Planting Marigolds with Tomatoes

The Alluring Benefits of Marigolds in the Tomato Bed

With Marigolds growing among your tomatoes, you’ll find quite a few surprising benefits. They attract beneficial insects, pollinators, and they will distract pests (or attract them, depending on how you look at the situation!)

The video below demonstrates an attractive yet functional tomato & marigold bed:

Root Knot Nematodes: Marigolds to the Rescue!

French Marigolds and Mexican Marigolds are effective at keeping root knot nematodes at bay. These little pests can take a significant toll on your tomato plants; but it can be incredibly hard to pinpoint a pest you cannot see.

Marigolds produce chemicals that reduce and keep root knot nematode populations down, which means your tomatoes can grow as they would normally. These bio-active compounds are one of the best, natural ways to keep these pests at a distance.

“ash whitefly – Siphoninus phillyreae”by Oregon State University is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

White Flies and Marigolds

White flies are another known pest of tomatoes. However, if there’s one thing a white fly cannot stand, it’s marigolds!

Well, actually, it’s the limonene that they contain. This potent chemical will keep your tomatoes largely white fly free, with the best benefits being obtained when the marigolds are planted weeks ahead of the tomato plants. The larger the marigold is when the tomato is planted, the stronger the protection is.

You could also make a marigold tea to boost the white fly protection, if necessary.

Attracting Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Marigolds are excellent for attracting pollinators, including bees, birds, and beneficial predatory insects. You’ll find that ladybugs are very quick to visit, too!

The pollinators are important for improving fruit set among your garden, which is a fairly common reason for gardeners to plant flowers all around the garden.

The predatory insects, such as lady bugs, are important to attract for pest control. Marigolds are attractive plants for both aphids and spider mites; this means that lady bugs will come to stay, providing protection to surrounding plants (the tomatoes!)

Distracting Pests

Spider mites are an issue for both marigolds and tomatoes. However, I find that they seem to prefer marigolds. Spider mites are incredibly common in the garden, and truth be told, there’s no escaping them.

Thus, while having two spider-mite prone plants in close quarters may seem like a bad idea, I believe that the marigolds help to coax the spider mites away from the tomato plant. In essence, I feel as if I’m providing the spider mites with a convenient, tastier meal right next door. The idea is this: if the marigolds are alive and well, then the spider mites should be less likely to bother the tomato plant in great numbers.

The Cons to Keeping Marigolds with Tomatoes: Spider Mites

Unfortunately, marigolds are an attractant for spider mites, as we’ve just discussed. Spider mites also greatly enjoy tomato plants. This can be a bad situation for a tomato plant, so what can we do?

Spider mites are largely controlled by rains and predatory insects. Therefore, plenty of rain will keep these pests at bay, and you may not have an issue out of the spider mites.

However, dry conditions mean spider mites become more prevalent. You may be able to keep them at a distance by spraying your plants with the hose during the evenings, when it hasn’t rained for many, many days.

As I stated previously, I believe that marigolds will distract the spider mites; they don’t seem to bother my tomato plants too terribly much, especially when they have marigolds to infest.

How Marigolds Both Produce and Solve a Spider Mite Infestation In Our Garden

Since marigolds attract ladybugs, you’ll likely see more and more arriving if an infestation begins to take hold. Try ordering ladybugs and releasing them on your plants at night for the best control.

In our garden, aphids and spider mites are not a problem, at all. Truthfully, this issue is only prevalent indoors- where there are no ladybugs to feast on them. Considering the record number of lady bugs and pink spotted lady beetles in my garden that I continue to see year over year, I believe that my emergency-only use of organic pesticides is to thank.

In other words, my theory is that not using pesticides allowed the pests’ populations to grow, in turn feeding a very large and healthy lady bug and lady beetle population. This isn’t going to be the case in every garden, and every gardener should use a pest management program that suits their own needs.