of the fruits. Studies have also shown that tomato plants grown alongside basil field more fruit.  

Tomato and basil plants share the same growing requirements. Both are native to tropical regions, so they prefer warm temperatures and steady moisture. Both need full sun. Keep this in mind when siting your basil plants, which are sure to be shorter than your tomatoes and therefore at risk of standing in their shade. Keeping the basil to the south or west side of the tomatoes (in the Northern Hemisphere) may afford them the longest stretch of sunlight. One other caveat: Avoid feeding your basil with high-nitrogen fertilizer in hopes of spurring strong leaf growth. You will be successful, but a nearby tomato plant may also produce lots of leafy growth—and no flowers or fruit.